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Beyond Kyoto, Aarhus, 6 March 2009 AGRICULTURE AND CLIMATE MITIGATION Nadia Scialabba Senior Environment Officer Climate influences agriculture Some facts Climate change is a challenge in the twenty-first century, also for food systems 1.4 billion ha for crop cultivation

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Beyond Kyoto, Aarhus, 6 March 2009

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Beyond Kyoto, Aarhus, 6 March 2009


Nadia Scialabba

Senior Environment Officer


Climate influences agriculture

Some facts

  • Climate change is a challenge in the twenty-first century, also for food systems
  • 1.4 billion ha for crop cultivation
  • more than 2.5 billion ha for pasture
  • 4 billion ha forested land (of which 5% plantations)
  • ~ 60% Earth surface

extreme precipitation ...

... extended drought periods

= less reliable rainfall


Agriculture influences climate

Some facts

  • Agriculture, rural livelihoods, sustainable management of natural resources and food security are linked
  • Successful adaptation and mitigation responses can be achieved within the goals of World Food Summit, MDGs and UNFCCC
  • Agriculture, including forestry, emits ~ 32 % of global GHG:
  • 25 % CO2 , largely from deforestation
  • 50 % CH4, rice and enteric fermentation
  • > 75 % N2O, largely from fertilizers



= destruction of soil organic matter

uncontrolled grazing


Main mitigation strategies

  • Forestry:
    • Reduce deforestation and degradation of tropical forests (REDD)
    • Promote Sustainable Forest Management (SFM)
    • Conduct Forest Restoration (FR), including Afforestation and Reforestation (A/R)
  • Agriculture:
    • Improve agroforestry practices
    • Promote spatial and temporal integration of crop and livestock (e.g. rotations of crops and corall)
    • Enhance soil carbon sequestration via soil biomass restoration and reduced tillage

Mitigation potential agriculture and forest

Global reductions potential in 2030 correspond to those needed to achieve stabilization of atmospheric concentrations between 450-550 ppm CO2, under a mid-range IPCC SRES


Adaptation and mitigation synergies

  • Increase irrigation and fertilization to
    • maintain production in marginal semi-arid regions
    • enhance the ability of soils to sequester carbon
  • Under increased precipitation scenario, shift from fallow systems to continuous cultivation
  • Avoid deforestation, enhance forest management, agroforestry and practices conducive to soil carbon sequestration in agricultural soils

By adapting to climate change and climate variability –

a necessity to sustain food production –

agriculture can contribute to climate mitigation


Agriculture and GHG reduction

(IPCC/AR4 recommendations)

  • Crop rotations and farming system design
  • Nutrient and manure management
  • Livestock management, pasture and fodder supply improvement
  • Maintaining fertile soils and restoration of degraded lands
  • Ecological and organic agriculture offers such a multi-targeted and multi-functional strategy

Currently available knowledge and technologies would be sufficient to counter GHG emissions of the entire agricultural and forestry sectors combined

terrestrial essential climatic variables


  • Land Cover
  • Fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation (FAPAR)
  • Leaf Area Index (LAI)
  • Biomass
  • Fire Disturbance
  • River discharge
  • Lake Levels
  • Ground Water
  • Water Use
  • Snow Cover
  • Glaciers and Ice Caps
  • Permafrost and Seasonably Frozen Ground

Relevant to forest mapping and carbon tracking

Terrestrial Essential Climatic Variables
  • ECV are 13 measurable terrestrial properties and attributes to monitor the physical, biological and chemical processes affecting climate
  • Identified by GCOS and endorsed by the UNFCCC. Recognized by GEO and official task of GEOSS.
  • The Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) is currently assessing the status of the development of standards for each ECV in the terrestrial domain
why terrestrial ecvs
Why terrestrial ECVs?
  • To monitor climate change and its effects
  • To implement and monitor effective adaptation and mitigation strategies
  • To implement and monitor policy and international agreements
  • To assess risk and vulnerability, water access, food production, food security, sustainable development
  • To model scenarios and analyze potential impacts of extreme events
  • To assess availability and manage resources
  • To understand the climate system (including atmospheric, hydrological, biogeochemical and energy balances) and especially, determine the effects of feedback or amplification mechanisms

FAO datasets for GHG inventories

  • Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) includes data on forest and other areas, growing stock, biomass stock, Carbon stock, forest fires, wood removals

FAO datasets for GHG inventories


East Africa Module


  • assess carbon sources and sinks
  • evaluate the potential for carbon sequestration
  • evaluate the potential for reducing emissions

Conclusions (yes, we can)

  • From being a problem, agriculture can become a major solution in addressing climate change
  • Farming may be climate neutral, as 80% of agricultural emissions can be compensated by soil carbon sequestration through ecological/organic management
  • Market mechanisms should encourage local food supply chains and responsible consumption
  • Adequate financial mechanisms are required to encourage long-term investments in soil rehabilitation (e.g. multi-lateral system for climate-friendly farming?)

Conclusions (yes, we must)

  • The Post-Kyoto mechanism must seriously address agriculture and relevant assessment methodologies
  • Beyond 2050, land-based mitigation from avoided deforestation, agroforestry and soil carbon sequestration in agricultural soils, necessary to stabilize emissions in the short term, would have largely reached their potential
  • This entails an urgent need to invest in the development of new green technologies and land management options that mitigate emissions of GHG while making agriculture carbon neutral

Beyond Kyoto, Aarhus, 5-7 March 2009

For detailed info:

2008 Summit webpage:

Climate webpage:

Organic webpage: