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Randomized national land management strategies for net-zero emissions

Abstract

Global scenario modelling for climate stabilization lacks national resolution, particularly for the agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sector, impeding effective national climate policymaking. We generate 850 randomized scenarios of activity combinations for Ireland’s AFOLU sector in the year 2050 and evaluate associated greenhouse gas fluxes to the year 2100. Using a GWP100 ‘net-zero’ greenhouse gas definition, 146 scenarios achieve AFOLU climate neutrality and 38 contribute to national neutrality (a substantial AFOLU sink) by 2050. Just one scenario contributes to national climate neutrality to 2100, reflecting future declines in CO2 removals by new forests (excluding potential downstream mitigation). In the absence of technical solutions to dramatically reduce the emissions intensity of bovine production, national milk and beef output will need to be substantially curtailed to achieve net-zero emissions. Active CO2 removal on destocked land, via organic soil rewetting and ambitious afforestation, could moderate output declines in milk and beef production, reducing international carbon leakage risks.

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Fig. 1: Key emissions sources and sinks critical to the determination of ‘climate neutrality’.
Fig. 2: Key input and output parameter variation and post hoc analysis.
Fig. 3: Percentage changes in emissions between 2015 (baseline) and 2050 for statistically representative scenarios.
Fig. 4: CO2 emissions and removals from forestry and HWP and net AFOLU CO2e emissions and removals.
Fig. 5: Scenarios displaying maximum and minimum levels of milk and beef production within N-Z-AFOLU and N-Z-National categories.

Data availability

Authors can confirm that all relevant data are included in the paper and/ or its Supplementary Information.

Code availability

The exact version of the model used to produce the results used in this paper is archived on Zenodo37 and freely available for download.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (Ireland) (EPA 2018-CCRP-MS.57). Thank you to the James Hutton Institute, National University of Ireland Galway, University of Limerick and Teagasc for the facilitation of this research. The James Hutton Institute is supported by the Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services (RESAS), a division of the Scottish Government.

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C.D. conducted design, development, analysis, testing and validation and manuscript preparation. R.P. conducted design, development, analysis and validation. B.D. conducted design and development. J.G. conducted validation, review and editing. C.O. conducted validation, review and editing. P.P.M.I. conducted validation, reviewing and editing. M.R. conducted validation, review and editing. D.S. conducted design, development, analysis, review and editing.

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Correspondence to Colm Duffy.

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Nature Sustainability thanks James Glynn, Aaron Simmons and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Fig. 1.

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Supplementary Data 1

Original scenario generation for modelling sample.

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Duffy, C., Prudhomme, R., Duffy, B. et al. Randomized national land management strategies for net-zero emissions. Nat Sustain 5, 973–980 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-022-00946-0

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