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Current efforts fall way short of agriculture emissions targets

Staff Writer |
Researchers from the University of Vermont and France’s national agricultural research institute (INRA) have calculated the level of emissions reductions necessary from agriculture to meet the Paris Agreement, which is now legally binding.

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Countries signed up to the agreement have pledged to work together to keep global warming to within 2oC by the year 2100 (though provisional stats released by the UN’s meteorological arm show temperatures in 2016 are already set to be 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels).

In addition to this, the election of Donald Trump as US President has caused concern for climate scientists, as Trump has previously said he would seek to ‘cancel’ the US’ signing of the Paris climate deal, struck last year.

In a paper timed to coincide with the COP22 climate talks being held in Marrakech, researchers from Vermont, INRA and global agricultural research partnership CGIAR found that world agriculture will need to reduce emissions by one gigatonne of CO2 equivalent before 2030 in order to meet the conditions of the Paris agreement.

This means world agriculture will need to reduce its atmospheric pollution by around a fifth (based on UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates, which showed world agriculture released over 5 gigatonnes of CO2e in 2014).

The researchers said that only around 20 to 40% of these reductions can be realised through existing measures to reduce methane and nitrous oxide. Therefore, fresh thinking is going to be required to slash emissions. 119 countries have included agriculture in their planned emissions reductions strategies to contribute to the agreement.

However, INRA noted that there has been little clarification so far on how these reductions will be realised, and how countries plan to meet their pledged contributions. They said any reductions will also need to be managed so as not to have an impact on food security.

According to the researchers, agriculture contributes an average of 35% of greenhouse gas emissions in poorer countries and 12% in more industrialised countries, and these estimates exclude land use change, meaning the actual contribution of farming - through expanding operations by cutting down forests and moving to new areas after soils are exhausted - could be much greater.


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