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Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics


Study shows agricultural and forest carbon sequestration activities are economically efficient ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Oct. 13, 2021
Picture of forrest

Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are 40 percent higher than 1990 and currently on track for their second-biggest increase in history. In order to reach the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius, countries need help to ramp up their efforts to reduce GHG emissions that contribute to global warming. Assistance is coming in the form of a new study that analyzes 20 land-based measures to reduce or remove GHGs from the atmosphere. The study looks at practices in the context of specific regions and countries, making determinations about cost, feasibility, efficiency and informing country-level priorities. 

AEDE Professor Brent Sohngen, and a team of more than 31 authors, developed the study published in Global Change Biology in response to countries across the globe requesting help in identifying efficient and low-cost options to reduce GHG emissions within their borders. Planting and protecting forests and other ecosystems, storing carbon in soils and agroforestry were some of the land-based measures the study found to be efficient in mitigating GHGs at a relatively low cost.

The report suggests that implementation of conservation practices in agriculture in the United States, such as conservation tillage, cover crops and other carbon sequestering activities on farms, can store up to 546 million tons of CO2 per year at a range of costs below $100 per ton CO2.  Globally, these practices can produce 4.8 billion tons of CO2 sequestration per year for similar costs. Through forest protection, planting and managing trees, forests can provide 6.6 billion tons of CO2 sequestration globally. The study shows which countries are expected to play an important role in this mitigation effort.

"These results bring together a number of studies and models to show conclusively that the scope for agricultural and forest carbon sequestration is not only large, but much of it is economically efficient and feasible to implement. Lots needs to be done to make this carbon a reality, but companies that plan to use land-based mitigation to meet their net zero targets between 2030 and 2050 now have a roadmap telling them how much to expect and where to find it," Sohngen said.