Renewable energy for agri-food systems

Food production, distribution and consumption uses around 30 per cent of the world’s energy and is responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Decoupling agri-food systems from fossil fuels can significantly contribute to climate action.

In the runup to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published the report Renewable energy for agri-food systems: Towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement in November 2021. The report explores the relationship between the world’s agri-food systems and renewable energy, and argues that solutions are within our grasp.

Solar-powered irrigation, for example, is being widely adopted to improve access to water, enabling multiple cropping cycles and increasing resilience to changing rainfall patterns. In India, the use of solar irrigation pumps instead of rain-fed irrigation has raised farmers’ incomes by at least 50 per cent; in Rwanda, smallholder farmers’ yields have grown by about a third.

The 89-page report breaks down unhelpful, siloed policymaking between the energy and agri-food sectors by providing recommendations for decision-makers. These include better data collection to guide renewable energy investments, improved access to finance for end-users and businesses, and a greater focus on awareness-raising and capacity building.

A third of agri-food emissions stem from energy use, and the report comes against the backdrop of a more than 20 per cent rise in energy consumption for the production, distribution and consumption of food between 2000 and 2018. That growth has been mainly driven by mechanisation in Asia in the form of irrigation pumps, farm machinery, processing equipment and inputs such as fertilisers. Energy use in Africa, which hosts around 15 per cent of the global population and faces growing food demand, has remained largely constant, accounting for only about 4 per cent of global energy consumption in agri-food systems .

(FAO/ile)

Read more and download the report Renewable energy for agri-food systems – Towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement at FAO website 

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