The future agriculture of food and Alternative pathways to 2050

 
The future agriculture of food and Alternative pathways to 2050
2

The future
     of food and
agriculture
     Alternative
pathways to 2050

       SUMMARY VERSION
The future agriculture of food and Alternative pathways to 2050
The future agriculture of food and Alternative pathways to 2050
The future
     of food and
agriculture
     Alternative
pathways to 2050
      SUMMARY VERSION

   Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
                         Rome, 2018
The future agriculture of food and Alternative pathways to 2050
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FAO. 2018. The future of food and agriculture – Alternative pathways to 2050. Summary version. Rome. 60 pp.
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The future agriculture of food and Alternative pathways to 2050
CONTENTS
This booklet summarizes the key messages and findings of the report
The future of food and agriculture – Alternative pathways to 2050.
The figures and graphs are taken from that publication.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS                                                                      4

ABBREVIATIONS                                                                         6

FOREWORD                                                                              8

THE FUTURE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE:
THE OVERARCHING CONCERN AND KEY MESSAGES                                             11

1      Overview                                                                      16

2      Alternative scenarios for possible futures                                    24

3      Managing food demand and changing people’s dietary preferences                30

4      Sustainably addressing the scarcity and reduced quality of land and
       water resources                                                               35

5      Addressing poverty and inequality to achieve food security and nutrition goals 42

6      Tackling the nexus between climate change, agricultural sectors
       and livelihoods                                                               52

7      Concluding remarks                                                            58
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This report was prepared by the FAO       November 2017. Critical contributions
Global Perspectives Studies (GPS)         were provided by:
team of the Economic and Social
Development (ES) Department. The          Economic and Social Development
GPS team members Lorenzo Giovanni         Department (ES):
Bellù, Senior Economist, Team             Katherine Baldwin, Carlo Cafiero,
Leader and lead author of the report,     Andrea Cattaneo, Filippo Gheri,
Katerina Kavallari, Marc Müller and       Günter Hemrich, Holger Matthey,
Lan Huong Nguyen, Economists, and         Carlos Mielitz Netto, Salar Tayyib and
Dominik Wisser, Natural Resources         Francesco Tubiello.
Specialist, wrote the report after
carrying out the design of the study      Agriculture and Consumer Protection
and related modelling, gathering          Department (AG):
data and information, and analysing       Teodardo Calles, Alessandra
quantitative and qualitative findings.    Falcucci, Hilde Kruse, Anne Mottet,
                                          Carolyn Opio, Timothy Robinson,
The whole process largely benefited       Henning Steinfeld, Giuseppe Tempio
from the overall guidance of Kostas       and Aimable Uwizeye.
Stamoulis, Assistant Director-General
of the ES Department. The preparation     Fisheries and Aquaculture Department (FI):
of the first draft was supervised by      Manuel Barange and
Rob Vos, former Director of FAO’s         Stefania Vannuccini.
Agricultural Development Economics
Division (ESA) and current Director       Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water
of the Markets, Trade and Institutions    Department (CB):
Division at the International Food        Gianluca Franceschini,
Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).        Jippe Hoogeveen and Nadia Scialabba.
Marco Vinicio Sánchez Cantillo,
Deputy Director of ESA, supervised the    Strategic Programmes (SPs):
finalization of the report and provided   Panagiotis Karfakis and Brave Ndisale
important editorial inputs.               (SP1), Clayton Campanhola, Jean-Marc
                                          Faurès and Ewald Rametsteiner (SP2),
Significant technical inputs and advice   Maya Takagi (SP3), Jamie Morrison
were provided by specialists from         (SP4) and Dominique Burgeon (SP5).
different FAO departments during
three preparatory workshops held          Office of the Director-General (ODG):
in July and December 2016 and             Yasaman Matinroshan.

|4|
THE FUTURE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

FAO gratefully acknowledges                Raffaella Rucci, Outreach Specialist,
valuable contributions from:               coordinated the publication and
                                           communications workflow, while
Linda Arata (Università Cattolica          Christopher Emsden, Communications
del Sacro Cuore, Italy), Wolfgang Britz    Officer, advised on the preparation
(University of Bonn, Germany),             of key messages and Eleonora Boni,
Günther Fischer (International             Office Assistant, supported the
Institute for Applied Systems Analysis),   preparation of the summary version
Steve Frolking (University of              of the report.
New Hampshire, USA), David Hallam
(former Director of the Trade              Anna Doria Antonazzo, Office Assistant,
and Markets Division, FAO),                provided administrative support.
Dominique van der Mensbrugghe
(Purdue University, USA),                  The Publishing Group of FAO’s Office
Daniele Moro (Università Cattolica         for Corporate Communication (OCC)
del Sacro Cuore, Italy) and                provided editorial, translation and
Paolo Sckokai (Università Cattolica        printing support.
del Sacro Cuore, Italy).

Jim Curtiss, Editorial Advisor,
edited the various versions of the
report. Daniela Verona, Publishing
Expert, prepared the graphics
and the final layout.

                                                                                  |5|
ABBREVIATIONS
AfDB       African Development Bank
BAU        Business as usual scenario
CFS        Committee on World Food Security
CO2        Carbon dioxide
CO2eq      Carbon dioxide equivalent
COP21      Twenty-first Conference of the Parties of the United Nations
           Framework Convention on Climate Change (Paris, 2015)
EAP        East Asia and the Pacific
ECA        Europe and Central Asia
ENVISAGE   Environmental Impact and Sustainability Applied General
           Equilibrium model
FAO        Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FDI        Foreign direct investment
GAEZ       Global Agro-Ecological Zones (FAO-IIASA)
GAPS       Global Agriculture Perspectives System (FAO)
GHG        Greenhouse gasses
GLEAM      Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (FAO)
GTAP       Global Trade Analysis Project
GtCO2eq    Gigatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent
HIC        High-income countries
IFAD       International Fund for Agricultural Development
IFPRI      International Food Policy Research Institute
IIASA      International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
INDC       Intended Nationally Determined Contribution
IPCC       Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Kcal       Kilocalories
LAC        Latin America and the Caribbean
LMIC       Low- and middle-income countries
NNA        Near East and North Africa

|6|
THE FUTURE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

OCHA     United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
ODA      Official development assistance
OECD     Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
PoU      Prevalence of Undernourishment
RCP      Representative Concentration Pathway
SAS      South Asia
SDGs     Sustainable Development Goals
SSA      Sub-Saharan Africa
SSP      Shared Socio-economic Pathways
SSS      Stratified societies scenario
TSS      Towards sustainability scenario
UN       United Nations
UNECA    United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
UNICEF   United Nations Children's Fund
USD      United States dollar
WFP      World Food Programme
WHO      World Health Organization
WRI      World Resources Institute

