ROME, ITALY — A strong and collective effort is needed to tackle climate change, which is already having direct and "tragic" consequences on people's lives, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva told Italian lawmakers on April 23.
Climate-related factors are intensifying food insecurity for many of the world's most vulnerable people — worsening situations that were already quite dramatic, he said.
"When agriculture does not have the chance to bloom, and when food is scarce, the consequences can be dramatic," Graziano da Silva said. "Hunger can force people to leave families and homes in search of better opportunities that they do not always find. The loss of lives in the Mediterranean is a tragic reminder of this.”
Similarly, the recent tropical storms in the Philippines and Vanuatu showed how quickly food crops can be destroyed by severe weather events, while recurrent droughts have an equally deadly effect, he said.
Speaking in the Italian Parliament with Italy's Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti present, Graziano da Silva explained that FAO is especially concerned with climate change due to its clear connections to food security and agriculture.
"Climate change affects agricultural production and might change the geography of food production," he said. The agricultural sector is itself a producer of greenhouse gas emissions, but also has the potential to sequester more carbon in soils and forests if sustainable production and management policies are adopted, he said.
The world needs a paradigm shift to more sustainable, inclusive and resilient food systems, which will entail making farming techniques less reliant on intensive use of inputs and natural resources, he said.
"In 2015, we need to transform political commitment into actions and results," Graziano da Silva said, referring to this year's diplomatic agenda, which includes a new set of Sustainable Development Goals and the December Conference of the Parties (COP) summit organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"That includes ensuring the necessary funding to cover the cost of transition to food systems that mitigate and adapt, that are more sustainable and resilient to climate change," he said.
Adaptation to and mitigation of climate-change trends is a collective interest, but "we cannot present the bill to family farmers, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in developing countries," he said.
While boosting rural incomes in developing countries is a priority, richer nations also need to tackle food waste, he said, saying affluent consumers waste around 222 million tonnes of food every year, almost as much as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.
Graziano da Silva hailed Italy for hosting this year's food-focused Expo in Milan, which is expected to promote the importance of food security, climate change and sustainable government.
"FAO stands ready to develop a strategic partnership with the Italian government,” he said.