Food system needs catalytic capital to reach Paris Agreement Goals

Jake Safane

The global food system accounts for around one-third of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations. From deforestation to cultivation to transportation, the many aspects of the food system together make a major impact on the environment and, as it stands, threaten climate goals. But philanthropic organisations stand in a unique position to fund positive change.

Making social investments in underserved agricultural communities can be one area where foundations can make an impact, but the problem, and therefore needed solution, is much larger. To limit climate change, foundations need to tackle systematic areas, like current livestock farming practices, with cattle being the top source of agricultural greenhouse gases globally, according to the University of California, Davis. The UN also finds that the livestock sector accounts for 14.5 per cent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

‘There’s really no way we’re going to be able to hit our Paris climate targets without addressing the emissions from the industrial animal agriculture system,’ says Zak Weston, food service and supply chain manager at Good Food Institute (GFI), a nonprofit focused on alternative proteins, including plant-based meat, cultivated meat and fermentation.

Indeed, a study by Clark et. al, published in Science, finds that global food system emission trends currently put the Paris Agreement goal to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C out of reach; the 2.0°C target also appears likely unreachable, even if all fossil fuel emissions stopped immediately. Citing this study, GFI notes that alternative proteins could approximately cut total food system emissions in half through the end of the century.

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