The opportunity cost of land use and the global potential for greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture and forestry
This paper analyses the role of global land management alternatives in determining potential greenhouse gas mitigation by land-based activities in agriculture and forestry. Land-based activities are responsible for over a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet the economics of land-use decisions have not been explicitly modeled in global mitigation studies. In this paper, we develop a new, general equilibrium framework which effectively captures the opportunity costs of land-use decisions in agriculture and forestry, thereby allowing us to analyse competition for heterogeneous land types across and within sectors, as well as input substitution between land and other factors of production. When land-using sectors are confronted with a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, we find significant changes in the global pattern of comparative advantage across sectors, regions, and land types. Globally, we find that forest carbon sequestration is the dominant strategy for GHG emissions mitigation, while agricultural-related mitigation comes predominantly from reduced methane emissions in the ruminant livestock sector, followed by fertilizer and methane emissions from paddy rice. Regionally, agricultural mitigation is a larger share of total land-use emissions abatement in the USA and China, compared to the rest of the world, and, within agriculture, disproportionately from reductions in fertilizer-related emissions. The results also show how analyses that only consider regional mitigation, may bias mitigation potential by ignoring global market interactions. For example, USA-specific analyses likely over-estimate the potential for abatement in agriculture. Finally, we note that this general equilibrium framework provides the research community with a practical methodology for explicit modeling of global land competition and land-based mitigation in comprehensive assessments of greenhouse gas mitigation options.
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