Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Paris Climate Agreement Cannot Be Met Without Emissions Reduction Target for Agriculture

In Vietnam, alternate wetting and drying in irrigated rice is helping farmers use less water, and lower emissions, without compromising yields. [Credit: G. Smith (CIAT)] Click to Enlarge.
Scientists have calculated, for the first time, the extent to which agricultural emissions must be reduced to meet the Paris climate agreement's plan to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius in 2100.  They estimate that farming must reduce non-CO2 emissions by 1 gigaton per year in 2030. The analysis also revealed a major gap between the existing mitigation options for the agriculture sector and the reductions needed:  current interventions would only deliver 21-40 percent of mitigation required.
To realize the 1 gigaton per year mitigation target for non-CO2 emissions in agriculture set out in the paper, 21-40% of mitigation could be achieved with known practices, such as:
  • Sustainable intensification of cattle
  • Efficient use of water through alternate wetting and drying in irrigated rice
  • Nutrient management for annual crops, including efficient use of nitrogen and manure
  • Relocating production to increase input efficiency
However, implementation would require massive investment, information sharing and technical support to enable a global-scale transition.

Even this effort will not be enough, according to the study.  Much higher impact technologies and policies will be needed.  Promising technical innovations on the horizon include recently developed methane inhibitors that reduce dairy cow emissions by 30% without affecting milk yields, breeds of cattle that produce lower methane, and varieties of cereal crops that release less nitrous oxide.

Policies that support more ambitious mitigation include introducing more rigorous carbon pricing, taxes and subsidies; governments and the private sector adopting sustainability standards that include reduced emissions in agriculture; and improving the reach of technical assistance for farmers on locally relevant mitigation options, for example through cell-phone and web-based information portals.

Focusing more attention to sequestering soil carbon, increasing agroforestry, decreasing food loss and waste and shifting dietary patterns could all contribute significantly to reducing emissions from agriculture, according to the authors.  However, much less work has been done on mitigation of emissions from these sources, so action is needed now to identify options and their impacts.

Read more at Paris Climate Agreement Cannot Be Met Without Emissions Reduction Target for Agriculture

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