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Helping countries reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions

New FAO guidance on how agricultural development planning can help tackle causes of global warming

Photo: ©FAO/Sergey Kozmin
Farmers should be involved in national efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by agriculture.

6 August 2013, Rome - With the consequences of climate change for the world's food production systems becoming increasingly clear, more needs to be done to capitalize on agriculture's potential to mitigate global warming, says a new FAO guidance document published today.

Agriculture is directly responsible for over 10 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, FAO figures show. But improved farming practices offer the possibility of reducing those emissions and sequestering atmospheric carbon, while at the same time increasing the resilience of production systems, says the document, National planning for GHG mitigation in agriculture, published by FAO's Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture Programme (MICCA).

Yet progress in drawing up agricultural GHG mitigation plans — as well as in allocating financing to climate change projects in the agriculture sector — is falling short of what is needed, cautions FAO.

The Organization's new guidance document aims to help address these shortfalls by providing step-wise advice and examples of national planning for GHG mitigation in food production systems, as well as highlighting opportunities for developing countries to secure climate financing for agriculture.

Examples from existing mitigation planning processes in developing countries illustrate options for addressing key planning elements in country-specific ways, and approaches to involving smallholder farmers in the planning process are highlighted as well.

Key steps, guiding principles

Although opportunities and planning processes will vary from country to country based on local circumstances, a number of general principals hold true, FAO says.

First, mitigation actions in agriculture should be pursued within the context  supporting agricultural development and food security, with planners clarifying from the start how mitigation can contribute to national development goals.

Participatory planning and cross-sectoral cooperation will be important to the success of mitigation plans, the report adds. Farmers and other stakeholders should be involved in setting objectives, actions and targets, both to generate support for and to improve the effectiveness of planned policies.

To access international and domestic financing, plans should be very specific regarding how to assess the mitigation potential of proposed policies and measures. Sound systems for measuring the impacts of policies and reporting other performance metrics are also necessary when seeking financing for projects.

Another key step is to identify the barriers that impede adoption of mitigation practices by farmers. Many agricultural practices that can mitigate climate change are already widely known — effective policies need to identify why farmers may not be adapting them, work to remove barriers, and facilitate their wider use.

Also crucial: determining how mitigation policies and measures will be financed.

Some countries are supporting agricultural mitigation activities primarily through domestic fiscal budget lines and policies that leverage private investment, the report notes. For many countries, however, an important goal of mitigation planning is to attract international financial support, in order to match the priorities of international climate finance institutions to specific parts of domestic mitigation plans.