This week is the final part of a series that I have been doing looking into Net Zero carbon and how this can be achieved by 2050.
There was a report that came out in October 2020 called “Fit for Net-Zero: 55 Tech Quests to Accelerate Europe’s Recovery and Pave the Way to Climate Neutrality.” I thought the report was excellent, so over the last couple of weeks I have been picking out my personal highlights from the different sections that made up the report.
Net Zero Carbon – Solutions for food and land use
When it comes to climate change, we very much are what we eat. The European agro-sector generates 430.5 MtCO₂e, 395 MtCO₂e of which come from conventional agriculture. This accounts for 10% of the total European CO₂ emissions.
The first solution that stood out for me, was the idea of transforming European agriculture with sustainable farming techniques. The aim of this solution is to overcome the problem that systemic approaches to lower GHG emissions from farms exist but have not been widely adopted across Europe.
The solution that was proposed was to massively extend systemic practices while supporting continuous research that will enable Europe to reach 20% emissions abatement with no new inventions required.
The types of projects that it is envisioned being supported include conservation agriculture, innovative livestock farming systems and a carbon credit mechanism alongside other incentive-based systems.
These solutions taken together could have a big impact, in helping to avoid 60.5 MtCO₂e and create 328,000 jobs by 2050.
The next solution that stood out was the idea of reinforcing plants and boosting crop resilience to use less emissions – intensive fertilizers and inputs. This is to solve the issue that ammonia-based fertilizers rely on an energy-intensive production and environmentally harmful operations, and reduce soil quality.
The solution proposed is microbial fertilizers, combined with a better use of mineral fertilizers, which offer a desirable alternative that can be rapidly developed and deployed at farm scale. In addition, biostimulants strengthen plants and allow for lower use of fertilizers.
The main ambition is to validate the feasibility of producing on-site soil specific microbial fertilizers at large scale. Another ambition is to accelerate R&D in the field of biostimulants and increase the market penetration of these products through farm-scale research initiatives.
The engagement of stakeholders is always important for getting new initiatives off the ground, but in this case, the engagement of: agritech startups, academic researchers, competence centers, consortia, major fertilizer and biostimulants manufacturers and farmers is particularly important.
Solutions implemented under this umbrella could have a big impact, in helping to avoid 26.4 MtCO₂e and create 49,000 jobs by 2050.
The final and my personal favourite solution from the report is the idea of promoting tasty, affordable and low – emission alternatives to meat and dairy products.
The issue is that there are still only few alternative plant-based meat products and almost no cell-based alternatives. Market shares are low and and until recently they have mostly failed to imitate original products.
The solution proposed is for R&D to break down the last barriers to market and cause the acceleration of alternative meat and synthetized milk products.
The first project would be to support mature plant-based products to achieve 20% market share by 2030. The aim is to achieve this by identifying and investing in 100 promising startups that need resources to scale-up production and roll-out their plant-based products.
The second project would be to bring together industry stakeholders to launch the production of low-cost cell-based meat before 2025. The aim would be to identify synergies to promote research partnerships in order to boost progress and stabilize low-cost production processes.
The third project would be to launch research to synthetize milk. The first aim would be to validate the concept of casein imitation, a protein found in natural milk using a lab-grown plant-based substitute and precision fermentation techniques.
These solutions could have a big impact, helping to avoid 103 MtCO₂e and create 1,137,000 jobs by 2050.
What you need to know
This article was the final part in a series looking into the top breakthrough technologies from the recently released Fit For Net Zero report. This week was the turn of looking into the solutions for food and land use.
The agro-sector is responsible for a significant chunk of carbon emissions, so action taken in this area will be essential in helping to reduce carbon emissions in Europe.
There are a lot of solutions out there, some of which will be easy to commercialise and other which will require government support to become scalable.
There are significant barriers to be overcome in terms of personal choices and attitudes towards plant based alternatives. But as they increase in quality and reduce in price thanks to economies of scale, these should hopefully be overcome.
Overall, there are lots of opportunities for reducing carbon emissions from this sector. But there are equally as many sources of emissions, so many solutions will be required to decarbonise this sector.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make net zero 2050 a reality?