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Publication | 1 June 2021

Agricultural subsidies and global greenhouse gas emissions

Global Food and Nutrition Security

Agricultural production is strongly affected by and a major contributor to climate change. Agriculture and land-use change account for a quarter of total global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). Agriculture receives around US$600 billion per year worldwide in government support. No rigorous quantification of the impact of this support on GHG emissions has been available. This article helps fill the void. Here, we find that, while over the years the government support has incentivized the development of high-emission farming systems, at present, the support only has a small impact in terms of inducing additional global GHG emissions from agricultural production; partly because support is not systematically biased towards high-emission products, and partly because support generated by trade protection reduces demand for some high-emission products by raising their consumer prices. Substantially reducing GHG emissions from agriculture while safeguarding food security requires a more comprehensive revamping of existing support to agriculture and food consumption.