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Revised Guidance for assessing the greenhouse gas impacts of agricultural policies

16 March 2023

ICAT and GHGMI have launched a guide to help policymakers assess the impact of policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture is responsible for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.  Fundamental transformation of the agriculture sector is needed to achieve the goal of a 45 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero in the second half of the 21st century.

Agricultural policies – those that affect how the land is used and managed, or related production practices – can have a direct impact on greenhouse gas emissions. There is a pressing need to assess and communicate the impacts of agricultural policies that are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including how those policies address international climate action commitments and the provision of sustainable food sources and income for communities.  Assessing greenhouse gas impacts will help to ensure that agricultural policies are both effectively mitigating emissions and helping countries to meet their national and international commitments. 

To help policymakers assess the impacts of policies on greenhouse gas emissions, ICAT and the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute (GHGMI) have launched Agriculture Methodology: Assessing the Greenhouse Gas Impacts of Agriculture Policies.  The guide is relevant to all countries and regions, and applicable to agricultural policies – whether planned, adopted or implemented – at the national, subnational or municipal level. 

The guide can be used to:

  • Inform and improve policy design and implementation
  • Inform goal setting and track progress
  • Help gather information for reporting, including under the Paris Agreement’s enhanced transparency framework
  • Help attract finance by demonstrating effective policies
  • Understand the capacity needed to implement policy activities.

Agricultural systems are inherently complex and highly variable, being influenced by both natural events and human actions. The guide tackles this complexity by setting out a logical, step-by-step approach to estimating the impacts of agriculture policies on greenhouse gas emissions. It includes comprehensive consideration of major agricultural emission sources (including livestock, fertilizer management, soil carbon pools and rice cultivation) and mitigation measures (for example, improving feed quality for dairy cattle; transitioning to reduced-till or no-till practices; adopting dry seeding in rice cultivation).

Who is the guide for?

The primary intended users are developing country governments and their partners who are planning, implementing and/or assessing the greenhouse gas impacts of agriculture policies in the context of developing and implementing their nationally determined contribution, national or sub-national low carbon strategies, nationally appropriate mitigation actions, and other mechanisms.

The guide is part of ICAT’s Policy Assessment Guides series, a set of state-of-the-art methodologies to help countries assess the impacts of policies and actions. For more information on the series and advice on applying the guides, see the ICAT Introductory Guide.

How does the guide work?

This guide provides policymakers with principles, concepts and detailed procedures for quantitatively estimating greenhouse gas impacts of agricultural policies addressing the major greenhouse gas sources and carbon pools in the agriculture sector. The guide is arranged in three sections, each of which addresses a key step in the assessment process: I. Plan assessment; II. Select and describe policy; and III. Assess policy.

Part I provides key information on greenhouse gas assessment and reporting frameworks, assessment planning steps, and how assessment results can be used. The guide also provides example policy assessment objectives, which might include projecting and comparing multiple expected impacts of domestic or international policies (before policy implementation) or meeting funder requirements to report on policy impacts (during/after implementation). 

Part II of the guide is intended to help users become familiar with agriculture policy instruments and measures that could be applied in their context, while Part III provides methodological chapters for each major greenhouse gas source/sink category. The guide also offers suggestions on how to communicate and report on the assessment.

For users who need more detailed information or further support, the guide includes an ‘assessment toolkit’, which directs users towards resources offering further guidance, databases for agricultural statistics, and more. It also includes case studies from Mexico and Fiji, which demonstrate how the guide can be used.