Land use change, agricultural markets and the environment

Abstract : Land use change is estimated to have generated 17% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the 2000s, a large part coming from deforestation. The main driver of these emissions is expansion of agricultural activities, for the need of local development in tropical regions. However, they have also been caused by the dynamics of globalisation which has stimulated agricultural trade flows. Thus, today, there are new concerns with respect to how agricultural policies are influencing land use changes in other parts of the world through international market responses. In this work I consider three concrete illustrations of where these effects can be of significant magnitude: i) agriculture intensification in developing countries, ii) trade agreements, and iii) biofuel policies. I find that for each of these policies, market responses are likely to play a significant role in the final greenhouse gas emission balance. Mitigation of emissions through agricultural intensification could have quite beneficial outcomes, but the rebound effect on the demand side would offset a large part of greenhouse gas emission savings attributable to the land sparing effect. With the example of a possible EU-MERCOSUR trade agreement, I also show the adverse effect of liberalising certain specific agricultural products closely connected to land use change dynamics without adequate accompanying measures. Last, the indirect land use change effect of biofuels is likely to offset a large part of their alleged GHG emission savings. Land use change responses depend on many behavioural parameters, however, and providing precise estimates constitutes a challenge. I use different modelling approaches to quantify their magnitude and extensively explore the level of confidence on the basis of current state of econometric findings.New approaches should be elaborated to take account of this externality in public policy assessments, together with an appropriate consideration of the uncertainty ranges associated with these effects.
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Hugo Valin. Land use change, agricultural markets and the environment. Sociology. AgroParisTech, 2014. English. ⟨NNT : 2014AGPT0011⟩. ⟨tel-01159212⟩

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