A report released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization indicated that global agriculture accounts for roughly one fifth of carbon emissions, arguing that this amount needs to be reduced. The report also warned that “business as usual” would eventually leave millions hungry due to climate change, calling on farmers around the world to take a pro-active approach. The report comes after a goal was set at the UN last year to eliminate global hunger by 2030.
Rob Voss, director of FAO’s Agricultural Development Economics division, said “The climate is changing, so agriculture must change too. We are saying that because agriculture is already very affected by the impacts of climate change, particularly the countries in the tropical zones.”
“Also, agriculture is contributing itself to about one fifth of the global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. If we continue along the present pathways then we will not be able to [deliver] food security around the world and we will not be able to stabilize the climate.” Voss continued.
Essentially, the report warns that climate change is a grave threat to agriculture as practiced today, and adds that global agriculture itself shares a considerable portion of the responsibility for preventing the worst-case scenarios of climate change.
Voss indicated that a more sustainable approach was necessary, saying “A lot of the technologies that are available that allow us to do things differently do face a number of hurdles, especially when it comes to smallholder farmers in developing countries.’
He advised four steps be taken, also outlined by the UN report. The first step he discussed would focus on sustainable farming practices, such as efficient use of fertilizer, switching to heat tolerant and drought resistant crop varieties, and using management systems life agroforestry, which establishes forestry cultivation near farmlands, helping to increase resilience against climate change.
“Secondly, we need to work harder to increase the capacity of soils and forestry to sequestrate carbon. Deforestation and changes to land-use is one of the major sources of emissions from the sector,” Voss said.
The third recommendation focused on reducing waste both in the post-harvest process, and on the consumer end as well.
Finally, the fourth step, and likely the most challenging, would involve changing diets around the world, which Voss said are increasingly demanding food products that put pressure on the environment.
“Rebalancing diets towards less animal-sourced foods would make an important contribution in this direction, with probable co-benefits for human health,” according to the UN report.
FAO director-general Jose Graziano da Silva said the next year would be the time for “putting commitments into action,” such as sustainability goals and the pledge to end hunger by 2030. He also indicated that agriculture would be a central topic of discussion at the upcoming UN summit in Morocco this November, emphasizing that “Hunger, poverty and climate change need to be tackled together.”