Agricultural emissions inventory

Quantifying agricultural emissions raises a number of other complicating factors that increase the uncertainty inherent in the definition of sector abatement budgets, and that distinguish agriculture from emissions budgeting undertaken in other sectors characterised by fewer firms, a common, relatively well-understood set of abatement technologies, and ways of recording attributable emissions reductions. In comparison, agriculture and land-use are more atomistic, heterogeneous and regionally diverse. These factors can alter the abatement potentials and the effectiveness of measures implemented in different systems. As with other sectors, the effectiveness of measures is also influenced by interactions between measures and their environment. It is technically possible to reduce this uncertainty by explicit consideration of interactions of mitigation measures in the field. But it is clear that further work is required to derive more targeted abatement potentials, e.g. across a variety of farm types and on a regional basis.

An important point to note is that national inventories of GHG emissions typically account for emissions in accordance with guidelines produced by the IPCC (IPCC, 2006). These guidelines take account of GHG production and removal by using empirically based emission factors that are not comprehensive in terms of attributing emissions reductions to some indirect measures that can be undertaken in the sector. Thus, for example, reducing herd populations can be recorded as an unambiguous direct mitigation measure (animal numbers multiplied by an emissions factor per animal). However, a modification that, for example, reduces emissions per animal (e.g. probiotics), but leaves herd population unchanged, represents an indirect reduction that may not be counted under current inventory convention. Since there is considerable scope for such indirect measures in agriculture, it is important that inventory methods are adapted to reflect accurately the available scope attributable to the agricultural budget. In many countries this is a result of a lack of data and reliable measurement methods, resulting in the use of default rather than country-specific emission factors. Improving measurement techniques, data collection and transfer of best practice between countries is important in addressing this issue to ensure that inventories are as accurate a reflection of reality as is possible.

In agriculture, as in any sector, there is the potential for emission reduction through simply reducing production of a particular commodity, for example through reducing animal numbers. This has a direct effect on methane and nitrous oxide emissions for a country: however, if consumption of the product does not adjust accordingly, the emissions will simply have "leaked" to another part of the world. Overall, therefore, emissions may not be reduced, or may in fact have increased if the methods of production in the new location are more energy intensive.

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