How much land-based greenhouse gas mitigation can be achieved without compromising food security and environmental goals?

Pete Smith*, Helmut Haberl, Alexander Popp, Karl-heinz Erb, Christian Lauk, Richard Harper, Francesco N. Tubiello, Alexandre de Siqueira Pinto, Mostafa Jafari, Saran Sohi, Omar Masera, Hannes Boettcher, Goeran Berndes, Mercedes Bustamante, Helal Ahammad, Harry Clark, Hongmin Dong, Elnour A. Elsiddig, Cheikh Mbow, Nijavalli H. RavindranathCharles W. Rice, Carmenza Robledo Abad, Anna Romanovskaya, Frank Sperling, Mario Herrero, Joanna I. House, Steven Rose

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

409 Citations (Scopus)


Feeding 9-10billion people by 2050 and preventing dangerous climate change are two of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Both challenges must be met while reducing the impact of land management on ecosystem services that deliver vital goods and services, and support human health and well-being. Few studies to date have considered the interactions between these challenges. In this study we briefly outline the challenges, review the supply- and demand-side climate mitigation potential available in the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use AFOLU sector and options for delivering food security. We briefly outline some of the synergies and trade-offs afforded by mitigation practices, before presenting an assessment of the mitigation potential possible in the AFOLU sector under possible future scenarios in which demand-side measures codeliver to aid food security. We conclude that while supply-side mitigation measures, such as changes in land management, might either enhance or negatively impact food security, demand-side mitigation measures, such as reduced waste or demand for livestock products, should benefit both food security and greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation. Demand-side measures offer a greater potential (1.5-15.6Gt CO2-eq. yr(-1)) in meeting both challenges than do supply-side measures (1.5-4.3Gt CO2-eq. yr(-1) at carbon prices between 20 and 100US$ tCO(2)-eq. yr(-1)), but given the enormity of challenges, all options need to be considered. Supply-side measures should be implemented immediately, focussing on those that allow the production of more agricultural product per unit of input. For demand-side measures, given the difficulties in their implementation and lag in their effectiveness, policy should be introduced quickly, and should aim to codeliver to other policy agenda, such as improving environmental quality or improving dietary health. These problems facing humanity in the 21st Century are extremely challenging, and policy that addresses multiple objectives is required now more than ever.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2285-2302
Number of pages18
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number8
Early online date29 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • agriculture
  • climate
  • ecosystem services
  • food security
  • forestry
  • GHG
  • mitigation
  • climate-change mitigation
  • free-market approach
  • global agriculture
  • water management
  • carbon
  • energy
  • soil
  • biodiversity
  • bioenergy


Dive into the research topics of 'How much land-based greenhouse gas mitigation can be achieved without compromising food security and environmental goals?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this