Farming technologies could slash emissions by a fifth

1st June 2020

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Global emissions from agriculture, forestry and land-use change could be slashed by a fifth via 25 proven farming efficiency technologies, suggests a report by McKinsey & Company, Agriculture and Climate Change: Reducing emissions through improved farming practices.

The influential consultancy firm said that other sectors have successfully identified technologies to dramatically cut their emissions, but these options aren't necessarily suitable for agriculture. The industry also has additional environmental and social objectives to consider that others may not, such as biodiversity, nutrition need, food security and the livelihoods of farmers and farming communities.

However, McKinsey found that 25 emission-efficient farming technologies and practices could achieve 20% of the sector's required emissions reduction by 2050. Moreover, the top 15 measures by abatement potential would contribute 85% of this emission cut, and touch four major categories: energy, animal protein, crops, and rice cultivation. Zero-emission on-farm machinery and equipment, greenhouse gas-focused genetic selection and breeding, and improving rice fertilisation processes are the top three practices identified.

“The agriculture sector has a complicated set of objectives to consider alongside climate goals, but it's not impossible,“ the report states. “In the course of human history, agriculture has responded to humanity's greatest challenges – the sector has increased food production to a level that many believed impossible. The sector now has an opportunity to make yet another major contribution to humanity's success during this crucial window for action.“

Improved animal health monitoring and illness prevention, an optimal animal feed mix, and expanding technologies that increase livestock production efficiencies are also among the top 15 practices outlined in the report.

For each measure identified, a bottom-up assessment of mitigation potential and cost was calculated using a synthesis of available literature, comparison across models, and discussions with relevant experts and practitioners. The level of uptake and implementation was assessed to be “as ambitious as possible“ while also being aware of the potential economic and non-economic barriers to implement across regions, farm scales and production systems.

“This analysis is distinctive in both its breadth and depth; our goal is to provide concrete guidance for policy makers, agriculture players, and academics alike to spur the necessary change in the agriculture sector,“ the report states.

Read the full report at

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