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Agricultural emissions alliance forged in ink

It’s no big secret that agricultural emissions are a big problem in New Zealand, with close to 50 percent of them coming from methane and nitrous oxide from the pastoral farming industry alone. In developing nations, the number sits at a much more measly 10 percent. So when the New Zealand-led Global Research Alliance (GRA) on agricultural greenhouse gases (GHG) was launched as part of Copenhagen climate talks back in 2009, it was welcomed by many, including the Green Party of New Zealand. And late last week the GRA got an extra boost times two. At a ministerial Summit in Rome more than 30 countries officially signed the GRA and the Government also took the opportunity to announce it will set up a $25 million fund to support research on mitigating GHG emissions from pastoral farming.  

Bringing together countries with a mutual interest in researching ways to produce more food while reducing GHG emissions, the inaugural ministerial meeting to formally approve the Charter was chaired by International Climate Change Negotiations Minister, Tim Groser. Leading the Kiwi delegation was Agriculture Minister David Carter. 

Groser says that since New Zealand and 20 other countries launched the GRA in Copenhagen, another dozen countries have come on board. 

“Agriculture plays a vital role in food security, poverty reduction and sustainable development,” says Groser. “But the sector is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as well as facing the challenge of increasing global food demand while reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.” 

For his part, Carter is keen to champion New Zealand’s significant investment in the Alliance and says New Zealand is doing so by hosting the Alliance secretariat and the co-leadership of the Alliance’s Livestock Research Group, and through funding of emissions-mitigation research, particularly for pastoral livestock production systems. 

The $25 million pledged by the Government forms part of that emissions-mitigation research. It draws from a fund of $45 million which was committed by New Zealand in 2009, with the total amount to be allocated over a four-year period.  

“This Fund will focus on innovative solutions to help reduce emissions while producing more food, a significant challenge faced by farming systems both in New Zealand and around the world,” says Carter. 

“There is no silver bullet for reducing emissions from livestock. Only by partnering with other countries can we make the scientific breakthroughs that we need.” 

There are currently 34 Alliance Member countries, as follows:Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vietnam. 

Speaking at the summit, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney pledged Irish support to the Alliance and said the country is already one of the leading countries when it comes to conducting agricultural GHG orientated research.  

“We fully support the aim of the Alliance to focus on research, development and extension of technologies and practices that will help to reduce the emission intensity of agricultural production and increase carbon sequestration through improving the efficiency, productivity, resilience and adaptive capacity of agricultural systems. We recognise the importance of research and science in efforts to meet these challenges and the important role the Global Research Alliance can play in this regard.”