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Climate change and farming

Agriculture is responsible for about 30% of total global Greenhouse Gas emissions. These are produced by:

· fossil fuel use
· flattening forests to grow food
· releasing the carbon dioxide trapped in soil
· raising non-organic livestock, such as cows

But agriculture has a huge potential to create Greenhouse Gas savings. Restocking soil with just a fraction of the carbon content we’ve stripped from it in recent decades could make a significant cut in emissions.

Negotiators gathered in Copenhagen for climate change talks suggest that farmers should be paid to sequester carbon in the soil. This is an extension of a scheme which already exists that protects forests by putting a price on carbon saved by not chopping them down.

But there’s no guarantee that farmers would be either willing or able to participate in carbon trading, and research has shown that forest protection scheme only has short-term benefits for subsistence farmers or foresters.

Dr. Tom MacMillan, executive director of the Food Ethics Council says:

“Farmers have always been weather watchers; now they’re the ones under scrutiny. What comes out of Copenhagen will affect farmers, but whether it will benefit them is open to question.”

“Everyone agrees we need to cut carbon emissions. But carbon trading is no silver bullet – it favors the larger players in agriculture, including multinational companies and governments, not small-scale farmers.”

“Government policies on agriculture and climate that take the needs of the world’s poor into account, and a global commitment to promote sustainable consumption are key.”

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