From an economic perspective, policies should facilitate welfare enhancement, while from a farm- or firm-level perspective the focus is on financial viability. Non-viable farms have little incentive to pay much attention to environmental protection in the short run if it reduces their financial viability.
What are some of the elements—particularly for policy attention—
that can help move the agri-food sector from where it is today to where it
would be in the medium to long term, say by 2050?
• Developing a sustainable agri-food strategy—which integrates agriculture, food, and health policies, and identifies measurable targets for production and consumption growth and patterns, as well as for environmental protection and enhancement, with an indication of sequencing and prioritisation.
• Identifying domestic and collective global actions—in an increasingly integrated world in the economic, environmental, and social dimensions, it is necessary to identify which are the policies and actions that are domestic responsibilities and those that require collective action at the global level. There is little incentive for any one country to reduce GHGs, for example, unilaterally, and this may also apply to some biodiversity and water issues.
• Monitoring and evaluating—in order to track progress in achieving green growth a set of headline indicators relating production trends to environmental performance is needed, from global, national, to farm or firm levels, as well as regular evaluation of policies and business actions to identify best practice. This will involve, for example, identifying the new areas of data and indicators, including life cycle analysis of the whole food supply chain in terms of carbon and water footprints.
• Facilitating good farm management practices—ultimately, it is at the farm level that green growth actions have to be taken. Many farmers have considerable knowledge of what works in their specific circumstances, but do not always have the right incentives—and some farmers do not have the knowledge—to realise those actions. The OECD has brought together experiences in different countries that focus on farm management practices for green growth (OECD 2016).
• Communicating and engaging parliamentarians, stakeholders and public opinion—which is the most challenging and difficult, given that actual costs are likely to occur in the short run while benefits can only be expected, of unknown magnitude, in the long run. This requires policy makers and businesses to be frank about uncertainties, shocks, tradeoffs, and synergies.
Greater collective knowledge about how policies and business actions contribute to green growth is certainly needed. It would be a way for countries and businesses to measure and benchmark their own progress and learn from the experience of others. Most importantly, it would be a step towards reframing growth to better manage natural assets and those environmental risks that would otherwise undermine economic growth and development.