Knowledge for better food systems

Producer and consumer responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production: the Brazilian Amazon

A new paper on beef and soy from the Amazon looks at the allocation problem associated with GHG emissions. Is the responsibility with the producing or consuming country?
A new paper on beef and soy from the Amazon looks at the allocation problem associated with GHG emissions. Is the responsibility with the producing or consuming country? Zaks DPM, Ramankutty N and Foley J A. Producer and consumer responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions from an agricultural production perspective from the Brazilian Amazon (2009). Environ. Res. Lett. 4. Greenhouse gases from the combination of land use change and agriculture are responsible for the largest share of global emissions, but are inadequately considered in the current set of international climate policies. Under the Kyoto protocol, emissions generated in the production of agricultural commodities are the responsibility of the producing country, introducing potential inequities if agricultural products are exported. This study quantifies the greenhouse gas emissions from the production of soybeans and beef in the Amazon basin of Brazil, a region where rates of both deforestation and agricultural exports are high. Integrating methods from land use science and life-cycle analysis, and accounting for producer/consumer responsibility, the paper allocates emissions between Brazil and importing countries with an emphasis on ultimately reducing the greenhouse gas impact of food production. The mechanisms used to distribute the carbon emissions over time allocate the bulk of emissions to the years directly after the land use change occurred, and gradually decrease the carbon allocation to the agricultural products. The carbon liability embodied in soybeans exported from the Amazon between 1990 and 2006 was 128 TgCO2e, while 120 TgCO2e were embodied in exported beef. An equivalent carbon liability was assigned to Brazil for that time period. David Zaks, one of the authors, is an FCRN mailing list member. He writes, "The research here ties into a larger set of ongoing research about embodied carbon emissions, or the emissions used throughout the life-cycle of a product."
 

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