Global and national policies to reduce climate change provide the incentives and frameworks needed to achieve the widespread practice of low-emission agriculture.

At the global scale, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) governs international cooperation on climate change. The European Union and 196 countries agreed to the UNFCCC and participate in annual Conferences of the Parties (COPs) where international climate policy decisions are made. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol and 2015 Paris Agreement are subsequent agreements of the UNFCCC on how to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Kyoto Protocol established emission reduction targets for certain developed countries. The Paris Agreement established the nationally determined contribution (NDC) mechanism, which is the major current operational policy for both developed and developing countries’ commitments to climate action.

At national scales, most countries that are parties to the UNFCCC have national or sectoral climate strategies, including low-emission development strategies. These strategies help countries achieve their climate commitments set out in their NDC. Tools such as the Climate Policy Database and provide detail on climate policies, including those that reduce emissions from the agriculture sector.

Low-emission development (LED) policy in agriculture and food systems aims to balance development goals related to food security, economic development, equity and social justice, and climate change adaptation with mitigation co-benefits. LED strategies arose in the context of the UNFCCC COP in 2008 as an approach to ensure coherence between national development and climate change agendas (Clapp et al. 2010).

Policies can support low-emission development in agriculture by:

  • Setting mitigation targets and priorities, preferably aligned with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 ° and 2 °C targets (see UNFCCC section)
  • Incentivizing best-practices among all actors in the food system
    • Financial credit at concessional rates or targeted to reduced emissions
    • Redirection of subsidies to low-emissions practices
    • Carbon pricing
      • Performance-based payments
      • Emissions tax (a tax levied on the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of agricultural products)
      • Emissions trading (including cap and trade, may be based on voluntary or compliance markets)
    • Ensuring coherence with other sectoral policies
    • Systems to support measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of emissions and other impacts
    • Research and development on low-emissions technologies, incentives and impacts
    • Strengthening agricultural extension for low-emission practices
    • Supporting industries for organic matter inputs to soils necessary for sustainable agriculture
    • Identifying performance standards

Key Resources