CLIMATE AND CONSUMERS
CLIMATE AND CONSUMERS: WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN A COUNTRY STILL THREATENED BY HUNGER?
The 22nd edition of the Sustainable Future Dialogues, held by iCS with sponsoring from the German Embassy, brought together Germans and Brazilians in Cidade das Artes and was live broadcasted on YouTube
The Brazilian Institute for Climate and Society iCS, with the support of the German Embassy, held the 22nd edition of the international seminar " Sustainable Future Dialogues" yesterday, October 19th. The event on climate and consumers took place at Cidade das Artes, in Rio de Janeiro, in synergy with the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact and was live broadcasted on the Youtube-Channel of iCS with simultaneous translation between English and German.
The event started with opening remarks of Dirk Augustin, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Rio de Janeiro; Marina Marçal, coordinator of the ICS climate policy portfolio; and Teresa Liporace, iCS Program Director and from Germany Jochen Geilenkirchen, advisor for Sustainable Consumption of the German Consumer Federation, who participated remotely; Janine Giuberti Coutinho, coordinator of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program of the Brazilian Consumer Protection Institute - Idec; Gustavo Ferroni, coordinator of Rural Justice and Development of Oxfam Brazil; André Micalli de Campos, research coordinator on production chains of Repórter Brasil; Juliana Medrado Tângari, director of the Institute Comida do Amanhã; and Elisabetta Recine, professor at the University of Brasilia. The event was moderated by Kamyla Borges, from iCS.
The participants discussed the role of the consumer as an agent of change towards healthier and more sustainable food systems, the importance of public policies and the regulation of food advertising and labelling and, most importantly, the contradictions in Brazil, which profiles itself as a major producer and exporter of agricultural commodities while today more than 33 million people are starving.
Dirk Augustin, Consul General of Germany in Brazil, opened the seminar highlighting the importance of consumers demanding sustainable products and the responsibility of governments in this process. "In the food industry we are developing a federal strategy with concrete actions for food safety, with health and environmental protection in Germany. Sustainable consumption also means fair consumption," he said. "Another point to highlight is that while the poorest part of the population suffers most from the effects of climate change, it is the one that contributes least to these effects.”
All participants agreed on the role of the consumer as an important agent of change, especially when it comes to the mobilization of public opinion but stressed that this responsibility cannot fall only on civil society.
The audience watched the video sent by Professor Elisabetta Recine, from the University of Brasilia, who pointed out "We are living a climate collapse. Changes in consumption patterns are only real if they relate to the collective and if they contribute to the process of collective consciousness. What are the paths of transformation? The message of transformation needs to be accompanied by real experiences that are already happening. We have many examples (around the world) and we need to achieve a fairer, more sustainable and healthier agri-food transition”
Jochen Geilenkirchen of the German Consumer Federation stressed the importance of transparency about production processes in food chains. “Many products state to be sustainable, but the certificates are issued by private companies. Organic products are usually more expensive than conventional ones, consumers often cannot afford them. We need to increase the range of sustainable product offerings. Another point is that products need to be recognizable immediately. Consumers find it difficult to recognize whether the product really has been produced in a sustainable way. In this way, the responsibility is shifted to the consumer, making the decision very difficult. Advertising in global production chains should be more regulated. We still have no way of checking whether people are being exploited, whether deforestation is taking place, for example. While companies claim, often incorrectly, sustainability in their products, the consumer has no way of making the right decisions."
Janine Giuberti Coutinho, from Idec, complemented, exemplifying the advances in Brazil on this issue, but highlighting that there is still a long way to go. "A very emblematic case was the improvement of labelling in Brazil, work carried out by a large coalition of institutions. After six long years, the current version of the norm approved was not what we intended. But it was a great result, we consider it a victory, for having managed to advance even under the current government, when more pesticides were approved than ever before".
André Micalli de Campos, from Repórter Brasil, began by pointing out that Brazil is one of the most unequal countries in the world in terms of income. "We have here a very significant number of people/consumers who should be mobilized to be part of the discussions, traceability able to verify the origin of food. What they can and should demand from the food industry. But this is still a niche discussion. Most of the Brazilian population still has to base their choices on price, on purchasing power. The discussion about the power of choice is exclusive in the Brazilian context. And the price of food is the result of a series of public policies of economic support to certain forms of food production. We are not trying to show how the consumer can choose between A and B, but to engage the opinion-forming consumer so that he can demand the authorities", he said.
Gustavo Ferroni, from Oxfam Brazil, agreed: "Those who suffer the consequences of this inequality are the poorest, most vulnerable groups. In Brazil, there is a pattern: the level of transparency of the multinationals that operate here is very low, not at all the same standards as in the headquarters. This helps to hide information about the production chains. We need to move forward in labelling".
Juliana Medrado Tângari, from the Tomorrow's Food Institute, participated by highlighting the role of cities in the food justice agenda. "We see more and more cities wanting to act and not knowing how, that's why we are seeing so many cities wanting to voluntarily join the Milan Pact? The stronger municipal policies for food systems are, the more we can move forward in this sector."
Brazil can be considered a portrait of the global syndemic of obesity, malnutrition, and climate change. On the one hand, we are the largest producers of food and agricultural commodities in the world. On the other, the expansion of production, particularly of agricultural commodities – soy, corn, and meat – is proving to be one of the main drivers of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil. Brazil also has over 60% of its population suffering from obesity and 33 million people suffering from hunger, apparently contradictory facts, but which only highlight the low access to healthy food.
In this context, the consumer's role becomes even more relevant, as he/she can act as a pressure vector within the supply chain to change environmental practices, demanding food with a smaller carbon footprint and mobilizing greater access to healthy food, or as an actor that leads the transition to healthier and more sustainable food systems. However, most of Brazil's population still needs to base their choices on purchasing power. This makes it necessary to engage the opinion-forming consumer so that he/she can demand the authorities. Consumers, thus, represent a growing entry point for climate mobilization.
The urgency of this debate gains strength when thought within a broader discussion on food systems and cities, which will already be taking place in Rio de Janeiro in October - the Milan Pact. There is an opportunity to align the agenda of the Dialogues with that of the Milan Pact because of the potential to attract a key audience - municipal officials, organizations that work in the field of food security and health, consumer movements, agroecology, and grassroots movements.
ABOUT THE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE DIALOGUES
Brazil and Germany have historically cooperated in various areas such as energy, the environment, climate, science and technology, economic development, etc., and in projects that involve various stakeholders. The cooperation on environment and energy is considered strategic for both countries. Currently, we have been discussing the transversality of the environmental area, bringing a series of key themes, today understood as interconnected to environmental issues, especially the climate area.
In this sense, a series of events will be held under the project "Sustainable Future Dialogues", coordinated by the Institute Climate and Society (iCS) and the German Embassy in Brazil, to elevate the discussion on climate change through the perspective of the agents of change.
In 2022, groups and specific sectors bring new approaches and entry points to follow for the implementation, exchange of good experiences with organizations and experts from Germany. The aim is to explore the relationship between climate and specific transformation actors, broadening the dialogue and discussing the challenges faced and the creative solutions and good practices implemented by the two countries to promote economic growth, social inclusion and awareness on the need for environmental protection.
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