Agricultural production and greenhouse gas emissions from world regions: The major trends over 40 years

Eskild H. Bennetzen*, Pete Smith, John R. Porter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)
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Since 1970, global agricultural production has more than doubled with agriculture and land-use change now responsible for similar to 1/4 of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Yet, while greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of agricultural product have been reduced at a global level, trends in world regions have been quantified less thoroughly. The KPI (Kaya-Porter Identity) is a novel framework for analysing trends in agricultural production and land-use change and related GHG emissions. We apply this to assess trends and differences in nine world regions over the period 1970-2007. We use a deconstructed analysis of emissions from the mix of multiple sources, and show how each is changing in terms of absolute emissions on a per area and per produced unit basis, and how the change of emissions from each source contributes to the change in total emissions over time. The doubling of global agricultural production has mainly been delivered by developing and transitional countries, and this has been mirrored by increased GHG emissions. The decoupling of emissions from production shows vast regional differences. Our estimates show that emissions per unit crop (as kg CO2-equivalents per Giga Joule crop product), in Oceania, have been reduced by 94% from 1093 to 69; in Central & South America by 57% from 849 to 362; in sub-Saharan Africa by 27% from 421 to 309, and in Europe by 56% from 86 to 38. Emissions per unit livestock (as kg CO2-eq. GJ(-1) livestock product) have reduced; in sub-Saharan Africa by 24% from 6001 to 4580; in Central & South America by 61% from 3742 to 1448; in Central & Eastern Asia by 82% from 3,205 to 591, and; in North America by 28% from 878 to 632. In general, intensive and industrialised systems show the lowest emissions per unit of agricultural production. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-55
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Early online date8 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

We thank Dr. Tamara Ben-Ari and Dr. Jean-Francois Soussana, from INRA in France, for their valuable contributions to the early development stage of this project. We also owe great thanks to Prof. Ib Skovgaard, University of Copenhagen, for giving essential assistance in developing the methods for decomposing emission changes. We also thank the Centre for Regional Change in the Earth System (CRES,, and the University of Copenhagen for funding the work.


  • agriculture
  • greenhouse gas intensity
  • climate change
  • Kaya-Porter identity
  • decoupling emissions
  • Kaya-identity


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