A must read for Biofuel searcher.. New Release of Biofuel Secrets ..A must read for for every US voter and concerned citizen.. challenges the reader to explore new possibilities and new mindsets that will ultimately be required if the world is truly ready to make a change.. amazon.com US only1.
Copenhagen could lead to increase in intensive farming
14th December, 2009
All sectors must play their part in a global emissions deal, but could including agriculture in the mix lead to an intensification of farming and money for GM crops?On Saturday 12 December, Copenhagen University hosted a meeting of the biggest names on the global agriculture scene; the Food Agriculture Organisation of the UN, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, who all came together to discuss one thing: what does Copenhagen mean for agriculture?
Despite coming up with little in the way of concrete demands to present to the conference centre delegates, the meeting did highlight what could potentially be the make-or-break deal that seals Copenhagen's place in history: a decision on whether agriculture - or more specifically soil carbon sequestration - will be eligible for carbon trading under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) funding scheme.
Soil for sale
For a sector which the IPCC says is responsible for fully one-third of combined global greenhouse gas emissions, and as an industry charged with achieving cuts in the region of 800 megatonnes of carbon per year while at the same time doubling productivity to feed 9bn people by 2050, agriculture has played a surprisingly low-key role in negotiations so far.
This partly because the science is controversial. Ever since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit the potential of mitigation through agricultural services has been dogged by the lack of scientific consensus on mitigation figures. In 2007, however the IPCC recognised that the world's soils have the potential to sequester an estimated 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year, opening the doors for agriculture's carbon-trading proponents to flood in.
And flood they have. Within the past two years, the UNFCCC has been lobbied by successive international organisations, governments and private companies - from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to Monsanto and the House of Saud - falling over themselves in anticipation of what trade in soil carbon credits could ultimately mean for their bottom lines.
And who can blame them? In 2008 4.9bn tonnes of CO2 were traded globally, an 83 per-cent increase on 2007 levels. With carbon trading tipped as the next boom economy, the world's 1.6bn hectares of cultivated land represent a mouth watering opportunity for future investors. It is estimated that the US could see an annual gross revenue of over $100bn from domestic carbon offsets alone, nearly 50 per-cent of its current agricultural GDP.
Farming under the UN
So what would the 'agricultural methods' recognised by the CDM as eligible for carbon credits look like? Subsidies for reducing the use of fossil fuels in agriculture perhaps, or for adopting organic farming? It seems unlikely.
Helena Paul from the public interest and scientific research organisation Econexus, which has recently released a policy document - Agriculture and Climate Change; Real Problems, False Solutions - summarises what's on the table this week:
'Firstly, some want no-till agriculture to be included in carbon trading, including the CDM, claiming soil carbon emissions are reduced by not tilling the soil. In reality however, the majority of no-till is carried out by large-scale producers using GM herbicide tolerant crops in combination with applications of herbicide, plus chemical fertilisers and insecticides.
'Secondly, biochar, which is basically charcoal, has been proposed as a method of locking the carbon from biomass into the soil. However, apart from doubts about its effectiveness at large and small scale, especially in the longterm, this would require immense plantations as a source of biomass for the charcoal. These would also feed the market for biofuel as a co-product, offering double subsidies but also twice the incentive for destruction of forests and biodiversity.
'Thirdly, some also propose further intensification of livestock farming, saying that emissions can be significantly reduced through housing stock and "managing" manure to produce biogas. Once again it is big industrial producers that already benefit to the exclusion of the small.'
Carbon money to fund GM
Among the most controversial suggestions currently under consideration is the possibility of awarding carbon credits for growing GM crops.
The biotech industry is keen to highlight the potential of GMOs to cut emissions through claimed higher yields. The industry is also lobbying strongly against plans to prohibit patents on genetic resources that are considered essential to climate change adaptation.
At present it is estimated that around six per-cent of CDM funding goes to agricultural services, however this funding is, as Helena points out, intrinsically biased towards large-scale operators. In 2007 for example 90 per-cent of all CDM projects approved in Malaysia were awarded to palm oil monocultures, while in Mexico over half of all CDM funding is claimed by industrial swine units producing biogas from manure.
