The simultaneous occurrence of COVID-19 and the desert locust infestation in 2020 provided an opportunity to highlight potential distribution vulnerabilities in the food supply chain. In a globalized society, the world food security situation is unpredictable and it is necessary to be prepared. A paper published in Nature Food in January 2021 was inspired by the simultaneous occurrence of COVID-19 and desert locust invasion in 2020 and a scenario analysis was conducted to quantify the impact of such events and other threats on global food security.
For smallholder farmers in low and middle-income countries, who make up a significant proportion of the undernourished population, dietary diversity is important for a balanced and adequate intake of the nutrients they need. A systematic review paper published in Global Food Security shows that improved market access is effective in improving a farm household’s dietary quality, while showing a positive association between access to markets and dietary diversity.
The Global Risks Report, published annually by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January, is drawing attention in predicting trends in global issues as it captures the changing perspectives of world leaders on how to perceive the world. The 2021 report ranked infectious diseases as the global risk with the greatest impact. At the same time, infectious diseases ranked 4th in the top ranking global risks by likelihood, along with climate change related risks such as extreme weather (1st), climate action failure (2nd), human environmental damage (3rd), and biodiversity loss (5th).
Dietary diversity is important especially for children in order to provide the essential nutrients including micronutrients for growth. However, until now, there is very little empirical research and evidence to demonstrate the relationship between diet diversity and climate change and food diversity. In a paper published in Environmental Research Letters in January 2021, the authors found that warming temperatures and increasing rainfall variability have profound short- and long-term impacts on children's dietary diversity, potentially undermining development interventions towards improving food security.
On January 14, 2021, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published the Adaptation Gap Report 2020, providing updates on the progress of climate change adaptation measures and the actions required. As climate change progresses, there is an increasing need for countries to take climate change adaptation measures as well as climate change mitigation measures. By taking adaptation measures, it is possible to avoid a serious crisis in the future, and the benefits are said to exceed the cost of implementing adaptation measures.
On January 8, 2021, the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service announced that the year 2021 tied with 2016 as the warmest year in history, and 2011-2020 as the warmest decade recorded. In 2020, despite the La Nina phenomenon which has the cooling effect, the temperature was pushed by the strong El Nino phenomenon which has a temperature rise effect, and matched the warmest temperature ever recorded in 2016.
Social distancing saves people's lives and at the same time imposes large costs on society as a whole due to the decline in economic activities. The Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank that researches and publishes the smartest solutions to the world’s biggest problems, conducted a rapid cost-benefit analysis of moderate social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana. The report assessed the opportunity costs of different strategies to lessen the impact of the pandemic.
In January 2021, The Lancet Planetary Health published a commentary entitled "Planetary Health Diplomacy: A Call for Action". In the recovery from the pandemic, the participation of experts in international relations involved in the formulation and implementation of strategic policies for planetary health is requested in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs.
A paper published in PNAS showed that understanding nature’s contributions to people and monitoring their benefits are crucial in improving our ability to manage earth systems efficiently, equitably and sustainably. The paper reviewed the impact of the progress of environmental degradation over the last 50 years on human quality of life, and noted a declining trend in the potential for nature to contribute in the majority of material, nonmaterial and regulating contributions assessed.
The Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021 (N4G) will be held in December 2021. This summit is an initiative to promote international efforts to resolve malnutrition in conjunction with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This time, Japan will be the host starting with the launch of "Nutrition for Growth Year of Action" in December 2020 with events throughout the year leading up to the summit.
The latest issue of ARDEC, the information magazine of the Overseas Agricultural and Development Center, Japanese Institute of Irrigation and Drainage (JIID), focused on the impact of climate change and the new coronavirus in agricultural resilience.
The World Resources Institute has published an interactive chart that shows a comparison of greenhouse gas emissions by country and economic sector. According to the data, the top 10 emitting countries, that include Japan, which ranks 6th, account for over two-thirds of global GHG emissions and play a key role to successfully fight climate change.
Exactly a year ago, the genome of SARS-CoV-2 was sequenced in China, wildfires peaked in Australia, and East Africa was exposed to the desert locust onslaught. As the world welcomes 2021, the coronavirus pandemic has not subsided at all, and the recovery of the world economy will depend on effectiveness of the vaccine. In contrast, there is no silver bullet like a vaccine for climate change, and every country is required to take concrete technical and institutional measures.
In 2020, there were many events that supported the need for timely collection and dissemination of information such as desert locust, new coronavirus infection (COVID-19) pandemic, frequent extreme weather due to climate change, and international trends regarding greenhouse gas emission reduction. In particular, COVID-19 is a strategic direction for technological development and intervention from the perspective of avoiding climate change and biodiversity loss and ensuring global food and nutrition security, as artificial economic activities are undermining the health of humankind and the planet.
The United Nations has set the International Year on important themes that need to be addressed on a global scale and calls for action on issues to be considered. The year 2021 is designated as the International Year of Peace and Trust, the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, the International Year of Eradication of Child Labor, and the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables.
In December 2020, CGIAR's Dr. Kundhavi Kadiresan published an article entitled "How Africa can lead the world in the COVID-19 recovery", and suggested that Africa can build greater resistance to global shocks, leapfrogging other regions by transforming the food system that the entire continent and the world has outgrown.
201. Reducing meat consumption as a measure against climate change requires a different approach in developing countries
Researchers at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) published a paper in the Environmental Research Letters and cautioned that recommendations for reducing consumption of animal foods, including meat, as a measure against climate change may not be the applicable in low- and middle-income countries. While meat consumption is still low in developing countries, there is plenty of room for livestock production to contribute to improving farmers' income and nutrition, as well as soil fertility.
In December 2020, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) published the Human Development Report, The Next Frontier – Human Development and the Anthropocene, to commemorate its 30th anniversary. The report proposed the Planetary pressures-adjusted Human Development Index (PHDI), to take into account carbon dioxide emissions and their material footprint in each country in the integrated index of health, education and living standards in each country.
A paper published in The Lancet Planetary Health in December 2020 discussed the trade-off between food system innovation and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Emerging trade-offs must be addressed, particularly those involving social aspects like inequality and social justice, in order to achieve true sustainability.
A paper published in Nature Sustainability in December 2020 (Bundling innovations to transform agri-food systems) stated that multiple innovations must be combined to address the transformation of agri-food systems.