2012 Agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions data released

Dec 11, 2014
2012 Agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions data released

FAO is the first to detail the most-recent contribution of food production, deforestation, and land use change to global warming

Rome – Greenhouse gas emission estimates for the year 2012 are being released today for the first time for the Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector, helping to understand current trends, drivers, while gauging the state of current emissions against previously published business-as-usual targets. FAO highlights of most recent trends include:

Global agricultural emissions from crop and livestock production continued to grow in 2012, and reached the all-time high value of 5.4 billion tonnes CO2 equivalents. The annual growth rate from 2011 was 1%, in line with the historical decadal rate over the 2001-2010 period of 1.2%. Emissions in 2012 were double in 1961.

Regional agricultural emissions grew fastest in Asia in 2012, at 2.4% annually, more than double the global average, totaling 2.5 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent. Agriculture emissions decreased instead in Northern America and Africa, by -0.7% and -1.3%, respectively. The bulk of agriculture emissions occurred in Asia (46%), followed by Latin America (17%), Africa (15%), Europe (11%), North America (7%) and Oceania (4%). Asia’s emissions increased from a decadal average of 44% over the period 2001-2010, due to the growth in fertilizer use.

Major Growth Sector. The largest growth in 2012 GHG emissions were led by sharp increases in synthetic fertilizer applications. Emissions from synthetic fertilizer grew 5.6% in 2012, compared to an already robust decadal average growth rate of 3.8% over the period 2001-2010. The greenhouse gas associated to use of synthetic fertilizer is N2O, a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential (GWP) 300 times that of CO2, highlighting the significance of such increases as well as pointing to the necessity of non-CO2 mitigation in this sector, which could be linked to increased input use efficiency and lower environmental pollution.

Synthetic fertilizer emissions and applications growth rates in 2012 with respect to 2011 were highest in Asia ( 8%), followed by Europe (3%), while they were negative Africa (-2%).

Land use, land use change and forestry emissions continued to decrease, due to reduced deforestation in several countries. Over the 2001-2010 period, these emissions averaged some 3 billion tonnes CO2 eq/yr. In addition to these emissions, some two billion tonnes CO2 eq/yr were removed from the atmosphere as a result of carbon sequestration in forest sinks.

Projections. The 2012 GHG emissions from agriculture were above the reference business-as-usual emission scenario of FAO for 2030 and 2050, indicating that significant changes to current management systems are needed in order to reverse course and contribute to global mitigation efforts.

For 2012, Agriculture, forestry and other land uses (AFOLU) emissions included:

• 5.4 billion tonnes CO2 eq/yr from crop and livestock production
• 3.7 billion tonnes CO2 eq/yr due to net forest conversion to other lands (a proxy for deforestation)
• 0.8 billion tonnes CO2 eq/yr from degraded peatlands
• 0.4 billion tonnes CO2 eq/yr by biomass fires
• -1.9 billion tonnes CO2 eq/yr by forest sinks

FAO’s data for 2012 confirm that while agriculture emissions continue to increase year after year, they are not growing as fast as emissions from fossil fuel use in other sectors, mainly for energy. As a result, the share of AFOLU to total anthropogenic emissions is steadily decreasing over time.

Launched in 2012, the FAOSTAT emissions database was for the first time a key source of GHG emissions data analysis of AFOLU activities in the fifth IPPC Assessment Report. These data have also been used by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, the Word Resources Institute, and the Global Trade Analysis Program (GTAP), among others. Data updates and enhancements like those released today are made annually.

* Carbon dioxide equivalents, or CO2 eq, is a metric used to compare emissions from different greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential.

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