Constitutionalizing in the Anthropocene

SYMPOSIUM: Reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions & the role of law

07 Dec 2023

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Since at least the late 1990s, there has been little question about the agricultural sector being a major contributor to global GHG emissions. So great is this contribution that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement to attain its goals without achieving GHG reductions in the agricultural and land use sectors. 

However, it is far from clear how best this can be done or what role law could or should play in it. Despite the size of their contribution, agricultural emissions have long escaped regulation, in part because of the unique conditions, politics, and structure of the sector that make it ubiquitously complex and fraught to legislate on. Despite this, a number of countries and regions around the world have developed regulatory solutions for dealing with agricultural emissions over the years, including emissions mitigation, biosequestration, carbon pricing, carbon farming and offset mechanisms. While such efforts have been accelerating in some places in recent years, the jury is still out about which is or will be the best or most effective at actually achieving sector-wide emissions reductions on a meaningfully large scale. 

Under its Fit for 55 package and its Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Commission has put forward ambitious policy and legislative proposals aimed at minimizing agricultural GHG emissions, while simultaneously ensuring resilient and climate smart food production. The EU’s central emissions mitigation instrument, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), however, does not cover agricultural emissions, and the European Commission has no concrete plans (yet) to include it for this purpose. Instead, the European Commission plans to rely on other legislative initiatives such as the revised Common Agricultural Policy, carbon farming, sustainable food systems, and a revision of its LULUCF Regulation to do this work. In contrast to the EU, a few countries have tried directly targeting the agricultural sector with carbon pricing mechanisms and linking them to emissions trading systems, such as in Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Australia, many of which resemble carbon farming mechanisms that use financial incentives to reward farmers for emission reductions or increased carbon sequestration. Thus far, however, no jurisdiction has managed to create a system that has proven to be robust enough to achieve GHG emissions reductions significant enough to achieve global goals.

Thus, the question and puzzle still remains very much open: by what means can law effectively engage with the agricultural sector to reduce its GHG emissions? Despite all of the policy and economic activity in this area, and even though agriculture lies at the intersection of multiple legal fields, legal scholars generally have not paid much attention to this dilemma. Indeed, with some notable exceptions, most of the literature in this space has been written by agricultural economists rather than lawyers. The purpose of this Symposium is to provide a check to this tendency by bringing legal scholars, practitioners and policymakers together to confront and engage the legal challenges at this critical nexus between agriculture, climate and the environment by asking what role law can and does (or cannot and should not) play in reducing agricultural emissions, both in the EU and globally.

The Symposium invites paper contributions from a broad range of topics relating to law and the reduction agricultural emissions. 

Papers could speak to topics such as: 

  • Carbon market mechanisms (both voluntary and regulatory)
  • Carbon farming and certification incentive programs
  • Emissions reductions, environmental law, and rural livelihoods
  • Monitoring, verification and reporting 
  • Big Data & New Tech solutions for ‘smart’ agriculture
  • Public participation and access to justice in agricultural matters
  • International law and the Paris Agreement
  • Climate justice and agricultural emissions reductions
  • EU Green Deal initiatives and agriculture
  • Comparative studies of emissions reduction regulatory frameworks
  • Carbon farming and sequestration mechanisms
  • The role of the CAP in achieving agricultural mitigation reductions
  • Imagining cross-policy ‘Win-Win’ solutions
  • Policy and political economy of legislating agricultural emissions

You can submit your abstract between now and 1 October 2023. Please send your abstract to [email protected]. Abstracts will be assessed on a rolling basis.

The symposium is free. We have a budget available to contribute to travel and hotel costs for selected speakers. If you want to attend without paper, please register by sending an e-mail to: [email protected]. Availability is limited and will be distributed on a first come first serve basis.

Presenters with completed papers will be offered the option to publish their piece in our special issue of Sustainability titled ‘Regulatory Innovations for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agriculture and Food

Symposium program

Here you find the program of the symposium.

Symposium venue

Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences ‘het Trippenhuis’

Kloveniersburgwal 29, Amsterdam

The venue is located in the city center, and just a 10 minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station.

This research was made possible through funding from the Netherlands Research Council NWO under grant number 406.18.RB.004