Open access Article
Published: 30 January 2024
The Russia-Ukraine war decreases food affordability but could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions
Hans van Meijl, Heleen Bartelings, Siemen van Berkum, Hao David Cui, Zuzana Smeets Kristkova & Willem Jan van Zeist
Communications Earth & Environment volume 5, Article number: 59 (2024)
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has the potential to exacerbate food insecurity around the world, as both countries are major exporters of grains and other agricultural products. In this model-based scenario study, medium-term effects of the war are quantified on agricultural production, trade flows, market prices, food security, land use, and greenhouse gas emissions. The scenarios assess the possible consequences of macro-economic and agricultural production impacts in Ukraine, trade sanctions against Russia, and conflict-related energy price developments for global trade, food security, and greenhouse gas emissions. From a food security perspective, we conclude that there is enough food on the global level, but higher food and energy prices cause problems for low-income populations, spending a large part of their income on staple foods. Agricultural production and area expansion in parts of the world other than Ukraine and Russia could pose a risk to biodiversity and lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions related to land. However, total greenhouse gas emissions might decrease as lower emissions from less use of fossil energy due to higher energy and fertilizer prices in the whole economy dominate additional emissions resulting from land use change.
Funding for this study is provided by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality within the context of the ‘Economy’ research theme of the Policy Support Research Tasks (project number: BO43 −2282300554 – impact analysis Ukraine) and Horizon Europe 101060075 BRIGHTSPACE project (Designing a Roadmap for Effective and Sustainable Strategies for Assessing and Addressing the Challenges of EU Agriculture to Navigate within a Safe and Just Operating Space) (https://brightspace-project.eu/).