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Roadmaps integrating RTD in developing realistic GHG mitigation options from agriculture up to 2030 - AC0214

Description
The aim of this desk study is to consider the role and potential of emerging research technology and development (RTD) to contribute to UK greenhouse gas (plus ammonia) abatement potential in Agriculture, Forestry and Land Management (AFLM). A second associated aim is to consider how current and emerging abatement potential can be reconciled with the protocol for recording emissions in current national inventory methods. This project builds on initial work carried out to inform the initial AFLM greenhouse gas budget exercise undertaken by the Committee on Climate Change, plus subsequent work to consider how this abatement potential can be delivered by relevant policy instruments. The first of these projects provided a basis for estimating efficient abatement potential using marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) data. A MACC provides a view of how potential mitigation measures compare in terms of the cost per tonne of emission, and as such represent a road map for action in the field and for developing policy. However, some of the measures or associated technologies are considered more “future” than others. The aim of this project is to identify future research and technologies and to consider how and when these might contribute to the ALFM mitigation effort.

Specific objectives are to:
1. Review status of technologies considered in existing MACC analysis.
2. Undertake a horizon scanning exercise of the status of these technologies and future RTD options.
3. Categorise RTD in terms of their likely abatement and cost potentials over the relevant budget horizons.
4. Estimate how measures will contribute to mitigation under likely adoption scenarios.
5. Review the inventory, with reference to current problems, potential evolution and future scope.
6. Recalculate mitigation route map for likely evolution of inventory.
7. Consider how RTD can be linked to and be fostered by relevant policy development nationally and internationally.
Objective
The objective of this desk study is to consider the role and potential of emerging research technology and development (RTD) to contribute to UK greenhouse gas (GHG) plus ammonia (NH3) abatement potential in agriculture. A second associated objective is to consider how current and emerging abatement potential can be reconciled with the protocol for recording emissions in current national inventory methods. This project builds on work carried out to inform the initial agriculture, forestry and land management (AFLM) GHG budget exercise undertaken by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), and a subsequent project to consider how this abatement potential can be delivered by relevant policy instruments. The first of these projects provided a basis for estimating efficient abatement potential using marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) data. MACCs provide a view of how potential mitigation measures compare in terms of the cost per tonne of emission, as such represent roadmaps for action in the field and for developing policy. However, some of the measures or associated technologies in the MACC are considered to be more “future” than others. The aim of this project is to identify future research and technologies and to consider how and when these might contribute to the ALFM mitigation effort.


Specific objectives are to:
1. Review the status of technologies considered in existing MACC analysis.
2. Undertake a horizon scanning exercise of the status of these technologies and future RTD options.
3. Categorise RTD in terms of their likely abatement and cost potentials over the relevant budget horizons.
4. Estimate how measures will contribute to abatement potential (AP) under likely adoption scenarios .
5. Review current GHG and NH3 inventory methodology and scope for the inclusion of potential mitigation methods.
6. Recalculate AP route map for likely evolution of inventory to include new RTD abatement.
7. Consider how RTD can be linked to and be fostered by relevant policy/instrument development nationally and internationally.

This project will be undertaken by a team that combines expertise from previous projects, and with input from a wide range of national and international expert stakeholders. Intermediate and final outputs will be discussed in relevant meetings, including those of the Rural Climate Change Forum.


Background

The Aarhus Statement on Climate Change recognises that all sectors of human activity need to be involved in solutions to climate change (Beyond Kyoto, 2009). GHG emissions from ALFM represent approximately 8% of UK anthropogenic emissions, mainly as nitrous oxide and methane. Under its Climate Change Act of 2008, the UK Government is committed to ambitious targets for reducing national emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, with all significant industrial sources coming under scrutiny. The task of allocating shares of future reductions falls to the newly appointed Committee on Climate Change, which needs to consider efficient mitigation potential across a range of sectors.

The CCC recognises the need to achieve emissions reductions in an economically efficient manner where the cheapest units of greenhouse gas should be abated first. As with other sectors, AFLM emissions abatement needs to be achieved at least cost. CCC has adopted a bottom-up Marginal Abatement Cost Curve method (MACC) to define cost-effective or efficient abatement potential. More specifically, there exists a notional schedule of costs of implementing mitigation measures that shows that some measures can be enacted at a lower cost than other measures. Indeed some measures are thought to be cost saving; i.e. farmers could implement some measures that would simultaneously save money and reduce emissions. Thereafter costs rise until some calculation of the costs relative to the benefits of abatement show that further mitigation is less worthwhile. This is the essence of the MACC approach, which enables either a cost-effectiveness or cost-benefit assessment of measures. The latter by comparing the cost of a measure with the benefit of avoided carbon emission damages - the so-called shadow price of carbon (SPC). Alternatively unit abatement costs can be compared with an emissions price prevailing in the European Trading Scheme (ETS). Notionally, an efficient budget can be derived from implementation of measures with reference to mitigation costs in other sectors and that cost less than the notional benchmark of the SPC or the ETS price. The CCC has been assisted by Defra and other stakeholder partners in developing MACCs and related information on the relevant policy instruments for delivering the identified abatement potential .
While demonstrating the approximate abatement potential, these projects have nevertheless highlighted specific deficiencies in the way in which the true cost and abatement potential of some measures are portrayed. An important point is that full information on some horizon technologies (or RTD) is simply uncertain, warranting further investigation. The initial MACC project undertaken by this project team attempted a basic horizon scale of 2050 RTD potential. However, this exercise required more time and input than was possible within that project. Other important challenges with the MACC include the representation of ancillary or co-benefits and costs, and the role of full life cycle (LCA upstream or downstream) costs of measures implemented within the farm gate. A further significant problem relates to the validity of some AP in terms of the current (IPCC/UNFCCC) inventory protocol.

