Agriculture’s important role in climate action

by CCAC secretariat - 7 November, 2019
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Agriculture Initiative calls for increased ambition to prevent climate impacts from agriculture

Reducing agricultural emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, like methane and black carbon, is vital if the world is to keep warming to 1.5˚ Celsius by the end of the century. Agriculture and forestry are responsible for 24% of all greenhouse gases emitted worldwide, including roughly 40% of global black carbon emissions and half of all man-made methane emissions.

At its annual meeting in Rome, Italy, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s (CCAC) Agriculture Initiative highlighted the important role that food systems and agriculture plays in supporting livelihoods and its important role in the climate crisis. Countries shared their agriculture emission reduction activities and discussed how they can increase ambition over the next decade through enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).  

The growing willingness to tackle agricultural emissions is not only driven by a desire to achieve global climate goals but also because many emission reduction activities lead to improved productivity, and resilient and inclusive farming practices. The Coalition’s Agriculture Initiative is seizing this political momentum to support countries that are ‘raising ambition’ and identifying ways that early movers can influence others to act.

To enhance NDC ambition, the Coalition is raising awareness about actions that can be taken now, is strengthening national coordination, and is providing tools and building capacity in countries to identify increasingly ambitious actions, policies and targets. To unlock the potential for scale-up, the initiative is gathering evidence that enables financing for large-scale climate impact.

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CCAC Agriculture Initiative meets in Rome, Italy, October 2019

Meeting at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Headquarters, Agriculture Initiative partners developed a strategic work plan for 2020 and the FAO led a discussion on the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture to identify synergies with the CCAC’s work on NDC enhancement.


Participating countries showed what increasing ambition looks like and the lessons learned.

Costa Rica’s livestock sector is responsible for 28% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Costa Rica presented how its Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) on Livestock aims to scale up mitigation measures across 70% of its herd with the aim of reducing emissions by 6,000,000  tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2eq) by 2030. This is a key focus area under Costa Rica’s National Decarbonization Plan, which aims to transform the livestock sector to produce eco-competitive livestock.

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture made up 8 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Germany in 2014. Germany’s Climate Action Plan for 2050 includes a significant reduction in its largest agriculture source: nitrous oxide emissions from the overuse of fertilizers (currently 25 million tCO2eq annually). Germany’s other large agricultural emissions include: methane emissions from enteric fermentation (25 million tCO2eq), emissions from manure management (10 million tCO2eq) and greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural machinery and vehicles (6 million tCO2eq). As part of its transformational pathway Germany will emphasize sustainable agricultural production measures that reduce emissions and increase resource efficiency.

Ireland’s new Climate Action Plan includes a target to reduce 10-15% of projected 2030 agriculture emissions.

Nigeria’s National Action Plan to reduce SLCPs contains four agriculture mitigation measures: increased adoption of alternate wetting and drying rice cultivation (which can reduce methane emissions by 40%), reducing open-burning of crop residues, anaerobic digestion of manure from livestock and poultry, and reducing methane emissions from enteric fermentation.

Agriculture is responsible for about 80% of Uruguay’s greenhouse gas emissions, of which 55% are from enteric fermentation. The country has turned this challenge into a key opportunity for climate action with its strategy to reduce emissions intensity through improved production efficiency and productivity in beef production systems. Given that 65% of Uruguay’s land is covered by natural grasslands and pastureland, this strategy is complemented by sequestering carbon in soils and biomass, where possible.

New Zealand put forward a net zero carbon bill to Parliament in May 2019. The bill sets a net zero goal for GHG gases, except for biogenic methane (mostly from sheep and cattle), which is to be cut by 24-47% from 2017 levels by 2050.

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Agriculture Initiative partners discuss strategies to short-lived cliamte pollutants from agriculture.

Vietnam’s NDC includes measures to reduce methane from paddy rice production by scaling up alternate wetting and drying and cost-effective measures to reduce methane from the livestock sector.


To achieve the Initiative’s goal to raise ambition and include reductions of agricultural SLCP emissions in 2030 NDCs, the CCAC will focus on:

  • Supporting countries by providing technical assistance to: (1) assess co-benefits of climate action along the entire value chain; (2) link climate action with sustainable development goals (SDGs); (3) assess the technical feasibility of mitigation measures for farmers, the mitigation potential of GHG emissions, and any impact on productivity; (4) strengthen Monitoring Reporting and Verification systems, while broadening the scope to look at the economics within the NDCs.
  • Building on the CCAC’s 2030 Vision to link climate and air quality activities, the Initiative will use Clean Air strategies as an entry point to reduce agriculture short-lived climate pollutants by creating linkages between existing partner projects in India and China, two priority CCAC countries.
  • Engaging with Multilateral Development Banks (MDB) to integrate appropriate climate action and SLCP mitigation measures in the formulation, restructuring and evaluation of agriculture sector-related grants and loan proposals; and will identify opportunities to scale-up rice residue management in Asia through private sector engagement.
  • Improving communication by developing and improving access to awareness raising materials and co-branded policy briefs. The initiative will identify outreach opportunities linked to existing partner events and use knowledge gained from CCAC and non-CCAC projects to debunk myths of agricultural climate action.
  • Increasing high-level participation and decision making through the CCAC’s Action Programme to address the 1.5 challenge.   

The meeting was attended by lead partner representatives from New Zealand, Nigeria, Uruguay, United States of America, FAO, ICCI, as well as country partners from Costa Rica, Germany, Ireland, and Vietnam. Observer country representatives from Egypt and Tunisia also attended. Strategic partners, including, the Global Methane Initiative, IKEA, and the World Resources Institute (WRI) also attend. World Farmers’ Organization (WFO), The University of Reading UK, and The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) participated as observers. The Ivory Coast, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Oxfam, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the World Bank, and the University of Miami, Ohio contributed to the meeting remotely.

Short-lived Climate Pollutant emissions from agriculture

Crop production, livestock production and related land use activities make the agriculture sector one of the largest sources of short-lived climate pollutants, and the Agriculture Initiative is focused on reducing emissions from the four largest emission sources.

  • Enteric fermentation: Methane expelled from livestock as a natural part of the digestive process is responsible for up to 30% of man-made methane emissions.
  • Paddy rice production: The anaerobic decay of organic material in continuously flooded rice paddies is responsible for 10% of man-made methane emissions.
  • Manure management: 4% of methane emissions is from the storage of (especially liquid) manure; and 40% of agricultural black carbon emissions comes from the burning of dung as heating and cooking fuel
  • Open burning of agricultural crops: The single largest source of black carbon emissions globally is responsible for over a third of all emissions, with agricultural fires comprising 10-20% of all open fires