Knowledge for better food systems

UN FAO - Food wastage footprint & Climate Change

This FAO brief on food waste discusses the carbon footprint of global food waste and so called embedded emissions in avoidable food waste. In order to measure the avoidable emissions it is necessary to know how much of what kind of food is wasted and where.

This brief tries to give an overview of the measured footprint for various food commodities as well as showing breakdowns by different countries. It also looks at food waste reduction scenarios and what this would mean for climate change mitigation. 

The brief describes the global impact of food waste; how the 2012 market value of food products lost or wasted was USD 936 billion (which is in the range of the GDP of countries such as Indonesia or the Netherlands) and how the total cost of GHG emissions from global food waste is USD 411 billion.

It states that on a global average, per capita food waste footprint on climate in high income countries is more than double that of low income countries, due to the former’s wasteful food distribution and consumption patterns.


The 2011 FAO assessment of global food losses and waste estimated that each year, one-third of all food produced in the world for human consumption never reached the consumer’s table. This not only means a missed opportunity for the economy and food security, but also a waste of all the natural resources used for growing, processing, packaging, transporting and marketing food. Through an extensive literature search, the 2011 assessment of food wastage volumes gathered weight ratios of food losses and waste for different regions of the world, different commodity groups and different steps of the supply chain. These ratios were applied to regional food mass flows of FAO’s Food Balance Sheets for the year 2007. Food wastage arises at all stages of the food supply chains for a variety of reasons that are very much dependent on the local conditions within each country. At a global level, a pattern is clearly visible; in high income regions, volumes of wasted food are higher in the processing, distribution and consumption stages, whereas in low-income countries, food losses occur in the production and postharvesting phases.


FAO, (2015). Food Wastage Footprint & Climate Change, UN FAO, Rome

Read the report here.

You will find related resources in the research library categories on waste and resource use,  waste, embedded emissions, GHG emission trends, environmental impact assessment.

You can read related research by browsing the following categories of our research library:

Add comment

Member input

Plain text

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.




While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

View global articles

Doc Type