Amsterdam is located in a fertile river delta, open to a densely populated “hinterland” and the trade routes overseas. The city has traditionally been a supplier of food, foodstuff, plants and flowers. Not just nationally but also to its European neighbours and increasingly to other continents.
However, a growing awareness has risen that our current food system is far from sustainable and just. In order to fight global warming (and meet the objectives of the Paris climate agreement), a food transition is needed. Many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals have an direct link to food.
The failings of the current food system that emerge in the form of soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, health problems, extensive food waste and social injustice increasingly play out on an urban scale. Emissions caused by the food system contribute almost 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. A change is needed to decrease our consumption of animal proteins, to diminish the many ‘food kilometers’ of our meals and the amount of food that is wasted. A shorter food supply chain, where food produced in the region finds a market in the city and organic waste streams are locally reused.
Local initiatives, social entrepreneurs, civil society organizations and individuals form networks and communities on topics like urban farming, reclaiming food waste and marketing locally produced food. Entrepreneurship, innovation and cooperation are the keywords. They are often working together with the municipality and knowledge institutes, like AMS institute, where technological Institutes from Wageningen, Delft and Massachusetts (MIT) combine forces. Through its triple helix approach and the concept of ‘Living Labs’ cities like Amsterdam can become a testing ground for new concepts that can enhance quality of life and the sustainability of metropolises across the world. In the project Rumore AMS and many other local parties and innovative SME’s work together on the transition to a more circular agri-food chain, upworthing organic waste streams and creating a market for the consumption of new plant-base proteins.
In 2015, The Milan Food Policy Pact was signed by my predecessor Eberhard van der Laan. In this pact many of the issues on sustainability and social justice mentioned are addressed and I fully subscribe them. Also Amsterdam’s membership of the C-40 group of world prominent cities provides us the possibility to share our experience with many partners abroad.