YK Poudel

The yearly average agricultural and food-related emissions in Bhutan are on the rise.

According to a recent report, greenhouse gases (GHGs) for Bhutan were measured at 0.7 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent  (MtCO2eq), comprising 41.5 percent of total emissions.

The per capita emissions was reported at 0.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2eq) per person.

Recent studies conducted by the World Bank under the title “Recipe for a Livable Planet: Achieving Net Zero Emissions in the Agri-food System”, shed light on both challenges and opportunities for mitigating emissions in the agricultural and food sectors.

“Addressing the emissions from agri-food is not just essential for environmental sustainability but also for achieving broader global development goals,” the report stated.

The agri-food sector contributes to almost one-third of GHG emissions, surpassing the combined emissions from the heat and electricity sectors. The majority of these emissions come from developing countries, highlighting the need for a worldwide approach to mitigation efforts.

To restrict global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, emissions from the agri-food sector must reach net zero by 2050. Failing to meet this target could put the world’s climate objectives at risk, emphasizing the urgency of taking immediate actions.

According to the report, however, the current funding allocated for reducing emissions in the agri-food sector falls relatively short of what is needed, indicating a major disparity in the distribution of climate finance.

“There is a massive gap between the importance of the agri-food system for climate change mitigation and the financing it receives,” the report stated.  “Overall, climate finance has almost doubled over the last decade but climate financing for the agri-food system falls far short of its needs.”

The report adds that investing in agri-food emission reduction presents a substantial opportunity with substantial returns.

Although the second Nationally Determined Contributions of Bhutan Report emphasise agri-food system and GHG emissions, the specifications and areas of focus are not well stipulated.

According to the World Bank report, addressing agri-food emissions requires a holistic approach that considers the entire value chain, including land use change and post-production activities.


Looking ahead

The agri-food system is vast and largely untapped reservoir of low-cost climate change action.

On a global scale, annual investments will need to surge by an estimated 18-fold, reaching USD 260 billion per year to halve current agri-food emissions by 2030 and steer the world toward achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Effective mitigation of agri-food emissions demands collaboration among governments, businesses, farmers, and consumers on a national scale because different income groups face unique challenges and opportunities.

High-income countries can set an example by promoting renewable energy and encouraging consumers to prefer lower-emission foods. Meanwhile, middle-income countries have substantial potential for emission reduction through effective land use management and the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices.

At the same time, low-income countries can concentrate on preserving forests and implementing climate-smart agricultural techniques to foster green and inclusive growth.

Governments and international organisations must prioritise agri-food emission reduction in their climate action agendas. This includes repurposing subsidies, incentivising low-emission technologies, facilitating international cooperation and investment forums in agri-food sectors.

Principally, the report recommends the inclusion of smallholder farmers and women in decision-making processes to ensure a fair transition.