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Recipe for a liveable planet

Report cover titled recipe for a liveable planet

This report provides comprehensive data regarding the current state of the global agri-food system at country level. It highlights the most cost effective points of intervention to reduce emissions associated with the agri-food sector, including land and soil management strategies, dietary shifts, and the protection and restoration of forests.

Summary

This report from the World Bank details a vision for transforming the agri-food system to better align with climate change targets, specifically by reaching net zero. The report focuses on providing country level data and strategies tailored to high-income, middle-income and low-income countries respectively. The report concludes with suggestions that governments of high-income countries money away from subsidising high greenhouse gas emitting foods (red meat and dairy) towards support for low emitting foods (poultry, fruits and vegetables); that they promote renewable energy production and provide financial and technical support to lower-income countries. These shifts, the authors claim, may create the economic and legal environment necessary to allow investment finance and subsidy redistribution to drive the necessary research and innovation needed to develop new food production methods. They also focus on how to ensure these methods do not cause further harm to the environment and that they are inclusive, so as to protect the people most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity.

The report’s main messages are:

  • The global agri-food system presents a huge opportunity to cut almost a one-third of the world’s GHG emissions through affordable and readily available actions. 
  • These actions will also have three key benefits: they will make food supplies more secure, help our food system better withstand climate change, and ensure that vulnerable people are not harmed by this transition.

The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the global greenhouse gas emissions associated with the agri-food sector. Figure 1 demonstrates the total emissions and the breakdown of the specific contributing areas.

Total emissions associated with the agrifood system allocated to three main subcategories and individual components.

Figure 1: Total emissions associated with the agri-food system allocated to three main subcategories and individual components.

The report details priorities for high-income, middle-income and low-income countries. Figure 2 highlights the cost effective emissions mitigation potential of several key strategies breakdown by country.

Cost-effective mitigation potential for six mitigation strategies and measures.

Figure 2: Cost-effective mitigation potential for six mitigation strategies and measures. 

High-income countries (Including the US, Canada and Australia)

  • Energy demands by agri-food are the highest in high-income countries, so such countries should do more to promote renewable energy.
  • High-income countries should give more financial and technical support to low- and middle-income countries to help them adopt low-emission agri-food practices and build their capacity to effectively use new technologies. 
  • High-income countries should decrease their own consumer demand for emissions intensive, animal-source foods. These countries can also shift subsidies for red meat and dairy toward lower-emission foods, such as poultry or fruits and vegetables. 

Middle-income countries (including China, Brazil and India)

  • These countries are where three-quarters of the opportunities exist for emissions to be cut in a cost-effective way. Fifteen large, mostly middle-income countries account for almost two thirds of the world’s cost-effective mitigation potential.
  • One-third of the world’s opportunities to reduce agri-food emissions in a cost-effective way relate to land use in middle-income countries. Reducing the conversion of forests to croplands or pastures and promoting reforestation or agroforestry can bring big emissions cuts and store carbon in biomass and soils. 
  • Other opportunities exist in cutting methane in livestock and rice paddies, as well as using sustainable soil management to store carbon and boost agricultural yields and climate resilience.
  • Middle-income countries emit the most pre- and post-food production emissions, particularly from fertiliser production, food loss and waste, and household food consumption.

Low-income countries (Including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia)

  • More than half of the agri-food emissions in low-income countries come from converting forests to croplands or pastures; thus, preserving and restoring forests can be a cost-effective way to reduce emissions and promote sustainable economic development.
  • Carbon credits and emissions trading can put a value on forests’ standing that preserves them as carbon sinks, a refuge for animals and plants, and a source of sustainable jobs for Indigenous peoples and others. 
  • Improved agricultural practices such as agroforestry, which integrates trees in croplands, could not only store carbon but also make the land more productive, offer job opportunities, and provide more diversified diets. Likewise, climate-smart agriculture techniques could lower emissions while offering economic gains and more resilience to climate change. 

The full report concludes by noting the most cost effective mitigation actions and the potential emissions reductions associated with these actions broken down by high-income, middle-income and low-income countries. Figure 3 highlights these actions and their potential emissions reductions. 

Potential emissions reductions of high- middle- and low-income countries with specific mitigation action strategies.

Figure 3: Potential emissions reductions of high- middle- and low-income countries with specific mitigation action strategies.

Abstract

The global agrifood system has been largely overlooked in the fight against climate change. Yet, greenhouse gas emissions from the agrifood system are so big that they alone could cause the world to miss the goal of keeping global average temperatures from rising above 1.5 centigrade compared to preindustrial levels. Greenhouse gas emissions from agrifood must be cut to net zero by 2050 to achieve this goal. Recipe for a Livable Planet: Achieving Net Zero Emissions in the Agrifood System offers the first comprehensive global strategic framework to mitigate the agrifood system’s contributions to climate change, detailing affordable and readily available measures that can cut nearly a third of the world’s planet heating emissions while ensuring global food security. These actions, which are urgently needed, offer three additional benefits: improving food supply reliability, strengthening the global food system’s resilience to climate change, and safeguarding vulnerable populations. This practical guide outlines global actions and specific steps that countries at all income levels can take starting now, focusing on six key areas: investments, incentives, information, innovation, institutions, and inclusion. Calling for collaboration among governments, businesses, citizens, and international organizations, it maps a pathway to making agrifood a significant contributor to addressing climate change and healing the planet.

Reference

Sutton, William R.; Lotsch, Alexander; Prasann, Ashesh. 2024. Recipe for a Livable Planet: Achieving Net Zero Emissions in the Agrifood System. Agriculture and Food Series. Conference Edition. Washington, DC: World Bank.

Read more here. See also the TABLE report What scale for the food system? Moving beyond polarised debates and our podcast series Power in the food system

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