Results - Agriculture, Forestry and other Land Use
Land-based activities are increasingly acknowledged for their important ongoing and potential contributions to the Paris Agreement’s mitigation target. In contrast to other sectors, the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector has the capacity to facilitate mitigation in several different ways. Specifically, AFOLU can (i) reduce emissions as a sector in its own right, (ii) remove meaningful quantities of carbon from the atmosphere at a relatively low cost, and (iii) provide raw materials to enable mitigation in other sectors, such as energy, industry or the built environment. However, due to its finite nature, land is subject to competition among different uses and objectives, and mid- to long-term planning of land use and enhancing governance is therefore fundamental to ensure socially and environmentally sound arbitrages among them.
Despite some recent progress, governance structures and plans rarely address the multiple objectives of land use. Here we assess the AFOLU governance instruments beyond the domestic scale to enhance ambition and implementation of NDCs by acting in the sector while integrating environmental and developmental objectives other than mitigation, and point out the barriers and possible solutions to the governance gaps that are identified.
The analysis “Planting the Seeds of Mitigation: Climate Governance Gaps and Options for the Land Use Sector” was conducted by collecting data on relevant institutions and initiatives on their respective websites, reports, and grey literature, and supported with secondary literature review. It was supported with exchanges and consultations among researchers and stakeholders that allowed to build bridges between research and practitioners, setting more robust sectoral conversations and providing a more realistic space to explore the complementarities and contradictions of different perspectives.
First, we describe the key governance objectives in the sector and identify the challenges and barriers (economic, institutional, technological, ecological and socio-cultural) for mitigation and sectoral transformation. Second, we assess how six key functions of governance could potentially address the barriers previously identified and mobilise potential. Third, we map the current governance landscape in the sector and assess the extent to which existing institutions and initiatives are able to address climate change mitigation according to their correspondent governance functions, exploring remaining gaps and unexploited potentials. Last, we explore and discuss different options to bridge these governance gaps, including reforming existing institutions, or creating new ones to improve the coordination across existing institutional arrangements.
The specificity and context-dependency of the biophysical and socio-cultural factors along the different institutional and political arrangements at national level often challenge standardized top-down approaches promoted by international initiatives at global level. Furthermore, to support sectoral transformations solely by providing capacity building and financial resources without a good understanding of the national and sub-national institutional and socio-cultural context could often exacerbate governance conflicts at lower scales (local, subnational and national) in the AFOLU sector.
While AFOLU sectoral climate action is advancing, several barriers hinder the implementation of mitigation measures. These identified barriers are related to technological, ecological, institutional, economic and socio-cultural aspects. To which can be added the potentially increasingly high vulnerability of the AFOLU sector to climate change impacts when considering its role in mitigation pathways. The existing sectoral governance landscape addressees these barriers through several governance functions like providing guidance and signalling to actors, setting rules to facilitate collective action, enhancing transparency and accountability (including compliance), offering support to means of implementation (capacity building, technology and finance), and promoting knowledge diffusion and learning.
However, several gaps remain, especially regarding transparency and rules and standards, the complexities that AFOLU presents when considering the role of Article 6 of PA, and the proliferation of disconnected initiatives. The key gaps identified are the need for signalling a realistic mitigation potential of the sector and trade-offs, current Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) standards misalignment; the remaining uncertainties surrounding Articles 6.2 and 6.4 of PA, environmental and social principles and safeguards, land tenure, concerns over uncertainties, additionality, double counting, risk of reversals and environmental impacts of the mitigation projects; the insufficiency of the funds mobilised so far, the lack of non-monetary incentives, the limitations of global assessments, and the duplicity of efforts and disconnection across different initiatives across the sectoral governance landscape.
Some options remain open to close existing gaps in the sector governance. The adoption of consistent standards across existing institutions for MRV aligned with the rules and modalities adopted by the UNFCCC could greatly enhance transparency, comparability of efforts and therefore, climate action. Broadening and balancing the participation and decision-making power of relevant groups (developing-non-developing countries, government-civil society, public-private) into existing structures could help to incorporate these actor’s interests into global governance. The creation of a sector-wide partnership (learning from previous efforts like the REDD+ Partnership) could enhance complementarity in finance mechanisms and increase the efficiency in resource allocation towards mitigation. A platform (as some sort of joint work group) could be created to serve as an in-depth technical dialogue across modellers and GHG inventories communities, signalling for a realistic mitigation potential of the sector and trade-offs and cautioning about the limitation of global assessments.