This project aims to provide a clearer route map for the development of technologies that are not part of the current MACC, but could become so in response to future RTD. The project will identify measures that could become technically feasible and cost-effective by 2030, and the extent to which their abatement potential could be accounted for in the emissions inventory and therefore incorporated in the UK mitigation budget.

RTD and GHG mitigation

There is a growing literature examining the RTD needs for greenhouse gas mitigation (Bosetti et al. 2009; Newell 2008) and the relationship between policy and RTD development and adoption policies. Some of this literature considers the role of reliable global carbon pricing regimes as a policy and R&D catalyst, or else is focused on the energy sector. A potential carbon price (i.e. trading regimes) in the agricultural sector is one scenario for motivating RTD, but there seem to have been no specific studies to understand the links between specific policies and RTD. Several studies e.g. Weiske (2005), UNFCCC (2008), McKinsey (2009) provide good guides to global AFLM abatement options, but the horizons for these studies are not long term and they are not specific about how the adoption impacts on actual carbon budgets. In the UK, under-investment in R&D has been highlighted as one of the market failures contributing to agricultural GHG emissions (Defra/DECC 2009, p21).

RTD can be used to achieve GHG mitigation in AFLM through the identification, development and demonstration of immature techniques and technologies. This can involve (a) improving understanding of how measures that have been proven elsewhere (e.g. nitrification inhibitors) would perform in a UK context; or (b) primary research into nascent measures such as biochar.

Technologies featured in the MACC exercise were proven (though not always legal). That exercise involved a limited horizon scan and a tentative estimate of AP. We assume the principal objective of this project is to further this line of enquiry (i.e. in relation to horizon technologies). However, we note that RTD can achieve mitigation in other ways and that all these should be considered:

1. Making existing measures more cost-effective, either by reducing the costs or by increasing the abatement rates. For example, the agricultural chemicals industry is currently investigating ways of making precision farming more cost-effective through the development of cheaper, more accurate machine-mounted N sensors. Part of this project will be to explore the extent of such developments with relevant industry groups.
2. Reducing uncertainty regarding existing techniques/technologies - a measure may be well understood at a field scale, however assessing its performance at a regional or national scale requires an understanding of other factors, including: the measure’s performance under a variety of physical conditions and scales; the current baselines, i.e. the extent and way in which the measure is applied at present; the economic impact of the measure on different farm types.
3. Increasing deployment of mitigation measures, by identifying and overcoming barriers to uptake. This is particularly relevant to win-win measures (i.e. those that can mitigate while providing a financial return for the farmer). Evidence indicates that there is significant win-win mitigation potential (Moran et al. 2008), which is not realised due to a range of cognitive, attitudinal, social and policy factors. A more detailed understanding of the reasons why specific measures are not used within different parts the industry (segmented in terms of e.g. age, education level, location, farm size and type) would enable better targeting of existing advisory effort.

In summary, RTD can enhance mitigation through:
1. Development and demonstration of new techniques.
2. Improving the cost-effectiveness of existing measures.
3. Reducing key uncertainties regarding the performance of known techniques.
4. Increasing uptake of (win-win) mitigation measures.

The measures analysed in this study will generally have to be adopted into pre-existing systems and therefore effectiveness and cost is affected by the interactions between measures and within system types. It is likely that GHG mitigation will involve multiple changes in management operations. These changes are unlikely to lead to additive reductions in GHG emission, for example use of clover swards in place of synthetic N inputs to a grassland would prevent further mitigation by improved fertiliser management. The environment and farming system within which management changes occur is also relevant. It is therefore important to consider the measures that can / will be adopted by the different farm systems / typologies.


RTD and the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory

The maximum technical and feasible abatement potentials defined in the MACC analysis would not be fully represented in current UK GHG inventory reports. This is because the UK currently uses Tier 1 and Tier 2 approaches to estimating emissions as described in the IPCC’s guidelines for annual reporting of national GHG emissions. Such approaches calculate emissions by multiplying emission factors at a regional level (Tier 1) or a national level (Tier 2) by various activities (such as the amount of fertiliser N applied). Whilst such approaches are widespread amongst Annexe 1 signatories to the Kyoto Protocol (Lokupitiya and Paustian 2006), they are poor at capturing subtle changes in management and its interaction with climate that we know are critically important in controlling GHG emissions . For example, IPCC default emission factors (EFs) are unable to fully account for genetic changes in cattle that could potentially lead to lower methane emissions (i.e. they are driven by EF x livestock number). The IPCC guidelines encourage countries to develop their own country-specific emission factors at Tier 2, or Tier 3. The Tier 3 approach requires a fundamentally different approach through the application of spatially explicit process based models. This is a demanding exercise given the requirement for detailed and carefully documented descriptions of land management and environmental characteristics. The application of such models also requires a rigorous uncertainty analysis and validation against national datasets. However, such approaches offer valuable flexibility to account, for example, for reduced methane emissions from any method of enteric fermentation improvement as long as estimates are backed by data. The use of DNDC to construct national inventories of N2O emission in China showed that overall emission factors were slightly lower than the IPCC default value (0.8 rather than 1%). However, there were also large regional differences which could be important for targeting mitigation measures (Li et al. 2001). In the UK, Brown et al. (2002) found that N2O emissions were 40% lower that IPCC estimates. There is an internationally agreed review procedure for checking that what a country has done is defensible so there is also independent verification. The UK is already well advanced in its application of these models, and needs to consider how they might usefully be applied to the preparation of future inventory submissions. Defra and other agencies are supportive of the need to improve methodologies in this area, and thus on-going work (by North Wyke Research and SAC) is targeting the development of Smart Inventories projects currently under way. This work runs parallel to similar projects being conducted in the other parts of the world for example by Landcare in New Zealand and other countries (Lokupitiya and Paustian 2006).

Given that this is work in progress, the CCC MACC exercise had to use judgement to define allowable mitigation with an overall distinction between direct and indirect emissions measures. This distinction was somewhat arbitrary and used with the knowledge that removing indirect measures can have the effect of reducing abatement potential by around two thirds. For example, the removal of indirect potential from the central feasible potential estimate for 2022 reduced the cumulative abatement from 10.83 MtCO2e to 3.3 MtCO2e. All of this reduction is in the crop and soil and livestock abatement potentials. Crop and soil abatement potential would reduce from 5.17 MtCO2e to only 154.74 ktCO2e. Livestock measures reduce from 3.40 MtCO2e to 2.17 MtCO2e. There is clearly a need to clarify how measures qualify for inclusion in national inventory formats.

A key questions is how far recent and anticipated refinements in inventory methods will allow a more comprehensive recognition of mitigation options to be recognised in the inventory? For example, there is good evidence to show that improved soil management can reduce N2O emissions (de Klein and Ledgard 2005; Ball et al. 2008), and yet such measures would be unlikely to be reflected in the inventory. A revised approach to the preparation of inventories could therefore provide a mechanism to account for a wide range of mitigation measures to be reflected in reports on annual emissions, and would provide incentives for policy makers to pursue imaginative solutions to mitigation options.

A further benefit from the use of process based models to assess GHG budgets would arise from the potential to include an assessment of carbon exchange in the reporting of national sinks and emissions. Article 3.4 of the Kyoto protocol allows countries to include changes in carbon sinks in their national inventory. In circumstances where land management is being used to promote C storage this could have a significant effect on inventories. It has been estimated that adaptation of measures to increase C storage in crop land could contribute to 31% of the UK’s commitment to reducing GHG emission agreed through the Kyoto protocol (Smith et al. 2000). At present the UK does not report changes in soil C associated with crop land management, as up to now, methods have not been considered sufficiently reliable.

Ammonia emissions lead to eutrophication of terrestrial and aquatic environments and can in turn result in emissions of nitrous oxide following transformations in these environments. The need to reduce ammonia emissions was recognised by the Gothenburg Protocol and proposed emission reductions will also have a beneficial effect in indirect emissions of nitrous oxide. On the other hand, there is also potential for certain mitigation methods aimed at reducing ammonia emissions from agriculture to lead to enhanced emissions of nitrous oxide (e.g. where reductions in N loss from livestock manure at one management stage lead to larger amounts of available N being applied to land). It is important therefore that an integrated approach is taken in considering potential mitigation methods.

The current ammonia emissions inventory for UK agriculture uses a more detailed approach than the GHG inventory, taking account of management practices, and does have the ability to reflect uptake of many potential mitigation practices (e.g. Webb and Misselbrook, 2004). There is an urgent need to reflect this approach within the agricultural GHG inventory and to deal consistently with N flow in both the ammonia and nitrous oxide inventories. This is being addressed within Defra-funded project AC0112 (Ammonia and GHG inventories for UK agriculture).
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : AC0214 final report   (2901k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2009

To: 2009

Cost: £49,817
Contractor / Funded Organisations
SAC Commercial Ltd
Keywords
Agriculture and Climate Change              
Sustainable Farming and Food Science              
Fields of Study
Agriculture and Climate Change