Anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) have to be radically cut if global temperatures are to be held within safe limits. Food production is probably the main source of global GHG emissions and it is very dependent of non-renewable energy.
We assessed environmental impacts of Spanish agriculture and food system from a life cycle perspective. Direct GHG emissions were assessed following IPCC guidelines modified to account for Mediterranean climate conditions. LCA coefficients were used for the remaining processes. We modelled different scenarios including production-level practices such as soil-improving organic techniques, expansion of legumes, application of renewable technologies, redistribution and reduction of livestock and suppression of synthetic chemicals with consumption-level practices such as reduction of waste and of the share of animal protein.
The agro-food system accounts for at least 33% of Spanish consumption GHG emissions. The elimination of most non-capital industrial inputs in agricultural production, combined with increased soil carbon sequestration, would lead to carbon neutral crop production and a high grade of energy self-sufficiency, while livestock emissions would be greatly reduced through the elimination of imported feed products. This would only be possible if combined with substantial reductions in dietary animal products and waste. Thus, a full relocalization of Spanish food production would be very beneficial but requires the integration of practices along the full food chain. Otherwise, promoting sustainable practices in the farm could imply exporting their land cost and associated environmental impacts to third countries.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Integrating practices along the food chain to cut greenhouse gas emissions and non-renewable energy use in Spanish food production. An agro-ecological approach.“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.