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Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use 


Emissions from the AFOLU (Agriculture Forestry and Other Land Use) sector are mainly the result of loss of carbon stocks from deforestation, direct emissions from livestock through enteric fermentation and crop production (as synthetic fertilizer use, rice cultivation, unsustainable farming methods and residue burning)- especially industrial farming methods.


The AFOLU sector is often the main source of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) emissions in low-income countries, as their industrial sector is generally less developed, and the biggest emitter of non-CO2 emissions (mostly, both cmethane and nitrous oxide from livestock and nitrous oxide from pesticides and fertilizers). It is also important to remember that a large share of most vulnerable populations to climate change are dependent on the AFOLU sector. Farmers, and indigenous people, depending directly on natural and agricultural resources, are confronting the urgent need to adapt to climate change. AFOLU is therefore an adaptation priority, but it also holds a lot of potential in mitigation, especially through carbon sequestration by improved crop management practices and climate-smart agriculture.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its AR5, the AFOLU sector was the second largest emitter, after the energy sector, accounting for nearly 25 percent of global GHGs emissions.

But the AFOLU sector can also be a sink of carbon if managed in a sustainable way. As a sector that directly impacts many others, AFOLU is one of the principal ways to reduce GHG emissions to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Here are a few examples of AFOLU mitigation measures: 

  • Promoting innovation via increasing agricultural and silvicultural efficiency, thereby potentially freeing land for carbon sequestration and/or bioenergy production

  • Enhancing food security and food sovereignty, when linked to increased food production (e.g. agroforestry, intensified agricultural production and integrated  systems),

  • Improving air, soil and water quality, through reduction of the emissions.

  • Promoting the restoration of biological diversity in managed land, and often have positive effects on water resources.

  • Promoting the conservation agricultural practices especially, agroecology, agroforestry, permaculture, regenerative agriculture and bringing farming back to nature.

  • Promoting the conservation of the blue carbon ecosystem in the coastal area.

Many different international organizations are part of the negotiations and actions on the ground. Amongst them: the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and initiatives such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) that involves governments, businesses, civil society and indigenous people to reduce deforestation and develop sustainable forests management and the 4per1000 initiative proposed by France in 2015 at the COP21, advocating for an annual growth rate of 0.4% of soil carbon stocks in the first 30-40 cm of soil. Similarly, we are also hoping for fruitful results in this aspect from the upcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021.


The UNFCCC currently has two programmes on the AFOLU sector; one on agriculture and one on forestry. 


Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) was adopted at COP19 in Warsaw (2013) and guides activities in forestry to reduce emissions from deforestation, and to sustainably manage forests towards enhancement of carbon stocks in developing countries. REDD+ is a framework based on voluntary contribution, and individual capabilities of developing countries.  It is recognised in Article 5 of the Paris Agreement. The IPCC identifies REDD+ as the activity with the largest potential for reducing AFOLU emissions.


At COP23 (2017) in Bonn, the Parties requested the two subsidiary bodies to address issues related to agriculture, and to set up meetings and workshops around these issues, prioritizing the vulnerabilities of agriculture and food security. 

Issues to be covered initially included the following:

  • Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience

  • Improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems, including water management 

  • Improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems

  • Improved livestock management systems

  • Socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agricultural sector

All the themes are to be covered in the period 2017-2020 (2021 now, due to the pandemic) and outcomes of the Koronivia Joint Work Programme are to be delivered at COP26.


Developing nations, especially the African Group are calling for financial capacity and GreenHouse Gasses technical experts to support farming adaptation and mitigation. Several observers also call for a package of guidelines for farming under climate change. They hope for more useful instruments to address AFOLU issues under UNFCCC. 



IPCC (2015). 5th Assessment Report: Mitigation of Climate Change. Available at:

UNFCCC (2017). FCCC/TP/2017/9, Land use related mitigation benefits and co-benefits of policies, practices and actions for enhancing mitigation ambition and options for supporting their implementation, Technical paper by the secretariat. Available at:

UNFCCC (2017). Decision 4/CP.23. Available at:

UNFCCC (2020). Issues related to agriculture. (online) Available at:

UNFCCC (2020). What is REDD+?. (online) Available at:

Carbon Brief (2019). COP25: Key outcomes agreed at the UN Climate talks in Madrid. (online) Available at:

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