Environmental News Archive

An almost weekly update of environmental news, particularly marine updates, with occasional splatters of transportation, indigenous, ideas of sustainability and sustainable development from around the world.


China to Keep Grains Goals Despite Climate Change

CHINA: June 20, 2007
Story by Lucy Hornby

BEIJING - Pressure from global warming is unlikely to change China's policy of maximising domestic grain production, a prominent climate scientist said, but the country is starting to look at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farming.

Water scarcity and extreme weather related to global warming could cut the country's agricultural production capacity by 5 to 10 percent by 2030 if adaptive steps are not taken, according to estimates included in China's Climate Change Assessment.
But Lin Erda, a climate expert at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences who advises the government, said officials were confident their grain goals would not be badly dented.

"The Ministry of Agriculture believes it can find ways to offset that and maintain output levels," Lin told Reuters.

"China can't afford to give up its grains sufficiency goals. We're such a big country -- where can we buy from?

Even if overall output levels are maintained, China's patterns of grain production could change along with shifting water availability and temperatures.

"What we will see, for example with corn, is the center of production shifting to areas that were previously more on the edges," Lin said.

Corn growing could move south and west from its traditional center in China's Northeast, to areas nearer the Yellow River, he said.

China targets growing 95 percent of the grains it consumes, but the task is complicated by a shrinking supply of arable land, a lack of clean water and rapidly growing domestic consumption.

The country has had bumper grain harvests since 2004. This summer's grain harvest could rise for the fourth year in a row, the Agricultural Ministry said on Monday while sounding a note of caution for full-year output.

Efforts to slow the encroachment of cities and industrial development to surrounding farmland are starting to take effect, Lin said.


Climate change can also create an opportunity for China's agricultural sector, since China is one of the largest destinations for financing of greenhouse gas reduction projects.

The Ministry of Agriculture is investigating ways to reduce rural emissions, while raising farmers' incomes by attracting international investment for agriculture emissions reduction projects.

Manure, fertilizer, burning of agricultural waste and tilling can all release gases that contribute to global warming.

Promising areas include growing forests to absorb carbon, developing biogas from manure and agricultural waste for use in villages, and improving fertilizing and irrigation methods.

Many local officials are eager to develop revenue-generating emissions reduction projects, although local projects have often been too small and procedures too complicated for them to be certified under the carbon development mechanism, or CDM, scheme, officials involved in vetting projects say.

A pilot project in Xinjiang, between international NGO Environmental Defense and the Xinjiang Environmental Protection Agency, is aggregating some such projects to sell into an alternative market for voluntary emission reductions.

"I was surprised by the enthusiasm of provincial and county officials and their willingness to make the investment and take the risk. They don't need to be convinced of the potential," said Zach Willey, senior economist of Environmental Defense and a co-author of a manual on land use and farming practices that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Related Story:
China's Northeast Corn Area Hit By Drought - Xinhua
CHINA: June 20, 2007
Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard

BEIJING - China's northeast Liaoning province, a leading corn-producing area, is suffering its worst drought in 30 years, limiting drinking water for more than one million people, the official Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.

The local government has dispatched more than 500,000 people to dig wells and transport water to the worst hit areas in the northwest and south, Xinhua said.
High temperatures and inadequate rainfall this month have caused a water shortage affecting 1.27 million people and 473,800 animals, the report said, citing officials in the provincial flood prevention and drought control headquarters.

Some 1.4 million hectares of crops, mainly corn and rice paddy, have also been damaged, it said.

"The worst-hit areas are not the areas for grains, which are in the central and northern parts of the province," said one analyst with the China National Grain and Oils Information Centre (CNGOIC).

The centre earlier this month estimated the country's corn output was likely to hit a record 147 million this year because of larger planting areas. China produced about 146 million tonnes in 2006.

In March, the province suffered its heaviest snowstorm in half a century, but persistent high temperatures in late spring and early summer have reduced soil moisture, it said.

Heilongjiang, another major corn area north of Liaoning, was also hit by dry weather, and officials were concerned the situation could worsen, according to the report.

Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai warned on Monday that poor weather conditions could reduce the country's overall grain output for the full year despite a bigger wheat harvest.

He mentioned drought in corn-growing areas in the north, and flooding in rice areas in the south.

Flash floods and landslides triggered by heavy rain since the weekend in the southwestern province of Sichuan had killed 15 people -- 10 in Dazhou alone -- and left two missing, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

Another five were killed in the neighbouring Chongqing municipality and one in the central province of Hubei, the ministry said on its Web site (www.mca.gov.cn)

Roads were blocked and power and telecommunication lines were down, it said, adding "agricultural losses" in the three areas, where rains were forecast through the coming weekend, had totalled more than 300 million yuan.

Torrential rains have wrought havoc across South China in the past two weeks, killing at least 76 people, damaging houses and destroying hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice crops.

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