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Working paper
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Methane, markets and food: how the climate emergency will drive an urgent focus on methane and what this means for the food and agricultural industries

Climate change mitigation Methane Greenhouse gases Sustainable agricultural production Agriculture Emissions reduction Food industry and trade
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Methane, markets and food 1.5 MB

Lessons learnt from the past 30 years of climate action on CO2 show that, while it is science and social pressure that trigger acceptance of the need for change, it is the market that then delivers the transformation. Therefore, to understand how to drive change, and to forecast how it will occur, it is important to analyse how markets shift in response to social pressures. Based on this understanding, we can conclude that reducing methane emissions in the next decade is most likely to happen in the food and agricultural sectors – not, as most forecast, in the fossil fuels or waste sectors. 

Various technologies and capacities to produce food, particularly protein, are facing a technological revolution due to key developments in ‘enabling’ technologies such as processing power, cellular agriculture and biotechnology. The rapidly accelerating market investment in these new technologies is producing exponential growth – following a similar pattern to the one observed in the energy sector for wind and solar energy. The evidence from previous transitions indicates that a disruption in the agri-food sector is imminent, driven by the strong investment on rapidly improving technologies and by the urgent need to reduce methane emissions.

Key findings:

This paper argues we are at the start of the most profound shift in the climate debate in 20 years. The authors argue we will now see:

  • The arrival of the climate emergency into public consciousness, driven by increased severity and frequency of extreme weather events and concern about irreversible climate tipping points. 
  • A resulting shift to a focus on ‘rates of warming’ in addition to ‘level of emissions’. 
  • A recognition that even dramatically accelerated CO2 emission reductions won’t reduce the rate or warming in the required time frame. 
  • Therefore, an intense focus on methane, with action needed in the next decade.
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