Some believe that a decision by the the UN to include soil carbon in its remit will be met by an explosion of the intensive farming systems best suited to exploit it. They fear that such a scenario - which could see the UN pour $1.5bn of funding into further intensification scheme - could have serious consequences, barely 18-months on from a global food crisis that pushed an estimated 90m people into food poverty worldwide.
Ed Hamer is a freelance journalist specialising in agriculture and globalisation issues. He is reporting from the Copenhagen climate summit
Copenhagen: peasant farmers can save the planet
15th December, 2009
Carbon reduction potential of ecological farming methods is highlighted at Copenhagen, as protests against industrial agriculture gather strengthSmall-scale peasant farmers from the global South are not just among the first to suffer the impacts of climate change: they also offer the most realistic solution to the climate crisis.
This was the message delivered to delegates and minister at the COP15 negotiations by the international peasant movement La Via Campesina today.
Speaking at the UNFCCC conference center, Henry Saragih, La Via Campesina's international coordinator, urged heads of state to recognise the role peasant agriculture can play in mitigating climate change while at the same time addressing food security.
'More than 150 peasant farmers have come to Copenhagen to claim that a radical change in the food system can reduce current global emissions from between 50-75 per-cent,' he said. 'We are not begging for carbon credits or other trade based solutions; we advocate a diverse food system that supports local markets and ultimately promotes food sovereignty.'
According to the La Via Campesina: 'Global warming has been taking place for decades but it has been only recently, once transnational corporations have been able to set up huge money-making schemes, that we hear about possible solutions designed and controlled by big companies and backed up by governments.'
Ecological approach needed
Current agricultural production is estimated to contribute 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than double that of its nearest rival, transport, at 13.5 per cent. Via Campesina argues however that simply rebuilding soil fertility to pre-industrial levels has the potential to sequester up to 330bn tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.
'This could realistically be achieved through the ecological approach to agriculture which is already used by millions of peasant farmers across the world,' said Henry Saragih, 'however, the positive contribution of sustainable farming to the climate, the environment and employment has so far been overlooked by the Climate talks.'
Via Campesina's claims are supported by a recent report by the agricultural NGO GRAIN which calculates that sustainable farming techniques could progressively increase soil organic matter by 60 tonnes/hectare over the next 50 years. Soil organic matter has been recognised by, among others, the IPCC as a significant sink for sequestering atmospheric carbon.
Responding to the role of agriculture in the talks, Jonathan Scurlock, the chief climate change advisor to the NFU said:
'A climate deal without agriculture is "No Deal". Agriculture is where poverty reduction, food security and climate change intersect and we all want it included in the Copenhagen agreement. Much of the fine detail can await further development by the UN's subsidiary bodies.'
Petrol station shut down
Meanwhile, half a mile away from the conference centre, more than 600 farmers, activists, landless peasants and young people from around the world converged for a demonstration calling for politicians to 'change the food system, not the climate!'.
'Green-washed' rubbish was dumped outside the headquarters of Danish supermarket giant Danisco to highlight the superficial greening of large food retailers. An action outside the Danish Meat Council drew attention to Denmark's dependence upon imported soya and cereals to feed its 800,000 intensively farmed pigs.
The demonstration culminated in shutting down one of Copenhagen's central petrol stations. The protest was aimed at EU legislation introduced in 2007 requiring pump petrol and diesel to contain at least 10 per-cent biofuels by 2020. 'Agrofuels have been championed by agribusiness as a solution to climate change, however this is not the case,' said Marie Smekens, representing the European youth movement, Reclaim the Fields.
'By supporting large scale cereal farming, agrofuels directly encourage mechanisation and dependence on fossil fuel based fertilisers and pesticides - which are responsible for agriculture's massive carbon footprint. Demand for agrofuels is already competing for land that would otherwise be used for food production, in turn this results in a direct increase in food imports and carbon emissions.'
Despite the G77 group of developing nations staging a temporary walk-out on Monday in protest at the lack of concessions being made by G20 countries, negotiations have resumed today. While many still expect the conference to deliver a 'statement of intent' by Friday, the contributions of both small-scale and industrial agriculture in any agreement are likely to remain contentious.
Ed Hamer is a freelance journalist specialising in agriculture and globalisation issues. He is reporting from Copenhagen