Several years ago I had a conversation with David Kolsrud, a wise farmer and renewable energy investor, who believed that the federal government would not be the main driving force in greenhouse gas emission reductions because of political gridlock. He suggested it would be consumers and industry driving the change. I think he was right.
That is not to say that government has no role in reducing GHG emissions but I see the biggest drivers for curbing emissions coming more from mandates in supply chains and being driven largely by consumers.
Example: Apple recently announced an $848 million investment in a 2900 acre solar farm to power it’s cooperate headquarters (Huffington Post). Their stock price continues to rise suggesting most investors think renewable energy is a good path forward.
Google has been carbon neutral since 2007 and is currently using 35% renewable energy to power their company (Google Green). No government mandate just a business decision.
Dr. Marty Matlock (University of Arkansas) wrote a great article published in the May/June issue of ASABE Resources Magazine looking at the move to sustainability in the food supply chain coming from industry stakeholders (growers, processors, and retailers). He highlighted two industry stakeholder programs: Field to Market and Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Both of these stakeholder initiatives include an emphasis on reducing GHG emissions.
As for the private sector, Dr. Matlock how “Walmart the largest consumer retailer, and Unilever (the largest processor and manufacturer of consumer package food goods in the world, have both adopted strategies to promote agricultural sustainability in their supply chains.”
In the fall of 2014 Walmart announced it’s commitment to a sustainable food system. Number one on the list was reducing the “true cost of food” which included reductions in their GHG emissions across their company and supply chains (Walmart, Global Responsibility – GHG). This is important as Walmart received 25% of the total dollars that Americans spent on groceries in 2011 (Grist) and is now pushing hard in organic produce. If they tell their food suppliers to “cut carbon” those suppliers are sure to cut carbon. This will likely mean changes on the farm.
Unilever’s commitment to GHG reductions also will be pass on to their global supply chain. “Urgent action is needed to combat climate change. We are deepening our efforts to eliminate deforestation by using our scale, influence and resources to create transformational change. We are also working to lower our GHG impact from sourcing and manufacturing and through innovation and behavior change.” (Unilever)
Sustainable food production practices will soon be the norm and these practices will be defined partially by government but more importantly by those controlling the food supply chain. These practices will include GHG emissions.
Always Considering Climate — David
David Schmidt MS. PE is a researcher and educator in the Department of Bioproducts and Bioysystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota and regional project coordinator for the project Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate, a national project of the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center and funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.