How can the transition to net zero be both fair and ambitious for the agri-food chain?

We asked Suzanne Gaboury, Director General, Private Sector Operations of the ADB, about the transition to global net zero.

Suzanne Gaboury, ADB

The transition to net zero is a global challenge. While between $200 billion and $1.3 trillion is needed every year to achieve this transition in the agri-food system, only $28.5 billion in climate finance has been mobilized for the sector in 2019-2020. There is a global imperative to multiply these investments by at least seven times. ADB is commited to increase its overall climate finance commitments to more than $10 billion a year and its food security investment to more than $3.5 billion a year.

The Asia agri-food system faces a particular challenge as it is dominated by its 400 million smallholder farmers, who each own less than 2 hectares of land but who collectively produce 80% of the food in Asia. Smallholder farmers are also amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Investments are required at multiple levels to support these smallholder farmers not only in the net zero transition, but also to build their climate resilience and adaptive capacity.

Conventional fertilizers are a major source of emissions. Governments could repurpose fertilizer subsidies to promote greener alternatives. Innovation from the private sector should be promoted. For example, ADB supported Smartchem in India who produces more high-efficiency compound feritlizers with a lower carbon footprint. As part of this assistance package, ADB also provided direct technical assistance to 4,000 farmers to support climate-smart agricultural practices beyond fertilizer use only.

Livestock is another major source of emissions, accounting for some 14% of global emissions. Yet, livestock is essential to farmer livelihoods and food security in Asia. Therefore the need for a fair transiton is particularly important in livestock. One way to support this transition is to focus on animal proteins with relatively lower carbon footprint such as poultry and fish. Innovation will also help this sector. For example, as part of an aquaculture investment in Vietnam, ADB mobilized a grant to support development of a seaweed that will reduce methane emissions of cows when used as a feed supplement. ADB also partners with governments to support the climate resilience of smallholder livestock farmers in particularly vulnerable developing member countries such as Cambodia and Mongolia. 

Smallholder farmers in Asia also have role to play in preserving and restoring natural capital assets, particularly forests and wetlands, which are major carbon sinks. It is essential to support no deforestation policies made by governments and the private sector. But smallholder farmers need support to make these policies a reality. In addition to its support to governments on natural capital, ADB supports companies who directly engage with smallholder farmers. For example, ADB provided a loan to DSNG in Indonesia who promotes highly climate-resilience multi-storey agroforestry systems amongst smallholder farmers in Java.

The agri-food system is also highly dependent on fossil fuels, particularly when it comes to processing and transportation. ADB is committed to help Asia and the Pacific move away from coal through early retirement of coal power plants and massive investments in renewable energy, through innovative approaches such as the Energy Transition Mechanism. ADB also supports the transition to electric vehicles. In the agri-food system, there are also opportunities for distributed solar energy to power irrigation systems and post-harvest storage facilities.

As the climate bank for Asia and the Pacific, ADB is committed to support a fair net zero transition. A closer partnership between smallholder farmers, the private sector, governments, and the donor community is essential to achieve such a transition in the agri-food system.

Suzanne will be speaking on this topic during a panel on day one of the summit, ‘Decarbonisation: Forging the Roadmap for Emissions Reduction from Food and Agriculture Systems’. Find out more here.