High demand for New Zealand funded international agri-science scholarships

The latest winners of a New Zealand and CCAFS-funded international PhD scholarship have been announced following a three-fold increase in applications.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw say the increased demand clearly demonstrates the value countries place in the programme, which provides scientific solutions to reduce greenhouse gases in food production.

A total of 212 applicants from more than 50 countries applied, compared to 65 applicants from 23 countries in the previous round earlier this year.

Students will research rumen microbiology, rice production, soil science, and rangeland management, among other topics.

“The strong interest in the scholarships reflects the global desire to ensure food production systems are economically and environmentally sustainable in the face of an ever hungrier world,” Damien O’Connor said.

“The range of scientific disciplines and diversity of production systems covered by the scholarships highlights the complexity of the challenge of tackling greenhouse gases from food production.

“As an agricultural economy, New Zealand understands the importance of getting this right and the vital role that science will play. Many around the world are now looking at what agricultural expertise can deliver in terms of low-emissions food production to feed the world’s growing population.” 

Twenty-seven scholarships will be awarded to students from 17 countries who will be hosted by institutions in 15 countries, with winners announced at the UN climate talks in Poland, where Minister Shaw is attending the final week of talks at COP24 with New Zealand’s delegation.

“We’re really pleased that New Zealand is able to support this vitally important programme,” says James Shaw.

“We also want to acknowledge the support of many of our fellow GRA members and partners, particularly CCAFS, for providing exciting opportunities for these students,” James Shaw said.

New Zealand provides core funding to support the scholarship programme, which allows early career scientists to undertake 4-6 month research exchanges at institutions of GRA members and partners, including CGIAR Centres.”

The PhD scholarship programme, CLIFF-GRADS, is a joint initiative of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases  – in which New Zealand has a leading role – and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Programme for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security .

Further details are at www.ccafs.cgiar.org/CLIFFGRADS and www.globalresearchalliance.org

Source:  Ministers of Agriculture and Climate Change

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The BERG report: ministers welcome agricultural sector’s work on emissions

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw have welcomed the report of the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG), which has been released today.

The report shows many farmers want to take action to reduce emissions, but need more information about what steps they can take.

It also shows if all farmers operated using today’s best practice, New Zealand may be able to reduce emissions by up to 10%. Continued funding for research into new, novel technologies will be important for reducing emissions further.

The Biological Emissions Reference Group Report is the culmination of two years of research into the opportunities, costs and barriers to reducing biological emissions in New Zealand’s primary industries.

The group is a joint agriculture industry-government working group of nine key organisations: Beef + Lamb NZ, DairyNZ, Deer Industry NZ, Federated Farmers, The Fertiliser Association of NZ, Fonterra, HortNZ, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and Ministry for the Environment (MfE).

In essence, BERG has looked at what lowering emissions means for the primary sector, said Damien O’Connor.

He thanked the group for taking on the challenge to help answer some big questions and said it had provided a comprehensive range of findings, from farmers’ perceptions of climate change through to views on the likelihood of new technologies being available to reduce emissions in future.

James Shaw said a key finding is that, overall, biological emissions in the future could potentially be reduced 10 – 21% by 2030 and – 48% by 2050.

That offered real hope to farmers and agricultural businesses which wanted to reduce emissions while maintaining productivity and profitability.

“It also offers real hope to a world that needs to expand food production for a growing global population but also needs to bring down climate pollution at the same time,” Mr Shaw said.

And it highlights the importance of clear government policies so farmers can make well-informed decisions about

Penny Nelson, deputy director general policy and trade at MPI, said the group saw the need for a good evidence base to support the sector to address some key climate challenges.

“Farmers were asking what practical things they can do to reduce their emissions. We needed to improve our shared understanding of the possible innovation and solutions, and the barriers standing in farmers’ way.”

Cheryl Barnes, deputy secretary, water and climate change at MFE, said it’s great that the agricultural sectors and government are working in partnership to provide information to inform discussion on these important issues.

The reference group commissioned nine new research projects. The work has already informed advice to the government on options for the 2050 emissions target, and will feed into future planning and policy. It has also been used by the Productivity Commission, the Interim Climate Change Committee, and industry.

The BERG plans to host an event in early 2019 to discuss the analysis and findings in more depth.

Source:  Ministers of Agriculture and Climate Change

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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International global warming report lays out the critical challenge

A special report on global warming, released today, has laid out a strong case for countries to make every effort to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, says the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw.

