Photo: Hoekan Jansson / Folio Bildbyrå

Published June 26, 2017

Low-carbon agriculture

Brazil has an ambitious programme to encourage low- carbon agriculture. Scaling the solution up would deliver carbon cuts exceeding the present annual emissions of Peru while supporting rural communities and protecting soil and water.

Climate impact

Brazil has introduced an ambitious programme to reduce emissions from agriculture. The goal is to achieve as much as 160 Mt in avoided emissions by 2020.

The programme can be scaled up to developing countries with each focusing on options relevant to their circumstances. This would result in emission reductions of 72 to 142 Mt per year by 2025 and 111 to 219 Mt in 2030.

Success factors

Brazil launched its Low-Carbon Agriculture Programme, also referred to as the ABC Plan (Programa Agricultura de Baixo Carbono), in 2010 to tackle the country’s second largest source of emissions: agriculture. The aim of the programme is to promote low-carbon sustainable agricultural practices that would also improve the resilience of rural communities.

The programme encourages six types of activities by offering farmers lines of credit that help reduce emissions or increase carbon sinks. These include:

  1. No-till agriculture
  2. Rehabilitation of degraded pastures
  3. Integrated crop–livestock–forest systems
  4. Planting of commercial forest
  5. Biological nitrogen fixation to reduce fertiliser use
  6. Animal waste treatment.

The programme further encourages better management of natural resources by improving efficiency. With the goal of achieving 134 to 160 Mt in avoided emissions in 2020, ABC is considered the world’s most ambitious mitigation plan on agriculture.

Costs

The cost of reducing emissions through low-carbon agriculture can be estimated at 11 $/tCO2e. Scaling up the solution among developing countries would cost $1.2 to $2.4 billion a year by 2030.

Co-benefits

Sustainable agricultural practices have various ecological benefits. They protect and enhance ecosystem services through preserving forests, soil and water.

The subsidies provided through the ABC Plan directly target rural development. The programme makes communities more resilient by strengthening their sources of income.

Barriers and drivers

  • Measures need to be attractive for farmers. The Brazilian programme got off to a slow start because more attractive loans were available with less stringent environmental requirements. Later the environmental requirements were eased and interest rates were lowered.
  • Monitoring performance and compliance can be challenging. This requires administrative capacity and good governance.
  • Farmers need to be informed about programmes. Communications campaigns can help increase awareness and public engagement.
  • New farming practices often require training. The Brazilian plan established support for training farmers.

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