IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

8.6 Effectiveness of, and experience with, climate policies; potentials, barriers and opportunities/implementation issues

8.6.1 Impact of climate policies

Many recent studies have shown that actual levels of GHG mitigation are far below the technical potential for these measures. The gap between technical potential and realized GHG mitigation occurs due to costs and other barriers to implementation (Smith, 2004b).

Globally and for Europe, Cannell (2003) suggested that, for carbon sequestration and bioenergy-derived fossil fuel offsets, the realistically achievable potential (potential estimated to take account of all barriers) was ~20% of the technical potential. Similar figures were derived by Freibauer et al. (2004) and the European Climate Change Programme (2001) for agricultural carbon sequestration in Europe. Smith et al. (2005a) showed recently that carbon sequestration in Europe is likely to be negligible by the first Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008-2012), despite the significant technical potential (e.g., Smith et al., 2000; Freibauer et al., 2004; Smith, 2004a). The estimates of global economic mitigation potential in 2030 at different costs reported in Smith et al. (2007a) were 28, 45 and 73% of technical potential at up to 20, 50 and 100 US$/tCO2-eq, respectively.

In Europe, there is little evidence that climate policy is affecting GHG emissions from agriculture (see Smith et al., 2005a), with most emission reduction occurring through non-climate policy (see Section 8.7; Freibauer et al., 2004). Some countries have agricultural policies designed to reduce GHG emissions (e.g., Belgium), but most do not (Smith et al., 2005a). The European Climate Change Programme (2001) recommended improvement of fertilizer application, set-aside, and reduction of livestock methane emissions (mainly through biogas production) as being the most cost-effective GHG mitigation options for European agriculture.

In North America, the US Global Climate Change Initiative aims to reduce GHG intensity by 18% by 2012. Agricultural sector activities include manure management, reduced tillage, grass plantings, and afforestation of agricultural land. In Canada, agriculture contributes about 10% to national emissions, so mitigation (removals and emission reductions) is considered to be an important contribution to reducing emissions (and at the same time to reduce risk to air, water and soil quality). Various programmes (e.g., AAFC GHG Mitigation programme) encourage voluntary adoption of mitigation practices on farms.

In Oceania, vegetation management policies in Australia have assisted in progressively restricting emissions from land-use change (mainly land clearing for agriculture) to about 60% of 1990 levels. Complementary policies that aim to foster establishment of both commercial and non-commercial forestry and agro-forestry are resulting in significant afforestation of agricultural land in both Australia and New Zealand. Research is being supported to develop cost-effective GHG abatement technologies for livestock (including dietary manipulation and other methods of reducing enteric methane emissions, as well as manure management), agricultural soils (including nutrient and soil management strategies), savannas, and planted forests. The Greenhouse Challenge Plus programme and other partnership initiatives between the Government and industry are facilitating the integration of GHG abatement measures into agricultural management systems.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, climate change mitigation is still not considered in mainstream policy. Most countries have devoted efforts to capacity building for complying with obligations under the UNFCCC, and a few have prepared National Strategy Studies for Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Carbon sequestration in agricultural soils has the highest mitigation potential in the region, and its exclusion from the CDM has hindered wider adoption of pertinent practices (e.g., zero tillage).

In Asia, China has policies that reduce GHG emissions, but these were implemented for reasons other than climate policy. These are discussed further in Section 8.7. Currently, there are no policies specifically aimed at reducing GHG emissions. Japan has a number of policies such as Biomass Nippon Strategy, which promotes the utilization of biomass as an alternative energy source, and Environment-Conserving Agriculture, which promotes energy-efficient agricultural machinery, reduction in use of fertilizer, and appropriate management of livestock waste, etc.

In Africa, the impacts of climate policy on agricultural emissions are small. There are no approved CDM projects in Africa related to the reduction of agricultural GHG emissions per se. Several projects are under investigation in relation to the restoration of agriculturally-degraded lands, carbon sequestration potential of agro-forestry, and reduction in sugarcane burning. Many countries in Africa have prepared National Strategy Studies for the CDM in complying with obligations under UNFCCC. The main obstacles to implementation of CDM projects in Africa, however, are lack of financial resources, qualified personnel, and the complexity of the CDM.

Agricultural GHG offsets can be encouraged by market-based trading schemes. Offset trading, or trading of credits, allows farmers to obtain credits for reducing their GHG emission reductions. The primary agricultural project types include CH4 capture and destruction, and soil carbon sequestration. Although not included in current projects, measures to reduce N2O emissions could be included in the future. The vast majority of agricultural projects have focused on CH4 reduction from livestock wastes in North America (Canada, Mexico and the United States), South America (Brazil), China, and Eastern Europe. Most of these projects have resulted in the production of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) from the CDM. Credits are bought and sold through the use of offset aggregators, brokers, and traders. Although the CDM does not currently support soil carbon sequestration projects, emerging markets in Canada and the United States are supporting offset trading from soil carbon sequestration. In Canada, farm groups such as the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association (SSCA) encourage farmers to adopt no-till practices in return for carbon offset credits. In the USA, the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association offers soil carbon credits generated from no-till management to an energy company The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) (www.chicagoclimatex.com/) allows GHG offsets from no-tillage and conversion of cropland to grasslands to be traded by voluntary action through a market trading mechanism. These approaches to agriculturally derived GHG offset will likely expand geographically and in scope. Policy instruments are detailed in Chapter 13 (Section 13.2).