Edited by Marta Villar Ezcurra, Janet E. Milne, Hope Ashiabor and Mikael Skou Andersen
Chapter 8: The agricultural conundrum: encouraging climate-friendly agriculture through economic instruments in North America
Food and agriculture emit significant anthropogenic greenhouse gases, yet many climate policies excuse agriculture from emissions standards. This chapter considers the role of agriculture in carbon pricing. It begins by painting a backdrop of agriculture’s special treatment in North American environmental law. It then transitions to a case study of California’s cap-and-trade mechanism. The chapter evaluates California’s treatment of agriculture and the potential for a cap-and-trade offset protocol for carbon farming, a suite of practices that mitigate emissions by sequestering atmospheric carbon in the soil. Ultimately, the chapter acknowledges the barriers to tucking agriculture under the carbon pricing wing: agricultural exceptionalism in environmental law, the complexity of agricultural emissions, and the trouble that offsets pose. As such, the best path forward for California, and a lesson to jurisdictions in the U.S. and abroad, may be to dedicate more carbon pricing revenue to farmland conservation and soil carbon sequestration.
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