How agriculture is one of the main pillars of the supply chain for climate action

Violeta Gevorkjan
19 June, 23

In the face of the daunting challenges posed by climate change, measures are becoming increasingly essential to mitigate our carbon emissions. As we strive to reverse the trend, it is increasingly clear that the agriculture sector, which currently ranks as the third-largest contributor to pollution, must become a cornerstone of our efforts. By embracing sustainable and innovative practices such as Carbon Farming, agriculture can play a pivotal role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fostering climate resilience. It is high time we recognise the immense potential of agriculture as one of the main pillars of the supply chain for climate action.

Agriculture contributes to climate change predominantly through deforestation, livestock production, and fertiliser use, but on the other hand, it can also serve as a significant carbon sink by sequestering carbon in soils and plants. 

Soil has an enormous potential to store large amounts of carbon, and practices such as conservation agriculture, cover cropping, and agroforestry can aid in improving soil health and sequestering more carbon.

According to the Rodale Institute, transitioning to regenerative organic agriculture could sequester more than 100 per cent of current annual carbon dioxide emissions into the soil, effectively reversing the effects of climate change.

The Influence of Climate Change

Climate change and the food system is deeply interconnected. Without major changes in the way we produce food, the security of it and its nutrition for millions around the world will continue to be threatened.

Alongside the growing population comes the growing demand for food – but food systems are struggling to keep pace. From the use of fossil fuel-dependent machinery to long-distance transportation and overproduction, every activity within the food system generates pollutants and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

As a result, climate change is having a direct impact on the security of food and nutrition, especially in the Global South. With rising temperatures leading to water shortages, farmers are experiencing shorter growing seasons, lower crop yields, and a decrease in arable land. Small farming firms, who are often the backbone of food production, are going out of business, replaced by large-scale operations focused on exporting food rather than feeding local populations.

But the effects don’t stop there. Exports, overproduction and food waste are exacerbating the problem, as decomposing food generates methane, a potent GHG. When food is wasted, the emissions generated to produce that food are also wasted.

Unlocking Agriculture’s Potential

Agriculture overall holds immense potential to drive transformative change. The adoption of sustainable land management practices can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while safeguarding the future of farming communities, and helps to conserve biodiversity, protect water resources, and enhance food security.

To unleash its full potential, it is crucial that governments, businesses, and stakeholders collaborate to provide necessary support and create enabling policies.

In 2022, agriculture’s contribution to the UK economy was £13.9 billion (0.62 per cent of GDP), constituting an increase of £1.8 billion (14.9 per cent) in Gross Value Added compared to 2021. This increase could be due to the increased support from the likes of the Rural Payments Agency and the Farming Transformation Fund Improving Farm Productivity grant, first introduced in 2021.

Building upon this, in March 2023, the UK government also set up the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund 2023, which shall oversee £9.13 million awarded to develop cutting-edge farming technology.

However, elsewhere in Europe there is a general lack of funding support from governmental bodies, generating a global domino effect. The lack of investment in research and development impedes the work of agricultural SMEs, leading to decreased efficiency and competitiveness.

Carbon Farming

In turn, Carbon Farming represents a ground-breaking approach seeking to sequester carbon in the soil, effectively reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. This innovative strategy offers a range of benefits for farmers, investors, and the environment alike.

Engaging in Carbon Farming practices enables farmers to enhance their yields, improve soil health, and increasingly store carbon in the ground. By reducing the reliance on synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, these sustainable practices promote environmental stewardship and protect the delicate balance of ecosystems. Moreover, farmers who adopt sustainable land management practices increase their profitability and build resilience against climate change impacts, thus securing their livelihoods for the long term.

Incentivising Change through Carbon Credits

One powerful tool within the realm of Carbon Farming is the use of Carbon Credits. These credits serve as incentives for companies and countries to reduce their carbon emissions and support sustainable agricultural practices. By offering financial benefits to farmers who implement climate-friendly techniques, carbon credits stimulate the adoption of sustainable land management practices like no-till farming, maintaining ground cover through cover cropping, preventing overgrazing, and limiting the use of fertilisers.

The financial returns generated through these investments provide tangible evidence that sustainable practices and climate action are not mutually exclusive but rather mutually beneficial.

Going forward, we must continue to see consistent efforts made to prevent and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, with increased focus on the agricultural sector.

The unveiling of the Core Carbon Principles, providing corporations with a vital tool to offset residual emissions, has been a positive step in instilling the essential confidence and trust in the carbon credit market, and driven exponential growth, while promoting Carbon Farming remains crucial in ultimately preserving biodiversity and ecosystems, and ensuring the resilience and stability of the food supply chain.

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