Giving Compass' Take:
- Jim Giles explains how food systems are responding to market and political developments and becoming more climate-friendly.
- What role can you play in supporting climate-friendly agricultural practices?
- Learn how climate change threatens global food security.
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I was chatting recently with a veteran strategy wonk about the world’s stuttering progress toward decarbonization. Electricity generation was an early focus. More recently, the transport sector began to move away from fossil fuels. But what about food and ag? Farm-to-fork emissions are on a par with transport and electricity, said the wonk, yet progress has been lamentably slow in comparison.
It’s true: Food and ag are late to this party. But I increasingly find myself floored by the rate of progress in these sectors. It’s not uniform by any means — in fact, some food systems players are actively resisting reform. Still, the innovation in technologies, strategies and policies is remarkable. Here are three developments — all just from the past week — that speak to the sometimes dizzying pace of change.
The price is (almost) right
A couple of years back, I visited a U.S. startup and saw a nugget of chicken meat the team had grown in the lab. I asked if I could try some. No chance, they said. A plateful would cost several hundred dollars.
This week, Future Meat Technologies, an Israeli startup, announced it can produce a cultured chicken breast for $7.50. That’s many multiples more expensive than the chicken in your local supermarket, but it represents an astonishing reduction in price from even just a few years ago.
Carbon neutral, profit positive
Last year, a leading U.S. dairy organization said it would transition the industry to "carbon neutral or better" by 2050. That’s a necessary target, but I found the announcement frustratingly light on specifics. Commitments to change three decades from now don’t mean much without a detailed plan on how to get there.
Well, some details were filled in this week — and they’re encouraging. Using data shared by the industry, the Markets Institute at the World Wildlife Fund looked at the potential impact of emission-reductions options available to dairy farmers today, including feed additives that reduce methane-filled bovine burps and the use of digester technology to produce natural gas from manure. Large dairies, concluded WWF, could reach net-zero emissions within five years and generate a return of almost $2 million per farm in the process.
Hit the ground running
It’s true that Biden’s record on climate is muted. One of his trademarks as a politician, however, is his ability to sense the mood of his party. And, rIght now, many Democrats are demanding radical climate action. That’s why Biden’s executive order blitz contains several measures that focus on climate, including one that directs Vilsack to begin consultations on how to spread "climate-smart agricultural practices that produce verifiable carbon reductions and sequestrations."
Read the full article about climate-related food systems reform by Jim Giles at GreenBiz.