                                                                          |7|
FOREWORD

T
             he last century has seen       from vital goods and services. FAO’s
             great socio-economic           most recent estimates indicate that
             progress and significant       821 million people, approximately
             welfare improvements           one out of every nine people in the
             worldwide. However,            world, were undernourished in 2017.
             a world of “freedom            Worse still, after a prolonged
from fear and want”, as envisioned          decline, both the absolute number
by the founders of the United               of undernourished people and the
Nations, has yet to be achieved.            prevalence of undernourishment
                                            (PoU) have started increasing again,
Much also remains to be done                signalling a possible reversal of trends.
to fulfil FAO’s vision of creating          At the same time, food insecurity is
“a world free from hunger and               contributing to undernutrition, as well
malnutrition, where food and                as overweight and obesity, and high
agriculture contribute to improving         rates of these forms of malnutrition
the living standards of all, especially     coexist in many countries.
the poorest, in an economically,
socially and environmentally                Agriculture, including fisheries and
sustainable manner”.                        forestry, is far from being sustainable

Progress towards eliminating hunger         Much of humanity’s progress has
and malnutrition is still insufficient to   come at considerable cost to the
meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda for       environment. To produce more food
Sustainable Development                     and other non-food agricultural
                                            goods, a combination of intensified
Addressing the challenges of hunger,        agricultural production processes and
food insecurity and malnutrition in         the clearing of forests has led to the
all its forms features prominently in       degradation of natural resources and
the targets of the second Sustainable       is contributing to climate change.
Development Goal (SDG) of the 2030
Agenda for Sustainable Development.         Should we continue to address
However, despite great progress towards     these challenges with a “business
increasing income and wealth globally,      as usual” approach, the future will
billions of people still face pervasive     not look promising. Sustainable food
poverty, hunger and malnutrition,           and agricultural systems cannot
and various dimensions of inequality,       be achieved without significant
joblessness, disease and deprivation        additional efforts.

|8|
THE FUTURE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

Still, options to face these challenges   the future of food and agriculture.
are available                             On the basis of these findings,
                                          the report highlights possible
Options to face these challenges          strategic options to guide food
exist, but they need to be considered     and agricultural systems along a
carefully. Food and agriculture           more socially, environmentally and
systems may follow alternative            economically sustainable path.
pathways, depending on the evolution
of a variety of factors such as           This report shows convincingly,
population growth, dietary choices,       on the basis of quantitative evidence,
technological progress, income            that we can achieve more with less,
distribution, the state and use of        and produce safe and nutritious food
natural resources, climatic changes       for all, while containing the expansion
and efforts to prevent and resolve        of agricultural sectors and hence limit
conflicts. These pathways can and         the use of natural resources.
will be impacted by strategic choices
and policy decisions. Swift and           The purpose of this publication is to
purposeful actions are needed to          bridge a knowledge gap regarding
ensure the sustainability of food         the future of food and agriculture at
and agriculture systems in the long       a time when countries, international
run. The future is uncertain, but to      organizations, civil society and
act now, we need a good sense of          academia are increasingly requesting
what the world may look like under        an authoritative foresight exercise in
potentially different pathways.           this domain. This work catalyses a
                                          wealth of multidisciplinary expertise
This report explores different future     and draws on many different data
pathways for food and agriculture         sources, from both inside and outside
systems through three distinct            FAO. In rigorous but accessible
scenarios characterized by the            language, the report sheds light on
way the key challenges to food            our responsibilities in shaping our
security, nutrition and sustainability    common future.
are dealt with: boldly, partially or
not at all. It improves our ex ante       Decision makers, the international
understanding of alternative future       community, academia and civil society
long-term trends, both globally           are invited to give this report due
and at the regional level, of key         consideration, not as the end point of
variables and indicators affecting        an analytical endeavor, but rather as

                                                                                   |9|
FOREWORD
the starting point for a dialogue on
strategic policy choices and processes
aimed at shaping sustainable
development patterns at country,
regional and global levels.

Kostas Stamoulis
Assistant Director-General
Economic and Social Development Department
Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations

| 10 |
T H E F U T U R E O F F O O D A N D A G R I C U LT U R E

The future of food
and agriculture:
the overarching concern
and key messages

                                                                | 11 |
The future of food and agriculture:
the overarching concern and key messages

The future of food and agriculture1                            sustainability of food and agricultural
faces uncertainties that give rise                             systems. The analysis is quantitative
to serious questions and concerns                              in nature, given the need to
regarding its performance and                                  substantiate the possible scenarios
sustainability. Uncertainties revolve                          with quantitative long-term projections
around different factors, including                            of food and agriculture. At the
population growth, dietary choices,                            same time, the interpretation of the
technological progress, income                                 quantitative findings relies on extensive
distribution, the state of natural                             qualitative analysis.
resources, climate change, the
sustainability of peace, etc. Nobody                           The analysis of the alternative
knows with precision how these                                 scenarios detailed in this report
factors will evolve over time; however,                        addresses fundamental questions
they are certain to shape the future.                          regarding the future of food
For this reason, countries, international                      and agriculture; it supports the
organizations, civil society and                               identification of strategic orientations
academia are increasingly requesting                           that nurture national, regional and
an authoritative foresight exercise                            global dialogues and policymaking
that outlines alternative scenarios and                        processes, and helps shape
highlights potential pathways for food                         key messages to guide food and
and agricultural systems.                                      agricultural systems along
                                                               sustainable pathways.
This publication bridges the knowledge
gap regarding the future of food and
agriculture. It does not provide a
detailed list of specific policy measures
to achieve an ideal future, which is
beyond the scope of a global long-
term foresight exercise. Rather, this
report highlights global challenges
for the future of food and agricultural
systems, and discusses how tackling
these challenges − or leaving
them unaddressed − will affect the

