Advancing science

The CCAFS Low Emissions Development Flagship addresses two of the greatest challenges of the 21st century – ensuring food security and mitigating the greenhouse gas emissions needed to avoid catastrophic climatic change. Globally, agriculture and related land use change contribute nearly a quarter of annual GHG emissions, ~10-12 Gt CO2e yr-1, and 3/4 of agricultural emissions originate from the developing world and ~1/3 come from smallholder farmers (1.7 Gt CO2e yr-1). (IPCC 2014) Options to reduce agricultural emissions include agronomic practices, decreasing agricultural conversion of forests, and reduced food loss or shifting diets, but both widespread implementation and new innovations are necessary to meet needed mitigation targets.

Our vision

CCAFS research and activities supporting low emissions development (LED) will reduce net agricultural greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring food security at large scales. Research will provide guidance for technical packages that minimize trade-offs with food security, for monitoring both emissions and mitigation, and for developing incentives and enabling conditions for large-scale adoption of low emissions practices.

The overall goal of CCAFS LED work is to test the feasibility of reducing agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at large scales, while ensuring food security, in developing countries. To meet this goal, CCAFS will provide evidence and tools for (1) improved estimates and monitoring of emissions and sequestration from LED in smallholder farming; (2) impacts of LED on emissions, food security and other outcomes and resulting priorities and (3) conditions enabling LED at large scales among smallholder farmers and in major supply chains.

Impact pathways

We believe that programs and policies for agricultural development (e.g. irrigation and energy infrastructure, fertilizer subsidies, private or public investments in sustainable intensification or climate change adaptation) will be the primary platform for scaling up low emissions development. Climate finance, policies, standards and infrastructure, as well as consumer demands in some supply chains (e.g. oil palm, coffee), will catalyse the integration of low emissions strategies into agricultural development programs, policies and practices, and gradually become the institutions shaping low emissions development pathways to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions, increase above- and below-ground biomass, and minimize and reverse land, water and forest degradation while ensuring rural food security and improving livelihood options for smallholder farmers in developing countries.

The primary beneficiaries of CCAFS Low Emissions Development research are smallholder farmers, for whom low emissions development practices can contribute to food security and climate resilience by increasing yields, reducing inputs and improving natural capital. Research will engage farmers’ groups, local governments, national government ministries, as well as development banks, donors, private sector suppliers, youth organizations, women’s organizations, and investors in low emissions and agricultural development, as well as CGIAR centres and other CGIAR research programmes.

Gender and youth

CCAFS low emissions development supports gender equity and inclusion of women and youth by:   a) increasing the capacity of women scientists and policy makers to participate in LED decision-making, b) creating opportunities for young scientists in low emissions development and c) expanding the roles of women and youth farmers in implementing LED.