Agricultural emissions constituted only 12.42% of the total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2021. In contrast, emissions from the energy sector were significantly higher at 73.31% of the global GHG emissions. If the livestock sector was excluded, the share of agricultural emissions would drop to 6.1%. If one considered only the least developed countries (LDCs), their share of agricultural emissions in global emissions was less than 2% (Table 1). In other words, the usually cited figures (Crippa et al 2021; Vermeulen et al 2012) on the contribution of agricultural emissions to global emissions are misleading. These figures include both input and output supply chain emissions, which are not included when emissions from industrial sources are estimated and cited.
The UNFCCC treaty of 1992 conceived of the agriculture sector primarily as a site of adaptation. However, there has been increasing pressure in the global climate regime to reconfigure agriculture into a site of deep emission cuts to meet the Paris temperature targets. Land-based mitigation measures—as opposed to adaptation measures—are prioritised and promoted by influential sections, including developed countries and international development and climate organisations. The emphasis on mitigation is an extension of the strategy of developed countries to transfer the responsibility of deep emission reductions to developing countries in the context of the failure of the former to undertake deep emission reductions in the decades following the establishment of the UNFCCC.
The author thanks T Jayaraman and Sreeja Jaiswal for discussions and their comments on an earlier draft.