  In this report, “agriculture” comprises all agricultural
1	 

sectors, including crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry.

| 12 |
THE FUTURE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

WILL GLOBAL FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS BE ABLE TO
FEED HUMANITY SUSTAINABLY AND SATISFACTORILY
IN THE FUTURE, WHILE ALSO ACCOMMODATING ADDITIONAL
NON-FOOD AGRICULTURAL DEMAND?
KEY MESSAGES
Food and agricultural systems are           However, fully meeting Sustainable
affected by trends that could jeopardize    Development Goals (SDGs) targets,
their future sustainability. Population     as envisaged by the 2030 Agenda for
and income growth drive the demand          Sustainable Development, will require
for food and bring about changes in         additional efforts to address growing
people’s dietary preferences. Persistent    inequalities and gender imbalances,
poverty, inequality and unemployment        sustain peace, reduce GHG emissions,
constrain access to food and hamper         avoid resource depleting farming
the achievement of food security and        systems, manage the demand for
nutrition goals. Agricultural production    resource-intensive animal food
is limited by the increasing scarcity and   products, and reduce food loss and
diminishing quality of land and water       waste, among other challenges.
resources, as well as by insufficient
investment in sustainable agriculture.      A more sustainable future is attainable,
Climate change is increasingly affecting    but getting there will not be easy.
yields and rural livelihoods, while         To move away from “business as
agriculture continues to emit large         usual”, all societies will be required
amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs).         to renew the assets used to produce
                                            goods and services, or capital stock,
Changing course is critical – “business     develop new solutions, and implement
as usual” is no longer an option.           innovative technologies. In the spirit
If food and agricultural systems            of solidarity enshrined in the SDGs,
remain on their current path,               countries and social groups that can
the evidence points to a future             reasonably shoulder the costs involved
characterized by persistent food            in the necessary transformations have
insecurity and unsustainable                to provide support to those already
economic growth. Many countries             affected by the negative effects of
and regions are already committed           unsustainable development, and help
to increasing the sustainability of         them prepare a better future for the
their food and agriculture systems.         next generations.

                                                                                  | 13 |
The future of food and agriculture:
the overarching concern and key messages

All countries must commit to                … but producing more will be
responsibility-sharing in implementing      unavoidable, and the way forward is
fundamental changes.                        doing so with less.
The global transformative process           Those working in food and agriculture
required to improve the sustainability      must learn how to satisfy a growing
of food and agriculture transcends          demand under more significant
the divide between “developed” and          resource constraints by improving
“developing” countries. All countries       land and water use, reducing GHG
will be affected in this process,           emissions, increasing efficiency in
as “fundamental changes in the way          energy production and consumption,
societies consume and produce are           and restoring soils and forests.
indispensable for achieving global          These are just some of the variety of
sustainable development” (Rio+20.           strategic options to consider in search
The future we want).                        of sustainability.

Raising consumer awareness will help        While moving towards sustainability,
contain the need to unnecessarily           food prices might increase
expand food production and reduce the       significantly …
“triple burden” of malnutrition …           If the entire range of production
Agricultural production is expected         and consumption costs is taken into
to rise worldwide in response to            account, including resource
population growth, dietary changes and      degradation and GHG emissions,
increased incomes. Raising consumer         evidence indicates that food prices
awareness about environmentally             are likely to increase significantly.
sustainable and healthier diets,            Such increases could lead to a more
reducing food waste, pricing food to        careful use of both natural resources
reflect the negative externalities of       and of food itself.
its production, and limiting the use
of grains for biofuel production will       … yet environmental sustainability and
all be critical to curb the demand for      food security can still go hand in hand.
agricultural products. These actions        While moving food and agricultural
will also be critical to reduce the         systems towards sustainability may
“triple burden” of malnutrition that        drive up food prices and restrain global
is, undernourishment, micronutrient         agricultural output, the per capita
deficiencies, and overweight and            food availability and access to food
obesity, that often exist within a single   in low- and middle-income countries
country or even community.                  can improve substantially if a more

| 14 |
THE FUTURE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

equitable distribution of income within      Food and agricultural sectors are key,
and across countries is pursued.             but are no longer enough on their own
                                             to ensure equitable access to food.
A more equitable income distribution         Crops, livestock, fisheries and
is a must …                                  forestry continue to be important for
Ensuring a more equitable distribution       employment and income generation
of income within and across countries        in low- and middle-income countries.
is indispensable in the quest for food       However, these sectors alone no
security, better nutrition and the           longer provide enough jobs or
environmental sustainability of food         income-earning opportunities.
systems. Among the strategic options         On the one hand, agriculture and
to achieve this goal are: promoting          family farming in particular, must
sustainable technologies; facilitating the   be more firmly linked to the broader
access to markets for family farmers;        rural and urban economy. This can be
building stronger institutions to ensure     done by developing agro-industries
competitive, transparent and fair            and setting up infrastructure to
markets for agricultural inputs and          connect rural areas, small cities
outputs; implementing effective social       and towns. On the other hand,
protection schemes and equitable             strong institutions supported by
fiscal systems; and reducing illicit         efficient fiscal systems, are needed
financial flows that drain resources         to ensure economy-wide income-
from low-income countries.                   earning opportunities, effective social
                                             protection, and competitive and
… and requires strengthening access to       equitable domestic and international
assets for vulnerable groups.                markets for inputs and outputs.
Secure and equitable access to assets        All these aspects are critical to
such as land, water, capital and             improve the efficiency and equity
credit will, together with improved          of economic systems and facilitate
information and enhanced skills and          their structural transformation.
know-how, significantly improve              In addition, interventions to reduce
the earning potential of the poorer          GHG emissions in agriculture will
segments of society. This is true for        not pay off significantly if efforts to
both people who will remain engaged          boost energy-use efficiency are not
in agricultural activities and for those     simultaneously undertaken on an
who will move out of agriculture to          economy-wide basis.
engage in other productive sectors.

