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Agriculture emerges from COP26 with focus on methane and innovation

The USDA would work with farmers to reduce agricultural emissions of methane, said the White House in describing the domestic impact of the UN climate summit in Scotland. The United States also is a leader in the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate, designed to accelerate breakthroughs in climate-smart farm production.

More than 100 nations signed the Global Methane Pledge to reduce emissions of the potent greenhouse gas by 30% by the end of this decade from 2020 levels. Methane breaks down relatively quickly, in a decade or so, but traps far more heat than carbon dioxide, making it an attractive target for climate mitigation in the near term. The Biden administration plans a broad attack on methane emissions, including updated rules on emissions by the oil and gas industry.

For methane from agriculture, the administration said it would expand on “important and impactful incentive-based and voluntary partnership programs,” such as capturing and using methane for renewable energy on the farm. Agriculture accounts for 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and methane, associated with livestock production, comprises 36% of ag emissions.

Nations showered pledges on the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate, quickly meeting the initial goal of $4 billion to invest in increased agricultural production and incomes while adapting to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The United States was “planning to mobilize $1 billion over five years,” said the White House. More than 30 countries and 45 nongovernmental entities were part of the initiative, launched by the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new goal for AIM for Climate was $8 billion by the time the 2022 climate summit convenes.

“Agriculture is not part of the problem, it is part of the solution,” said Vilsack during a teleconference at the end of the first week of the summit in Scotland. The administration’s social welfare and climate change bill, awaiting a vote in the House, “would essentially provide rocket fuel” to USDA’s climate mitigation proposals. But, he noted, “We can do all of it today” with existing funds.

Also at the summit, countries pledged to reduce deforestation to zero by 2030.

For a White House fact sheet on results of the climate summit, click here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.

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