What’s on the table? Mitigating agricultural emissions while achieving food security
A Climate Action Tracker report outlines and quantifies the main opportunities to reduce food-related non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CH4 and N2O.
The main supply-side mitigation opportunities the report identifies are:
- Enteric fermentation (digestion), e.g. diet additives and breeding livestock to produce less methane.
- Rice cultivation, e.g. draining rice paddies in the wet season and applying fertiliser during the dry season.
- Manure management, e.g. optimising the nitrogen content of animal feed and agitating stored manure to reduce anaerobic decomposition.
- Synthetic fertiliser, e.g. improving efficiency of nitrogen fertiliser application, applying biogas digestate and using sequential cropping.
The main demand-side mitigation opportunities are:
- Reducing food waste, e.g. reforming best-before labelling practices, improving distribution in developing countries, changing liability laws to encourage donation of surplus food and feeding food waste to livestock.
- Shifting to healthier diets, e.g. reducing meat and dairy consumption and introducing taxes on items such as fertilisers, beef and dairy, together with measures to protect vulnerable groups from the effects of those taxes. Note that the report suggests that completely stopping animal agriculture is neither feasible nor desirable.
The report affirms that demand-side changes have a much greater potential to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions than supply-side measures. Mitigation measures could have beneficial impacts on food security, adaptation to climate change, farming efficiency, health and land use. For a summary of the report’s findings, see the figure below.
Sterl, S., Gonzales-Zuñiga, S., Fekete, H., Fyson, C., Cantzler, J., Fuentes, U., Beer, M., Deng Lindee Wong, Y., and Peters, D., 2018. What’s on the table? Mitigating agricultural emissions while achieving food security. Climate Action Tracker.
To download the full report, see here.
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.
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- Committee on Climate Change- Second progress report
- FCRN summary and comments on Havlík et al, (2014), Climate change mitigation through livestock system transitions, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences