Climate change threatens global agriculture, particularly in countries already facing water shortages and areas vulnerable to rising sea levels and flooding.
Agriculture accounts for less than 1% of UK GDP but contributes about 7% of our total GHG emissions, much in the form of methane (from digestion in ruminants and waste decomposition) and nitrous oxide (from fertilisers), which have a stronger warming effect than carbon dioxide. Livestock farming is the biggest GHG emitter within agriculture sector.
When we take into account the production, packaging, transport, retail and preparation of our food, its contribution to climate change is even greater.
Mitigating agriculture’s contribution to climate change means embracing sustainable farming practices; relying on fewer chemical inputs, and producing less energy and resource intensive foods.
However, there is no benefit in reducing UK agricultural emissions if we offshore our contributions by substituting high GHG-emitting products with similar energy-intensive imports, or if we encourage practices that have unintended consequences – like replacing food for biofuel crops in developing countries.
Priorities for policy intervention by the UK government include: