Why agriculture can play a central role in climate action

Agriculture has a crucial role in climate action, say experts.

FILE PHOTO: The crop is seen in a wheat field ahead of annual harvest near Moree, Australia, October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Barrett/File Photo

In the midst of escalating global temperatures, experts are underlining the crucial role of agriculture in climate action, all while safeguarding global food security. This assertion comes as 2023 has been officially confirmed as the warmest year on record.

Expressing concern over this trend, Kaveh Zahedi, Director of the Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Environment at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), underscored the importance of not becoming indifferent to successive record-breaking temperatures. He pointed out that these records have far-reaching implications, such as an increased frequency of extreme weather events, more forest fires, droughts, floods, and their direct impact on people, particularly those on the front lines like the agricultural community.

Despite agrifood systems contributing to approximately one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, some experts, including Zahedi, believe they also harbour significant potential for positive climate action. Zahedi highlighted the transformative role of farms beyond mere food production, envisioning them as generators of renewable energy. This energy, he suggests, can be utilized on the farm for activities like powering greenhouses, water pumping, and irrigation. Moreover, surplus energy can be fed into the grid, and agricultural waste can be repurposed into fuels or biofuels. These innovative approaches represent energy-efficient solutions in agriculture, aligning with the ongoing efforts of organizations like FAO in collaboration with various countries.

In December, nations struck a historic deal at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai to transition the global economy away from fossil fuels. The summits Declaration on Agriculture, Food, & Climate received endorsements from 137 countries with $3.5 billion announced to replenish the Green Climate Fund.

“Almost 1.5 billion dollars have been accessed and that funding has been specifically put into actioning these solutions, to bring land and sea under sustainable management. And just that portfolio has given extraordinary dividends. We have over, I think, it’s 100 million hectares of land under sustainable management. That has helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 500 million tonnes and is bringing real benefits in terms of green jobs and livelihoods.”

According to the 2023 edition of the Emissions Gap Report, released in the lead up to COP28, the world must cut emissions by 42 per cent by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

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