08 Nov 2021

08 Nov 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Pre- and post-production processes along supply chains increasingly dominate GHG emissions from agri-food systems globally and in most countries

Francesco N. Tubiello1, Kevin Karl1,2, Alessandro Flammini1,3, Johannes Gütschow4, Griffiths Obli-Layrea1, Giulia Conchedda1, Xueyao Pan1, Sally Yue Qi2, Hörn Halldórudóttir Heiðarsdóttir1, Nathan Wanner1, Roberta Quadrelli5, Leonardo Rocha Souza6, Philippe Benoit2, Matthew Hayek7, David Sandalow2, Erik Mencos-Contreras8,9, Cynthia Rosenzweig9,8, Jose Rosero Moncayo1, Piero Conforti1, and Maximo Torero1 Francesco N. Tubiello et al.
  • 1Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy
  • 2Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University, New York, USA
  • 3United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Department of Environment, Vienna, Austria
  • 4Potsdam Institute for Global Climate Research, Potsdam, Germany
  • 5International Energy Agency, Paris, France
  • 6United Nations Statistics Division, New York, USA
  • 7Department of Environmental Science, New York University, New York, USA
  • 8Center of Global Climate Research, Columbia University, New York, USA
  • 9NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, USA

Abstract. We present results from the FAOSTAT agri-food systems emissions database, relative to 236 countries and territories and over the period 1990–2019. We find that in 2019, world-total food systems emissions were 16.5 billion metric tonnes (Gt CO2eq yr−1), corresponding to 31 % of total anthropogenic emissions. Of the agri-food systems total, global emissions within the farm gate –from crop and livestock production processes including on-farm energy use—were 7.2 Gt CO2eq yr−1; emissions from land use change, due to deforestation and peatland degradation, were 3.5 Gt CO2eq yr−1; and emissions from pre- and post-production processes –manufacturing of fertilizers, food processing, packaging, transport, retail, household consumption and food waste disposal—were 5.8 Gt CO2eq yr−1. Over the study period 1990–2019, agri-food systems emissions increased in total by 17 %, largely driven by a doubling of emissions from pre- and post-production processes. Conversely, the FAO data show that since 1990 land use emissions decreased by 25 %, while emissions within the farm gate increased only 9 %. In 2019, in terms of single GHG, pre- and post- production processes emitted the most CO2 (3.9 Gt CO2 yr−1), preceding land use change (3.3 Gt CO2 yr−1) and farm-gate (1.2 Gt CO2 yr−1) emissions. Conversely, farm-gate activities were by far the major emitter of methane (140 Mt CH4 yr−1) and of nitrous oxide (7.8 Mt N2O yr−1). Pre-and post- processes were also significant emitters of methane (49 Mt CH4 yr−1), mostly generated from the decay of solid food waste in landfills and open-dumps. The most important trend over the 30-year period since 1990 highlighted by our analysis is the increasingly important role of food-related emissions generated outside of agricultural land, in pre- and post-production processes along food supply chains, at all scales from global, regional and national, from 1990 to 2019. In fact, our data show that by 2019, food supply chains had overtaken farm-gate processes to become the largest GHG component of agri-food systems emissions in Annex I parties (2.2 Gt CO2eq yr−1). They also more than doubled in non-Annex I parties (to 3.5 Gt CO2eq yr−1), becoming larger than emissions from land-use change. By 2019 food supply chains had become the largest agri-food system component in China (1100 Mt CO2eq yr−1); USA (700 Mt CO2eq yr−1) and EU-27 (600 Mt CO2eq yr−1). This has important repercussions for food-relevant national mitigation strategies, considering that until recently these have focused mainly on reductions of non-CO2 gases within the farm gate and on CO2 mitigation from land use change. The information used in this work is available as open data at: (Tubiello et al., 2021d). It is also available to users via the FAOSTAT database (FAO, 2021a), with annual updates.

Francesco N. Tubiello et al.

Status: open (until 03 Jan 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on essd-2021-389', Charles Redfern, 17 Nov 2021 reply
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2021-389', Anonymous Referee #1, 30 Nov 2021 reply

Francesco N. Tubiello et al.

Data sets

GHG Emissions from agri-food systems Tubiello, Francesco, Karl, Kevin, Flammini, Alessandro, Conchedda, Giulia, & Oblylayrea, Griffiths

Francesco N. Tubiello et al.


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Short summary
The paper presents results from the new FAOSTAT database on food systems emissions, covering all countries over teh time series 1990–2019. Results indicate and further clarify–updated to 2019– the relevance of emissions from crop and livestock productoin processes within the farm gate; from conversoin of natural ecosystems to agriculture, such as deforestation and peat degradation; adn emissions from use of fossil fuels for energy and other indistrial processes along food supply chains.