WASHINGTON, D.C.; NAIROBI, Kenya; and ROME -- Climate change will directly affect future food availability and compound the difficulties of feeding the world's rapidly growing population, the FAO said at the opening of a U.N. climate change conference yesterday in Nairobi.



In an address to the conference's scientific and technical body, Castro Paulino Camarada, FAO Representative in Kenya, stressed that greater attention must be given to the impact of climate change on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and on mitigation and adaptation measures.

Bioenergy



According to Camarada, there are a number of areas where FAO's expertise can contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change.

"There is likely to be a significant transition toward biofuels during the next 50 years, with agriculture and forestry among the leading sources for both liquid and solid fuels," he said. "Although there is no single solution for all countries, bioenergy has a role to play in both climate change adaptation and mitigation."



With the right technologies, converting biomass such as wood and crop residues, grass, straw and brushwood into fuel could provide an abundant supply of clean, low-cost energy while helping spur economic development in rural communities, raise farmers' incomes and improve food security, according to FAO. Crops like sugar cane, corn and soybean are already being used to produce ethanol or bio-diesel.



FAO's International Bioenergy Platform and its recent agreement with the Government of Italy to host the Global Bioenergy Partnership are important first steps toward promoting the sustainable and equitable development and use of bioenergy, Camarada said.



Forest management



In the field of forestry, FAO believes that better forest management can play a key role in global efforts to deal with climate change. When over- harvested and burned, forests become sources of greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, forests and the wood they produce capture and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, playing a major role in mitigating climate change.



Camarada highlighted FAO's recent hosting of a U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change workshop on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in developing countries and emphasized the Organization's readiness to provide technical support in this area.



Adapting to climate variability



Working to strengthen the resilience of crop systems to climate variability is a key priority for FAO.

According to Camarada, FAO's most effective contributions in the area of climate change adaptation lie in providing countries with tools and information for adapting their agriculture, fisheries and forestry policies and practices to changing climate regimes. This includes agro-meteorological data and tools for assessing the impact of extreme weather and for guiding adaptation; vulnerability assessment tools; land cover mapping; global assessments of crop and forest resources; and guidance on rural livelihood development related to cropping decisions by farmers.



The Nairobi conference runs from Nov. 6 to Nov. 17.



SOURCE: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations via PR Newswire.