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Land Use: Agriculture, Forestry, Waste Management


Question: How can we scale-up sustainable landscape & waste management to significantly reduce emissions while ensuring food, water & energy security?
Submit Proposals:
Rules: All entrants must agree to the Contest rules and Terms of Use
Deadline: Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 18:00:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Judging Criteria & Prizes: See below.


According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), agriculture, livestock, forestry, and other land use are responsible for 24% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Waste management accounts for an important part of overall industry emissions which are estimated to be 21% of total GHG emissions.  Opportunities exist, however, for improved land use to reduce and/or sequester significant amounts of GHGs from the atmosphere while creating more resilient landscapes that increase food security, water availability, energy supply, and human well-being and resilience. As demonstrated by the Paris Agreement adopted at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), many governments have indicated that improved land use management will play a central part in their strategies to address climate change.

This contest seeks proposals on sustainable land use and waste management practices that can be effectively implemented and brought to scale, in order to address the challenges of global climate change.

For example, some proposals may address the following questions:

Key Issues


Both small-scale and commercial agriculture contribute to the negative impacts of climate change and in unique ways that often require differentiated solutions. Agriculture is a primary source of the three major GHGs (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides). At the same time, according to the IPCC, wheat, maize, and rice yields are expected to decline under local temperature increases greater than 2oC. Sustainable agriculture methods, including agroecology, agro-forestry, silviculture, and traditional phased or intercropping methods such as milpa in Central America, can play a large role in decreasing emissions and sequestering carbon dioxide. At the same time, these methods can increase agricultural productivity and resilience in the context of changing climate conditions.

Promising climate change mitigation options in the agriculture sector include:



About 30 percent of the global land area is covered by forests, totaling nearly 4 billion hectares (ha). Net loss of forestland has decreased in recent years but remains at about 3.3 million ha per year (6), as land is deforested for agriculture and built environments. Emissions from deforestation are approximately 10% (1) of total global CO2 emissions.

Given its impact on mitigating warming temperatures, forest protection and conservation have become important aspects of global emissions reduction strategies. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program, and the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Forest Investment Program (FIP), are a few of the larger global initiatives that are defining incentives and carbon-friendly solutions for sustainable development in developing and developed countries.

The New York Declaration on Forests in September 2014 called for halving the rate of loss of natural forests globally by 2020 and striving to end natural forest loss by 2030. It also called for restoring 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forestlands by 2020 and significantly increasing the rate of global restoration thereafter, which would restore at least an additional 200 million hectares by 2030.



According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “the livestock sector is the world’s largest user of agricultural land, through grazing and the use of feed crops” and by 2050, demand for livestock products is expected to increase by 70%. Livestock contribute to deforestation and global climate change as forests are cleared to make way for livestock grazing and grow crops for animal feed. This is particularly harmful when land is cleared in tropical forests which serve as important carbon sinks. Yet, livestock also provide a critical source of protein in regions of low agricultural productivity, addressing important nutrition and food security needs. Furthermore, small-scale production provides livelihoods to many local communities around the world, can be a source of economic empowerment for women and girls, and can be an integral part of local sustainable pastoral and agro-pastoral land management strategies.

Promising climate mitigation options in the livestock sector include:


Waste Management:

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, post-consumer waste contributes approximately 3%of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, primarily from the disposal of solid waste through landfills and incineration without energy recovery emitting CH4,  other treatments such as fermentation or composting and of liquid waste through sewage treatment producing CH4 and N2O or wasted water with hazardous chemicals or endocrine disruptors. This contest seeks proposals that can significantly contribute to reducing emissions at any scale (i.e., household through international levels), and from any aspect of waste and waste management:

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), post-consumer waste disposal will account for more than 1.6 gigatons (Gt) carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2-eq) in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2030, 3 percent of the global total. This primarily includes emissions from the disposal of solid waste through landfills that count for more than 90 % of GHG emissions from waste management . This contest seeks proposals that address any aspect of waste management: reducing emissions through better waste water/landfill/incineration practices; using GHGs generated from trash to generate energy, via waste to energy systems,  or to extract valuable chemicals; innovative recycling schemes or education program to consumer that reduce the amount of waste; or other initiatives that either reduce consumption patterns or increase the use of recycled content or recyclable/re-usable fabric and materials in new products. Also welcome are new approaches to international policy and accounting.

The IPCC outlines a range of possible strategies for reducing emissions from waste management, including:

We welcome proposals that address waste management and water treatment and their impacts and GHG emissions by implementing new strategies or technologies. On a national level, there is significant opportunity for countries to develop their own strategies that reduce emissions associated with waste and its management. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has outlined the framework and rationale behind national-level strategies in their guidelines.


Judging Criteria

Judges will be asked to evaluate proposals on the following criteria:

Winning proposals will be especially strong in at least one of the first three dimensions, and also well presented.

Judges will evaluate proposals, and deliberate as a group to select the Semi-Finalists, Finalists, Winners, and possibly other awardee(s) at their discretion.  Judgments of desirability are also made in the final stage of the contest, by the Climate CoLab community through popular vote, and by the Judges through their selection of the Judges' Choice winner(s).


Top proposals in each contest will be awarded...

Judges’ Choice Award -- Two proposals* will be selected by the Judges to receive the Judges' Choice-- one project, and one practice.

Popular Choice Award – Received the most votes during the public voting period.

The Judges’ Choice Award and Popular Choice Award Winners will be invited to MIT (see prior Climate CoLab Conferences), join the Climate CoLab winners’ alumni, and be eligible for the $10,000 Grand Prize—to be selected from among the winners across contests.

All award Winners and Finalists will receive wide recognition and platform visibility from MIT Climate CoLab. Climate CoLab or its collaborators may offer additional awards or recognition at their discretion.

* Judges’ Choice Award(s) are allocated at the Judging panel’s discretion. In rare cases, the Judges may choose not to select awardees.

Resources for Proposal Authors