Knowledge for better food systems

UNEP - Towards a Green Economy

UNEP has published a report, "Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication", 2011, United Nations Environment Programme arguing that Investing two per cent of global GDP into ten key sectors can kick-start a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy.
UNEP has published a report, "Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication", 2011, United Nations Environment Programme arguing that Investing two per cent of global GDP into ten key sectors can kick-start a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy. Of the 2% of GDP proposed, the sums invested by sector would be:
  • $108 billion for greening agriculture, including on small-holder farms.
  • $134 billion in greening the building sector by improving energy efficiency.
  • Over $360 billion in greening energy supply.
  • Close to $110 billion for greening fisheries, including reducing the capacity of the world's fleets.
  • $15 billion in greening forestry with important knock-on benefits for combating
  • climate change.
  • Over $75 billion in greening industry, including manufacturing.
  • Close to $135 billion on greening the tourism sector.
  • Over $190 billion on greening transport.
  • Nearly $110 billion on waste, including recycling.
  • A similar amount on the water sector, including addressing sanitation.
The report's key messages for agriculture are as follows
  • Managed transitions away from "business-as-usual" in both conventional and traditional farming are needed.
  • Green agriculture is capable of nourishing a growing and more demanding world population at higher nutritional levels out to 2050. An increase from today's 2,800 Kcal availability per person per day to around 3 200 Kcal by 2050 is. It is possible to gain significant nutritional improvements from increased quantity and diversity of food (especially non-cereal) products. During the transition process, food production in high-input industrial farming may experience a modest decline while triggering positive responses in the more traditional systems, which account for nearly 70 per cent of global agricultural production.
  • Green agriculture will reduce poverty. For every 10% increase in farm yields, there has been a 7% reduction in poverty in Africa; and more than 5% in Asia. Evidence suggests that the application of green farming practices has increased yields, especially on small farms, between 54-179%.
  • Reducing waste and inefficiency is an important part of the "green agriculture" paradigm.Crop losses to pests and hazards, storage, distribution, marketing and inhouseholds together account for nearly 50% of the human edible calories that are produced. Currently, total production is around 4,600 Kcal/person/day but what is available for human consumption is around 2,000 Kcal/person/day. A 50% reduction of losses and wastage in the production and consumption chain is necessary and achievable. Less than 5% of worldwide agricultural research and extension funding currently targets this problem
  • Greening agriculture requires investment, research and capacity building in the following key areas: soil fertility management, water management, crop and livestock diversification, biological plant and animal health management, an appropriate level of mechanization and building upstream and downstream supply chains for businesses and trade. Capacity building efforts include expanding green agricultural extension services and facilitating improved market access for smallholder farmers and cooperatives.
  • Additional investments are needed to green agriculture but could deliver exceptional economic and social returns. The aggregate global cost of investments and policy interventions required for the transition towards green agriculture is estimated to be US$198 billion per year from 2011 to 2050. The value-added in agricultural production increases by more than 11% compared with the projected "business-as-usual" (BAU) scenario.
  • Green agriculture could create 47 million additional jobs compared with the BAU scenario in the next 40 years.
  • A transition to green agriculture has potential to improve soil fertility, reduce erosion and agro-chemical pollution, increase water use efficiency, decrease deforestation and biodiversity loss. It could transform agriculture from being a net GHG emitter to a sink.
  • Green agriculture will also require national and international policy reforms and innovations. These should focus particularly on reforming "environmentally harmful" subsidies that artificially lower the costs of some agricultural inputs and lead to their inefficient and excessive use; and promoting policy measures that reward farmers for using environmental friendly agricultural inputs and farming practices and for creating positive externalities such as improved ecosystem services. Changes in trade policies that increase access of "green" agricultural exports originating in developing countries to markets in high income countries are also required; along with reforms of trade distorting production and export subsidies.
The report says nothing about reducing demand for meat and dairy products. On the contrary, it says that production of meat increases by 66 per cent as a result of additional investment between 2010-2050 (slightly more than under BAU) while fish production is 15% below 2011 levels and yet 48% higher than the BAU scenario by 2050. You can download the report and the press release here.

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