                                                                                      | 15 |
Alternative
  pathways to 2050

1. OVERVIEW                              the share of cereals has diminished.
                                         This has prompted concerns about
                                         the sustainability of diets, as well
The future of food and agriculture –     as about their health implications,
Alternative pathways to 2050 provides    particularly – but not exclusively –
a forward-looking perspective on the     in high-income countries (HIC) where
development of global and regional       both adult and child obesity show a
food and agricultural systems.           dramatic increasing trend (Figure 1.6).2
This development, and its related        At the same time, the incidence of
challenges, will depend on underlying    diet-related non-communicable
long-run trends in supply and demand,    diseases is on the rise (GBD 2015 Risk
which will continue to shape global      Factors Collaborators, 2016; GBD 2016
food and agriculture.                    DALYs and HALE Collaborators, 2017).3

The overarching concern regarding        Persistent poverty, inequality and
the future of food and agriculture       unemployment constrain the access to
is whether global systems will be        food and hamper the achievement of
able to sustainably feed humanity        food security and nutrition goals.
up to 2050 and beyond, while at          The unequal distribution of income
the same time accommodating the          and access to assets, persistent
demand for non-food agricultural         extreme poverty and the lack of
commodities. This concern arises         earning opportunities for hundreds
because current trends are calling       of millions of people cause food
into question the economic, social       insecurity to persist. While much
and environmental sustainability of      progress was made over the past
food and agricultural systems.           years to reduce hunger, more than
                                         821 million people are still chronically
Increased population, income and         hungry, and the evidence points to
urbanization, all drive up the           persistent undernourishment in the
demand for food and change people’s      future (Figure 1.7). More than two
dietary preferences towards more         billion people suffer from various
resource-intensive animal products       forms of micronutrient deficiencies.
and processed food.                      For example, more than 600 million
The global demand for food and non-      women of reproductive age still suffer
food agricultural products continues     from anaemia, which is often caused
to grow, reflecting dietary changes,     by iron deficiency, while several
driven by population growth, a rise in
income and increased urbanization.
                                         2
                                           The numbering of the figures in this summary version
                                         retains that of the main publication, although it is not
For example, the share of meat and       consecutive since not all the figures are used here.
dairy products in people’s diets has       Please refer to the report – of which this is the
                                         3	 

increased with economic growth, while    summary – for reference entries.

| 16 |
T H E F U T U R E O F F O O D A N D A G R I C U LT U R E

     FIGURE 1.6                             PREVALENCE OF OBESITY AMONG CHILDREN AND ADULTS BY REGION

         Children and adolescents                                                          Adults

12
                                                                                  20
      Percent

                                                                                        Percent
8

                                                                                  10
4

0                                                                                 0
     1975                            1985        1995     2005       2015              1975         1985            1995           2005            2015

World                            High-income countries   Upper-middle countries        Lower-middle countries              Low-income countries

Note: Regions are arranged into income groups as defined in WHO Global Health Observatory data (WHO, 2018). Children and adolescents are those
between 5 and 18 years of age, adults are those aged 18 and above.
Source: WHO. 2018. Overweight and obesity. In: WHO Global Health Observatory data, overweight and obesity [online]. Geneva, Switzerland.
www.who.int/gho/ncd/risk_factors/overweight

     FIGURE 1.7                             UNDERNOURISHMENT UNDER A BUSINESS AS USUAL SCENARIO, 2005–2030

1 000

 800

 600
                Million people

                                                                                                                  Sub-Saharan Africa
                                                                                                                  South Asia
 400
                                                                                                                  Latin America and Caribbean
                                                                                                                  Near East and North Africa
 200
                                                                                                                  East Asia and Pacific
                                                                                                                  High-income countries
     0
                                    2005–2007            2014–2016                 2030

Source: FAO. 2017a. The future of food and agriculture - Trends and challenges. Rome. For the periods 2005–2007 and 2014–16 data are based on
FAO, IFAD and WFP. 2015a. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015. Meeting the 2015 international hunger targets: taking stock of uneven progress.
Rome, FAO; for year 2030 data are based on FAO, IFAD and WFP. 2015b. Achieving Zero Hunger. The critical role of investment in social protection and
agriculture. Rome.

                                                                                                                                                    | 17 |
Alternative
  pathways to 2050

hundred thousands of children go blind                                        induced negative impacts on human
every year due to vitamin A deficiency.                                       welfare are no longer limited to
                                                                              specific regions.4
Persisting inequalities other than
those relating to income – including                                          Agricultural production is constrained
access to resources such as land                                              by the increased scarcity and diminished
and water, or to the benefits that                                            quality of land and water resources.
high-value resources such as oil and                                          What can be produced and whether
minerals generate – not only force                                            growing and changing food
people to live in an unfair world,
but also trigger conflicts that in turn                                       4	 
                                                                                 Rather, such impacts have become a global issue with
can exacerbate extreme poverty and                                            the displacement of people and migration, such as in the
food insecurity. Indeed, the marked                                           case of the ongoing civil war in the Syrian Arab Republic.
                                                                              Conflicts, violence and natural disasters are among
surge in the number of global conflicts                                       the root causes of migration and forced displacement.
observed during the last decade is a                                          However, many migrants are forced to move because of
major driver of food insecurity and                                           socio-economic factors including poverty, food insecurity,
                                                                              a lack of employment opportunities, limited access to social
malnutrition (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF,                                              protection, natural resource depletion, and the adverse
WFP and WHO, 2017) and conflict-                                              impacts of environmental degradation and climate change.

