Making the Paris agreement climate targets consistent with food security objectives

28-04-2019 | Publication

Climate change mitigation is crucial to limit detrimental impacts of climate change on food production. However, cost-optimal mitigation pathways consistent with the Paris agreement project large-scale land-based mitigation for bio-energy and afforestation to achieve stringent climate targets. Land demand from land-based mitigation leads to competition with food production, raising concerns that climate policy (SDG13 – climate action) conflicts with food security objectives (SDG2 – zero hunger). In this study we use the computable general equilibrium model MAGNET and the IMAGE integrated assessment model to quantify the food security effects of large-scale land-based mitigation. Subsequently, we implement two measures to prevent reduced food security: increased agricultural intensification and reduced meat consumption.

We show that large-scale land-based mitigation (∼600 Mha in 2050) leads to increased food prices (11%), reduced food availability (230 kcal/cap/day) and substantially more people at risk of hunger (230 million) compared to the baseline scenario in 2050, most notably in developing regions. Land-based mitigation also leads to yield increases (9%) and intensified ruminant production (11%). Additional crop yield improvement (9%) and intensification in ruminant production (3%) could prevent the negative effect of mitigation on food security.

Introducing a reduction in meat consumption in high- and middle-income regions reduces required crop yield improvement (7%) and ruminant intensification (2%). Our study highlights the importance of transparency about food security effects in climate change mitigation scenarios. In addition, it provides an example of explicitly including measures to limit negative trade-offs in mitigation scenarios. In this way, we show how the Paris agreement can be made consistent with food security objectives and how multiple Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved.

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