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Halfway There? The Land Sector’s Contribution to Closing the Emissions Gap

To mitigate or not to mitigate?

To mitigate or not to mitigate?

A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists summarizes the current state of knowledgde on the potential for climate change mitigation in the agricultural, forestry and other land use sectors: Half or more of emissions reductions needed to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees could come from land sectors of major emitting countries.

The total mitigation potential in the land sector world wide is up to 13 Gt CO2eq per year, of which only eight countries – Brazil, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and the United States can contribute around 7 Gt Co2eq/year. This would be 76% of the emissions gap in 2020 and 44% in 2030.

An interesting aspect of such estimates of mitigation potentials is that they assume carbon prices of up to $100 per ton. At this, it is difficult to imagine that only emissions from the land use sector would be taxed from climate policies, Rather, such policies would also and primarily involve the energy sector. This by itself would already bring down emissions and reduce the demands for mitigation from the land use sector. Indeed, recent results from a comprehensive climate policy study suggest that with average carbon prices of at most $60 over the period to 2100 and the use of adequate technologies, the land use sector would have to contribute only about 1.1 GtCO2eq/year if a 2 degree target is to be attained.

So, the sector’s potential for greenhouse gas mitigation should be more than sufficient.