Developing national mitigation plans for agriculture - status and guidance

Also available in Español
FAO, in collaboration with CCAFS, has released a guidebook in English and Spanish featuring step-by-step information on how countries can successfully prepare and implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions. Photo: G. Smith (CIAT)
(view original)
Jul 16, 2014


Kaisa Karttunen, Marja-Liisa Tapio-Biström, Maria Nuutinen, Heather Jacobs, and Armine Avagyan (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO )


Two publications by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and CCAFS can serve as useful planning tools for Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and Low-Emission Development Strategies within the agricultural sector. The guidance document is now available in Spanish.

The two publications - a review paper and a guidance document - offer readers building blocks for national mitigation action plans and easy-to-use guidance for designing them. The guidance document is also available in Spanish.

Country case studies illustrate the range of available options that countries can implement. Through these publications, policy makers, country climate change negotiators, and ministerial advisors can finally get support for their work in agriculture.

Learn more: National mitigation actions in agriculture put under microscope in new brief

More than mitigation is considered in the national plans:

Based on an analysis of existing agricultural NAMAs, the reports find that most actions contribute to the three pillars of climate-smart agriculture: increased productivity, adaptation to, and mitigation of climate change.

In the NAMA review, prepared jointly by FAO and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the authors document that developing countries have considered many synergies among multiple development goals in their NAMAs.

Synergies between agricultural mitigation and a range of critical development objectives, for example increased food security, reduced deforestation, reduced water pollution and improved resilience to climate change had all been addressed in several NAMAs.

To learn more about how food security, adaptation and mitigation are symbiotic, read: Countries reach for food security while reducing agriculture's climate costs.

Why are national mitigation actions needed for the agricultural sector?

Though the biggest challenge of agriculture is to feed the world while adapting to climate change, there is also a need to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture, forestry, and other land use (AFOLU) since AFOLU accounts for approximately one-fourth of global GHG emissions. Reduction of GHG emissions offers significant opportunities to address the food security and climate challenges in a more comprehensive fashion. Without reducing emissions in all sectors, the global average temperature will reise more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), making it impossible to avoid extremely dangerous changes in climate.

The production of food, feed and fibers also contributes to deforestation and energy consumption, causing additional emissions that affect the climate. The NAMA context is also useful for building financing mechanisms to support climate change mitigation as well as adaptation actions in the agricultural sector, taking into account each individual country’s unique goals for their development.

Four messages on mitigation plans in agriculture:

Four key messages from the NAMA guidance document and NAMA review paper are outlined below, with the goal of helping countries prepare for future mitigation actions in the agricultural sector.

1. Align national mitigation plans with agricultural development goals

NAMAs must be aligned with agricultural development goals. Moving forward with development and adaptation as the primary goals secures the viability of the actions reducing agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In practice, climate-smart agriculture means food security through better yields from more resilient, adaptive agriculture, that reduces GHG emissions and increases the uptake of atmospheric carbon by sinks, for example in trees and soil. More carbon in the soil most often increases fertility.

2. Take advantage of technical solutions that already exist

Planification nacional para la mitigacion de GEI en la agriculturaThere are challenges that hinder the realization of climate changemitigation in agriculture, forestry and other land use activities. One of the key challenges to agricultural NAMAs is GHG emission monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV). The good news is that the necessary technical solutions already exist as well as data to construct baselines for emissions at national level. Many countries have already advanced well with their NAMAs.

3. Combine finance sources for mitigation activities

A  NAMA can open up also other sources of funding. Countries are using existing funding sources including targeting agricultural investments and Global Environment Facility GEF, as well as leveraging the private sector’s investments.

4. Progress with the agricultural mitigation plans

Creating a NAMA in the agricultural sector can be done step by step: the planners won’t need to know everything to start the process. An introduction to the main mitigation planning approaches and the key elements to consider in planning can be found in the brand new guidance document: National planning for GHG mitigation in agriculture.

To understand where activities should be targeted and what their mitigation potential is, the FAOSTAT GHG database can provide assistance, especially for developing countries. The database gives country-level estimates of GHG emissions based on FAOSTAT activity data (using Tier 1 computations and following 2006 IPCC Guidelines). The database gives information on GHG emissions for the whole agriculture, forestry and land use sector at the global, regional, and national levels, and  includes projections of emissions to 2050.

The publications highlight a number of countries that have advanced well in their NAMAs preparation and can be used as models for other countries that are developing agricultural NAMAs. For instance:

Brazil targets many agricultural practices in its various NAMAs, gaining the largest emission reductions from avoided deforestation of rainforests and savannahs. Estimations for the mitigation potential, expressed in units of reduced tonnes of cabon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) per agricultural activity, compared to business-as-usual scenarios, have formed the basis of their decision making.

Kenya has attracted external funding for their plans to increase agroforestry as an agricultural practice to have a 10 percent tree cover on farms. Trees on farms don’t only produce fruit and firewood, but also heighten the adaptive capacity of communities as trees provide protection from extreme weather events and are an additional source of income if crops fail.

Ethiopia has submitted a large number of NAMAs based on its Climate-Resilient Green Economy Strategy, ranging from cropland and grazing land management to renewable energy production in agriculture. Ethiopia has also set targets for the extent of land area for mitigation activities.