17 Dec 2009

Farming research group wins backing at Copenhagen

11:12 pm on 17 December 2009

The Government is providing $45 million in funding for a research network to reduce carbon emissions from farming.

The New Zealand-led initiative, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, has won the backing of 20 other countries at the Copenhagen talks, including the United States and Canada.

The announcement was made after the alliance held its first meeting in Copenhagen, on the sidelines of the climate change conference.

A total of $150 million has been pledged for the research.

The group aims to develop farming approaches and technology to reduce emissions from livestock, cropping and rice production.

The alliance began four months ago, initially involving scientists from New Zealand, the United States and India.

Following months of lobbying by former and current agriculture ministers, 16 other countries including Australia, Canada, Japan and eight European nations have signed up as well.

Associate climate change minister Tim Groser says the setting up of the alliance is a significant achievement for New Zealand.

He says the relationship between agricultural output and the growth in greenhouse gas is the most overlooked issue in climate change.

Alliance welcomed

Oxfam New Zealand says the establishment of the alliance is a welcome long-term initiative and it hopes the results will be available to small holder farmers in the developing world who are struggling with the effects of climate change.

Executive director Barry Coates says it's important the knowledge gets to those who most need it.

Federated Farmers' Don Nicholson told Morning Report the organisation welcomes the establishment of the alliance but he was relucant to say whether private sector money would be put into it.

The Labour Party says the alliance is a missed opportunity for New Zealand researchers.

The party's climate change spokesperson, Charles Chauvel, says sharing research through the global network could lead to the loss of valuable intellectual property to other countries.

But the Green Party fully supports the alliance and MP Jeanette Fitzsimons says now is not the time to be precious about rights to research.

Free ride seen for pastoral sector

Meanwhile, an enviromental group says the pastoral sector is getting a free ride from the Government over the Global Alliance.

The Sustainability Council says the alliance is a good initiative but the sector should be contributing to the fund instead of relying on the Government to pay for research it will benefit most from.

Executive director Simon Terry says there are proven technologies already available to reduce the emissions, which farmers are not taking up.