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France plans to lobby for a deal on farming during the international climate negotiations it is hosting in December — a move that could boost funding for agricultural research in developing countries.

Laurence Tubiana, a French climate negotiator, told participants at the Climate-Smart Agriculture conference in Montpellier, France, last week (16-18 March) that she would lobby countries at COP 21 (the 21st Conference of the Parties) in Paris to commit to cutting carbon emissions by improving farming technology.

“If the French government lives up to its promise to make agriculture part of the solution, that is our agenda.”

Frank Rijsberman, Global research partnership CGIAR

COP 21 should also focus on the science and technologies farmers will need for climate change adaptation, said Tubiana, who is director of France’s Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

“The objective for Paris would be to have a work programme in agriculture and a mention of how agriculture and food security can be addressed through mitigation and adaptation,” she told delegates.

The COP summits are international meetings under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at which countries agree national carbon reduction or mitigation plans. Increasingly, rich countries are committing research funding to help low-income countries put their plans into action. One example is the UN Green Climate Fund, for which more than US$10 billion has been pledged so far.

A 2012 study in Annual Review of Environment and Resources found that global farming releases as much as 16,900 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gases a year. The researchers concluded that agriculture is responsible for up to 29 per cent of global emissions.

In comparison, existing technologies such as carbon sequestering could remove four per cent of global carbon emissions a year, the paper says. But even scaling up to this level would require more political will, Frank Rijsberman, chief executive of global research partnership CGIAR, told delegates.

Undisturbed soil removes carbon from the atmosphere, so ‘climate-smart’ agriculture, which aims to grow more on less space, can help retain carbon in the soil while helping farmers adapt to climate change, the conference heard. This can be done by providing better weather information and funding research on new seeds and farming technologies, speakers agreed.

At the COP20 meeting in Lima, Peru, last December, scientists were warning that the impact of agriculture on climate is being ignored. Andy Jarvis of the International Center of Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) told Scidev.Net at the time that “the science community is very concerned that agriculture is not part of the new agreement’s negotiations”.

“We would have to see in Paris a real commitment from government to increase investment in research,” Rijsberman told delegates in Montpelier.

Developed countries also need to spend more on assessing existing adaptation and mitigation strategies, and on rolling out innovative technologies, according to a joint statement produced at the end of the conference.

This should consider the entire food production system, including food preparation and packaging, it says.

“As researchers, we are ready,” Rijsberman said. “If the French government lives up to its promise to make agriculture part of the solution, that is our agenda.”

>Link to the statement from the Montpellier conference

>Link to the study abstract in Annual Review of Environment and Resources