Global emissions pathways that would limit warming to 1.5 or well below 2°C, consistent with the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement, rely on substantial reductions of agricultural greenhouse gases (methane and nitrous oxide) along with reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. Failure to reduce agricultural emissions would require even more rapid cuts of carbon dioxide emissions and could jeopardize the ability to limit warming to 1.5°C. Modeled pathways that achieve the necessary agricultural emission reductions do so by pricing agricultural emissions. However, there is a large gap between such model scenarios and reality when it comes to the agricultural sector. To date, no single country currently exposes agricultural emissions to any mandatory carbon price and current evidence suggests considerable reluctance to the application of other climate policies with comparable stringency to agriculture. A more realistic view is needed if we are to avoid modeled emission scenarios providing an overly optimistic picture of mitigation potentials from the agricultural sector. There are entry points for mitigation of agricultural greenhouse gases outside government price policies, but many questions remain around their scalability and efficacy. A comprehensive and accelerated effort will be needed to bridge the gap from modeled emissions to realistic policy pathways.
2020, Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems