Greenhouse gas mitigation from Chinese agriculture (technical potential, economic efficiency and equity impacts)

This project was part of the ESPA scoping phase, which ran between 2008 and 2011. The resulting proposal for further funding was unsuccessful.

This project was for activities to build a research consortium to generate practice- and policy-relevant recommendations on measures for mitigation of greenhouse gases in Chinese agriculture.

The consortium combined biophysical and social science researchers with extensive national and global experience to identify cost-effective emission mitigation practices suited to different regions and farm types in China. The consortium aimed to suggest policy measures for supporting widespread adoption while addressing needs for inclusive pro-poor growth, climate adaptation and environmental and food safety. The consortium-building process involved researchers, policy advisors, policy makers and other end-users (e.g. carbon market actors), and looked to establish synergistic links with other related ongoing initiatives. Crucially, it built on existing initiatives by integrating biophysical evidence (on mitigation) with relevant economic frameworks for analysing cost-effectiveness and distributional impacts of mitigation policy.

This consortium development project aimed to develop a network of research expertise covering all the main areas of agricultural mitigation potential in China. This expertise was brought together in this project with the aim of developing a coherent programme of follow-on research. As top-class Chinese researchers were well-funded, it was expected that collaborative research could emerge only when participation in the consortium provided real additional value. The project partners had complementary backgrounds in natural, economic and social sciences, and rich experience of research both inside and outside of China. They had ongoing relationships with the major research institutes in China, as well as long-term collaborations with numerous leading Chinese researchers in basic, applied and policy research. These qualities were used to bring together the most appropriate institutions and individuals to develop innovative forms of interdisciplinary collaboration that would deliver tangible value added in the Chinese context. Links with other developing country initiatives were explored in readiness for sharing lessons from the work in China with other developing countries.

Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions had been estimated at 20% of China's national emissions (IEA 2007). Agricultural mitigation from targeted on-farm measures represented a valuable agro-ecosystem service and also delivered co-benefits, e.g. in terms of reduced diffuse pollution to water. Mitigation policy incentives could also potentially support social equity and poverty alleviation goals. Agricultural mitigation technologies were mostly known, so the sector offers potential for early actions at relatively low cost. For Chinese society as a whole, an agricultural mitigation programme offered potential to support inclusive and pro-poor growth while incentivising sustainable management of ecosystem services. There was strong interest in agriculture's mitigation potential in several ministries and provinces in China, as well as among market actors. But national policies had yet to present a coherent view on the role of agriculture in China's climate mitigation plans. There was growing evidence on agriculture's biophysical potential, but very little economic analysis of costs and benefits of different mitigation practices or supporting policies. Such analysis would facilitate the development of an efficient budget from the sector and thereby provide a basis for developing appropriate voluntary and market-based instruments for the mitigation incentives that could favour the poor. Meeting these policy information needs required an inter-disciplinary research programme that improved the research and evidence basis on biophysical, social and economic issues.


Authors: Shepherd, A.; Yan, X.; Nayak, D.; Newbold, J.; Moran, D.; Dhanoa, M.Singh; Goulding, K.; Smith, P.; Cardenas, L.M.
Year: 2015
Lead Principal Investigator
Organisation: SRUC
Country: United Kingdom
Co Investigator
Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Country: United Kingdom
Co Investigator
Organisation: World Agroforestry Centre
Country: Kenya