Agriculture is central to feeding the world and reducing poverty. But conventional forms of agriculture are often unsustainable and drive land degradation. Agriculture is also the world’s leading anthropogenic source of methane (52%) and nitrous oxide (84%) emissions, and the principal driver of deforestation worldwide. Agriculture and agriculture-driven land-use change contribute 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We can’t fix what we don’t measure, which is why quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production is a necessary step for climate-smart agriculture (CSA). Greenhouse gas accounting can provide the numbers and data that are important to solid decision making.

It will help identify management practices and opportunities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also providing improved food security, more resilient production systems, and better rural livelihoods. In practical terms, greenhouse gas emissions data can support farmers in adopting less carbon-intensive practices, guiding low-emissions development, assessing product supply chains, certifying sustainable agriculture practices, and informing consumers on the carbon footprint of their choices.While greenhouse gas emissions data are useful for mainstreaming climate-smart agriculture, implementing greenhouse gas accounting is fraught with several challenges. One major challenge is the lack of functional tools that people can actually use: Tools that work across scales and agricultural land use systems, help prioritize mitigation actions and are flexible when it comes to requirements for country-specific data. Useful greenhouse gas accounting tools should include confidence thresholds in greenhouse gas emission estimates and offer understandable metrics for tracking greenhouse gas emissions. Equally important is the need to build technical capacity in land use monitoring and greenhouse gas accounting, especially in developing countries.