a local level. This has been underlined in recent daysby the discovery that the "once in a hundred yeardrought" (that by the way has now occurred twice infive years!) has killed so many trees in the Amazon thatthe depleted forest may be becoming a source ofgreenhouse gas rather than a store. Stoppingdeforestation is not a lifestyle choice, it is an absolutelycritical part of any low- carbon growth plan. If we fail toaddress this problem, despite everything else we mightdo, there is no answer to climate change.Neither is there any way around the fact that we haveto move away from our conventional economic modelof growth, based, as it is, on the production andconsumption of high carbon intensity goods. We needto meet the challenge of decoupling economic growthfrom increased consumption in such a way that boththe wellbeing of Nature's ecology and our owneconomic needs do not suffer. It seems to me that weneed a framework focused on resilience that enablesus to recalibrate and balance our approach. If we donot think about creating such a framework and resolvethat central dilemma soon, then I fear we are in for avery rough ride indeed. The trouble is we do not havethe luxury of failure and success will be in buildinglow-carbon industries that provide not only substantialeconomic opportunity, but also a means to ensureEurope's competitiveness.There are, happily, some encouraging signs ofprogress. I have followed closely - and have been veryencouraged by - the Strategic Energy Technology planwhich aims to transform the entire European energysystem: how we source it, produce it, transport andtrade it. This is a big step towards making low-carbontechnologies affordable and competitive and,therefore, a market choice. In fact, with this particularinitiative you have offered a very encouraging exampleto the rest of the world. I know only too well thedifficulties you must have encountered in musteringsupport for the European Union (EU) target of reducinggreenhouse gases by 20 per cent by 2020. But climatescientists by their hundreds are warning that if we areto avert the worst consequences of climate change wehave to reduce CO2emissions by at least 50 per centby 2050. That can only mean your 2020 target has tobe a minimum ambition. I know that many in the EUaspire to agree a target of reducing greenhouse gassesby 30 per cent, and I can only applaud their efforts.Let us not forget that the oil-dependent, high-input,industrialised form of agriculture, which nowdominates food production around the world, ties foodprices firmly to the price of oil. One study estimatesthat a person on a typical Western diet is, in effect,consuming 4.4 litres of diesel per day and this factorhelped push the FAO's Food Price Index up lastDecember to its highest level since it was created in1999. We should also bear in mind that we live in aworld where one billion people go hungry and anotherbillion are nutritionally deficient, while yet another048SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENTbillion suffer from the health impacts of over-eatingand obesity; mostly in richer countries where billions ofdollars worth of food are also wasted and thrown awayevery year. At the same time, in the developing worldaround 40 per cent of agricultural produce is wastedbefore it even gets to market. Poor land managementmeans that yields are frequently at only 40 per cent ofcapacity. This is surely an insane situation.And sadly, our highly intensive form of agriculture alsoaffects our marine environment as nutrient enrichmentcaused by agricultural run-off is becoming a majorissue for marine health. As you will know better than I,nutrient enrichment leads to algal blooms which causesignificant depletion of dissolved oxygen levels in the water and so create "dead zones" that arePhoto: © European Union, 2011
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT049Above:The oil-dependent, high-input,industrialised form ofagriculture, which nowdominates foodproduction around theworld, ties food pricesfirmly to the price of oiluninhabitable to fish. The UNEP's Global EnvironmentOutlook report in 2004 cited over 140 dead zonesworld-wide - among the largest and most famous beingthe one that occurs annually in the Gulf of Mexico dueto run-off from the US corn belt. In 2002, thisparticular dead zone was estimated to be the size ofMassachusetts. Furthermore, a recent report fromDenmark suggested a possible scenario, where acombination of higher temperatures and increasedlevels of carbon dioxide leads to a rise in thesepersistent dead zones from just under two per cent ofoceans (today) to in excess of 20 per cent (by 2100).It is perhaps worth noting that 25 per cent of thecarbon dioxide we emit is absorbed by the oceans. But,it appears that the capacity of the oceans to continuethis function is decreasing due to the loss of coastalhabitat: for example 13.5 giga-tonnes of carbondioxide will be released within the next 50 years as aresult of mangrove clearance that occurred between1980 and 2005 (much of this due to shrimp farmingfor the European market). This is equivalent to alltransport-related emissions in 27 EU countries over a15-year period from 1997 to 2005. In addition tothese problems, the health and productivity of ouroceans is also at threat from over-fishing, climatechange, toxic pollution, invasive species and habitatdegradation. These multiple threats make it imperativethat a holistic and precautionary approach is adoptedin order to manage marine ecosystems so as to ensuremaximum food security benefit from fisheries andwhile understanding the carbon-related consequences?