Coalitions and Emissions
A newsletter about food systems, climate change and everything connected to them
Thanks for all the comments and responses to the last issue - I’m glad my little rant resonated with many people, and apologies for not being able to respond individually to messages. I’ve been traveling and the deadlines haven’t disappeared but here goes another issue.
Coalitions with Big Ambitions
As regular readers of my newsletter knows, the Food Systems Summit was held in September amid boycotts and criticisms. Whatever you feel about it, the one thing the event did was bring the concept of food systems on to the global stage, and one major outcome of the Summit was the numerous coalitions (30 at the last count) that were formed before, during and after the 18-month process.
I wrote about seven with big ambitions for The New Humanitarian, accompanied by Kylee Pedersen’s lovely illustration (as usual). They range from coalitions looking to boost the promotion of agroecology and repurposing public subsidies to resizing the livestock industry and incorporating social and environmental costs to the value of food.
Have a read here.
“These coalitions are looking to tackle a complex and broad set of issues: from long-running conflicts and competition over natural resources such as land and water, to policies that favour productivity at the expense of health or the environment, to the lack of long-term support for small-scale farmers already struggling due to droughts and floods.
They aim to support country plans to transform the way people and businesses produce, transport, process, consume, and discard food. Meeting these objectives, they say, will also help reduce the hefty contribution that existing food systems are making to climate change.”
Emissions Along the Chain
A group of researchers, led by Francesco Tubiello of the UN food agency FAO + others from Columbia University, New York University, and elsewhere, have steadfastly been working to identify, calculate and attribute the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) coming from food systems, so that countries can come up with better policies to rein these in.
Here’s a previous issue where I’ve written about their findings -
Well, during COP26, they published another paper, this time looking at emissions data from agri-food systems in 236 countries and territories during the period 1990-2019.
Be warned though, this is a pre-print - meaning it hasn’t been peer-reviewed - so some data might change, but it still provides a fascinating look at which parts of food systems are producing how much of the dirty gases. Here’s what you should know -
Emissions from the food sector in 2019 = 16.5 billion metric tonnes or 31% of total emissions, a 17% increase from 1990
Emissions within the farm gate (crop and livestock production as well as energy use) = 7.2 billion metric tonnes
Emissions from pre- and post-production (fertilisers, food processing, packaging, transport, retail, household consumption and waste disposal) = 5.8 billion metric tonnes
Emissions from land use change (due to deforestation and peatland degradation) = 3.5 billion metric tonnes
Food supply chain has overtaken farming and land use as the largest contributor of GHGs in many countries
The last point “has important repercussions for food-relevant national mitigation strategies, considering that until recently these have focused mainly on reductions of non-CO₂ within the farm gate and on CO₂ from land use change”, said Tubiello in a press release.
Food-system emissions as a share of the total has declined globally but in regions with modern agri-food systems, they grew - from 24% to 31% in Europe and from 17% to 21% in North America, driven by CO₂ emissions
Breakdown by Specific Gases
Pre- and post- production processes emitted the most CO₂
Activities within farms were responsible for the most methane and nitrous oxide emissions
Breakdown by Source
Deforestation = 3 billion CO₂
Enteric fermentation (🐄 burrrrpppp) = 2.8 billion CO₂ equivalent
Livestock manure = 1.315 billion CO₂
Household consumption = 1.309 billion CO₂
Food waste disposal = 1.309 billion CO₂
On-farm use of fossil fuels = 1 billion CO₂
Food retail = 932 million CO₂
Breakdown by Region - Highest to Lowest
Asia = 7 billion CO₂ equivalent
Africa = 2.7 billion CO₂ equivalent
South America = 2.4 billion CO₂ equivalent
Europe = 2.1 billion CO₂ equivalent (pre- and post-production account for more than half of this)
North America = 1.5 billion CO₂ equivalent (pre- and post-production account for more than half of this)
Oceania = 0.3 billion CO₂ equivalent
“Despite some progress, diets are not getting healthier and make increasing demands on the environment, while unacceptable levels of malnutrition persist,” according to The Global Nutrition Report 2021.
149.2 million children under five years old are stunted (too short for their age)
45.4 million children under five years old are wasted (too thin for their height)
38.9 million children under five years old are overweight
2.2. billion adults – over 40% of all men and women – are overweight or obese
No country is on track to halt the rise of obesity.
Fruit and vegetable intake is below the recommended 5 servings per day (60% and 40% respectively)
Legume and nuts intakes are each more than two thirds below the recommended two servings per day
Red and processed meat is almost five times maximum recommendation of one serving per week and rising
Bayer and Microsoft Coalition?
Bayer, the German chemicals conglomerate who bought the notorious agribusiness giant Monsanto, and Microsoft, the American software behemoth much-disliked by many techies, have entered into a deal of some sort.
I’m still trying to get my head around it, but AFN’s Louisa Burwood-Taylor, who’s also still figuring out what it means, said, “This could have a broader impact on the agtech industry, significant ramifications for ag data more broadly, and be a major new revenue stream for both Bayer and Microsoft.”
Her comprehensive piece breaking down what it could mean is here.
As always, have a great weekend! Please feel free to share this post and send tips and thoughts on twitter @thinink, to my LinkedIn page or via e-mail email@example.com.