Fresh thinking on growth and development in Asia and the Pacific

Workshop on Developing Farming Systems for Climate Change Mitigation

Event | 26 - 30 August 2013 Colombo, Sri Lanka

Post-event statement

The Workshop on Developing Farming Systems for Climate Change Mitigation was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 26 to 30 August 2013. Thirty-two representatives from governments, mostly senior officials attached to agriculture, environment and planning ministries, as well as eight representatives from knowledge institutes of 23 economies, attended the workshop.

The five-day workshop was organized in collaboration with the Asian Productivity Organization and the Ministry of Agriculture, Sri Lanka. The main objectives of the workshop were (i) to review efforts in the promotion and adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices in the region, (ii) to assess the various technical options, system models, and best practices relevant to climate change mitigation in the agriculture sector; and (iii) to review and formulate strategic policy choices and roadmaps for promoting such good practices.

The workshop extensively discussed the ADB-ADBI book Low-Carbon Green Growth: Policies and Practices. This led to robust discussions among delegates and highlighted both practical experiences of climate-smart agricultural development and farming systems and practices that have potential for climate change mitigation. Below are highlights of the workshop:

Greenhouse Gas Emission Trends in the Agriculture Sector

  • The share of agricultural emissions of the total global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in 2010 was 13%. In the developing countries of Asia, such emissions are expected to rise in the coming decades on population and income growth, among other factors.
  • Asian countries account for 37% of total global emissions from agricultural production. Within the agricultural sector, fertilizer application, livestock rearing, manure management, rice cultivation, and forest burning and deforestation are major sources of emissions.
  • From a mitigation perspective, one of the greatest challenges in emission reduction lies in aligning increasing demands for food, shifts in dietary tastes, and demand for agricultural commodities for non-food uses with sustainable, low-emitting development paths in general and farming systems in particular.

Mitigation Potential and Options

  • The technical potential for GHG mitigation in developing country agriculture by 2030 indicates significant opportunities for emissions reductions, together with an enhanced income earning potential for farmers, and associated benefits from lower natural resource degradation.
  • Developing countries account for an estimated 75% of the global technical potential of future emission reduction in the sector, with Asia accounting for about 40%.
  • Sequestration activities that enhance and preserve carbon sinks include any practices that store carbon through farmland management best practices, such as no-till agriculture, or slow the amount of stored carbon released into the atmosphere through burning of agricultural waste, intensive tillage, soil erosion, and food waste. There are numerous best management practices in agriculture that raise soil organic carbon, including reducing the amount of bare follow, restoring degraded soil, irrigation, crop and forage rotation, and no-tillage practices.
  • The potential of biofuels to reduce carbon emissions is highly dependent upon the nature of production process through which they are manufactured and cultivated. It is estimated that 5% to 30% of cumulative carbon emissions would be abated if bioenergy supplied from 10% to 25% of global energy by 2030. However, a rapid expansion in bioenergy of this magnitude would have significant tradeoffs with food security and biodiversity. Careful assessment of tradeoffs as well as of net GHG gains, including land use change effects, needs to be undertaken. Biotechnology will play a key role in the coming years.
  • Improving the efficiency of fertilizer application, or switching to organic production can reduce the amount of nutrient load and emissions. However, the overall benefits would need to be weighed against a potential impact on crop yield. Improved water management in high emitting, irrigated systems through mid-season drainage or alternate wetting and drying has been shown to greatly reduce CH4 emissions in Asia.
  • Livestock and inland fishery management has high potential as they occur at the farm level. Innovative livestock rearing can make it less costly to administer anti-methanogens and to collect manure and residue.
  • Realization of the economic potential for mitigation in agriculture depends on the price of the carbon and on policy, institutional, and transaction costs. It is estimated that the economic potential is about 36% of technical potential at carbon prices of $25 per ton of CO2. Based on some estimates, rice cultivation mitigation strategies have the highest economic potential for emission cuts in Asia.

Integrating Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies

  • Options to increase the resilience of farming systems against climate change risks include planning and implementing both structural and non-structural measures, such as developing input efficient crop varieties, maximizing water use efficiency, formulating new standards for infrastructure design, exploitation of co-benefit approaches, institutional capacity building, and changing the policymaking environment under which all other adaption activities typically occur.
  • Biotechnology is one important tool to help meet the challenges arising from climate change, food security, and natural resource constraints.
  • Integrating disaster risk management for climate-smart agriculture has not yet become a high priority in most parts of Asia, as policymakers are preoccupied with other developmental priorities. Improbability and data uncertainty is often cited as a reason for inaction and could be interpreted as the case of limited knowledge on cost-effective best practices.
  • Mitigation strategies are also largely being handled in isolation from other development issues. In order to mainstream climate change into agricultural planning, policies should be integrated at the sectoral and local levels, rather than designing policies for different sectors in isolation. Efforts to mainstream mitigation find resistance, particularly in the agriculture sector, as it comes with additional funding requirements and commonly there are tradeoffs between immediate climate change actions at the farm level and sectoral growth.

