05 Oct 2022 3 min read

Why we need a roadmap for the global agriculture and land-use sector

By Alexander Burr

Existing pathways don't capture the full complexity of issues facing the agriculture and land-use sector. As COP27 approaches, we are calling on policymakers and multilaterals, specifically the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), to develop a comprehensive, science-based roadmap.


This article was co-authored by Helena Wright, Policy Director at the FAIRR Initiative.

As COP27 draws near, we believe global leaders have an opportunity to build on the IEA’s pioneering roadmap for the energy sector by creating a parallel document covering another vitally important sector for the transition to net zero: agriculture.

Food systems currently contribute around a third of global greenhouse gas emissions1, yet efforts to decarbonise the sector have plateaued.

A call for action

Recognising the urgency of this issue, global leaders including former Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson have now backed calls by a group of investors managing $17 trillion in assets under management for policymakers and multilaterals (namely the United Nations FAO), to develop a science-based roadmap2 for the global agriculture and land-use sector.

This effort has been co-ordinated by the FAIRR initiative, a collaborative investor network that LGIM is a member of focusing on ESG risks and opportunities caused by intensive animal production.

The IEA’s roadmap touches on agricultural emissions, but it does not provide a detailed pathway to a Paris-aligned agriculture and land use sector.

While other initiatives like the Glasgow Breakthrough on agriculture and the science-based targets guidance for forest, land and agriculture3 are clearly a step forward, there are some major gaps (e.g. methane emissions) and the focus on climate action needs to be expanded to include other important risk areas such as waste and pollution, biodiversity and AMR (antimicrobial resistance).

Food security

The holistic nature of the challenge facing the agriculture sector has been brought home by the current global food crisis, which has demonstrated that climate, nature and nutrition are closely interconnected. Moreover, food production relies on climate stability and protection of the ecosystem.

The need to develop a sustainable food system is making its way onto the plates of policymakers. President Biden recently hosted a special White House conference on nutrition and hunger, the first of its kind for 50 years, and earlier this month sustainable food was on the agenda at New York Climate Action Week.

It’s also clear the Egyptian presidency understands the impact climate change is having on the food system, with three separate pavilions dedicated to food and agriculture at COP27.

Antimicrobial resistance

The intensification of the agriculture and land use sector also contributes to the growing threat posed by AMR, which has been identified as a ‘silent pandemic’ by the G7. Livestock today accounts for around 80% of the total use of antibiotics4, significantly contributing to the AMR crisis.

Over half of meat producers do not disclose information5 on their antibiotic use. Early studies also show that releasing antibiotics into the soil through antibiotic-containing cattle manure impacts the soil’s micronutrients6 and ability to capture carbon.


Another vitally important issue, also absent from the IEA’s analysis and other 1.5oC-aligned scenarios laid out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is the impact of agricultural NZ pathways on biodiversity loss. It is well understood that agricultural land expansion drives deforestation, resulting in severe consequences for biodiversity and contributes to the emissions-intensity of the sector.

More acutely, biodiversity risk is also associated with the expansion of land used to grow the bioenergy crops needed to support the transition. The climate and nature crises are inextricably linked, and we cannot afford to address climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss in isolation.

The brief summary above of just a few of the biggest issues faced by the agriculture and land use sector illustrates why we believe a detailed, science-based roadmap is essential to achieve a sustainable and resilient food system for the future.

In an upcoming blog we’re going to build on our focus on reforming EU agricultural subsidies and examine why action is needed globally – stay tuned to read our take on this important subject.


1. Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-021-00225-9

2. Source: https://www.fairr.org/article/roadmap-to-2050/

3. Source: https://sciencebasedtargets.org/resources/files/SBTiFLAGGuidance.pdf

4. Source: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/721078#rf685

5. Source: https://www.fairr.org/index/key-findings/risk-opportunity-factors/antibiotics/

6. Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/11/211108161433.htm

Alexander Burr

ESG Policy Lead

Alexander joined in 2019 and leads LGIM's ESG policy engagement across markets. Prior to this, he helped establish an impact fund that uses blended finance to invest in emerging markets. Before that, Alexander negotiated blended finance investments at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to support sustainable economic growth across Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and North Africa. He has held roles advising governments on alternative finance and established a nuclear safeguards organisation. Alexander holds a BSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Southampton, and further education at LSE, ICSA, CISL, and Birkbeck.

Alexander Burr