National contributions to climate change mitigation from agriculture: allocating a global target

Globally, agriculture and related land use change contributed about 17% of the world’s anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2010 (8.4 GtCO2e yr−1), making GHG mitigation in the agriculture sector critical to meeting the Paris Agreement’s 2°C goal. This article proposes a range of country-level targets for mitigation of agricultural emissions by allocating a global target according to five approaches to effort-sharing for climate change mitigation: responsibility, capability, equality, responsibility-capability-need and equal cumulative per capita emissions. Allocating mitigation targets according to responsibility for total historical emissions or capability to mitigate assigned large targets for agricultural emission reductions to North America, Europe and China. Targets based on responsibility for historical agriculturalemissions resulted in a relatively even distribution of targets among countries and regions. Meanwhile, targets based on equal future agricultural emissions per capita or equal per capita cumulative emissions assigned very large mitigation targets to countries with large agricultural economies, while allowing some densely populated countries to increase agricultural emissions. There is no single ‘correct’ framework for allocating a global mitigation goal. Instead, using these approaches as a set provides a transparent, scientific basis for countries to inform and help assess the significance of their commitments to reducing emissions from the agriculture sector.

Key policy insights

  • Meeting the Paris Agreement 2°C goal will require global mitigation of agricultural non-CO2emissions of approximately 1 GtCO2e yr−1 by 2030.
  • Allocating this 1 GtCO2e yr−1 according to various effort-sharing approaches, it is found that countries will need to mitigate agricultural business-as-usual emissions in 2030 by a median of 10%. Targets vary widely with criteria used for allocation.
  • The targets calculated here are in line with the ambition of the few countries (primarily in Africa) that included mitigation targets for the agriculture sector in their (Intended) Nationally Determined Contributions.
  • For agriculture to contribute to meeting the 2°C or 1.5°C targets, countries will need to be ambitious in pursuing emission reductions. Technology development and transfer will be particularly important.