Despite the crises, States must initiate the climate transition, says the OECD

“In addition to immediate responses to current global crises, agricultural policies must provide solutions to current challenges and promote long-term reforms to combat climate change,” summarizes the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in a report. released Thursday.

At the origin of 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions (methane, CO2), “agriculture is one of the first emitters, but also one of the most immediate victims of climate change”, has underlined Marion Jansen, Director of Trade and Agriculture of the OECD, during a press conference.

The easing of environmental restrictions to increase production should not be done “at the expense of sustainability”, stresses the organization.

Several experts have questioned the advisability of “abandoning or postponing” certain measures of the European Union’s Green Pact, citing in particular the authorization to cultivate fallow land given at the end of March by the Commission. Representing around 4% of agricultural land in the EU, these fallows provide environmental services by promoting biodiversity or soil fertility.

Four months after the start of the conflict in Ukraine, the OECD calls for vigilance regarding the poorest countries, the war generating “enormous uncertainties on agricultural markets and having immediately led to price increases for essential foodstuffs” , adds Marion Jansen.

In this voluminous study on agricultural policies from 2019 to 2021, the organization looked at how 54 states, including 11 “emerging” economies (China, India, Brazil…), spent their money to support the agriculture.

During this period, some $817 billion a year has been spent on the agricultural sector, with support reaching “record levels” with a 13% increase from 2018-2020.

– Wrong direction –

However, the OECD puts this increase into perspective, which is mainly due to temporary state policies to protect “consumers and producers from the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The share of budgets devoted to improving infrastructure or agricultural research has also “decreased over time, dropping from 16% of public expenditure 20 years ago to 13% today”, regrets Marion Jansen, who believes that this “is not going in the right direction”.

The OECD notes in particular the low level of investment in favor of innovation – 26 billion dollars, or “0.7% of the value of agricultural production” – and calls for redirecting funding towards this segment to transform industries and food systems.

Moreover, of the 54 countries studied, “only 16 countries have set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions specific to the agricultural sector”, she noted during the press conference.

The OECD also warns that public aid can distort the rules of international markets and thus contribute to the increase in emissions without benefiting farmers.

In detail, 500 billion dollars were provided to the agricultural sector via public funds, the rest having been injected through price support policies (customs duties, export subsidies).

China has made a massive contribution to this spending with $285 billion invested over the 2019-2021 period, more than a third of the total.

Weakened by the African swine fever epidemic, the country strongly supported the price of pork by buying substantial volumes of meat to supply its national reserves, and thus help breeders to replenish the herd decimated by African swine fever.

While several countries have implemented temporary export embargoes – as Indonesia has done for its palm oil or India for its wheat – the OECD warns against “counterproductive” restrictions which she says are “amplifying global price and supply pressures”.

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