According to a study by a team of Potsdam scientists, the global food system needs to be transformed in order to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The group led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) used a quantitative food and land system model to assess the effects of degrowth and efficiency proposals on greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector. They found that the combination of dietary change, emissions pricing and international income transfers could make the global food system emissions neutral by the end of the 21st century – at the same time providing healthier diets. to a growing world population.
“Simply reducing the size of our current food system will not reduce emissions very much. Instead, we must transform the very nature of this global food system,” said Benjamin Bodirsky, researcher at PIK and World Vegetable. Center in Tainan, Taiwan and author of the study. “This means on the one hand that people consume what they need in terms of nutritional needs, limit food waste and have a more balanced diet, with many more vegetables and fewer animal products. On the other hand, a Qualitative transformation means more efficiency, so producing food in less polluting ways: smarter fertilizer dosing or planting higher-yielding crops In addition, carbon pricing could help steer farmers towards low-carbon farming practices. low emissions, because emitting less means paying less. Together, this could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” added Benjamin Bodirsky.
The way we produce food and manage our land is responsible for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions throughout the supply chain. “We therefore examined what this system would look like in a hypothetical world of degrowth: based on a review of degrowth proposals, we created a set of scenarios to feed into a computer simulation of food and land systems to explore their effect on the food system,” explained David Chen, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and author of the study.
“We have taken a step back from heated normative debates about degrowth. What we have found is that the current food system is fundamentally unsustainable for any society, regardless of economic growth rates,” David said. Chen. The simulations show that simply dampening growth in rich countries would not bring significant sustainability benefits to the food system. Financial transfers from high-income countries to low-income countries under the current development paradigm may even increase emissions. Indeed, the shift from carbon-intensive diets towards animal products and processed foods is more pronounced as countries move from low to middle incomes.
Sustainable diets benefit the planet and people Yet when scientists included consumption changes and efficiency gains prompted by a price on carbon, the results showed improved nutritional outcomes for all consumers, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, also less economic activity in agriculture needed for food production.
“For the food sector, we can say that some degree of degrowth would be the result of sustainable transformation, not the starting point. So basically it’s not really about less but about different growth” , said Hermann Lotze-Campen, co-author of the Potsdam Institute. Importantly, a sustainable transformation of the food system that takes into account all the costs to the environment would lead to a slight increase in food prices – felt in particular by the poor, the scientists show.
Any transformation must therefore be accompanied by a well-thought-out mix of smart tax regimes, social compensation for CO2 pricing and international transfers. Furthermore, making agriculture more climate-friendly, for example by controlling nitrogen flows in cropland, requires investment. These costs, however, are likely offset by the restoration of ecosystem services. (ANI)
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