The special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that a host of climate-related risks – from sea level rise, to food and water supplies, security and health issues – will be worse if global temperatures rise to 2 degrees rather than 1.5 degrees.

The report also warns that the next two decades are crucial in limiting global warming to 1.5deg as opposed to 2deg.

The IPCC says it is likely that global warming will reach 1.5deg between 2030 and 2052, if warming continues at the current rate.

“The good news is that the IPCC’s report is broadly in line with this Government’s direction on climate change and it’s highly relevant to the work we are doing with the Zero Carbon Bill,” Mr Shaw said.

“The report shows the clear global benefits of maintaining efforts to limit global warming to 1.5oC.

“It says the goal is challenging but achievable but it also says that the pace of transition to low-emissions needs to step-up and be far reaching.”

Bronwyn Hayward, Associate Professor in Political Science at Canterbury University, was a Lead Author for the report.

Andy Reisinger, Deputy Director of the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre is a member of the IPCC Bureau.

New Zealand Government departments have reviewed drafts of the report.

A New Zealand delegation was present at IPCC talks on the report in South Korea last week.

LGNZ symposium to explore the challenges of climate change

Hard on the heels of the Productivity Commission publishing its report on the transitioning of New Zealand to a low-emissions economy,  Local Government New Zealand’s Climate Change Symposium in Wellington on Friday will discuss the challenges and opportunities of climate change facing New Zealand communities.

Supported by Deep South National Science Challenge, over 130 local government delegates, industry experts and central government officials will hear speakers discuss community engagement, options for adapting, adaptation funding, legal developments, and the importance of taking a linked approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation action.

“Local government has a critical role to play in ensuring that its communities are resilient to the impacts of climate change,” says LGNZ President Dave Cull.

“This symposium is an opportunity to explore the challenges of climate change adaptation and mitigation, solutions to those challenges and the work that councils across the country are doing to address climate change.”

The Climate Change Symposium’s 24 speakers go beyond science to include people such as Dr Huhana Smith, Head of School of Art, Massey University.

A full agenda can be found  here.

Mr Cull says:

“Discussions will feed into LGNZ’s Climate Change Project, which seeks to provides councils with an evidence base to support a comprehensive framework for risk reduction and/or retreat; a comprehensive adaptation plan for New Zealand; and a local government view on emission reduction targets and how to achieve these.”

The Productivity Commission report, released yesterday, recommended a suite of policy reforms to help drive the transition, including a ‘feebate’ scheme to increase the uptake of electric vehicles and introducing emissions standards for newly-registered vehicles.

The New Zealand Herald’s report highlighted the commission’s call for New Zealand to quickly stop burning fossil fuels, plant vast amounts of forest – and switch to greener agriculture.

The Productivity Commission’s final report on how the country can shift to a low-emissions economy also called for emissions standards for newly registered vehicles, a “feebate” scheme to boost the uptake of EVs, and putting a price on gases from farms.

The commission’s findings were largely in line with those laid out in its draft report in April – but with some stronger calls in areas such as emissions, energy, land use and transport.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw was quoted as saying the report highlighted many areas the Government was already working on, such as establishing an independent Climate Commission.

The Government would respond to the report’s 173 findings and 78 recommendations “over the coming months”, he said.

The Science Media Centre gathered expert commentary when the draft report was released.

Minister says the momentum is building for action on climate change

The Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, has welcomed an open letter from WWF-New Zealand which offers its congratulations on the Government’s goal of getting the country to net zero emissions by 2050.

Their support comes the day before public consultation on the proposed Zero Carbon Bill begins.

The letter has been signed by more than 200 people including business leaders from Z Energy, Les Mills gyms, DB Breweries, the Body Shop and Meridian Energy, as well as the mayors of Wellington, Whanganui, Christchurch, Gisborne and Auckland.

“Momentum is building for the Zero Carbon Bill and tomorrow the Government will begin a nationwide series of public meetings to hear peoples’ views, backed up with an interactive online engagement tool and some hefty policy analysis in a discussion document,” said James Shaw.

“The support we’re seeing for action on climate change shows that Kiwis don’t shy away from tackling the hard problems.

“We all know that making a plan for climate action now will pay off in the long term.

“Communities, businesses, farmers, iwi and ordinary New Zealanders up and down the country are already doing what they can to reduce emissions or are ready to get on board and help draw up our plan to reduce New Zealand’s impact on the climate.

“This is about doing our bit to ensure a stable climate for future generations and acting together with other countries to get climate change under control.”

The official process of consultation will begin tomorrow for everyone to have their say on the key components of the Government’s net zero emissions plan.

