Emissions due to agriculture


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ISSN 2709-006X [Print] ISSN 2709-0078 [Online]

FAOSTAT ANALYTICAL BRIEF 18
Emissions due to agriculture
Global, regional and country trends 2000–2018

Emissions due to agriculture. Global, regional and country trends 1990–2018 FAOSTAT Analytical Brief 18

HIGHLIGHTS



In 2018, global emissions due to agriculture (within the farm gate and including

related land use/land use change) were 9.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent

(CO2eq).



Methane and nitrous oxide emissions from crop and livestock activities

contributed 5.3 billion tonnes CO2eq in 2018, a 14 percent growth since 2000.



Livestock production processes such as enteric fermentation and manure

deposition on pastures dominated farm-gate emissions, together generating

3 billion tonnes CO2eq in 2018.



Land use and land use change emissions were 4 billion tonnes CO2eq in 2018,

caused mainly by deforestation (2.9 billion tonnes CO2eq) and drainage and

burning of organic soils (1 billion tonnes CO2eq). They decreased globally by

20 percent since 2000.



While emissions from deforestation decreased, those from drainage and fires of

organic soils increased by nearly 35 percent since 2000.



In Africa, both farm-gate and land use-related emissions increased over the entire

2000–2018 period, by 38 and 20 percent respectively.

FAOSTAT EMISSIONS
Agriculture as a sector is responsible for non-CO2 emissions generated within the farm gate by crops and livestock activities, as well as for CO2 emissions caused by the conversion of natural ecosystems, mostly forest land and natural peatlands, to agricultural land use.
The FAOSTAT Emissions database provides a comprehensive picture of methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and removals from agriculture production and associated land use activities at the country, regional and global levels. It helps document the main trends and impacts of food and agriculture on atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations over the period 1961–2018. The data use as input crop and livestock production reported by countries to FAO, using the guidelines for national GHG inventories of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2006) to estimate emissions. This analytical brief focuses on overall trends over the period 2000–2018. Emissions from forest biomass fires and burning of organic soils in the humid tropics are included in these estimates. More in-depth analysis on the emissions and removals of GHG for livestock, forests, and the degradation of organic soils are discussed in other briefs and peer-reviewed publications.

GLOBAL

In 2018, world total agriculture and related land use emissions reached 9.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2eq). Crop and livestock activities within the farm gate generated more than half of this total (5.3 Gt CO2 eq), with land use and land use change activities responsible for nearly 4 Gt CO2 eq. These components were respectively 4.6 and 5.0 Gt CO2 eq in the year 2000. During the 2000s, emissions from within the farm gate and those from land use both increased, and then trends in these two components began diverging. Emissions from crops and livestock activities kept growing over the entire 2000–2018 period and were 14 percent larger in 2018 than in 2000. Conversely, emissions from land use and land use change decreased over the study period, consistently with observed decreases in deforestation. As a result, the combined farm gate and land emissions due to agriculture were about 4 percent lower in 2018 than in 2000. In 2018, agriculture and related land use emissions accounted for 17 percent of global GHG emissions from all sectors, down from 24 percent in the 2000s. In addition to the noted slight decrease in absolute emissions, this reduction in 2018 was also the result of emissions from other economic sectors growing at relatively faster rates during 2000–2018 (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Yearly emissions from crops and livestock and related land use, and share of agriculture in global GHG emissions from all sectors, 2000–2018

12

25%

Gt CO2eq

10 20%
8 15%
6 10%
4
5% 2

0 2000

2002

2004

Crops and livestock

2006 2008 2010 Agricultural land use

2012

2014

2016

0% 2018

Ratio of agricultural to total emissions

Source: FAOSTAT 2020.

Crops and livestock, non-CO2 emissions
Agricultural activities from crops and livestock production release significant amounts of non-CO2 emissions such as methane and nitrous oxide, both powerful greenhouse gases, totaling 5.3 Gt CO2eq in 2018, with livestock production contributing two-thirds of this total (Figure 2). In particular, in 2018 CH4 emissions from enteric fermentation in digestive systems of ruminant livestock continued to be the single largest component of farm-gate emissions (2.1 Gt CO2eq).

