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Open Access Towards a Regulatory Design for Reducing Emissions from Agriculture: Lessons from Australia’s Carbon Farming Initiative

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Towards a Regulatory Design for Reducing Emissions from Agriculture: Lessons from Australia’s Carbon Farming Initiative

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The land sector is essential to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals. Agriculture and land use contribute between 20 and 25 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement’s aim to keep the average global temperature rise between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius implies that drastic emission cuts from agriculture are needed. The sequestration potential of agriculture and land use offers an important mechanism to achieve a transition to net-zero carbon emissions worldwide. So far, however, states have been reluctant to address emissions from, and sequestration by, the agricultural sector. Some states that have or are setting up a domestic emission-trading scheme allow for the generation of offsets in agriculture, but only to a limited extent. Australia is the only country that has a rather broad set of methodologies in place to award credits to farmers for all kinds of carbon-farming projects. This article reviews the experience with the Australian model so far, with the objective of articulating transferable lessons for regulatory design aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. It finds that it is possible to regulate for the reduction of emissions from agriculture and for increased sequestration in agricultural soils and in vegetation on agricultural lands, provided that certain conditions are met. Regulation must focus on individual projects at farms, based on a long-term policy that has a wider focus than just emission reduction. Such projects must comply with climate-smart methodologies that ensure the delivery of real, additional, measurable, and verifiable emission reductions and also foster long-term innovation and create economic, social, and environmental co-benefits. Moreover, a robust and reliable MRV system must be put in place.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of International and European Environmental Law, Tilburg University, and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow, University of Sydney, j.m.verschuuren@tilburguniversity.edu

10.1163/18786561-00701001
/content/journals/10.1163/18786561-00701001
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The land sector is essential to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals. Agriculture and land use contribute between 20 and 25 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement’s aim to keep the average global temperature rise between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius implies that drastic emission cuts from agriculture are needed. The sequestration potential of agriculture and land use offers an important mechanism to achieve a transition to net-zero carbon emissions worldwide. So far, however, states have been reluctant to address emissions from, and sequestration by, the agricultural sector. Some states that have or are setting up a domestic emission-trading scheme allow for the generation of offsets in agriculture, but only to a limited extent. Australia is the only country that has a rather broad set of methodologies in place to award credits to farmers for all kinds of carbon-farming projects. This article reviews the experience with the Australian model so far, with the objective of articulating transferable lessons for regulatory design aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. It finds that it is possible to regulate for the reduction of emissions from agriculture and for increased sequestration in agricultural soils and in vegetation on agricultural lands, provided that certain conditions are met. Regulation must focus on individual projects at farms, based on a long-term policy that has a wider focus than just emission reduction. Such projects must comply with climate-smart methodologies that ensure the delivery of real, additional, measurable, and verifiable emission reductions and also foster long-term innovation and create economic, social, and environmental co-benefits. Moreover, a robust and reliable MRV system must be put in place.

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/content/journals/10.1163/18786561-00701001
2017-01-09
2017-10-18

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