FAO Submission to UNFCCC: Potential of Grasslands for Climate Change Mitigation

© FAO27 April 2009: A new UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) submission to the UNFCCC outlines the potential for grasslands to contribute to greenhouse gas mitigation. The submission, which is based on a workshop of experts that convened from 15-17 April 2009, in Rome, Italy, outlines opportunities and challenges for including grasslands in a post-2012 climate regime.

The submission explains that the carbon sequestration potential of grasslands has been estimated between 1.3 and 1.5 Gt CO2 equivalent, which could be realized through a combination of improved management practices and grassland restoration. Improved grassland management could realize 2-8 percent of the mitigation potential by 2020 while improving resilience of ecosystems and of dependent communities to impacts of climate change. Management practices include the introduction of new species and varieties, fire management, restoration of organic soils and degraded lands, extending the use of perennial crops, increasing tree cover in silvopastoral systems, managing grazing intensity and duration/periodicity, and improving pasture quality.

A second section identifies the challenges of enhancing carbon sequestration and carbon stock management in grasslands, including: permanence; additionality; monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV); and leakage. While carbon sequestration in grasslands is real and verifiable in principle, methodologies need to be further developed in these areas. The submission concludes that an enabling policy and institutional framework should be developed with the aim of tapping the full mitigation potential from grasslands, focusing on five key areas: full GHG accounting; measurements and monitoring; training and capacity building; policy measures in the environmental and agricultural sectors; and financing options.

The submission suggests that UNFCCC COP 15 should consider actions such as: pilot projects on the potential for C sequestration in grassland systems, cost effective measurement and monitoring of changes in soil C levels, and adapted management practices; a phased approach as a component of an overall agriculture initiative to test MRV strategies; and integrating grasslands into the scope of LULUCF accounting, as well as into existing and new funding mechanisms. [The submission]