Net-Zero Emissions Food Systems
We will convene a breadth of food system experts to assess prospects for net-zero emissions food systems with a goal of developing a foundation and roadmap for further research and emerging mitigation efforts, including in key regions such as the U.S., Europe, China, Brazil, India, and Indonesia. Rather than relying on previously published “black-box” scenarios of global food systems, we will begin with present emissions and systematically evaluate the potential for entirely avoiding and/or balancing those emissions by different means. In each case, we will also examine the socio-political, technological, and economic barriers, risks, opportunities, and trade-offs related to different approaches, and ultimately identify areas where further research and investment are both needed and warranted in order to support and accelerate transition to net-zero emissions food systems. Finally, we will assess demand trends for different categories of crops, livestock, fish, and algae to ensure that we are targeting the most relevant production systems.
Stabilizing Earth’s climate at any level will require net-zero emissions of longer-lived greenhouse gasses such as CO2 and N2O. Thus, even if societies successfully eliminate GHG emissions from energy systems, it is also critical to mitigate the substantial quantities of emissions related to food production, which will entail measures to avoid land-use emissions as well as protection and enhancements of terrestrial carbon sinks such that food system emissions are either entirely avoided or balanced by negative emissions. Yet a large share of the emissions related to food systems will be technologically difficult or costly to avoid/manage, and even where solutions are clear (e.g., stop deforestation), socio-economic and political barriers are often daunting and/or solutions may be at odds with other sustainability and development goals. This is especially the case because some of the major sources of land-use emissions—and biggest opportunities for nature-based negative emissions—are in low-income regions with large populations and without strong institutions or governance. Thus both the demand for food and the headwinds of climate change will increase.
The broad goals of this workshop are:
- To explore pathways to net-zero emissions (i.e. climate-neutral) food systems, identifying key opportunities, challenges, and tradeoffs, as well as desirable sequences of actions over time and critical leverage points for different actions and actors.
- To identify important differences among major sources of food (and emissions), especially livestock (LUC, methane), cereals (nitrogen), oil crops (LUC), and seafood (life cycle) as well as regions and income groups.
- To differentiate and separately analyze the technical feasibility across these pathways, (i.e., what could be done) as opposed to the social and political feasibility (i.e. aspects of culture, tradition, political economy, human development, logistics, etc. that may further constrain responses).
- To seed a new set of food system simulations and model construction.
For example, discussions will cover a matrix of key emissions reduction options and major food types, in each case addressing region-specific opportunities and challenges. Major food types to be explored include cereals, oil crops, fruits and vegetables, livestock, and aquatic foods.
Emissions reductions levers to be explored across food types include:
- Development & Demand Levers – Population arcs, Development and behavioral trends, Regional demand needs per development scenarios, Demand (e.g., dietary shifts)
- Food production per capita – Reduce loss, Aligning Supply with Demand, Trade, Food stocks and storage
- Land use intensity / production – Intensity of food production, Increase yields (e.g., optimize fertilization, new cultivars, improved management)
- Emissions intensity of land use / production system – Avoid conversion of carbon dense natural lands; Management to reduce emissions (e.g., waste management, changed practices, amendments)
- CDR – Changes in land-use or practices to increase carbon uptake
Addressing these issues requires an interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approach, bridging multiple scientific communities and disciplines. The workshop will thus convene experts across domains of food system modeling, observation, and data science, spanning fields of climate mitigation, agronomy and plant biology, economics and behavioral science, chemistry and industrial structure, as well as policy and political economy. Experts across these fields have much to gain by interacting but rarely have funding to do so. Forging new solutions-oriented dialogues related to food system emissions will be a major outcome of the proposed workshop and project activities.
Other expected outcomes of this workshop include (but are not limited to):
- A set of research papers with participants from workshop analyzing the potential of different approaches to reduce food system emissions, ideally spanning a range of perspectives and methods.
- A census and quality assessment criteria for food system observational and data products, including those that can aid modeling activities.
- A census and characterization of food system models that do or could represent the key emissions reduction options, from cropping system models to Integrated Assessment Models Scoping research priorities to support the transition to secure, resilient, and climate-neutral global food systems.
- A policy perspective on immediate steps needed to move toward net zero in food systems.
Rosamond Lee Naylor
No participant information is available at this time.
The attendee list and participant profiles are regularly updated. For information on participant affiliation at the time of workshop, please refer to the historical roster. If you are aware of updates needed to participant or workshop records, please notify AGCI’s workshops team.