Sunday, April 05, 2009

FAO pushes soil C at Bonn before Copenhagen

The push is on to get Agriculture a fair deal under Kyoto, to replace the "dud" deal our Government is anxious to impose on us through the CPRS, an unjust and destructive deal that all the Australian commentators and experts have endorsed by their silence. (See separate post.)

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a Washington-based think-tank, have called for greater emphasis on agriculture at the talks in Bonn, Germany. The talks are preliminary to negotiating a deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.

"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 Alexander Mueller, FAO Assistant Director-General told delegates in Bonn.

In recent years it has been recognised that Agriculture has been treated poorly by the Euro-centric, renewables-focussed Kyoto Protocols which include absurd provisions such as the requirement that countries wanting to count their soil carbon sequestration must also account for non-anthropogenic sources of CO2 emissions such as bushfire and drought. This contradicts the purpose of the Protocols. No voices were raised against this blatant blockage, until Australia put in a mildly-worded request to the IPCC last year.

But the United Nations' Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has launched an assault on the barriers to Agriculture's involvement, concerned for the world's Food Security under Climate Change and the capacity of small peasant farmers to adapt.

Climate change will affect food production in developing countries. The FAO has projected a drop in cereal production for 2009 partly on account of adverse weather.

Agriculture has been off the agenda because governments have neglected it, says Rene Gommes, coordinator of the climate change and bio-energy division at FAO. Governments shied away from situations "where you need rubber boots and a shovel. We [FAO] are not a party [to the talks], but the governments are, and they do not raise it." As well, it is much easier to monitor 1,500 US coal-fired power plants than several million smallholder farmers. Agriculture is also seen as difficult sector for climate change mitigation because of its sheer size, a FAO briefing paper commented. The attention of governments would be drawn more readily if it were easy to source funds for agriculture-based mitigation projects. But any mitigation project needs to meet stringent monitoring, evaluation, reporting, verification, and certification requirements under the protocol. But how do you monitor and evaluate a subsistence farmer's small patch of land?

But the operations of the IPCC also work against Agriculture: "Current global funding arrangements, like the CDM, are inadequate and not providing sufficient incentives for farmers to get involved in climate change mitigation and adaptation," said Alexander Mueller, FAO Assistant Director-General. "For example, soil carbon sequestration [retaining carbon in soil], through which nearly 90 percent of agriculture's climate change mitigation potential could be realized, is outside the scope of the [CDM]," he added.

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