Good Reasons for Low Emissions Development Strategies (LEDS) Research

Alex De PintoThis is a guest post from Alex De Pinto, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI

It is now widely recognized that natural resource use in many developing countries, from crop production to deforestation, is responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions. We also know that, in many countries, it is the agricultural and forestry sectors — not industry or transport — that provide low-cost mitigation opportunities. As countries experience economic growth and choose among the available development pathways, they are in a favorable position to adopt natural resource use technologies and production practices characterized by low GHG emissions. Rather than embedding high emissions practices in their development and intervene on emissions reduction at a later stage, they can utilize Low Emissions Development Strategies (LEDS).

Smokestacks polluting the atmosphereFrom a technical point of view, reducing expected increases in GHG emissions requires the adoption of transformative approaches that improve the efficiency of resource uses. Potential methods include more efficient uses of fertilizers, water, and fossil fuels, as well as waste reduction and shifts to foods that yield lower emissions. However, the implementation of LEDS also requires that decision-makers are able to compare the emission characteristics of alternative development pathways in relation to other objectives such as export goals or food security. Opportunities that exist in countries with substantial stands of tropical rainforests differ from those in countries with little forest and widespread irrigated agriculture, and from those in countries with semi-arid landscapes with pastoral and agroforestry systems.

It is also important to consider that all countries are part of a global economic system and therefore agricultural commodity prices can reflect both domestic production and policies but also global trade flows. It is therefore critical that LEDS are devised with recognition of the role of the international economic environment.

The U.S. Government launched an initiative, the Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategies (EC-LEDS), to support developing countries’ in their efforts to pursue long-term and transformative development. The initiative supports sustainable and climate-resilient economic growth compatibly with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (USAID, 2011). Under the EC-LEDS initiative, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is conducting an analysis of GHG emissions deriving from crop production and from land use change for the period 2009 – 2030 for four countries: Vietnam, Bangladesh, Colombia, and Zambia. The purpose of this analysis is to help policymakers in their evaluation of trade-offs, opportunities, and repercussions of a set of either already existing policies or policies that are under consideration.

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