Global alliance formed to combat climate change

by Bryan Salvage
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COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — The Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, an international research collaborative to combat climate change, was announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. He joined representatives from 20 other countries in making this announcement at the climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Countries that have agreed to participate in the G.R.A. include: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, U.S., Uruguay and Vietnam.

The G.R.A. will focus on research, development and extension of technologies and practices to grow more food (and more climate-resilient food systems) without growing greenhouse gas emissions. This will be accomplished through partnerships among researchers in participating countries with the purpose of developing new knowledge and technologies that can be transferred to farmers and other land and resource managers around the globe.

No single nation has all of the resources needed to tackle agricultural greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time enhancing food production and food security, Mr. Vilsack said. "We will not only pool our talents and existing resources but draw new resources, and even new scientists, to better understand climate change in an agricultural context and in so doing tackle one of the most important international issues of our time."

Agriculture currently produces 14% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions, U.S.D.A. claims. Agriculture will be faced in the coming decades with the challenges of reducing its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions plus meeting a dramatic increase in global food demand.

During the past 50 years, research on agricultural production and energy efficiency in the U.S. has cut in half the energy used per unit of agricultural output helping to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of agriculture.

U.S.D.A. will expand agricultural climate change mitigation research by $90 million and contribute this research to the Global Research Alliance (G.R.A.) over the next four years. The increase will raise U.S.D.A.'s agricultural climate change mitigation research portfolio to more than $130 million over the next four years, up from a base level of funding of just more than $10 million in FY 2009.

U.S.D.A. said its enhanced commitment is part of a larger increase on climate-change research at the agency. In total, the agency expects to invest more than $320 million in the next four years on climate change mitigation and adaptation research for agriculture.

U.S.D.A. will support the participation of developing countries in the G.R.A. through the Borlaug Fellowship program granting Borlaug Fellowships to researchers from Alliance member developing countries so they can work together with agency scientists on climate change mitigation research.

Anticipated products of the worldwide scientific collaboration include cost-effective and accurate ways of measuring greenhouse gas emissions and carbon stored in soil; new farming practices that reduce emissions and increase carbon storage in farmland in different countries; and farming methods that sustain yields while helping to mitigate climate change, U.S.D.A. relays.

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