Emissions due to agriculture. Global, regional and country trends 1990–2018 FAOSTAT Analytical Brief 18
Figure 2. Contribution of crops and livestock activities to total non-CO2 emissions from agriculture in 2018 (5.3 Gt CO2eq)
Source: FAOSTAT 2020.
N2O emissions from livestock manure left on pastures by grazing animals and applications of manure to cropland contributed an additional 1 Gt CO2eq in 2018. Furthermore, N2O emissions from synthetic fertilizers contributed 13 percent to the total (0.7 Gt CO2eq) and CH4 emissions from rice cultivation another 10 percent (0.5 Gt CO2eq). The relative contribution of each process in crop and livestock production did not vary significantly during the past two decades. N2O emissions from synthetic fertilizers and crop residues incorporation had the largest relative growth over the study period, being more than 35 percent higher in 2018. This is consistent with the growing intensification of crop production globally and the related increase in chemical fertilizers inputs worldwide. The growth in livestock numbers drove the increase in the emissions from manure and from enteric fermentation (i.e. 20 and 13 percent in 2018 compared to 2000, respectively). Finally, emissions from rice cultivation, manure management systems and drained organic soils increased by about 7 percent over the period 2000–2018. The data showed a decline in emissions from prescribed fires on grasslands and savannahs, in line with previous findings in recent literature of an overall decline of fire rates in Africa between 2001 and 2016 (e.g. Wei et al., 2020). These studies attributed these trends to cropland expansion in northern sub-Saharan Africa at the cost of traditional, fire-managed rangelands.

Figure 3. Changes in non-CO2 emissions from crops and livestock activities, 2000–2018

Burning savanna

Drained organic soils, non-CO₂

Manure management

Rice cultivation

Enteric fermentation

Livestock manure

Synthetic fertilizers

Crop residues

-20%

-10%

0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

Source: FAOSTAT 2020.
Agricultural land use and land use change, CO2 emissions
In 2018, global land use and land use change emissions related to agriculture were nearly 4 Gt CO2 eq. Deforestation, assumed herein as fully driven by agriculture, represented nearly threefourths of these global emissions. Drainage and burning of organic soils were responsible for the remaining quarter (Figure 4). While agriculture is the largest driver of deforestation globally, important non-agricultural drivers may exist at the regional and local levels, so that the overall global total is likely an overestimate.

Emissions due to agriculture. Global, regional and country trends 1990–2018 FAOSTAT Analytical Brief 18
Figure 4. Contribution of activities to total agricultural land use and land use change emissions in 2018 (3.9 Gt CO2eq)
Source: FAOSTAT 2020.
In 2018, global emissions from agricultural land use and land use change were about 3.9 Gt CO2eq, or 21 percent less than in 2000 (5 Gt CO2 eq). This decline was primarily due to significant declines in deforestation emissions, especially since 2010 (Figure 5). In 2018, global emissions from deforestation were 2.9 Gt CO2eq, down from 4.3 Gt CO2eq in 2000. Conversely, emissions from drainage and burning of peatlands were about 1 Gt CO2eq in 2018, nearly 35 percent higher than in 2000. Finally, emissions from fires in humid tropical forests, though small in absolute terms, kept growing during the twenty-year period of this analysis. They reached 0.2 Gt CO2eq in 2018, or 10 percent higher than in 2000.

Biomass fires

Figure 5. Emissions from the components of agricultural land use, 2000–2018

4

3

Gt CO2eq

2

1

0 2000

2002

Deforestation

2004

2006

2008

Drained organic soils, CO₂

2010

2012

2014

Organic soils fires

2016

2018

Biomass fires

Source: FAOSTAT 2020.

