Dairy cows stand in a barn at the Wolters dairy farm on May 19, 2016 in Bandelow, Germany. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture need to be dramatically cut to achieve global climate change goals. For example, recently developed methane inhibitors would reduce dairy cow emissions by 30 percent without affecting milk yields.
Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
June 14, 2016 Eva Lini Wollenberg Research Associate Professor at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont
Although 177 countries signed the Paris Agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in April 2016, the reductions they have pledged so far are not enough. To stand a chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the century’s end, we need to get more specific about the reductions that sectors need to make.
Agriculture directly accounts for 10 to 12 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. We know that even if the industrial, transport and energy sectors all take action, it will be impossible to meet the 2 degrees Celsius limit without addressing the emissions in agriculture.
The good news is that an overwhelming majority of countries—119 in total—have pledged to reduce their agriculture-related emissions as part of the Paris process; however, until now, we have had no means to evaluate these plans to understand whether the pledges are enough.
To meet this challenge, a team of scientists calculated the reduction needed in agricultural GHG emissions to meet the global 2 degrees Celsius target. The study was conducted by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), a global research consortium, and partners.