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Integrating agriculture and energy to assess GHG emissions reduction: a methodological approach

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Agriculture is responsible for approximately 25% of anthropogenic global GHG emissions. This significant share highlights the fundamental importance of the agricultural sector in the global GHG emissions reduction challenge. This article develops and tests a methodology for the integration of agricultural and energy systems modelling. The goal of the research is to extend an energy systems modelling approach to agriculture in order to provide richer insights into the dynamics and interactions between the two (e.g. in competition for land-use). We build Agri-TIMES, an agricultural systems module using the TIMES energy systems modelling framework, to model the effect of livestock emissions and explore emissions reduction options. The research focuses on Ireland, which is an interesting test case for two reasons: first, agriculture currently accounts for about 30% of Ireland's GHG emissions, significantly higher than other industrialized countries yet comparable with global levels (here including emissions associated with other land-use change and forestation); second, Ireland is both a complete and reasonably sized agricultural system to act as a test case for this new approach. This article describes the methodology used, the data requirements, and technical assumptions made to facilitate the modelling. It also presents results to illustrate the approach and provide associated initial insights.

Policy relevance

Most of the policy focus with regard to climate mitigation targets has been on reducing energy-related CO2 emissions, which is understandable as they represent by far the largest source of emissions. Non-energy-related GHG emissions – largely from agriculture, industrial processes, and waste – have received significantly less attention in policy discourse. Going forward, however, if significant cuts are made in energy-related CO2 emissions, the role of non-energy-related GHG emissions will grow in importance. It is therefore crucial that climate mitigation analyses and strategies are not limited to the energy system. This article shows the value of using integrated energy and agriculture techno-economic modelling techniques to draw evidence for new comprehensive climate policy strategies able to discern between the full range of technical solutions available. It enables the production of economy-wide least-cost climate mitigation pathways.
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Keywords: abatement strategies; agricultural emissions; bottom-up approaches; climate change policies; energy models; mitigation scenarios

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Engineering, University College Cork, College Road, Cork, Ireland 2: Teagasc, Agricultural and Food Development Authority, Rural Economy Research Centre, Athenry, Co. Galway, Ireland 3: School of Agriculture & Food Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland 4: E4SMA S.r.l, ., Via Livorno, 60, 10144, Turin, Italy

Publication date: 2016-02-17

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