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Sustainable Food Systems Can Make a Huge Contribution to Climate Action.

CHALLENGES Over 820 million people were undernourished in 2018, while agriculture provides livelihoods for 2.5 billion people. Climate change could push 122 million more people, mainly farmers, into extreme poverty by 2030. Climate change is projected to increase cereal prices 29 percent by 2050. Agriculture absorbs 26 percent of the economic impact of climate disasters, rising to 83 percent for drought in developing countries. Water scarcity affects 40 percent of the population. For every 1 °C rise, 500 million extra people will face a 20 percent dip in renewable water resources. Transboundary animal and plant pests and diseases are spreading faster with climate change. Plant diseases alone cost the global economy USD 220 billion annually. Agriculture, forestry and other land use cause almost one quarter of human greenhouse gas emissions. Tropical deforestation and forest degradation account for 11 percent. A third of global soils are degraded, releasing 78 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and costing over 10 percent of GDP through lost biodiversity and ecosystem services. Livestock supply chains account for 14.5 percent of human emissions. The ocean has absorbed over 90 percent of human-induced warming and 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. In some Western and Central Pacific island states, small-scale fisheries’ harvests could fall up to 50 percent by 2050. Around 14 percent of food, worth USD 400 billion, is lost post-harvest before it reaches retailers. Total food losses and waste cause 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to earlier estimates.

SOLUTIONS One third of existing, feasible solutions for agreed climate goals come from agriculture. Nature-based solutions can keep up to 12 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year and add USD 2.3 trillion to the global economy. Rehabilitating agricultural and degraded soils can remove 51 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in total, and raise food production by 17.6 megatonnes per year. Emissions from livestock production, in particular methane, can be cut by 30 percent. Reducing deforestation and restoring degraded forests can cut emissions by over 5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year. Fisheries and aquaculture offer significant opportunities to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of freshwater withdrawals; producing more with less water can address water scarcity.

Reference: FAO

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