However, no solution will work if the underlying risk aversion from donors and buyers and the short-term nature of targets and goals remain. Especially, given the complexity of the biological processes involved and the drivers of emissions and removals in the sector, which can result in large uncertainties in emissions and removals, non-additionality, reversals and double counting. Gaining more understanding of this complexity and finding affordable “science based” ways to minimise the risks will be critical to inform the necessary climate investment decisions.
Decarbonisation Challenges and Policy Options
The contribution of the AFOLU sector for achieving net zero by mid-century is critical and few countries will rely on the sector to achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement. However, the sector faces significant economic, political and structural barriers across all levels of governance. To address these and materialise the potential of the sector, far-reaching and comprehensive public policies and support are needed.
This study analyses the national policy frameworks of 10 countries where the AFOLU sector, in particular Forest, seem to be considered in their NDCs and will play a role for achieving net zero by mid-century. First, we identify general sectoral mitigation barriers, challenges and opportunities and analyse how these are manifested at national level, based on country case studies conducted or reviewed by national experts. The barriers, challenges and opportunities are analysed in terms of structural context (e.g., societal, geographical, environmental conditions), paradigms and discourses, polity, policy, and economy.
Second, we consider if national policy frameworks are fit for purpose of the AFOLU sector to contribute to country LTS targets. The frameworks are assessed in terms of directionality and stability (e.g., sustained finance), technology and innovation, (re-)shaping markets for key commodity chains, policy coherence and integration within the subsectors, and public capacity and knowledge to enable the transition and reduce the risk and potential social and environmental impacts.
The country selection was based on the respective relevance of the AFOLU: high-income (European Union, Australia); upper-middle income (Russia, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador); other middle income (Morocco, Viet Nam, Indonesia).
The SRCCL-Special Report on Climate Change and Land (Jia et al. 2019) assessed the full range of technical, economic and sustainability mitigation potentials in AFOLU for the period 2030–2050. The report identified reduced deforestation and forest degradation to have greatest potential for reducing supply-side emissions (0.4 to 5.8 GtCO2-eq yr–1) followed by combined agriculture measures (0.3 to 3.4 GtCO2-eq yr–1). More details can be found in the table below.
The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL) provided an overview of the impact of integrated response measures to multiple land challenges, including but not limited to climate change mitigation (Jia et al., 2019). Several response measures have co-benefits across 10 or more SDGs without any adverse side effects on other SDGs (see the table below for more information).
Our findings show that mitigation barriers differ significantly across countries, while economic (e.g. lack of investments for transformative actions) and structural barriers (e.g. weak land tenure regimes) are identified as the most crucial common challenges. At the same time, the analysis indicates that key high forest countries identified the sector as a mean to increase their NDC ambition. To exploit this potential and increase mitigation ambition, comprehensive context-specific sectoral policies are needed.
National policy frameworks vary significantly, both in terms of existing policies and approaches for the AFOLU sector. While many countries have some form of sector or subsector specific mitigation targets and foreseen support for their actions (both domestic and international), enforcement of existing policies have so far failed to trigger sustained over time mitigation efforts. However, developing and emerging economies seem to be unable to provide the needed support measures due to a lack of financial means at domestic level. The lack of means and capacity in many developing countries regarding the AFOLU sector points out the need for better orchestration of the existing international cooperation, with more focus on transformative investments.
To achieve the sectoral transformations that are required for the 1.5°C objective of the Paris Agreement, enhanced coherency and more cross-cutting policies are needed across the AFOLU subsectors, as well as increasing the linkages to other sectors. High-income countries increasingly rely on sinks to achieve their targets towards achieving net-zero targets. On the other hand, middle-income countries face challenges related to limited economic and governance capacity to implement and enforce more ambitious policies. This situation, combined with the reliance in high income countries on emission reductions and increased sinks as compensation for emissions in other sectors puts the overall collective ambition at risk. This highlights the need to further strengthen international cooperation to foster a more collective vision for the sector based on realistic potentials in different countries and regions, suitability of land for afforestation and restauration activities, and competing land uses such as for ensuring food and another goods provision.