REGIONAL

Regional trends in emissions due to agriculture were significantly different from global trends discussed above (Figure 6).
In Africa, emissions due to agriculture exhibited an upward trend during the 2000–2018 period. They reached 2.2 Gt CO2eq in 2018, or 24 percent of world total agricultural emissions, up from 18 percent in 2000.
North America, which contributed on average 6 percent to the world total agriculture emissions, showed a decline in emissions in the 2000s, followed by a similar increase since 2010. Agriculture emissions decreased in South America by 10 percent over the 2000–2010 period, and by an additional 36 percent up to 2018, to reach 1.9 Gt CO2eq in 2018. Sharp decreases in emissions from deforestation were the main driver of these trends.
In Asia, similarly to North America, the 2000s showed a decrease in emissions followed by an increase since 2010. In 2018, emissions due to agriculture were 3.3 Gt CO2eq, substantially unchanged from their levels in 2000.
Europe (including the Russian Federation) accounted for approximately one-tenth of global emissions due to agriculture. Emissions declined during 2000–2010 and increased in the following decade, though this increase was less pronounced than in other regions. In 2018, total agricultural emissions were 0.8 CO2eq, 8 percent less than in 2000.
Finally, agriculture and related land use emissions decreased steadily in Oceania during the two decades of this analysis, exhibiting the largest proportional reduction. In 2018, total agricultural emissions were 0.2 Gt CO2eq, roughly 30 percent less than in 2000.

Emissions due to agriculture. Global, regional and country trends 1990–2018 FAOSTAT Analytical Brief 18

Figure 6. Trends in regional and global emissions due to agriculture

4 World
10.0

7.5 3
5.0

2.5

2

0.0

Gt CO₂eq Gt CO₂eq

1

0

Africa

Northern America South America

Asia

Europe

Oceania

2000 2010 2018

Source: FAOSTAT 2020.

Farm gate production and land use contributed differently to the emissions due to agriculture in the regions analysed (Figure 7). In 2018, crops and livestock production contributed two-thirds or more in North America (66 percent), Asia (69 percent), Europe (73 percent) and Oceania (80 percent). Conversely, land use and land use change processes contributed nearly 60 percent of the total in Africa and South America.

Figure 7. Regional contribution of crops and livestock and agricultural land use emissions, 2018

Africa

Northern America

South America

Asia

Europe

Oceania

0

1

2

3

4

Gt CO2eq

Crops and livestock

Agricultural land use

Source: FAOSTAT 2020.

COUNTRY

The list of top ten emitters from agricultural production reflects countries with a large agricultural area (Figure 7, left panel). In 2018, India and China contributed about 650 million tonnes (Mt) CO2eq annual emissions each. Brazil and the United States of America followed with 450 and 360 Mt CO2eq, respectively. Indonesia was the fifth largest emitter, with nearly 200 Mt CO2eq. A different set of countries emerges instead when looking at the top ten emitters from land use and land use change processes linked to agriculture. In 2018, Indonesia was the first country by land use emissions related to agriculture, with nearly 730 Mt CO2eq emitted largely through peatland degradation processes (drainage and fires), largely associated with the cultivation of oil palm. Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo followed, with about 650 Mt CO2eq and 620 Mt CO2eq respectively, largely related to deforestation (Figure 8, right panel).

Emissions due to agriculture. Global, regional and country trends 1990–2018 FAOSTAT Analytical Brief 18

Figure 8. Top ten countries by non-CO2 emissions from crop and livestock activities within the farm gate (left) and from agriculture-related land use (right), 2018

Crops and livestock

Agricultural land use

Mt CO2eq

0

200 400 600

Mt CO2eq 0 200 400 600

India

Indonesia

China
Brazil United States of
America Indonesia
Pakistan
Australia

Brazil Democratic Republic of
the Congo Canada
Myanmar United States of
America Peru

Argentina

Colombia

Ethiopia Russian Federation

Malaysia
Bolivia (Plurinational State of)

Source: FAOSTAT 2020.

Finally, when ranking countries in terms of total emissions due to agriculture (production and related land use processes), Brazil, Indonesia and India were the top three emitters, contributing nearly 30 percent to global agriculture emissions (Figure 9). In Brazil, nearly threefifths of emissions were due to deforestation, although crops and livestock production was an important contributor. In Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the second and third largest emitters respectively, land use processes related to agriculture were even more dominant, representing over four-fifths of emissions due to agriculture. Conversely, crop and livestock production were by far the dominant component of emissions due to agriculture in India and China.

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Emissions due to agriculture