  FIGURE 1.11            FRESHWATER WITHDRAWALS AS A PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL RENEWABLE
                         WATER RESOURCES

                                                                 Water Stress Index

                                  Low          Low to moderate      Medium to high          High           Extremely high
                                (< 10%)           (10-20%)            (20-40%)            (60-80%)            (> 80%)

Note: Countries are considered water-stressed if they withdraw more than 25 percent of their renewable freshwater resources. The countries
approach physical water scarcity when more than 60 percent of their water is withdrawn, and face severe physical water scarcity when more than
75 percent is withdrawn.
Source: FAO Global Perspectives Studies, based on FAO AQUASTAT (various years).

| 18 |
T H E F U T U R E O F F O O D A N D A G R I C U LT U R E

requirements can be met will                  Unaddressed climate change is
depend on the availability and                increasingly affecting yields and rural
productivity of resources, and                livelihoods, while food and agricultural
notably of land and water. These              systems, as well as the economy at large,
resources are already under pressure          continues to emit GHGs.
(Figure 1.11), and although technical         Climate change manifesting itself in
progress has raised productivity,             the form of extreme weather events
evidence suggests that productivity           already negatively affects yields in
growth, or at least growth in crop            crop production, livestock rearing
yields, is slowing. Moreover, food            and fisheries, particularly in low- and
loss and waste put unnecessary                middle-income countries (LMIC).
pressure on land, water and energy            This adds pressure on natural resources
resources along the food value                and shifts the distribution of what can
chain; addressing this will improve           be produced and where. The fact that
environmental sustainability                  GHGs from human activities are the
throughout the food system.                   most significant driver of climate change
                                              observed since the mid-20th century
Unless supported by adequate                  is problematic. Food and agricultural
investments, technical changes in             systems are among the major
food and agricultural systems will            contributors to GHG emissions, and are
not lead to sustainable productivity          therefore crucial to efforts towards the
improvements.                                 mitigation of climate change. Changes
Questions arise as to whether the future      in agricultural production systems
demand for agricultural products will         aimed at climate change mitigation
be compatible with the urgent need            and adaptation would be expected to
for greater sustainability in resource        reverberate positively throughout food
use. To meet the increasing demand            systems. So far, GHG emissions within
for agricultural products in a more           the economy at large have not been
sustainable way, food and agricultural        reduced (Figure 1.15). This implies that
systems need more investment,                 the agriculture sector needs to adapt to
including in research and development,        climate change, while climate change
to promote technical change. This is          needs to be mitigated.
especially true for regions that currently
lag behind in productivity and are also       Understanding the possible pathways
among the most food-insecure, such as         towards sustainability in the face
sub-Saharan Africa. However,                  of these challenges necessitates a
financing for investment is limited           long-term foresight exercise with
and priorities need to be identified to       alternative scenarios.
achieve productivity improvements that        No doubt, the challenges for global
are sustainable in social, environmental      food and agricultural systems
and economic terms.                           discussed above provide grounds

                                                                                                 | 19 |
Alternative
  pathways to 2050

  FIGURE 1.15            ANNUAL GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS BY SECTOR, 1990–2014

50
                                                                                                                           Energy
                                                                                                                           Fugitive emissions
                                                                                                                           Other fuel combustion
40
                                                                                                                           Transportation
                                                                                                                           Manufacturing/construction
30                                                                                                                         Electricity/heat
     GtCO2eq

                                                                                                                           Industrial processes
20
                                                                                                                           Waste
                                                                                                                           Bunker fuels
10
                                                                                                                           Land use and forestry
                                                                                                                           Agriculture
 0
     1990                1995                2000                 2005                 2010                 2015

Note: “Bunker fuels” refers to emissions from international aviation and maritime transport. “Other fuel combustion” includes biomass combustion, and
stationary and mobile sources. “Fugitive emissions” refers to flaring of gas and emissions from coal mining. “Waste” includes emissions from landfills,
wastewater treatment, human sewage and other waste.
Source: WRI. 2014. Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT): WRI’s Climate Data Explorer. Washington, DC.

for concern and raise questions                                                 incremental and multiplicative effects
about how to face them if we want                                               in the medium- to long-run. Together,
to move towards sustainability, or                                              these challenges create an uncertain
what is at stake if we move in the                                              future for food and agriculture.
opposite direction. The challenges
are complex and diverse. While some                                             A long-term foresight analysis is
of them are inherent to food and                                                needed to understand the evolution
agricultural systems and depend                                                 of global food and agricultural systems
on the way in which these systems                                               against a background of multiple
are − and will be − organized                                                   uncertainties, depending on our ability
(e.g. increasing pressure on land,                                              (or lack thereof) to face the various
water and energy use), others are                                               challenges. The core of this foresight
essentially systemic, impacting                                                 exercise is to compare alternative
food and agricultural systems from                                              scenarios in which these challenges
elsewhere (e.g. economy-wide                                                    are tackled to different degrees.
unemployment, conflicts, climate                                                This comparison helps understand
change, urbanization and migration).                                            the potential implications of the
Additional complexities arise because                                           strategic options and interventions
inherent and systemic challenges                                                underlying each scenario for food and
may be intertwined, displaying                                                  agricultural systems.

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T H E F U T U R E O F F O O D A N D A G R I C U LT U R E

In a study such as this one, the          a host of contingent, short-term
scenarios are not forecasts or            events, such as temporary economic
predictions, or even stand-alone          downturns, climate extremes, price
projections, but rather possible,         spikes or reductions, international
plausible and consistent pathways         trade crises, local surges of pests
of what the future might look like        and diseases, or temporary social
at some, usually distant, point in        unrest and conflicts, among others.
time. Pathways differ depending           Naturally, a long-term foresight
on the evolution and interaction of       analysis is unable to predict the
the many factors that determine           future occurrence of such contingent,
the dynamics and performance of           short-term events. Nonetheless,
socio-economic and environmental          the holistic analysis does help
systems, such as income growth and        identify “weak signals” of changes
distribution, population trends and       that are already present in the
demographic changes, technology,          current situation. Such changes may
agroecological conditions and natural     progressively increase in magnitude
resources, GHG emissions and              or frequency in the future, and may
climate change. These factors may         potentially lead to significant shifts,
evolve depending on different policies    for example in consumer preferences,
and interventions. The objective of       technological changes or natural
the foresight exercise is therefore       resource use.
not necessarily to obtain the most
precise future estimates of food and      This report presents a foresight
agriculture variables, but rather to      exercise that builds on the
depict comprehensive and consistent       expertise, skills and data of FAO
frameworks that highlight how             and its partners, to help inform
certain decisions can influence the       decision-making processes.
unfolding of development pathways.        The methodology of this report is
                                          different from that of previous FAO
In many instances, a foresight            exercises, which provided agricultural
analysis provides a scenario that         projections based on a single scenario.
essentially builds on past long-term      Building upon the FAO report
trends of the factors that determine      The future of food and agriculture –
the dynamics and performance of           Trends and challenges (FAO, 2017a),
socio-economic and environmental          which highlighted how recent trends
systems. Such a scenario is typically     in key variables present challenges
regarded as a “business as usual”         for food security and nutrition, the
and often considered as a “baseline”      present report explores three different
against which alternative scenarios       scenarios based on alternative trends
are compared. Past trends already         for key drivers of the future of food
capture the observed impacts of           and agriculture, including income

