“Energy-smart” food for people and climate

Nov 2011

The global community is becoming increasingly concerned about the high dependence of the global food sector on fossil fuels. This anxiety is compounded by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) projections indicating that by 2050 a 70 percent increase in current food production will be necessary to meet the expanding demand for food, primarily through yield increases. The use of fossil fuels by agriculture has made a signifi cant contribution to feeding the world over the last few decades. Energy from fossil fuels has increased farm mechanization, boosted fertilizer production and
improved food processing and transportation. However, if an inexpensive supply of fossil fuels becomes unavailable in the future, options for increasing food productivity may become severely limited. The food sector currently accounts for around 30 percent of the world’s total energy consumption. High-GDP countries use a greater portion of this energy for processing and transport. In low-GDP countries, cooking consumes the highest share. The food sector contributes over 20 percent of total GHGs emissions. Primary farm and fi shery production accounts for around one fi fth of the total food energy demand, but produces two thirds of the GHGs. The great challenge the world now faces is to develop global food systems that emit fewer GHG emissions, enjoy a secure energy supply and can respond to fluctuating energy prices while at the same time support food security and sustainable development.
A recent FAO study has shown that around one-third of the food we produce is not consumed. A signifi cant share of total energy inputs are embedded in these losses. In low-GDP countries most food losses occur during harvest and storage. In high-GDP countries, food waste occurs mainly during the retail,
preparation, cooking and consumption stages of the food supply chain.
The aim of this paper is to discuss how the entire food sector, from the farmer’s fi eld to the consumer’s plate, can become more ‘energy-smart’. Becoming energy-smart will require a transformation along the food chain that involves:
• relying more on low-carbon energy systems and using energy more efficiently;
• strengthening the role of renewable energy within food systems;
• providing greater access to modern energy services for development, and at the same time supporting the achievement of national food security and sustainable development goals.
This paper provides examples of energy-smart practices for both small-and large-scale enterprises and covers the entire food sector.

By: R. Sims et al.

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