Portuguese agriculture and the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions—can vegetables control livestock emissions?

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One of the most serious externalities of agricultural activity relates to greenhouse gas emissions. This work tests this relationship for the Portuguese case by examining data compiled since 1961. Employing cointegration techniques and vector error correction models (VECMs), we conclude that the evolution of the most representative vegetables and fruits in Portuguese production are associated with higher controls on the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions. Reversely, the evolution of the output levels of livestock and the most representative animal production have significantly increased the level of CO2 (carbon dioxide) reported in Portugal. We also analyze the cycle length of the long-term relationship between agricultural activity and greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, we highlight the case of synthetic fertilizers, whose values of CO2 have quickly risen due to changes in Portuguese vegetables, fruit, and animal production levels.

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Change history

  • 26 July 2017

    An erratum to this article has been published.


  1. 1.

    In Brazil, the growth process has not followed the typical pattern in which agriculture loses importance in favor of industry and services. The major explanation for this anomaly is associated with the capital intensity and productivity in the Brazilian agricultural sector (Spolador and Roe 2013). In Indian society, agriculture still accounts for approximately 58% of the active labor force. A balanced and sustainable economic growth pattern in India depends on the modernization of the agricultural sector and the consequent release of labor for other economic sectors through processes of technological intensification on the farms (Birthal et al. 2011).

  2. 2.

    Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) may be converted to CO2eq through conversion coefficients by considering the contribution of each gas for the global warming potential, where CO2 = 1, CH4 = 21, and N2O = 310 (GPP 2011b). Waste burning is related to vegetal residues such as the branches resulting from tree pruning.

  3. 3.

    Following Neuhaus (2006, p. 122), we must conclude that under a valid cointegration relationship, there is no serious issue with multicollinearity or endogeneity among the regressors. However, we ran tests on the multicollinearity of the independent variables of the six equations exhibited here and obtained variance inflation factors below 10 (favoring the hypothesis of non-multicollinearity). We also ran Durbin-Hausman-Hu tests on our six long-term equations and determined an absence of endogenous threats. Full details are available upon request.

  4. 4.

    For this statistics, we considered the values obtained for the Schwarz’s Bayesian information criterion (SBIC). Full results are available upon request.

  5. 5.

    Aguiar and Santos (2007), Seixas et al. (2008), Borrego et al. (2009), and Pereira et al. (2014) are some of the works favoring the use of these controls.

  6. 6.

    For a comprehensive discussion on “Granger causality tests” and their meanings, follow Stern (2011).

  7. 7.

    Full explanations related to the interpretation of error correction terms in VECM can be obtained in Engle and Granger (1987) and Campbell and Shiller (1988).


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Vítor Domingues Martinho.

Additional information

The authors acknowledge the suggestions provided by two anonymous reviewers of ‘Environmental Science and Pollution Research’ and by the participants at the “Management International Conference” (in Portoroz 2015) and at the Conference “Economics, Economic Policies and Sustainable Growth in the Wake of the Crisis” (in Ancona 2016), in which a previous version of this paper has been discussed. Remaining limitations are authors’ exclusive ones. The authors acknowledge, also, the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) through the project PEst-OE/CED/UI4016/2014 and the Center for Studies in Education, Technologies and Health (CI&DETS).

An erratum to this article is available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-9780-0.

Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Mourao, P.R., Domingues Martinho, V. Portuguese agriculture and the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions—can vegetables control livestock emissions?. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 16107–16119 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-9257-1

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  • Agricultural externalities
  • Greenhouse gas emission
  • Portugal