In the 30 years since the Rio Earth Summit, the fate of agriculture in the global climate regime has undergone something of a 180-degree turn. From being positioned as the pre-eminent arena of adaptation, agriculture is now increasingly positioned as the arena of mitigation, or as the arena of both mitigation and adaptation. This positioning is paradoxical, as the enthusiasm for positioning agriculture as the arena of mitigation is not matched by real world policy actions that seek to implement this view. Climate policy experts from the developed world have always focused on agriculture, forest and land use (AFOLU) as potent sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially in the developing countries. However, there has been a notable increase in the stridency of this call for mitigation in agriculture that has now found a much larger constituency, including multilateral institutions.
The shift in emphasis, however, does not merely promote mitigation action in agriculture. Together with mitigation action, carbon markets are seen as the predominant mode of promoting action. Promoting carbon markets is a specific way to introduce carbon prices. A strand in this new emphasis seeks to push for a specific form of carbon markets in agriculture in the form of carbon offsets, arguing that this would be a means of incentivising farmers to undertake mitigation activity, while adding to their income.