20 October 2016
Laxenburg, Austria

Deep climate mitigation through sustainable agriculture

An international workshop aims to identify strategies to best position agriculture and sustainable land use for the climate negotiations and the wider challenges of sustainable development.

© Sly - Fotolia | Adobe Stock Photo

© Sly - Fotolia | Adobe Stock Photo

A workshop at IIASA brings together international experts to discuss the role for sustainable agriculture in sustainable development and climate change mitigation.

Reducing climate change to “well below 2 degrees”, conserving biodiversity, saving water, reducing the nutrient load on ecosystems, avoiding and reverting land use changes and feeding nutritious food to an ever increasing population represents a formidable ensemble of challenges. While the energy sector has seen significant advances in scaling up investments and in understanding how countries can decarbonize their energy systems, agriculture and the broader land-use challenges have received much less attention.

Agriculture, forestry and other land use account for about 24% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. 25-50% of the total accumulated mitigation effort for the 2 degree target is directly or indirectly related to agriculture, thus, depending on the success to incentivize more than two billion farmers, mostly in food insecure developing countries, serving hundreds of end-use products associated with a myriad of other ecosystem services essential to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Negative emissions technologies undoing historical emissions from industrialization have become essential to reach ambitious climate targets. Measures to increase the land sink through measures such as soil carbon and afforestation and the use of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) are the two most widely considered negative emissions technologies today. These technologies, if deployed on large scale, would also require large areas of land and are, thus, in competition with increasing demands for agricultural production to feed and every increasing and affluent global population.

Given the centrality of the agricultural sector to the achievement to almost every SDG, it is deeply concerning how little investment the sector has seen in the past decades. In particular, in the climate negotiations agriculture has not even become a matter of negotiation. The land-use sector is almost absent in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).


The purpose of the workshop is to identify strategies to best position agriculture and sustainable land use for the climate negotiations and the wider SDG processes, and to develop tools and pathways at the national and global scales to achieve the relevant SDGs in an integrated manner (especially SDGs 2, 6, 13, 14, and 15 in particular). In particular, this workshop will prepare for the Low-Emission Solutions Conference (LESC) at COP22 regarding the integration of agriculture, land use, water, energy, and GHG emissions, and discuss ways to create national-scale planning tools and pathways akin to the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project but for sustainable land use.  The workshop will also directly contribute to the pathways and modeling for The World in 2050 initiative.  The core goal is to identify analytical and modeling capacities to support various stakeholder processes (e.g. NDCs, sustainable supply chains, conservation planning) at national and global scales associated with the climate negotiations as well as the SDGs.  

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Last edited: 19 October 2016


Michael Obersteiner

Senior Research Scholar

Ecosystems Services and Management

T +43(0) 2236 807 460


Global brainstorming on pathways to low emissions at the COP22 meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco


UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22)

07 Nov 2016 - 18 Nov 2016

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313