Co-benefits, trade-offs, barriers and policies for greenhouse gas mitigation in the agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sector

Mercedes Bustamante, Carmenza Robledo-Abad, Richard Harper, Cheikh Mbow, Nijavalli H. Ravindranat, Frank Sperling, Helmut Haberl, Alexandre de Siqueira Pinto, Pete Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


The agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sector is responsible for approximately 25% of anthropogenic GHG emissions mainly from deforestation and agricultural emissions from livestock, soil and nutrient management. Mitigation from the sector is thus extremely important in meeting emission reduction targets. The sector offers a variety of cost-competitive mitigation options with most analyses indicating a decline in emissions largely due to decreasing deforestation rates. Sustainability criteria are needed to guide development and implementation of AFOLU mitigation measures with particular focus on multifunctional systems that allow the delivery of multiple services from land. It is striking that almost all of the positive and negative impacts, opportunities and barriers are context specific, precluding generic statements about which AFOLU mitigation measures have the greatest promise at a global scale. This finding underlines the importance of considering each mitigation strategy on a case-by-case basis, systemic effects when implementing mitigation options on the national scale, and suggests that policies need to be flexible enough to allow such assessments. National and international agricultural and forest (climate) policies have the potential to alter the opportunity costs of specific land uses in ways that increase opportunities or barriers for attaining climate change mitigation goals. Policies governing practices in agriculture and in forest conservation and management need to account for both effective mitigation and adaptation and can help to orient practices in agriculture and in forestry towards global sharing of innovative technologies for the efficient use of land resources. Different policy instruments, especially economic incentives and regulatory approaches, are currently being applied however, for its successful implementation it is critical to understand how land-use decisions are made and how new social, political and economic forces in the future will influence this process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3270-3290
Number of pages21
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number10
Early online date8 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Funded by:
INCT-CNPq. Grant Number: 573797/2008-0
Australian Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
Austrian proVISION programme
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Austrian Science Fund FWF. Grant Number: P20812-G11
EU-FP7 project


  • agriculture
  • climate
  • ecosystem service
  • food security
  • forestry
  • GHG
  • mitigation
  • climate-change mitigation
  • carbon sequestration
  • developing-countries
  • Redd Plus
  • ecosystem services
  • biodiversity conservation
  • avoided deforestation
  • environmental-change
  • Brazilian Amazon


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