Agriculture cutbacks needed to meet climate targets

  • 17/05/2016
Agriculture cutbacks needed to meet climate targets

By Paul Purcell

Current agricultural greenhouse gas reduction strategies can only deliver between 21 to 40 percent of the mitigation required to meet the targets set in The Paris Agreement.

Global greenhouse gases will need to be reduced by around one billion tonnes per year until 2030 in order to limit climate change to below a two degree increase on pre-industrial levels.

However, focusing emission reductions primarily on the transport and energy sectors is not enough to meet that commitment and the agricultural industry is short on options.

Even if the transport and energy sectors reduce emissions to near zero, it would be insufficient according to a study released by Global Change Biology on Tuesday afternoon.

New Zealand scientist and co-author of the study Dr Andy Reisinger says while more than 100 countries have indicated they want to reduce agricultural emissions, few have a clear plan how to do so.

"For many developing countries, food security, not greenhouse gas mitigation, is an overriding concern," Dr Reisinger said.

"There are important synergies between increasing the productivity and efficiency of their farm systems and reducing the emissions per unit of food they produce."

"The more we can engage those countries in a conversation that encompasses both those elements, the better we can ensure that there is enough food to feed the planet without putting the planet itself at serious risk."

Presently, available interventions would only deliver between 21 to 40 percent of the mitigation required.

Even with efficiency improvements, new solutions are required to reduce emissions while still providing food security with New Zealand government-funded research underway.

This includes identifying lower emitting animals for targeted breeding, developing animal-safe compounds that can suppress methane production in the rumen of animals among others.

Around one third of New Zealand's greenhouse gas production comes from livestock.