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Measurement for our planet

How we measure the impact of agriculture, forestry and other land use on climate change

Agriculture, forestry and other land use

Accurate and reliable measurement can support attribution of emissions and pollutants from agriculture and other land uses, helping the sector to innovate and become more sustainable.

Why does measuring the contribution of agriculture, forestry and other land uses matter for climate change?

The way that we utilise land has a clear and measurable impact on climate change and environmental degradation. Agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) industries face not only the challenge of responding to climate targets, but the three key climate-related challenges of:


  1. Adaptation – As the climate changes, nature will adapt, so our use of the land will need to adapt too. Land will become increasingly exposed to the risks from climate change and land use practices such as farming, which depends on the weather, could become increasingly impacted by droughts, floods and ever-changing environmental factors.
  2. Mitigation – AFOLU industries and environments can help to mitigate climate change through providing carbon sequestration as a result of bio-processes and via improved land management.
  3. Causation – Agricultural practices and land use change, such as deforestation, results in the release of GHGs. Forests and biomass store carbon which when harvested and incinerated, often to produce energy, results in the release of that carbon (predominantly CO2). Alongside the production of methane and nitrous oxides as a result of farming activity, all of which is contributing to climate change and environmental degradation. 

As seen in the 25 Year Environment Plan, the UK Government prioritises measuring biodiversity and eco-system health as well as reducing emissions as a result of land practices, whilst supporting the agricultural sector as a vital component of the UK’s economy. However, there are limits to the contribution of land when addressing climate change. The global population is forecast to hit 9.7 billion by 2050 and demand for food is set to dramatically increase. Therefore crop yield measurements will become increasingly important to ensure security of supply, including monitoring crop growth for phenotyping and precision farming.

Careful and accurate measurement of data will enable AFOLU to respond, react and plan effectively for a more sustainable approach to food production and land management.

How does NPL help the agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors?

We can assist with assessment of the suitability of certain sustainability solutions – based on environments, climates and processes – that enable agriculture, forestry and land management organisations to make effective decisions in support of climate action and reaching net zero. We do this by providing measurement expertise to help to optimise land use and deliver against simultaneous commercial and environmental objectives.

Measurement can play a key role in supporting decarbonisation in the land use emission area, where there is the need to ensure: 

  • the long-term stability of results, so the impact of emission reduction measures can be validated over time  
  • the spatial distribution of emissions is reliably assessed, so that regional differences can be properly understood 
  • data from different sources and sectors can be combined in a way that ensures the quality of the overall inventory and provides an assessment of their relative contribution to the uncertainty in the combined inventory
  • agricultural yield and efficiency is increased whilst reducing the environmental impact of farming and its associated supply chains. ​

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