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Results - Agriculture, Forestry and other Land Use

AFOLU hero image

Land-based activities are increasingly acknowledged for their important ongoing and potential contributions to the Paris Agreement’s mitigation target. 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.


Global Governance

Accordion items

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.

AFOLU landscape



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.


AFOLU barriers

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.

AFOLU gaps



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.


AFOLU MRV governance landscape



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.