                                                                                             | 21 |
Alternative
  pathways to 2050

increase and distribution, population                           This report is the result of a
growth, technical progress in                                   corporate process led by FAO’s
agriculture and climate change.                                 Global Perspectives Studies team that
                                                                relied heavily on in-house expertise,
The report provides quantitative and                            skills and data, but also involved
qualitative analyses of challenges                              partnerships with external institutions.
facing food and agricultural sectors.                           It builds upon the experience gained
The quantitative analysis relies on                             in foresight exercises by colleagues
both economy-wide and sector-specific                           from FAO and from other international
simulation models. For each scenario                            institutions including the International
at the regional and global levels, the                          Fund for Agricultural Development
results of the model-based exercise                             (IFAD), the Organisation for Economic
provide separate and comparative                                Co-operation and Development
(across scenarios) analyses of key                              (OECD), the International Food Policy
variables and indicators, including                             Research Institute (IFPRI) and the
the share of agriculture in total value                         European Union, and upon knowledge
added, the supply and demand for                                and practices developed by the
a set of food and agricultural products,                        international community to support
long-term price trends, performance                             the work of the Intergovernmental
in the field of food security and                               Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to
nutrition, natural resource use,                                name but a few.6 The report forms part
the net trade positions of various                              of FAO’s efforts to provide evidence-
regions for selected groups of products,                        based support to decision-making
and GHG emissions.5                                             processes. Therefore, it should be
                                                                seen as a comprehensive assessment
The analysis of the scenarios                                   of alternative prospects of food and
led to quantitative findings that                               agricultural sectors that without any
were scrutinized also in light of                               pretense to be exhaustive, goes well
complementary qualitative analyses.                             beyond mere model-based projections
The latter were developed on the basis                          and aims to contribute to the foresight
of existing background studies and                              work of the international community
other literature in specific domains                            at the science-policy interface.
including food demand, natural resource
use and GHG emissions, as well as on                            This report was much needed to
reports by FAO and other organizations                          bridge a knowledge gap regarding
investigating challenges to food security                       the long-term future of food and
and nutrition in all its dimensions.                            agriculture. For the first time, a report

  Supplementary material including detailed commodity
5	                                                              6
                                                                   Annex I of the report provides a comparative
balances and other statistical tables is available online at:   review of the key foresight exercises that inspired
www.fao.org/3/CA1564EN/CA1564EN.pdf                             this publication.

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T H E F U T U R E O F F O O D A N D A G R I C U LT U R E

provides a globally consistent foresight      towards “a world in which food is
exercise based on scenarios designed          nutritious and accessible for everyone
specifically to investigate challenges for    and natural resources are managed
food security and nutrition, while taking     in a way that maintain ecosystem
into account the future economy-wide          functions to support current as well
context and possible climate change           as future human needs” (FAO, 2014).
pathways. In accurate but accessible          Hopefully, this publication will be of
language, the report provides solid           use to everyone interested in long-term
evidence regarding possible strategic         foresight assessments of global food and
options and directions to achieve             agricultural systems, including decision-
the SDGs of eradicating hunger,               makers and analysts in governments,
improving nutrition and ensuring the          international organizations, civil society
sustainability of agriculture. Therefore,     organizations, the private sector, and
it helps understand how to move               academic and research institutions

                                                                                                 | 23 |
Alternative
  pathways to 2050

2. ALTERNATIVE                             alternative future from 2012, the base
                                           year, to 2050.7
SCENARIOS
FOR POSSIBLE                               The first is a “business as usual” (BAU)
                                           scenario mostly characterized by a
FUTURES                                    continuation of past trends and policy
                                           directions. This scenario is designed to
As the future is uncertain, foresight      help understand what the world would
exercises usually consist of the           look like should outstanding challenges
analysis of selected alternative           for food and agricultural systems
scenarios that represent different         remain unaddressed. Under the BAU
futures against a range of                 scenario, the global economy grows
uncertainties. These scenarios are         at moderate rates, with significant
generated in various ways, for             disparities across regions (represented
example by giving prominence to            by the yellow lines in Figure 3.3).
historical trends; by assuming that        Moreover, significant inequalities
existing challenges are tackled to         persist within societies in terms of
different degrees, while adding            income, earning opportunities and
expert judgement to form plausible         access to basic goods and services.
narratives; or by emphasizing and          Consumers in HIC maintain their
magnifying one or more “weak               preferences for resource-intensive
signals” of change that are already        food, including animal products.
detected in the current situation.         In LMIC, the relatively limited income
                                           expansion does not favour a transition
While consensus about plausibility         towards healthier diets, despite some
may be an important element                convergence towards the caloric
to take into consideration when            consumption levels of HIC.
designing scenarios, a much more
important feature to consider is           Limited investments are undertaken
their internal consistency. Indeed,        to increase the sustainability of food
cause−effect nexuses must be               and agricultural systems, as well as
carefully designed based on existent
evidence-based knowledge, and              7
                                              The scenarios were developed using a modelling
due consideration must be given            framework. Two economic models provided the relevant
to the interdependence among the           projections for the scenarios: the FAO Global Agriculture
different elements of a scenario.          Perspectives System (GAPS), a partial equilibrium model,
                                           and the Environmental Impact and Sustainability Applied
                                           General Equilibrium (ENVISAGE) model. These two models
Based on those principles, three           were used because each of them produces complementary
scenarios were designed for the            information. Together, the models provide a consistent
                                           framework for the construction of scenario simulations by
foresight exercise at the centre of this   ensuring that certain physical and economic balances are
report. Each scenario delineates an        maintained, and theoretical requirements are met.

