UN agency creates tool to mitigate agriculture’s contribution to global warming

15 February 2011

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has initiated a programme to improve global information on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and accurately assess farming’s potential to mitigate global warming.

The improved data acquired by the FAO Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture (MICCA) programme, which will receive $5 million in funding from Germany and Norway, will be made available via an online global knowledge base that will profile greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and identify best opportunities for mitigating global warming through improved farming practices.

“Data variations in existing assessments, as well as information gaps, pose a real challenge in terms of making the most of the agriculture sector’s significant potential to sequester atmospheric carbon,” said Marja-Liisa Tapio-Bistrom, the coordinator of the MICCA programme.

According to FAO, having access to improved data will give governments, development planners, farmers and agribusinesses a tool they can use to access international funding for mitigation projects and design and implement policies, programmes and practices intended to reduce agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions and increase the amount of carbon sequestered on farms.

“Climate-smart” farming practices can increase productivity and improve resilience to changing weather and climate patterns, while reducing greenhouse gas missions, the agency added.

“We are extremely grateful to the governments of Norway and Germany for supporting this work,” said Alexander Mueller, FAO Assistant-Director General for Natural Resources.

“The data we are working together to assemble is fundamental for the effort to shift food production to the climate smart model. The more information we have on emissions from specific farming systems, the more effective the policies countries will be able to put into place to encourage that transition,’ he added.

Norway’s contribution to the project totals around $3 million, while Germany is contributing $2 million.

Agriculture accounts for about 14 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, equal to 6.8 gigatonnes of carbon equivalent. The sector has great potential to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and sequester large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, FAO said.

According to estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), soil carbon sequestration – through improved cropland and grazing land management, as well as the restoration of degraded lands – offers the greatest potential in agriculture for climate change mitigation.

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