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Green growth germinator


To contribute to the achievement of carbon neutrality, China needs to promote climate-smart agriculture and drive low-carbon and sustainable agricultural industry

The national carbon emissions trading market is significant for China to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

The market that commenced online trading on July 16 provides new opportunities for low-carbon development in many industries, especially in agriculture, a major sector in China. Green transformation of the agricultural sector and further development of agricultural carbon credits can drive the realization of the two emissions goals.

In 2014, China's total greenhouse gas emissions were 12.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, excluding land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF).Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions reached 830 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, accounting for 6.7 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions excluding LULUCF, according to data from the Second Biennial Update Report on Climate Change.

China's agricultural carbon emissions rose from 249 million tons in 1961 to 885 million tons in 2016. In 2018, the emissions dropped slightly to 861 million tons.

While green transformation of the agricultural sector needs to become a big contributor to China realizing its carbon peaking and neutrality goals, challenges and barriers remain in the development of agricultural carbon credits. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Emission Trading, Joint Implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism are the three marked-based mechanisms for the carbon market.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, energy projects accounted for 75.3 percent of the 7,853 registered Clean Development Mechanism projects as of May 31 this year, while agricultural projects accounted for just 2.3 percent.

The reasons for the lack of the enthusiasm for carbon trading among agricultural projects include insufficient competitiveness on expertise, technology and financing.

Primarily, farmers know little about how to participate in the carbon market and implement projects. The staff involved in carbon credit development are mainly from the fields of power, energy and industrial production and lack expertise in agriculture and forestry.

Besides, monitoring, reporting and verification methodologies for agriculture and forestry are inadequate, especially with regard to the Clean Development Mechanism, Voluntary Carbon Standard and China Certified Emission Reduction.

Also, the costs for developing agricultural carbon credit projects are too high for farmers, which means additional funds are needed to support the launch of such projects.

As a major agricultural country, China needs to attach importance to the role of agriculture in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving carbon sinks, promoting climate-smart agriculture and low-carbon and sustainable development of agriculture. To achieve the carbon peak and neutrality goals and boost rural areas, more efforts are needed to improve the presence of agriculture in the carbon market.

First, the authorities need to involve agricultural voluntary emission reduction projects in the carbon market. The China Certified Emission Reduction system was launched in January 2015 as a system for voluntary carbon emissions trading. But the National Development and Reform Commission issued a notice in March 2017 suspending the approval of applications on trading approaches for voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction.

Although the online trading of China's national carbon market has been started, the final plan for voluntary carbon emissions reduction needs to be clarified, for which the Ministry of Ecology and Environment is supposed to restart the CCER project soon.

Second, the emissions reduction categories of agricultural greenhouse gas involves soil carbon sequestration, fertilizer use, livestock, biomass energy and land use change, but specific methodologies in these areas are not in place. The agricultural departments need to organize experts to develop solutions for reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emission in line with domestic conditions and unify carbon credit standards.

Third, efforts need to be made to select and promote proper practices for reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and increase the sequestrating carbon. China's agriculture covers various sectors including plantations, forestry, livestock and fisheries. Direct input in water, fertilizer, pesticide and machinery in agricultural production as well as management measures can all affect greenhouse gas emissions.

Since different management measures have different potential carbon emissions reduction and sequestration, the agricultural authorities need to improve scientific research, select and standardize the best practices of agricultural carbon reduction and carbon sequestration, and establish a database to collect and promote the practices among farmers.

Fourth, the government needs to establish a committee of nationwide agricultural experts on greenhouse gas emissions reduction to raise the awareness and improve the training for farmers. Although agricultural activities can be major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture can also promote carbon sinks and contribute to addressing climate change. Since Chinese agricultural producers, mainly small households, play a decisive role in carbon emissions reduction and sequestration but lack understanding about the carbon market, their participation in carbon trading should be improved.

The experts from the committee can provide farmers with training and offer them technical support, enhance their understanding of carbon emissions reduction and the carbon market, and improve their ability to participate in carbon trading. Meanwhile professional training is also necessary for stakeholders.

The author is manager of the Environmental Defense Fund Beijing Representative Office. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Contact the editor at editor@chinawatch.cn