Transformed Food Systems

The current food system is a major driver of climate change, pollution, and the increasing burden of chronic disease. Malnutrition (including obesity) and the climate crisis could be mitigated through a shift towards a diet that is predominantly based on wholefoods and plants and is lower in processed and red meats. Minimising food waste and incentivising regenerative agricultural practices will also contribute to healthy, sustainable food systems.

Transforming food systems is an opportunity to ensure equity; populations who are most susceptible to food insecurity and the negative effects of climate change contribute the least to environmental degradation. Therefore, addressing food as one of the most significant drivers of climate change will contribute to equitable outcomes for marginalised people.

As an immediate priority, we urge the government to ensure that its own institutions are procuring healthy and sustainable foods in order to accelerate progress towards a carbon-neutral public sector and build longer term resilience in our food systems. Achieving sustainable food systems should also hold high priority in local, national, and international negotiations, with New Zealand centralising te Tiriti o Waitangi.

OraTaiao’s 2030 vision for Aotearoa’s transformed food sector and lands

Our climate was changing – and we did too. Our country grows, finds and farms food that’s healthy for us, our global neighbours, and our planet. The mauri and mana of Papatūānuku and Ranginui is honoured. Māori food traditions are healthy and strong, with Māori sovereignty and whenua relationships restored.

We and the world eat whole foods, mostly plants, and not too much. Meat and dairy still have a place – but as special foods for special times. There is no hunger nor food waste nor overconsumption in our country. Food-related ill-health has virtually vanished. Everyone has their nutrition needed for fully active lives. Food banks are no longer needed. Instead there is much local community sharing of home-grown kai, and household food growing, including in urban areas. We are a good global neighbour playing a strong role in reducing world hunger.

We import just a small fraction of what we eat, confident that this imported food hardly harms our climate, and that people are fairly employed. Just as everyone employed in Aotearoa’s food production has good stable jobs, with fair conditions and pay.

Our freshwater is safe to drink almost everywhere, and life has almost fully returned to these waters. Farming is regenerative, maximising the health and carbon capture of soils, wetlands, plants and trees. Artificial nitrogenous fertilisers and imported feed supplements such as palm kernel have long gone, along with intensive industrial-style farming. Pressures on farmers have eased, with much healthier work and conditions – including for other farm animals. Production is much more diverse and suited to local land conditions, creating affordable resilience in the face of the climate changes already committed. The push to rapidly reduce agricultural emissions has seen long-lasting heavy-hitting nitrous oxide disappear here, in association with a significant reduction in reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use and smaller herd sizes.

As the window for 1.5 °C started to shut fast, the world moved to abrupt methane cuts as a short-lived but powerfully warming gas - pushing a super climate pollutant sprint in the 2020s, while the decarbonisation marathon continued. Now as we enter the 2030s, Aotearoa’s methane is a bare fraction of 2022 emissions, and waste methane eliminated. Carbon dioxide, both in rural and urban areas, has also plummeted.

We are relieved that we chose to rapidly reduce emissions here, as buying offshore emissions credits is difficult and costs are soaring as the world races to true net zero in time. Instead, we are able to fund over a billion NZ dollars annually as our fair share of global climate finance, as well as another billion annually for loss and damage, for these countries least responsible for committed climate changes.

Stepping up to really play our part in keeping global heating to the humanly adaptable 1.5 °C has: honoured te Tiriti; meant much better health for everyone; eased health services pressures; created real equity and so many more good jobs around our country; and helped motivate the global climate action we so needed to protect Aotearoa’s future.

Our work:


Other submissions can be found here.


See other publications here.

Briefing Papers and Position Statements:

Further briefings and position statements here.

Other useful references:

Willett, W. et al. (2019). Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet, 393(10170), 447-492.