Wednesday 6 May 2020

Around 4.6 gigatons of emissions ‘could be cut from farming sector by 2050’

Around 4.6 gigatons of emissions ‘could be cut from farming sector by 2050’

Measures to reduce on-farm emissions hold the cumulative potential to avoid up to 4.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalents by 2050.

That's the suggestion made in a new report from McKinsey & Company's Agriculture practice, which examines the role of agriculture in climate change and how to reduce emissions through improved farming practices.

It notes the global agriculture sector currently contributes around a fifth of all global greenhouse gas emissions, a figure that is set to rise by as much as another 20% by 2050 to reach a total of around 23.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent, driven by a swelling population and by increasing food consumption per capita.

The report identifies a range of measures that could be introduced to help curb these numbers and claims just 15 steps could account for as much as 85% of the total emissions abatement possible - these include adopting zero-emissions farm machinery and equipment, which the report suggests would help save 537 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent at a cost saving of around $229 (£185) per tonne of emissions.

It also states the use of greenhouse gas-focused genetic animal selection and breeding could cut 506 gigatons of emissions at no overall cost and adds improving fertilisation practices in rice cultivation and improving animal health monitoring and illness prevention would also save more than 411 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent with a minimal change in costs.

The study notes in order to meet the 1.5°C target outlined in the Paris Agreement, roughly 8.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent will need to come from changing diets and reducing waste and that 5.2 gigatons must come from better management of forests and natural carbon sinks, in addition to the 4.6 gigatons of emissions reductions from farming.

Joshua Katz, Partner at McKinsey & Company, said: "Throughout history, agriculture has risen to humanity’s greatest challenges. Today, the sector faces perhaps its biggest one yet: to reduce its emissions while feeding a growing global population with enhanced nutritional needs.

"It is certainly possible to reduce agricultural emissions by improving our production systems, adjusting what we eat, how much we waste, and how we manage our forests and carbon sinks. Technology offers great potential, however, the innovation required will need to be broad-based and from multiple sources. To achieve this requires swift action. This report, we hope will inform and trigger the necessary change in this sector."

Written by

Bruna Pinhoni

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