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FAO launches new climate change mitigation programme

Finland is the first country to contribute

Photo: ©FAO/Plant Production and Protection Division
Conservation agriculture. Crop residues or a cover crop conserve soil moisture, protect from erosion, adds organic matter, fixes nitrogen and helps suppress weeds.
8 December 2009, Rome – Finland is the first country to contribute to a $60 million FAO programme to support climate change mitigation in agriculture in developing countries. 

The multi-donor programme aims to promote sustainable low-emission agriculture in developing countries over the coming five years, in partnership with countries and other relevant organizations. 

Finland will provide an initial support of around $3.9 million for the period of 2010-2011, FAO announced today in the context of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. FAO will approach other donors for further funding. 

Agriculture is a key source of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for 14%. But the sector also has a high potential to reduce greenhouse gases by removing CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering it in soils and plants and by reducing its own emissions. 

“The overall challenge we are facing is to transform the technical mitigation potential of agriculture into reality,” said Alexander Müller, FAO Assistant Director-General. 

“Many suitable technologies and farming practices to sequester carbon in smallholder agriculture already exist.  These include practices used in conservation and organic agriculture, based on no/low tillage, utilizing residues for composting or mulching, use of perennial crops to cover soil, re-seeding or improving grazing management on grasslands and agroforestry, which combines crops and trees.  Nearly 90 percent of agriculture's potential to reduce or remove emissions from the atmosphere comes from such practices. These practices are also known to have a positive impact on hunger and poverty reduction. However, barriers to adoption of these technologies and practices is a key challenge that needs to be overcome. The programme aims to unlock the enormous mitigation potential of agriculture.”

The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs underlined that the effects of climate change on agricultural production and on the rural population are becoming increasingly evident, especially in the developing countries. Rural development, food security and climate change are all top priorities of Finland's Development Policy. This new programme is able to integrate all the relevant dimensions in a sustainable way, giving every country the needed capabilities to develop their agricultureal sector, increase their food security and mitigate climate change at the same time.

In order to address key drivers of carbon emissions, there is a need need to focus on the agriculture-forests interface to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation as well as agriculture in a mutually supportive way. The decision of the Finnish contribution was made by Dr Paavo Vayrynen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland.

The programme will create a global database on current and projected GHG emissions in land and agriculture for the most important agricultural commodities, countries and regions. There are currently no data on GHG emissions from individual agricultural commodities by country or by region available.

The programme will also assess various financing and crediting arrangements to incentivize adoption of agricultural practices that reduce/remove emissions  and to enhance agricultural productivity. FAO will support the development of carbon measuring, reporting and verifying  methodologies.  An important element will be to involve farmers in mitigation actions and build capacity at national, regional and local level to realise the mitigation potential.  

Pilot projects will be set up in five countries with national partners to test emission reduction and soil carbon sequestration in different farming systems and ecological zones, analyze the economics of mitigation for farm households and the effects on production and productivity. “Farmers will only participate in climate change mitigation if it is economically feasible and attractive for them,” noted Mr Müller .