December 11, 2014

UCS Analysis Finds U.S. Has Greatest Potential for Mitigation

LIMA (December 11, 2014) – Initial findings from a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report indicate that of the eight countries that make up 57 percent of all land use emissions, the United States has the greatest potential for emission reductions in this sector. As negotiators in Lima grapple with how to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius, the potential for large emissions reductions from the land sector can be an important part of the solution.

The UCS study “Halfway There? What the Land Sector Can Contribute to Closing the Emissions Gap Post-2020,” due to be released in full in January 2015, provides country-specific estimates for post-2020 mitigation potential from the land sector, which includes agriculture and forestry. Currently, land use accounts for 25 percent of global emissions, but the report shows that this sector’s emissions could be reduced and sequestration increased after 2020 in Brazil, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States.

“As Americans often say in other contexts, the U.S. is number one,” said Doug Boucher, director of UCS’s Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative. “We are one of the largest emitters overall, and are often criticized for not being number one in leading on climate change, but we have the potential to make the biggest contributionfrom the land sector.”

The United States could reduce net emissions by 2 gigatons by 2020 and by 3 gigatons in 2030 through decreasing emissions from livestock, fertilizer and soil; reducing food waste and consumption of high-emissions foods, and increasing sequestration through reforestation. Part of the reason the United States’ potential for emissions reductions is so significant is because, unlike other countries, it has not yet made major investments in land use mitigation efforts. Meanwhile, Brazil and Mexico have already reduced land use emissions by more than half by curbing deforestation. Early reforestation efforts that China and India invested in since the1980s are now contributing sequestration, but this also means that there is less potential for these countries to do further reforestation post-2020.

Negotiators in Lima are working to close the emissions gap, the difference between the reductions that countries have already been committed to and the higher level of emissions reductions needed to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. As these eight counties prepare the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions that they’ll make public next spring, and that will form the basis of a new climate deal to be finalized next year in Paris, potential reductions in the land use sector cannot be overlooked.

“To close the emission gap, we’re going to need to reduce emissions from as many sectors as possible. The United States hasn’t yet done much in its the land use sector, but it can and must. We can be number one in our contribution to the climate,” said Boucher.

This analysis was released during a side event in Lima, Peru sponsored by the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, IUCN, National Wildlife Federation, and UCS. Boucher also further elaborated on this analysis in a blog post on the UCS blog, The Equation.

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