Global emissions from agriculture set to rise by 4% over next decade, report says

Major UN, OECD study pinpoints livestock production as major problem areas

Irish dairy cows fixed with technology that collects and measures methane emissions as they graze on grass at Moorepark Teagasc Food Research Centre in Fermoy.

Irish dairy cows fixed with technology that collects and measures methane emissions as they graze on grass at Moorepark Teagasc Food Research Centre in Fermoy.

 

Global carbon emissions from agriculture are expected to rise by 4 per cent over the next 10 years, mostly due to expanding livestock production, putting greater pressure on countries to meet their climate change targets, the UN food agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has warned.

This is despite the fact that emissions per unit of output – carbon intensity of production – are expected to decrease significantly over the period alongside the adoption of new, greener technologies.

In their Agricultural Outlook 2021-2030 report, published on Monday, the OECD and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) highlighted one of the most difficult circles to square in the global climate debate, namely increased food demand and the need to curb emissions.

Increase

The report noted that 80 per cent of the projected increase in agricultural emissions over the next decade would come from livestock production.

“Thus, additional policy effort will be needed for the agricultural sector to effectively contribute to the global reduction in GHG emissions as set in the Paris Agreement,” the report said.

Ireland’s dairy herd is almost 30 per cent larger than it was before the ending of EU milk quotas in 2015, while the island’s milk pool is close to 11 billion litres almost double what it was before the ending of quotas.

The report also found that prices of major food commodities are expected to ease in the coming decade after a surge in the past year, helped by higher farm productivity and slowing demand from China.

Imports

Agricultural commodity prices have surged since last year due to booming Chinese imports and tightening crop inventories, leading the FAO to forecast record costs in 2021 for food importers.

But prices of most main agricultural commodities should fall slightly in real terms in the decade ahead, reverting to a long-term trend of improving production meeting rising demand from a growing world population, it said.

Chinese demand would remain a driver of global agricultural markets, particularly for consumption of meat and fish, but rising at a slower pace than the past decade, the report said. - Additional reporting by Reuters