Land-based measures to mitigate climate change: potential and feasibility by country

Stephanie Roe* (Corresponding Author), Charlotte Streck, Robert Beach, Jonah Busch, Melissa Chapman, Vassilis Daioglou, Andre Deppermann, Jonathan Doelman, Jeremy Emmet-Booth, Jens Engelmann, Oliver Fricko, Chad Frischman, Jason Funk, Giacomo Grassi, Bronson W. Griscom, Petr Havlík, Steef Hanssen, Florian Humpenöder, David Landholm, Guy LomaxJohannes Lehmann, Leah Mesnildrey, Gert-Jan Nabuurs, Alexander Popp, Charlotte Rivard, Jonathan Sanderman, Brent Sohngen, Pete Smith, Elke Stehfest, Dominic Woolf, Deborah Lawrence

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)
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Land-based climate mitigation measures have gained significant attention and importance in public and private sector climate policies. Building on previous studies, we refine and update the mitigation potentials for 20 land-based measures in >200 countries and five regions, comparing ‘bottom-up’ sectoral estimates with integrated assessment models (IAMs). We also assess implementation feasibility at the country-level. Cost-effective (available up to $100/tCO2eq) landbased mitigation is 8–13.8 GtCO2eq yr-1 between 2020–2050, with the bottom end of this range representing the IAM median and the upper end representing the sectoral estimate. The cost-effective sectoral estimate is about 40% of available technical potential and is in line with achieving a 1.5ºC pathway in 2050. Compared to technical potentials, cost-effective estimates represent a more realistic and actionable target for policy. The cost-effective potential is approximately 50% from forests and other ecosystems, 35% from agriculture and 15% from demand-side measures. The potential varies six-fold across the five regions assessed (0.75–4.8 GtCO2eq yr-1) and the top 15 countries account for about 60% of the global potential. While land-based mitigation potential roughly correlates with a country’s land area, many smaller countries have disproportionately high levels of mitigation potential for their size. The feasibility assessment also suggests that governance, economic investment, and socio-cultural conditions influence the likelihood that land-based mitigation potentials are realized. A substantial portion of potential (80%) is in developing countries and LDCs, where feasibility barriers are of greatest concern. Assisting countries to overcome barriers may result in significant quantities of near-term, low-cost mitigation, while locally achieving important climate adaptation and development benefits. Opportunities among countries vary widely depending on types of land-based measures available, their potential co-benefits and risks, and their feasibility. Country-specific plans that accommodate this complexity and adequate investments are urgently needed to realize the large global potential from improved land stewardship
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6025-6058
Number of pages24
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number23
Early online date11 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

The design of this study and the data generated was guided by expert consultations and relied on the help of many. We thank all those who contributed: Sierra Gladfelter, Jo House, Mercedes Bustamante, Susan Cook-Patton, Sara Leavitt, Nick Wolff, and Thomas Worthington. We thank M.-J. Valentino at Imaginary Office for helping to design the first three figures. This work was supported by the authors’ institutions and funding sources, including the Climate and Land-use Alliance, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Food Quality, and the EU H2020 projects VERIFY and ENGAGE (grant agreement no. 821471).


  • mitigation
  • land sector
  • feasibility
  • natural climate solutions
  • nature-based solutions
  • co-benefits
  • land management


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