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T H E F U T U R E O F F O O D A N D A G R I C U LT U R E

of other sectors of the economy, such        climate change mitigation than under
as the energy sector. GHG emissions          the BAU scenario.
therefore keep rising, and climate
change is only partially mitigated.          The third scenario is called the
                                             “stratified societies” scenario (SSS).
The second scenario is called “towards       It describes a future of exacerbated
sustainability” (TSS). It is designed        inequalities in terms of income,
to help understand which proactive           earning opportunities and access to
changes are needed to build more             essential goods and services across
sustainable food and agricultural            countries and layers of societies.
systems. Under this scenario, the global     Under this bleaker scenario, the
economy grows at moderate rates,             global economy grows at faster rates
as under the BAU scenario. However,          than under the other two scenarios.
income, earning opportunities and            However, selected regions – and
access to basic goods and services           particularly sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)
are more equitably distributed across        – do not benefit significantly from this
countries and layers of societies            faster growth (red lines in Figure 3.3).
thanks to proactive policies that are        Income, earning opportunities and
implemented as soon as possible,             access to goods and services are
with improved governance and                 increasingly skewed to the advantage
stronger national and international          of elites, leaving large pockets of
institutions (green lines in Figure 3.3).    marginalized people. Consumption
Diets in HIC shift towards a higher          preferences tilt towards more animal
intake of fruits and vegetables and          products everywhere, while food
a lower intake of animal products            waste increases, particularly in HIC.
due to a rising consumer awareness           Limited or no investments are made to
regarding sustainability issues,             increase the sustainability of food and
while income growth in LMIC favours          agricultural systems or of other sectors
more balanced diets than in BAU.             of the economy, particularly in low-
Not only do consumers adopt more             income countries. As a consequence,
sustainable diets; they also take            the depletion and inefficient use of
action to reduce waste. Significant          natural resources increases, as does
investments are undertaken to increase       food loss at all levels of the food
the environmental sustainability of          value chain. GHG emissions also
food and agricultural systems, as well       rise, leading to exacerbated climate
as of other sectors of the economy.          change with severe impacts on human
This leads to an increased efficiency        activities and the environment.
in the use of natural resources and
reductions in post-harvest losses.           Demographic trends have a great
GHG emissions are progressively              impact upon the results of
reduced to help realize stronger             scenario-based foresight analysis.

                                                                                                | 25 |
Alternative
     pathways to 2050

     FIGURE 3.3            PER CAPITA GROSS DOMESTIC AND WORLD PRODUCT: HISTORICAL TRENDS AND
                           PROJECTIONS (2012 EXCHANGE RATES)

                                                                                                                           Low- and middle-income
          World                                                 High-income countries                                      countries (excluding China)
80

60
     Thousand USD

40

20

 0
     1970           1990      2012     2030        2050        1970       1990          2012      2030       2050        1970        1990          2012     2030        2050

                                                                                                                           East Asia and the Pacific
          China                                                 East Asia and the Pacific                                  (excluding China)
40

30
     Thousand USD

20

10

 0
     1970           1990      2012     2030        2050        1970       1990          2012      2030       2050        1970        1990          2012     2030        2050

          Sub-Saharan Africa                                    South Asia                                                 Latin America and the Caribbean
25

20
     Thousand USD

15

10

 5

 0
     1970           1990      2012     2030        2050        1970       1990          2012      2030       2050        1970        1990          2012     2030        2050

          Near East and North Africa                            Europe and Central Asia
30
                                                                                                                           Historical

                                                                                                                           Business as usual
     Thousand USD

20

10                                                                                                                         Towards sustainability

                                                                                                                           Stratified societies
 0
     1970           1990      2012     2030        2050        1970       1990          2012      2030       2050

Notes: Country grouping is based on the World Bank Country Groups of July 2016, downloaded on 2 August 2016 from http://databank.worldbank.org/data/download/
site-content/CLASS.xls as specified in Annex III, Table A 3.4 of the report. High-income countries (HIC) are classified in a single group, regardless of their geographical
location. All other countries, qualified as low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), are classified by geographical region, notably Europe and Central Asia (ECA),
East Asia and the Pacific (EAP), South Asia (SAS), Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), Near East and North Africa (NNA) and sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). If not otherwise
specified, LMIC and EAP include China (mainland only). Country groups and China are hereafter generally referred to as “regions”.
Sources: FAO Global Perspectives Studies, based on data from the United Nations System of National Accounts (UN, 2016) for the 1990–2012 period; and the Shared
Socio-economic Pathways (SSP) database version 1.1, OECD projections of gross domestic product (SSP database, 2016) for the 2013–2050 period.

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T H E F U T U R E O F F O O D A N D A G R I C U LT U R E

   FIGURE 1.2              GLOBAL POPULATION BY REGION: HISTORICAL AND PROJECTED, 1950–2100

 World                                               High-income countries                           Europe and Central Asia
 16                                                   2                                                1

 12                                                  1.5                                            0.75
       Billion people

                                                           Billion people

                                                                                                           Billion people
  8                                                    1                                             0.5

  4                                                  0.5                                            0.25

  0                                                   0                                               0
       1950             2015   2050        2100            1950             2015   2050     2100           1950             2015   2050      2100

 China                                               East Asia and Pacific (excluding China)         South Asia
  2                                                   2                                               4

 1.5                                                 1.5                                              3
       Billion people

                                                           Billion people

                                                                                                           Billion people
   1                                                   1                                              2

 0.5                                                 0.5                                               1

  0                                                   0                                               0
       1950             2015   2050        2100            1950             2015   2050     2100           1950             2015   2050      2100

 Latin America and Caribbean                         Near East and North Africa                      Sub-Saharan Africa
   1                                                   1                                              6

0.75                                                0.75                                             4.5
       Billion people

                                                           Billion people

                                                                                                           Billion people

 0.5                                                 0.5                                              3

0.25                                                0.25                                             1.5

  0                                                   0                                               0
       1950             2015   2050        2100            1950             2015   2050     2100           1950             2015   2050      2100

Historical

High variant

Medium variant

Low variant

Note: This report uses the 2015
revision instead of the more recent
2017 one, which was not yet available
at the time of the running of the scenario
simulations. No significant differences in
the results of the scenario analysis are to
be expected.
Source: United Nations. 2015. World Population
Prospects: The 2015 Revision. Department of
Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.
New York, USA.

