Canada's Original Think Tank

Climate Change and the Right to Food

Climate Change and the Right to Food

Climate Change and the Right to Food

Climate Change and the Right to Food


Published on 19 November 2015
Blog by Senator Mobina Jaffer

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found multiple links between climate change and how its effects stand to violate human rights, particularly those already living in poverty.  One of those links is the threat climate change poses to the right to food.

“The right to adequate food as a human right was first formally recognized by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) from 1948, as a part of the right to a decent standard of living.”

The right to food, like the right to water which we discussed last week, is necessary for human life. It seems like an obvious matter of concern – if people do not have food they cannot survive. Yet the protection of this right is already so difficult to sustain.

The right to food requires all around attention and the constant protection of four major areas of concern: food production, food access, food utilization, and nutrition. These will all be affected by, and put under greater threat, by climate change.

According to the World Bank, 702 million people still live in extreme poverty, and 793 million people are undernourished according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI). These numbers come after two decades of tireless work by humanitarian workers that lifted 200 million people out of hunger, so they are seen as numbers of progress. But over the next two decades, the effects of climate change threaten to reverse the work that has been done to combat the threats to the right to food and make the situation a lot worse for millions of people around the world.

The UN World Food Program is so concerned with the effects of climate change on food security that it stated: “Among the most significant impacts of climate change is the potential increase of food insecurity and malnutrition.”

This crisis will see its most significant impacts in rural Africa, but it will also have profound affects here in Canada. Shifts in landforms will change the processes with which our northern communities access their food. Trails will shift due to weather fluctuations and new transportation will have to be accommodated. This will have very real effects for Canadians and the global community – food scarcity is already a battle we are struggling to win. Climate change is increasing the challenges against us in this fight.

In 2012, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Inuit Circumpolar Council prepared a submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for the Official Country Mission to Canada. The document, titled Inuit and the Right to Food, raised their concerns about how climate change will affect the Inuit peoples:

“Although climate change is being felt on a global scale, the Arctic is on the frontlines of environmental change. Animal species such as caribou are facing a variety of climate related changes in their ranges. Reduced quality of food sources, including berries are already being observed. Safety is now a concern for many hunters because of increased accident rates due to sea ice thinning and unpredictable weather patterns. These changes are continuing to adversely impacting Inuit who 9 depend on country food not only for sustenance and to support the local economy, but also as the basis for cultural and social identity.”

In order to properly brace for the effects climate change will have on humanity, we need a comprehensive picture of what that looks like. The right to food is the second of a series of six blogs I will share with you as the Paris conference quickly approaches. I will continue to look at how climate change is a threat to other human rights over the next few weeks, and welcome your feedback.