The world needs to start focusing on the food system if it wants to cut harmful emissions to net-zero , according to American and Chinese climate experts. A transition to an emissions-free future is crucial, and the two countries should increase collaboration and engagement to achieve this, they said. “To achieve net-zero, we must zero in on the food system ,” said David Sandalow, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, during a webinar on Tuesday. “The food system and the energy system are deeply intertwined.” More than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity come from the food system , according to a United Nations-backed study published last year. In 2015, the study found, emissions stemming from the way people produce, process and package food, were estimated at 18 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, roughly a third of the global total. Although the share was down from 44 per cent in 1990, the emissions in absolute terms had kept increasing, the report found. China is the world’s largest agricultural producer, contributing to 25 per cent of international farm produce by value, according to Sally Qiu, research associate at the Center on Global Energy Policy. In 2019, it was the second-largest agricultural emitter in the world , topped by India and followed by Brazil and the United States. In that year, 1.89 billion tonnes of China’s GHG emissions came from the agri-food sector, 14.36 per cent of its total emissions in that year. Of that amount, 1.1 billion tonnes came from food-related pre- and post-production activities, and 791.8 million tonnes were from farm-gate emissions, according to Qiu. “Although food and climate as two separate topics have both begun to see increasing attention, policy measures still need to be established to bridge these two areas,” said Qiu. China has introduced a series of food-related policies, but they have been focused more on food security and reducing waste, such as the “clean plate campaign” announced in 2020, and the Anti-Food Waste Law announced last April. In 2020, President Xi Jinping announced that China would aim for peak emissions by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2060 . An action plan released last October was the first policy to bridge the gap between food and climate change, mentioning measures to reduce food waste and develop low-carbon technology for agriculture and food consumption to support China’s goals. China also updated its emissions reduction commitment, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations, last October, adding measures related to the food system. Compared to the earlier 2015 version, China’s new NDCs covered four areas: agricultural waste management, food-related land use, diet and consumption. Notable new measures included sustainable agriculture development, and the promotion of energy-saving and emissions-reduction technologies. Roughly 30 per cent of food that is produced is never eaten. Strategies to reduce emissions from the industry should come from both the supply- and demand-sides, and should include reducing food loss during production, transport and storage, sustainable land use, sustainable diets, and more efficient cooking technologies, said Sandalow. Climate-friendly agriculture was also a priority highlighted in the US-China Climate Crisis Statement and the US-China Glasgow Declaration, two statements released last year to accelerate climate cooperation between the two countries. Both nations should look for solutions in developing sustainable agriculture that can maintain productivity while conserving resources, according to said Karen Mancl, professor of food, agricultural and biological engineering at the Ohio State University. Policies and technologies need to be in place, as well as education and incentives for farmers, she told the webinar. The Chinese government has introduced a series of initiatives for making the agricultural sector greener, but it is still a niche market and faces challenges such as price premiums and a lack of support organisations, said Si Zhenzhong, research project manager at Wilfrid Laurier University. More engagement and conversation between China and the US, two superpowers in the food and energy systems, are needed. “We should encourage more information sharing, especially among civil society organizations,” said Si during the webinar.