It would be cheering to know someone brings the attention of policy-makers to the nature of the research highlighted on the AgScience blog earlier today.

Source: Minister for Climate Change

Technical working group calls for urgent action on climate change

A report from the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group urges better planning and resourcing and strong leadership to prepare New Zealand for a warmer, wetter and wilder future.

The report, released today, makes 21 major recommendations as a starting point.

It says the Government should urgently set about first identifying what needs to be done and who does what along with undertaking a countrywide risk assessment to inform it.

It also suggests the Local Government Act 2002 be changed to specify climate change adaptation as a function of local government and arm local authorities with a clearer mandate.

Strong leadership is called for, too – the Government should make it clear to the public that climate change is a priority, from a review of policy and legislation to factoring climate impacts into government and council procurement processes.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw issued a press statement (HERE) to accompany the release of the recommendations.

The group’s Co-Chair, Dr Judy Lawrence, says in the statement that even if the world stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, our climate would still change for centuries.

“Previous emissions take time to show their impact and are long lasting. We are already seeing the effects of climate change with sea level rise, more floods and hotter temperatures and we can expect further losses and damage,” says Dr Lawrence.

“We need robust data to assess our risks and see where and who is most vulnerable and exposed. This will enable us to put a national plan into action which is independently monitored and reported on.

“Adaptation needs to be funded so that there are incentives for people and organisations to take adaptive action. All of this work needs to be supported by strong leadership.

“The group has conveyed its expectation that the government will put in place a coordinated set of measures. These will enable New Zealand to reduce its exposure and vulnerability to the changing climate.”

Mr Shaw said becoming climate-resilient was a significant challenge.

“But it’s clear from CCATWG’s report that with the right plans and tools in place, we have a greater chance of managing the transition,” says Mr Shaw.

“There is new money in Budget 2018 for resourcing the Government’s climate change priorities.

“I see risk assessment as a priority and I intend to bring options to Cabinet soon for a decision on how and when to do a risk assessment.

“In the coming weeks we will be asking New Zealanders how they see New Zealand adapting to the effects of climate change as part of the Zero Carbon Bill consultation.

“We are all in this together and we have a responsibility to future generations to make changes now and build on what has been started. This will provide a framework for the future. I urge everyone to be part of the conversation.

“Taking early action in the right areas is likely to avoid the need for more abrupt action later,” says Mr Shaw.

The report can be read HERE.

People can register to have their say on how New Zealand becomes climate resilient as part of the Zero Carbon Bill HERE.

Budget provides $15m extra for the Sustainable Farming Fund

Budget 2018 includes $15 million of new operating funding over the next four years for the Sustainable Farming Fund to support more inspiring ideas in applied research and extension projects that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits for New Zealand.

In a joint press statement to announce this, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw say the Government is investing in projects to build sustainability, productivity and resilience across the primary sector as the Government works alongside farmers and rural communities to provide leadership on some of New Zealand’s most pressing issues.

The Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) encourages unique collaborations among farmers and growers, scientists and researchers, iwi, local government and others who are making a real difference for our rural communities and the wider primary industries, Mr O’Connor says.

“There has been a massive oversubscription to the fund in recent years, meaning good projects aren’t getting a look-in because the previous Government did not provide enough investment for the fund,” he says.

“In the last SFF round, 86 eligible applications were received but only 28 of these could be accepted.”

Mr Shaw says these projects are led by those on the front line and help find ways to optimise the use of the country’s natural resources and protect the environment for future generations.

“We have set an ambitious target for New Zealand to become a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050,” Mr Shaw says.

“A range of forward-looking measures are required to achieve this. Cleaner, smarter farming is central to our plan for sustainable growth.”

Mr O’Connor says the SFF funding boost builds on work the Government has already prioritised.

Last year, he announced the pilot for SFF Tere, which translates to “be quick, swift or fast”.

“Smaller producers are often key innovators, and four SFF Tere projects are already progressing,” Mr O/Connor says.

“I’m looking forward to doing more to help our primary sector increase value and resilience, with a head start on ever-changing consumer tastes.”

The move announced today was included in the Confidence and Supply Agreement between Labour and the Green Party.

Mr Shaw says the Government is committed to partnering with the agricultural sector to achieve shared goals for sustainability, modernisation and profitability.

“This boost to the Sustainable Farming Fund injects fresh energy into projects that explore how to farm less intensively and more in tune with the environment, while retaining profitability.”

Find out more about the Sustainable Farming Fund at mpi.govt.nz/SFF.