The Korea Herald


[Newsmaker] P4G Seoul Summit to discuss ways to tackle famine

By Kim Yon-se

Published : May 27, 2021 - 17:26

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This photo shows a prerecorded clip of the panel discussion on sustainable agriculture and food systems, part of the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit set for May 30-31. (Agriculture Ministry) This photo shows a prerecorded clip of the panel discussion on sustainable agriculture and food systems, part of the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit set for May 30-31. (Agriculture Ministry)

SEJONG -- The topic of food and agriculture will likely come under the spotlight as one of the core items on the agenda for the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit, set for May 30-31.

P4G -- Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 -- is a global initiative launched in 2017 to accelerate the response to climate change and the implementation of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Twelve countries, including South Korea, are taking part in the gathering.

While the international community’s 2030 greenhouse gas reduction goals are the focus of the event in Seoul, participants will also look at how climate change can destabilize the food supply and bring famine to countries around the world.

On May 31 the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs of Korea will host a session titled “Resilient and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems.”

Four keynote speakers, including Korea’s Agriculture Minister Kim Hyeon-soo, and a panel will discuss means to further strengthen and develop partnerships while enhancing effective cooperation in the agriculture and food sector.

Organizers said the participants would discuss “establishing sustainable food systems responding to climate change” and “public-private cooperation utilizing innovative technology to go net-zero in food and agriculture.”

They said the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the fragility of global agri-food systems and added to existing challenges posed by a multitude of factors including climate change, extreme weather events and natural disasters.

“However, it is mostly those who are tasked to produce food, including small-scale family farmers, rural women, youth and vulnerable populations, particularly in developing countries, that suffer from food insecurity, malnutrition or economic difficulties,” they stressed in a statement.

They also said that “engaging diverse stakeholders in the discussion will enable us (the global community) to take stock of existing practices, including challenges and opportunities, and lay the foundation for development of new and innovative public-private partnerships.”

Participants have already agreed that it is essential to ensure long-term food security and improve nutrition by producing and supplying quality food for everyone.

To that end, they will discuss how to enhance farms’ productivity and profitability, and how to establish environmentally friendly production, supply and consumption systems “by leveraging the potential of partnerships and cooperation between stakeholders such as the private companies, governments, farmers and relevant organizations.”

Agriculture Minister Kim Hyeon-soo will deliver a keynote speech on the “transition to carbon neutral (net-zero) agriculture.”

The other keynote speakers are Qu Dongyu, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization; Agnes Kalibata, special envoy for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit; and Rasmus Prehn, Danish minister of food, agriculture and fisheries.

Hyo-eun Jenny Kim, deputy director general of the Global Green Growth Institute, will moderate panel discussions on “establishing sustainable food systems responding to climate change” and “partnerships using innovative technology to go net-zero in food and agriculture.”

Among the panelists are Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security; Sean de Cleene, head of food systems initiative at the World Economic Forum; and Birgitte Qvist-Sorensen, secretary general of DanChurchAid.

The panel will also include Klaus Kunz, head of sustainability and business stewardship at Bayer Crop Science; and Catherine Bertini, chair of the board of directors at GAIN.

A senior official with the Agriculture Ministry of Korea said climate change and global warming threaten to destabilize food supplies around the globe. “In 2020 we recorded the third-highest temperature in the Earth’s history,” the official said.

Citing data from the World Meteorological Organization, the official said the average temperature of the Earth in 2020 was higher by 1.2 degrees than it was before the era of industrialization began in the 19th century.

“Natural disasters such as floods, droughts and typhoons in the aftermath of an abnormal climate have caused critical food shortages in many locations around the world,” he said.

According to an estimate from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, about 687 million people, or 8.9 percent of the world’s population, suffered from famine or malnutrition as of 2019.

At the current pace, that number could reach 841 million by 2030, or 9.8 percent of the world’s population, the FAO predicted.

With COVID-19, the tally is estimated to have increased by 132 million people in 2020 on-year according to FAO, while the organization’s projection for 2030 has yet to reflect the effects of the pandemic.

Experts around the world, nevertheless, say climate change could be a bigger threat than the pandemic in terms of hampering stable food supplies.

Of the 687 million people affected by famine or malnutrition in 2019, those in Asia made up the largest proportion, or 381 million people. Those in Africa were next at 250 million, followed by 47 million people in South and Central America.

But Africa is expected to top the list in 2030, with 433 million people affected by hunger of the 841 million worldwide. The figure for Asia is projected to stand at 329 million, and South and Central America are expected to have 66 million hungry people.

Participants in the Seoul session are expected to discuss ways to supply food for needy people on a reliable basis by achieving carbon neutrality. This means the international community will need to make a concerted effort to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, they are likely to suggest that the world innovate farming techniques for food crop production or change its livestock rearing methods -- such as by expanding renewable energy to replace the current fossil fuels in crop production and adjusting animal feed to reduce methane gas emissions from livestock.

Meanwhile, part of the panel discussion, which was prerecorded, will be played on a screen in downtown Seoul on May 31.

Nations from five continents are currently participants in P4G, along with businesses and international organizations. The participating countries are South Korea, Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa and Vietnam.

“The inaugural 2018 P4G Copenhagen Summit ended with success in October 2018,” organizers said. “With another successful hosting of the second P4G Seoul Summit, P4G will position itself as a more pivotal environmental platform.”

President Moon Jae-in will deliver a speech at the opening ceremony.

By Kim Yon-se (