• Rachana Kadikar

How Large-Scale Land Acquisitions Can Increase Carbon Emissions

Climate change is one of the most pressing contemporary issues that humans face. Increasing carbon emissions, a greenhouse gas that absorbs heat from the sun, directly leads to sustained increases in temperature. A recent study by researchers at Arizona State University goes beyond just the socioeconomic and environmental consequences of large-scale land acquisitions, and directly relates them to the worsening of climate change.

With a rapidly increasing global population, land grabs are unfortunately inevitable as the demand for agricultural development increases, especially for developing countries. The most common locations for these large-scale land acquisitions, with over a thousand transnational land acquisitions, include the coast of West Africa, East African Rift Valley, Southeast Asia, Central-South Latin America, Eastern Europe, and western Russia. These regions tend to be the areas with medium to high arable lands and a large supplies of water. On the other hand, the countries that host low to medium arable lands and that are scarce in water end up investing in the land-acquisitions of other countries.

Researchers analyzed the carbon emissions from about 1.5K large-scale land acquisitions under two conditions: little environmental regulation or enforcement of environmental regulations that limit land conversion and that save forests with high-carbon-values. The results indicated that when little environmental regulation is used, the large-scale land acquisitions would emit about 2.26 gigatons of carbon, a sharp contrast to the 0.81 gigatons of carbon emitted with enforcement of environmental regulation.

Although these environmental regulation policies that control the amount of land conversion and prevent destruction of forests of high carbon value haven't reduced the size of the land acquisitions, they can help significantly reduce the amount of carbon emissions during these land-grabs. With these regulations on land acquisitions, there is a lower environmental cost that comes with the food security benefit.