Enhanced food system efficiency is the key to China’s 2060 carbon neutrality target

The FABLE China team joined other researchers in using modeling and scenario analysis to investigate how to mitigate the potential adverse impacts on the food system caused by ambitious bioenergy deployment in China and its trading partners.

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Authors: Dr. Ming Ren and Dr. Hancheng Dai.

An international team, including members of the FABLE-China team, investigated the potential impacts of bioenergy deployment in China on global and domestic sustainable development, as well as how free trade and food system efficiency measures could mitigate the potential adverse sustainability impacts.

In the article titled Enhanced Food System Efficiency Is the Key to China’s 2060 Carbon Neutrality Target, researchers explored strategies to mitigate the potential adverse impacts of ambitious bioenergy deployment in China on its food system and trading partners.

They discovered that producing bioenergy domestically while adhering to the food self-sufficiency ratio (SSR) redlines would reduce China's daily per-capita calorie intake by 8% and increase domestic food prices by 23% by 2060. Removing China's food SSR restrictions could alleviate half of the domestic food dilemma but risks shifting environmental burdens to other countries.

Furthermore, the authors highlighted that a healthier dietary shift is crucial in reducing agricultural land use-related burdens. However, achieving such a dietary shift is challenging and influenced by numerous socially inertial factors, necessitating sustained efforts that combine incentives, mandates, and economic measures.

They emphasize that reconciling large-scale bioenergy production, domestic food security, and global sustainability is challenging. Implementing any of the compensatory measures mentioned above in isolation would not eliminate the negative impacts on global sustainability resulting from substantial bioenergy deployment.

Instead, reducing food loss and waste by half, transitioning to healthier diets, and narrowing crop yield gaps could effectively mitigate these adverse external effects. The authors argue that the triple dividend of carbon neutrality, food security, and global sustainability can only be achieved through additional well-blended efficiency-enhancing measures in food production and consumption systems, combined with a slight relaxation of the 95% SSR constraint to 90% for wheat. Therefore, a holistic food system approach is essential when designing policies for the broader sustainable development agenda.