                                                                                                                                          | 27 |
Alternative
  pathways to 2050

The demographic projections used in          the international community, civil
this report place the world population       society organizations, associations,
at almost 10 billion people in 2050,         consumers and producers take
with significant regional disparities in     strategic decisions and adopt policies
growth patterns (Figure 1.2). These          and/or behaviours that amplify − or
projections also indicate increasing         mitigate − these challenges. Under the
proportions of the population residing       TSS scenario, for example, challenges
in urban areas (Figure 1.3).                 to food security, nutrition and the
                                             sustainability of agricultural systems
The different food requirements of           at large are less severe than under the
young and old people, as well as the         other two scenarios because specific
different consumption patterns of urban      strategic directions are followed, and
and rural populations, are going to affect   policy measures are undertaken to
the demand for and quality of various        address them (Figure 2.3).
food items and minimum dietary energy
requirements, which are linked to job        The three scenarios thus help
type and living environment. Therefore,      address the overarching concern
population dynamics will critically          regarding the future of food and
determine food demand as well as             agricultural systems: will these
labour supply in the future.                 systems be able, by 2050, to provide
                                             nutritious diets in a sustainable
All three scenarios share the same           manner to almost 10 billion people
population projections to facilitate         who increasingly require resource-
cross-scenario comparisons and               intensive food, while at the same
emphasize the interplay between              time accommodating the demand for
economic growth, equality and the            non-food agricultural commodities?
availability of natural resources.
Nonetheless, given all the other key         This overarching concern raises
differences that defined each scenario,      some further questions, namely:
including trends and strategic               what can be done to manage food
socio-economic and environmental             demand and change people’s dietary
directions, as explained the three           preferences? How can society
scenarios display different degrees          sustainably address the reduced
of challenges for food availability,         availability and quality of land and
access, stability and utilization, as        water resources, particularly in
well as for achieving nutrition targets      regions where those resources are
and the overall sustainability of food       increasingly stressed? Will poverty,
and agricultural systems. Indeed, the        inequality and unemployment
magnitude of the challenges for food         continue to constrain food access
security and nutrition is different for      and hamper the achievement of food
each scenario because governments,           security and nutrition goals?

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T H E F U T U R E O F F O O D A N D A G R I C U LT U R E

   How will climate change affect                                                                                                                              The analysis of the findings from the
   agricultural sectors and rural                                                                                                                              foresight exercise sheds some light on
   livelihoods, and can the agricultural                                                                                                                       these questions and provides strategic
   sectors reduce the GHGs they emit?                                                                                                                          options for decision-making by
                                                                                                                                                               relevant actors and institutions.

                           FIGURE 1.3                                 GLOBAL URBAN AND RURAL POPULATIONS: HISTORICAL AND PROJECTED
    10

              8

              6
                                             Billion people

             4

               2                                                                                                                                                                                               Rural
                                                                                                                                                                                                               Urban
              0
                                                              1950   1960     1970   1980                    1990                                   2000      2010    2020      2030      2040        2050
    Note: Projected figures from 2015 onward refer to the medium variant scenario.
    Source: United Nations. 2015. World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. New York, USA.

                           FIGURE 2.3                                 CHALLENGES TO FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS AND KEY SCENARIO DRIVERS
                                                                                            Income – food distribution, poverty, opportunities, …
Challenges for food access and utilization

                                                                                                                                                                                                     SSS
                                                                                                                                                                                        Stratified societies

                                                                                                                                                                 BAU
                                                                                                                                                           Business as usual

                                                                                                                                                                 Climate change, technical progress, trade …
                                                                            TSS
                                                                 Towards sustainability                                                                                ... strategies and policies

                                                                                                                                                                     Challenges for food availability and stability
    Source: FAO Global Perspectives Studies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 | 29 |
Alternative
  pathways to 2050

3. MANAGING FOOD DEMAND AND
CHANGING PEOPLE’S DIETARY PREFERENCES
  What can be done to manage food demand and change
  people’s dietary preferences?
  KEY MESSAGES
  1. Managing consumer demand through awareness raising and proper
     regulations can help contain the expansion of agricultural sectors. Food and
         non-food agricultural production is expected to rise because of population and income growth.
         However, the expansion of agricultural sectors can be significantly contained by, for instance,
         rasing consumer awareness on environmentally sustainable diets, regulating and discouraging
         food waste, enforcing more efficient food pricing and limiting the use of biofuels.

  2. Demand management through consumer awareness and education is also
     essential to reduce the “triple burden” of malnutrition. Consumer awareness and
         education regarding the nutritional content of food and diet-related diseases are also critical to
         reduce the “triple burden” of malnutrition that is, undernourishment, micronutrient deficiencies,
         and overweight and obesity, that often exist within a single country or even community, and to
         achieve a shift towards generally healthier diets.

  3. Food prices should be “right”. Food prices should reflect the inherent nutritional value of
         food as well as the full range of costs associated with their production and consumption along
         the entire food value chain. This includes environmental costs such as biodiversity loss, land
         degradation, water depletion, GHG emissions, which are often not accounted for. This can help
         limit the growth of food demand and reduce food losses and waste, while contributing to the
         preservation of natural resources and the improvement of nutrition.8 However, as higher food
         prices may hamper poor people’s ability to buy food, targeted and efficient strategies are needed to
         raise their purchasing power.9

  4. Dietary patterns of high-income countries need balancing. While moving towards
         sustainable food systems, neither restrained expansion of production nor increased food prices
         would substantially impinge on global food availability – including in low- and middle-income
         countries – if high-income countries were to consume less animal products, and food waste and
         loss were considerably reduced. Raising consumer awareness on this issue could be key. Balanced
         diets are critical for reducing all types of malnutrition, including undernourishment but also
         overweight and obesity, often causing non-communicable diseases.

  8
    Economists have traditionally regarded unpaid environmental costs as “environmental externalities”, which lead to a
  suboptimal economy-wide outcome. Achieving optimal results in the presence of externalities implies making sure that
  economic agents pay the correct price for their actions (Varian, 1992).
  9
    Legitimate concerns regarding the purchasing power of poor people, as well as possible strategies to increase it,
  are addressed in the following section..

| 30 |
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