4 November was a crucial date, as this is when the Global Climate Treaty entered into force, an agreement which had been decided upon only a year earlier, in Paris, by over 190 countries. A few days later representatives from those countries convened again to specify the details of their climate targets, which had previously been formulated in Paris, and also to develop appropriate rules. The discussions focused primarily on reviewing the permitted greenhouse gas budget of each country and to determine what kind of methods might be used to stop greenhouse gas emissions.

Reducing greenhouse gases needs to be a major goal for the global population. Photo: S. Hecht,


Under the Global Climate Treaty the world community is now aiming to reduce harmful greenhouse gases by abandoning oil, gas and coal altogether. The treaty will enter into force by 2020, when the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is due to run out.. One major role in the reduction of carbon emissions is played by the prevention of food losses. The carbon footprint of global food losses is 3.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – third place compared with national carbon emissions produced by China and the United States.

The role of food losses was also addressed by Ban Ki-Moon in his acceptance speech when he received the 2016 German Sustainability Award. Photo: UN Photo, Rick Bajornas

How has this figure been calculated? Greenhouse gases in the food industry are the result of production, transport and storage. The highest CO2 values come from cereal products (34%), as they have the biggest share of the overall global production volume. They are followed by meat and vegetables, each with 21%. However, the proportion of meat in the total volume of food losses is less than five per cent, showing that its carbon footprint is clearly much greater than those of other products. This is primarily due to the high use of energy and resources in the growing of animal feed, though greenhouse gases are also created by facilities in animal husbandry and transportation. If food is spoiled or thrown away unnecessarily, then the resulting harmful gases reach the atmosphere without any benefit to the population whatsoever.

An ambitious goal: Annual losses of Kenya’s mango crops are to be reduced from 300,000 tonnes to 270,000. Photo: Azuri Health


To avoid such losses, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and Messe Düsseldorf joined forces in 2011, founding the SAVE FOOD initiative. In early 2013 this initiative also gained the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and since then there has been close cooperation between industry, research and NGOs, leading to a large number of projects to reduce carbon emissions. One success factor in recent years has been the Mango Project in Kenya, saving a large proportion of mangos harvested by small-scale farmers whose losses had previously reached over 60%. The improvement has been achieved through the proper processing and packaging of their mangoes as dried fruit.

Share of food losses compared with production volumes, by segments. Chart: FAO.

Share of food losses compared with production volumes, by segments. Chart: FAO.