COP28: 7 food and agriculture innovations needed to protect the climate and feed a rapidly growing world

Dec 06, 2023

For the first time ever, food and agriculture took center stage at the annual United Nations climate conference in 2023.

More than 130 countries signed a declaration on Dec. 1, committing to make their food systems – everything from production to consumption – a focal point in national strategies to address climate change.

The declaration is thin on concrete actions to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions, but it draws attention to a crucial issue.

The global food supply is increasingly facing disruptions from extreme heat and storms. It is also a major contributor to climate change, responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. This tension is why agriculture innovation is increasingly being elevated in international climate discussions.

At present, agriculture provides enough food for the world’s 8 billion people, although many do not have adequate access. But to feed a global population of 10 billion in 2050, croplands would need to expand by 660,000 to 1.2 million square miles (171 million to 301 million hectare) relative to 2010. That would lead to more deforestation, which contributes to climate change. Further, some practices widely relied on to produce sufficient food, such as using synthetic fertilizers, also contribute to climate change.

Simply eliminating deforestation and these practices without alternative solutions would decrease the world’s food supply and farmers’ incomes. Fortunately, innovations are emerging that can help.

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