C40: Harnessing the Power of Urban Leadership to Transform the Food System and Combat the Climate Crisis

Our food might be largely grown in the countryside, but it’s mostly consumed in cities: 70% of the world’s food is eaten in urban areas, and that number is expected to rise to 80% by 2050. Metropolises have the power to deliver transformative change in our food system, argues C40, a global network of nearly 100 of the world’s leading cities that are united in action to confront the climate crisis. As the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023 notes, urbanization is a critical factor to address in food systems transformation, and city leadership represents an enormous opportunity for action.

Food insecurity is an issue worldwide, yet one-third of all food is thrown out. Just as importantly, how and what we eat is a driving factor behind climate change. With more than half the world living in urban areas, cities generate most of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Food is the biggest source (13-20%) of consumption-based emissions in major cities, mostly due to our penchant for diets rich in animal products. Without changing the way urban dwellers eat, food-related emissions could increase by 38% by 2050, according to C40 research.

photo by C40 – City of Lima

But cities also represent the pathway to change. They are, after all, centers of innovation that can model progress, with considerable influence to create and shape local food systems. C40 has identified mayors as key changemakers: they wield significant impact on food markets because they are often the biggest food purchasers in their city — for schools, care homes, food aid programs, hospitals, and more. To this end, C40 works directly with city governments to catalyze a demand-side reshaping of the food system, making it easier for all residents to eat food that is good for people, the planet and the economy. Together, governments and regenerative agriculture can deliver healthier, more nutritious and more sustainable food.

Mayors of C40 cities are committed to using an inclusive, science-based, and collaborative approach to cut their share of emissions in half by 2030, helping the world limit global heating to 1.5°C, and building healthy, equitable, and resilient communities. Membership operates on performance-based requirements, not on fees. Every city in the C40 network is reviewed annually against their Leadership Standards, which set the minimum requirements for all member cities. Currently, 16 cities serving more than 500 million meals across the world are part of C40’s Good Food Cities accelerator,and over 50 cities are part of the C40 Food Systems Network. The initiative comprises a core central staff team that works directly with senior officials appointed by mayors from cities around the world.

«Cities are central in shaping a virtuous circle from the farm to the table, from the seed to the plate,» explains Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris and C40 Vice Chair. «As we are facing a climate crisis, I am convinced rethinking our approach on food is crucial for a long-term and perennial ecological transition. In Paris, we are working hand in hand with citizens, making sustainable, local and organic food the easy choice, combating food waste and ensuring we nourish both our city and the planet. Let’s make this commitment one of our biggest priorities as food is the essence of humanity.»

Learn more about C40.

C40, City of Lima

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