House debates

Monday, 23 November 2009

Questions without Notice

Global Food Security

2:29 pm

Photo of Dick AdamsDick Adams (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. How has the government been engaging internationally on the connections between climate change and food security?

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Lyons for the question. Last week representatives of governments from around the world gathered for the Global Food Summit, where we dealt with projections that by 2050 the global food supply will have to be in the order of 70 per cent higher than it is now. There are many challenges to food security around the world, including investing in agricultural development; increasing demand as a result of increasing global population; changes in land use; the need for improved market access; and, of course, climate change. While certainly not the only issue for global food security, climate change is one of the issues with which the nations of the world is wrestling.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it best when he said ‘there can be no food security without climate security’. As you go through the different continents of the world the challenges are different, whether it be drought, like our farmers in Australia are dealing with; the increase in the number of major weather events; or rising sea levels and the various pressures that occur there. In Asia, for example, a reduction of between 2.5 per cent and 10 per cent in crops is expected by 2020. Most recently, the Philippines has been experiencing some of the challenges that come with an increase in major weather events—the recent floods caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng and the impact they have had on the rice crop. Can we say that those individual typhoons were climate change ones? No. But what we can say is that it is consistent with projections of an increased number of major weather events occurring throughout the world.

At that event I was fortunate to co-chair with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh a roundtable on the connections between climate change and food security. In Bangladesh they are dealing with increased floods and rising sea levels—and what is often forgotten is that rising sea levels mean not merely a loss of agricultural land but also an increase in salinity levels as you go further upstream on river systems.

The challenges of food security are many, and climate change is one of them. But it is one of the areas where the nations of the world need to act, and Australia needs to be among them.