The world’s agriculture can cut annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about 3.9 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents by 2050, says the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s science and knowledge service which employs scientists to research and provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
The 3.9GT represents only around 8% of current global GHG emissions.
Agriculture’s potential for emission cuts was measured in economic models using high carbon prices which are believed necessary to restrict climate change to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The JRC’s scientists estimated the mitigation potential of agriculture up to 2070, comparing the effects of different global carbon prices on the non-carbon dioxide emissions of which agriculture is the biggest source (mainly methane and nitrous oxide from livestock production).
New technology and structural changes in livestock farming would be needed — including high-tech tractors, better application of fertilisers, and more efficient livestock breeding.
However, it was concluded that a shift in diets towards less animal-based food in developed and emerging economies would enable a significantly greater reduction of non-CO2 emissions, with relatively low mitigation costs.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that limiting the increase to 1.5oC would substantially reduce the risk and effects of climate change. This is the target that the EU and other members of the High Ambition Coalition (a group of developed and developing countries sharing the highest level of ambition in international climate talks) have signed up to achieve.