China: What the world’s largest meals system means for local weather change – Carbon Transient

This visitor publish is by:
Sally Qiu, analysis affiliate on the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and co-author of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies’ Guide to Chinese Climate Policy 2022

Zizhu Zhang, analysis assistant on the Heart on International Power Coverage at Columbia College
China is the world’s largest producer and shopper of meals.
In 2019, China’s large meals system produced 1.9bn tonnes of CO2 equal – across the similar as the whole annual emissions of Russia, the world’s fourth largest polluter.
A number of components are behind China’s rising meals emissions, together with a rising style for pink meat, growing fertiliser use and excessive ranges of meals waste – amongst different drivers.
On this visitor publish, we clarify what China’s meals manufacturing means for local weather change and the way the nation plans to deal with emissions from agriculture sooner or later.
The world over, round one-third of whole greenhouse fuel emissions come from the manufacturing of meals.
Crimson meat manufacturing is by far the most important driver of greenhouse fuel emissions from meals. It is because cows and sheep are ruminants, that means they produce the potent greenhouse fuel methane as they digest feed.
As well as, CO2 is launched when land is cleared to graze cattle or develop animal feed. (See Carbon Transient’s in-depth explainer on the local weather impression of meat and dairy.)
Since China started to reform and open up its financial system in 1978, the nation’s GDP has grown by a mean of greater than 9% per 12 months.
China can also be probably the most populous nation on the planet and is house to 18% of the world’s inhabitants. Together with this speedy development, China’s meals manufacturing has additionally elevated.
China is now the world’s largest agricultural producer, accounting for more than 25% of worldwide agricultural manufacturing by worth.
It is usually the world’s largest meat producer and accounts for 28% of the world’s rice and 22% of its corn cultivation. (Rice manufacturing additionally causes the release of methane.)
(In distinction, China produced solely 5.5% of the world’s soybeans, far behind the US, Brazil and Argentina.)
With the rise of family earnings and a rising center class, the nation’s whole meals consumption is rising, notably meat.
China leads the world in manufacturing of fish and pork. In 2019, 37% of worldwide fish manufacturing was in China. In 2020, 38% of worldwide pork manufacturing, 13% of worldwide rooster manufacturing and 9% of worldwide beef manufacturing had been in China.
In 2021, China’s pork consumption was estimated to be 23.7kg per capita, greater than double the world’s common. That 12 months, round 45% of the world’s pork was consumed in China.
China’s pork consumption is presently anticipated to stabilise at 35.6kg per capita in 2031.
China can also be the world’s second-largest shopper of beef in absolute phrases and its beef consumption per capita is projected to rise 8% by 2030.
Roughly 1 / 4 of China’s employment and eight% of its GDP is within the agriculture sector.
Agriculture’s share of China’s GDP has been steadily declining throughout the previous a number of many years.
In 2019, agricultural actions had been answerable for 1.8% of power consumption in China, together with 0.5% of coal consumption, 2% of gasoline consumption and 10% of diesel oil consumption.
General, China is now the most important meals emitter on the planet, adopted by India, Brazil and the US.
The UN’s Meals and Agricultural Group (FAO) estimates that China’s meals system emitted 1.9bn tonnes of CO2eq in 2020, accounting for 14% of the nation’s whole emissions that 12 months. 
In line with the FAO, about 60% of food-system emissions of China in 2020 got here from “pre- and post-production actions”. This consists of actions corresponding to fertiliser manufacturing, meals processing, packaging, retailing, family consumption and meals waste.
The world over, round 6% of all greenhouse fuel emissions come from meals waste.
In China, treating household and associates to elaborate banquets has lengthy symbolised generosity. This dish-sharing eating tradition typically results in meals waste.
A Nature study printed in 2021 estimated that about 27% – or 349m tonnes – of meals went to waste yearly from 2014-2018 in China.
In 2021, the Chinese language authorities introduced the “Clean Plate Campaign” as a measure to deal with meals waste and lift public consciousness on meals safety.
Additionally that 12 months, the Nationwide Folks’s Congress (China’s nationwide legislature) handed the Anti-Food Waste Law, which set out a algorithm for public entities and personal meals and catering service suppliers to enhance meals sourcing, administration and preparation.
Meals suppliers who mislead shoppers into making “extreme orders” face fines as much as RMB10,000 ($1,500). The legislation additionally bans making and distributing “binge-eating movies”.
In response, native governments and catering industries additionally got here up with totally different insurance policies to restrict the quantity of meals ordered.
For instance, the Wuhan Catering Business Affiliation requested town’s eating places to adjust to a “N-1” model, which limits a bunch of diners to order one dish fewer than the variety of the diners.
In different cities, corresponding to Shanghai, some buffet eating places cost prospects a “clean plate” deposit which can be returned if no meals is wasted on the finish of the meal.
Some eating places have proposed extra excessive insurance policies – corresponding to figuring out how a lot prospects can eat by measuring their weight earlier than eating, drawing criticism
The Chinese language authorities has recognised the hyperlinks between agriculture and local weather change in a number of home insurance policies and worldwide commitments.
China’s “No.1 Central Doc” (so-called as a result of it’s the first coverage doc launched by China’s state council every year) for 2014 was the primary to suggest a plan for sustainable agriculture. This doc centered on water use, pesticides and fertiliser use quite than local weather change.
(The No.1 Central Doc for 2022 focuses particularly on grain safety, calling for brand new measures to make sure that grain manufacturing doesn’t fall under 650bn kilos.)
In 2015, China referenced meals manufacturing in its national climate pledge (in any other case often known as a “nationally determined contribution”) submitted beneath the Paris Agreement.
On this, China pledged to advertise “low-carbon improvement” in agriculture, to make efforts to realize “zero development” of fertilisers by 2020 and to manage methane emissions from rice fields.
(In an updated version of its NDC launched in 2021, China added that it might cut back fertiliser use, “refine” therapy of manure from livestock and poultry and use “energy-saving and emission-reduction expertise in agriculture and fishery”.)
In 2016, China’s agriculture and finance ministries collectively issued a “plan for establishing a inexperienced and ecologically oriented agricultural subsidy system”. This plan promotes funds for agriculture going in direction of “resource-saving and environmentally-friendly” practices.
In 2021, the federal government released an “Motion Plan for CO2 Peaking Earlier than 2030”, which known as for actions to “curb luxurious, waste and pointless consumption, put a resolute cease to wasteful behaviours and work tirelessly to cut back meals waste within the catering trade”. 
This was the primary time that the Chinese language authorities particularly referenced the connection between meals methods and local weather change in an official doc.
In June 2022, the nation’s agriculture and rural affairs ministries collectively issued an “implementation plan for emission discount and carbon sequestration in agriculture and rural areas”. This plan identifies 10 main “motion areas”, together with:
Later in 2022, China additionally announced it’s drafting a nationwide plan to manage methane emissions. 
Regardless of these measures, it’s value noting that China nonetheless lacks a complete coverage framework for decreasing emissions from its total meals system.
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This visitor publish has been tailored from a chapter on meals methods within the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies’ Guide to Chinese Climate Policy 2022.
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