Policy options for Climate Smart Agriculture Development

  • The agriculture sector can play a key role in the low-carbon green growth paradigm, but the economic potential of emission cuts is constrained by poor incentives for investment in the agricultural practices. At the same time, a major challenge lies in aligning growing demand for agricultural products with sustainable, low-emission development paths.
  • The carbon market for the agricultural sector is underdeveloped because of limited access under a clean development mechanism, as well as the high cost of verification, monitoring and transactions, especially with respect to small farmers. However, mitigation potential can be enhanced by improving the sector's access to carbon markets. Costs for agricultural carbon trades can also be reduced by simplifying and improving MRV systems required for such trading, as well through capacity building.
  • Accelerated efforts are needed to enhance the scientific capacity and reduce uncertainty in climate information. Policymakers need full access to specific information on predicting the probability of climate change at the local level and its potential effects on the agricultural sector and consequences to food security and economic development in the long term. Specifically, with regard to food security, the most pressing needs are related to: (i) understanding the impacts of the rising concentration of CO2, increased mean temperatures, and changes in precipitation patterns on agricultural systems; (ii) development of new cultivar and seeds, water-saving irrigation methods, low-carbon livestock rearing; and (iii) development and adoption of co-benefit mitigation measures.
  • Close coordination of agricultural, environmental, and financing agencies at the national, provincial and local level is essential to guarantee that best practices are implemented and maladaptation measures are limited. Appropriate local governments are the best positioned to have the right incentives to ensure the coordination needed. Devolving more powers to and building capacity of local governments is necessary for developing and implementing climate change mitigation programs aimed at measurable improvements in the areas of their jurisdiction, with the participation of all concerned sectors, as well as farming communities.
  • Governments in Asia need to enhance their institutional capacity to make better use of existing funding opportunities. New financing mechanisms to support new farming systems could be established with broader and more flexible approaches, integrating different funding sources and innovative delivery schemes to reach producers, including the private sector. In the long-term, there is a need to enhance innovative financing schemes, through public-private partnership models.


To enhance the capacity of policymakers in obtaining reliable climate information, choosing planning tools for climate change mitigation, interpretation of risks, and application of resulting knowledge for mainstreaming climate change consideration in agricultural sectoral planning.


Agriculture faces the triple challenge of ensuring food security through enhancing productivity, increasing climate resilience, and contributing to climate change mitigation. The sector is expected to produce more food to meet the requirements of the growing global population and more specifically to contribute to food security and poverty alleviation in developing countries. Two-thirds of the world's poor live in rural areas in developing countries, with most of them dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. To achieve these goals and sustainability in agriculture, both the productivity and climate change resilience of farming systems need to be enhanced.

While agriculture is the sector most vulnerable to climate change, it is also a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to IPCC estimates, agriculture accounts for about 14% of global GHG emissions, which include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. It is also claimed to be the main reason behind deforestation, which roughly accounts for an additional 17% of global GHG emissions. It is therefore crucial to develop and promote farming systems that could increase productivity and sustainability, and at the same time mitigate carbon emissions.

The workshop is designed to comprise:

  • Climate change and agricultural productivity: challenges and opportunities;
  • Key characteristics of climate smart agriculture for mitigating climate change;
  • Policy and institutional frameworks for promoting the development and adoption of new farming systems for climate change mitigation;
  • Financing strategies for supporting climate smart development in agriculture sector.


The specific objectives of the workshop are:

  • to review efforts in the promotion and adoption of climate smart agricultural practices in the region,
  • to assess the various technical options, system models, and best practices relevant to climate change mitigation in the agriculture sector; and
  • to formulate strategic policy choices and roadmaps for promoting such good practices.


  • Exchange of experiences on adaptation tools and methods used successfully.
  • Improved capacity to acquire and analyze necessary climate information, design and implement climate change mitigation measures at sectoral and local levels.
  • Senior official's policy statement on climate change mitigation road map.


Approximately 40 senior officials from agricultural and environmental ministries.

How to register

Participation is by invitation only.


English (no interpretation will be provided)


  • Active participation in discussions;
  • Use the contents of the workshop to train others.


Asian Productivity Organization (APO), Tokyo, Japan
National Productivity Secretariat (NPS), Colombo, Sri Lanka