Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Management of energy in the context of CSA

Production and Resources


This module looks at the relationship between food and energy in a world where the climate is changing and competition for natural resources is increasing. This relationship is becoming stronger and more complex as the global food system, which is almost entirely dependent upon fossil fuels, looks more and more towards renewable energy as an alternative to these fuels. The sustainable management of energy for and from food chains could make a crucial contribution to the transition to climate-smart agriculture and achieving food, climate and energy security. But this transformation can only happen if already existing examples of energy-smart food chains are significantly scaled up. Also, in order to guide decisions related to policy and practices, assessments need to be made of the effects of energy-based interventions in food chains on the sustainable development goals.

Chapter B9.3 details how energy is used in food chains and how the sector can produce energy. Chapter B9.4 links the objectives of the energy-smart food programme with those of climate-smart agriculture. Chapter B9.4 presents possible energy solutions for climate-smart agriculture. Section B9 - 4.4  illustrates possible synergies and tradeoffs associated with these linkages. 

Key messages

  • Energy is needed for every stage in the food chain. However, food chains can also produce energy. The linkages between energy and food production have changed and grown stronger over time.
  • The food sector currently accounts for around 30 percent of the world’s total end-use energy consumption, and much of this energy comes from fossil fuels. More than 70 percent of the energy used in food chains is consumed beyond the production stage.
  • Methane and nitrous oxide are the predominant greenhouse gases emitted from food chains (excluding emissions from land-use change). Most carbon dioxide emissions from food chains are associated with energy use, and these emissions account for about one-third of the total emissions from food chains.
  • To address the challenges of climate change, the development of food chains must be detatched from its current high dependency on fossil fuels. Reducing this dependency can be met by scaling up energy-smart food chains. These are chararcterized by improved energy efficiency, increased use and production of renewable energy, and an expanded access to modern energy services. Energy-smart food chains can be realized by following an approach that connects the use and consumption of water, energy and food — the water-energy-food nexus.
  • Interventions require careful analysis to assess the synergies and trade-offs among the various sustainable development goals related to energy, climate, food security and water security. This is particularly true for reaching the objectives of the energy-smart food and climate-smart agriculture.
  • The extent to which increased energy access, better energy efficiency and/or more use of renewable energy in food chains will affect climate change mitigation and/or adaptation depends on the particular context. Therefore, these impacts should not be assessed by using modelling techniques but by gathering evidence derived from local or national circumstances and through inclusive stakeholder consultations.