The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has consistently stressed the need to balance reductions in carbon emissions and other climate damaging impacts from agricultural/food production, with the need to provide food and nutrition for a global population that is expected to reach ten billion by 2050.
This key imperative of balancing the ever increasing requirement for food availability with increased environmental compliance, is a core dual platform of how IPCC supports evolving climate action policies.
The EU Green deal, which I have already spoken about in terms of its failure to have connected policy between increased farm inputs and EU food price formation, could, according to recent US Department of Agriculture (USDA) analysis, have a highly detrimental impact not just on EU, but world food production and prices.
Researchers at USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) recently evaluated the potential impacts of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies proposed by the European Commission, and in particular the proposals for restrictions in the use of certain agricultural inputs in EU agricultural production by 2030.
According to the USDA study: “The proposal also pledges to use European Commission trade policies and other international efforts to promote a vision of sustainability in agriculture, which could have implications beyond countries in the EU”.
As part of a broader EU Green Deal, these policy initiatives would see reductions in the use of fertiliser (20%); pesticides (50%); antimicrobials (50%); and the removal of existing farmland from agricultural use (10%) by 2030 relative to 2020 levels.
To assess the potential effects of the proposed policies, ERS researchers investigated three scenarios:
- The ‘EU-only’ scenario imposes the mandated reduction in EU countries only;
- The ‘middle scenario’ – trade partners who depend on food and agricultural exports to the EU also conform to the same input restrictions and impose import restrictions on food imports from those countries that do not conform;
- In the final ‘global scenario’, the measures are adopted on a global scale.
Agricultural Production impact
Under the scenario with the EU alone adopting the measures, EU agricultural production would fall 12%. The reductions in the EU would translate to a worldwide decrease in output of 1%.
In the scenario of global adoption of the EU’s input-reducing strategies, worldwide food and agricultural production volumes could fall as much as 11%. The US alone could witness a decrease in food and agricultural output of 9% under this scenario.
ERS modelling shows that an EU-imposed reduction in agricultural inputs would have the most immediate effect in the EU, where food prices are projected to climb 17% in this scenario.
With the EU prices increasing and affecting their trade with the rest of the world, a spillover effect would cause prices to also increase in other regions.
However, food cost increases would be significant for most regions under the scenario in which input restriction measures are adopted globally, with worldwide food prices growing by 89%. For the US, under this global scenario, food prices could rise by 62%. Similarly, food prices in the EU could increase by 53%.
The unintended impacts of the EU Green Deal, even if the restrictions are confined to the EU only, are quite substantial and are very clearly at odds with the IPCC imperative of meeting increasing global food demand.
Moreover, if the EU merely adopts its new constraints and does not insist on its trading partners doing likewise, there will be an even bigger disconnect between EU climate action, consumer / environmental policy and its pursuit of ever higher regulatory constraints and higher costs on EU/Irish farmers and food processors.
EU Green Deal promoters and, as it happens, Irish climate activist lobbyists, continually fail to provide any assessment of the impact of suppressing EU or even Irish agricultural output on global food availability and prices.
Moreover this disconnect between the IPCC dual mission of endorsing climate action while ensuring food availability in line with population growth, is a major, but not the only flaw in the EU Green Deal.
As the EU Green deal currently stands, there is a complete policy detachment between input costs and food prices, which is likely to suppress EU and global food production even more.
If the EU green deal is intended to reset EU agricultural policy, then it must reset food price formation also.