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11 December 2002
A joint New Zealand and Australia workshop held over the past two days in Christchurch has identified a range of research priorities for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from agriculture and land management.
Both countries share similar issues in emissions of greenhouse gases from agriculture and both have economies heavily dependent on agricultural production. In New Zealand over half of total greenhouse emissions are a by-product of agricultural production and in Australia 20 percent of emissions are likewise from agriculture. Both countries have a deserved reputation for world-class agricultural research and there are real benefits for both countries to work more closely on addressing this issue.
The workshop was co-sponsored by the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, New Zealand's Primary Industries Council, and the Australian Greenhouse Office. Some of the world's foremost scientists in agricultural methane and nitrous oxide research came together for this workshop. It provided opportunities for New Zealand and Australian scientists, and scientists from Canada, US, UK, the Netherlands, Norway and Brazil to share up-to-date approaches, and the most recent scientific and technological knowledge.
The workshop was timely as it coincided with a new phase in the New Zealand climate change programme, with the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the New Zealand Prime Minister last night. The New Zealand Government has identified research to reduce agricultural emissions as a key part of its policy to meet New Zealand's commitments to reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.
It also is timely for Australia, providing advice to the development of the Forward Strategy for Greenhouse and Climate Change - which is to set directions for greenhouse and climate change in Australia over the next 20 years. Last Thursday, the Australian Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovations Committee recommended to the Australian Cabinet the need for greater research into agricultural emissions. The outcomes of the workshop provide directions for the way forward.
Joint research developed at the workshop covers areas that are both common to Australia and New Zealand, as well as areas that are specific to the needs of each country individually. For instance, New Zealand hill country offers unique challenges for measuring and reducing nitrous oxide emissions. Australia's cropping systems and extensive rangelands offer different challenges. But in many ways, the scientific approach needed to address all opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are similar.
This workshop represents a real practical opportunity for closer partnership between the two countries to jointly explore ways to reduce emissions. Also coming out of the workshop both countries have identified science network co-ordinators and opportunities for future collaboration.
Michael Jebson, MAF Policy