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UN agency calls for inclusion of farming in talks on new climate change treaty

UN agency calls for inclusion of farming in talks on new climate change treaty

Farmers control soil erosion through crop cultivation
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today urged policy makers gathered in Germany to include farming in their negotiations on an ambitious new international greenhouse gas reduction pact which will replace the Kyoto Protocol.

More than 2,000 delegates from government, business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions, are meeting in Bonn, for the first of a series of three sessions designed to culminate in a draft climate change treaty for discussion at the high-level UN-backed conference in Copenhagen in December.

Crop production and livestock release large amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, including methane from cattle and wetlands, nitrous oxide from fertilizer use and carbon from deforestation and soil degradation, according to a news release issued by FAO.

The agency warned that annual greenhouse gas emissions from farming – already accounting of 14 per cent of the world’s discharge while another 17 per cent comes from deforestation and soil degradation – are expected to increase in coming decades due to a rise in demand for food and shifts in diet.

“But millions of farmers around the globe could also become agents of change helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Alexander Mueller, FAO Assistant Director-General on the occasion of the ongoing UN negotiations.

By keeping higher levels of carbon in the soil – a process known as “carbon sequestration” – farmers can help reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, enhance the soil’s resilience and boost crop yields, according to FAO.

“Agricultural land is able to store and sequester carbon. Farmers that live off the land, particularly in poor countries, should therefore be involved in carbon sequestration to mitigate the impact of climate change,” said Mr. Mueller, who also noted that farmers and their families, particularly in poorer countries, will become victims of climate change.

Farmers can alleviate agriculture’s contribution to climate change by reducing tillage, increasing organic soil matter and soil cover, improving grassland management, restoring degraded lands, planting trees, altering forage and by sustainable use of animal genetic diversity, using fertilizer more efficiently, and improving water management.

However, Mr. Mueller said, “Current global funding arrangements, like the Clean Development Mechanism [CDM] under the Kyoto Protocol, are inadequate and are not offering sufficient incentives for farmers to get involved in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“For example, soil carbon sequestration, through which nearly 90 per cent of agriculture’s climate change mitigation potential could be realized, is outside the scope of the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol. Neither climate change mitigation, nor food security, nor sustainable development, benefit from this exclusion.”