The carbon cost of agricultural production in the global land rush

2023-05-10 Global

Authors: Chuan Liao, Kerstin Nolte, Daniel G. Brown, Jann Lay, Arun Agrawal
Published: 2023
Source: Elsevier

This paper, co-authored by the Land Matrix's Prof Jann Lay from GIGA, makes use of a global dataset on large-scale land transactions (LSLTs) for agricultural production to estimate potential carbon emissions based on different scenarios of land cover change and fertilizer use, as well as potential value of agricultural production on transacted land. The study shows that, if fully implemented on ∼ 38 M ha of transacted land, 2.51 GtC will be emitted during land conversion, with another 24.2 MtC/year emitted from fertilizer use, assuming farming technology of investors’ origin is adopted on transacted land. Comparison of different combinations of forest protection policies and agricultural intensification levels reveals that enforcing strict deforestation regulation while promoting fertilizer use rate improves the carbon efficiency of agricultural production. Additionally, positive spillovers of investors’ farming technology on existing arable lands of host countries can potentially double their crop yield. Our analyses thus suggest that fostering agricultural intensification and technology spillovers under strict regulation on land allocation to investors to protect forests would allow for boosting agricultural yield while minimizing carbon emissions.

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