UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Inequality in global access to food and its implications for climate change and Sustainable Development Goals Martinez, Juan Diego


Improving global food security while also reducing the environmental footprint of the food system is a major challenge. The responsibility for solving this is, however, not equal - there is large inequality in food consumption between the world's poorest and richest. The objective of this thesis is to estimate inequality in access to food between and within countries, and its implications for climate change and sustainable development goals. In Chapter 2, I developed a theoretically-grounded statistical model to estimate the relationship between average per capita income and food access. I then used this model to estimate within-country food access for income deciles in 135 countries. I found that, from 1961 to 2013, between-country inequality in food access declined by 48%, while within-country inequality increased by 42%. In Chapter 3, I built on these results to estimate inequality in GHG emissions from food consumption (production plus net imports). I then assessed the reductions required from the top emitters to achieve global climate targets. I found that, in 2012, between 40-45% of the world's population ate diets above a target per capita cap. In Chapter 4, I explored how future scenarios of income growth versus redistribution would meet sustainable development goals of poverty, hunger, inequality and climate. I found that both an exclusive income growth scenario and an exclusive income redistribution scenario are capable of drastically reducing hunger and extreme poverty compared to the control scenario, but both fail to eradicate them entirely by 2030. A combined income growth and redistribution scenario achieves three goals but is accompanied by a 53% increase in food consumption GHG emissions. Finally, I found that it is possible to use income growth targeting the poorest and the hungry to alleviate extreme poverty and hunger with only a small increase in GHG emissions and at a low cost. In conclusion, my research shows that there is a great disparity in access to food between and within countries. The pathways to close the gap in a timely manner must be ambitious and innovative because historic progress does not set a sufficient precedent.

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