Press Releases and Media Advisories

Press Release

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

For Immediate Release

New UCLA-UC Berkeley Law Study Shows How California Farms Can Help Slow Climate Change

Study recommends ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect crops

 

Berkeley Law: Susan Gluss, sgluss@law.berkeley.edu, 510-642-6936
UCLA Law: Lauri Gavel, gavel@law.ucla.edu, 310-206-2611

Berkeley, CA—March 3, 2010… California’s agriculture sector has much to lose from the impacts of climate change. As the world’s fifth largest supplier of food worth hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue, the state’s economy is tied to the fate of its farms. That industry is now threatened by altered growing seasons, limits on water supplies and record temperature changes. But farmers and ranchers can take steps to help mitigate the impact of climate change, according to a new report by UCLA School of Law and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

The report, Room to Grow: How California Agriculture Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, looks at barriers to reducing the emissions that cause climate change and recommends short- and long-term ways to overcome them.

“Farmers and ranchers in California have an opportunity to respond to the threat of climate change with new technologies and innovation that could save them money over the long term,” said Special Assistant Attorney General Cliff Rechtschaffen. “This paper provides important solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture that could benefit growers and consumers alike.”

“Room to Grow” describes immediate and cost-effective practices to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, particularly from the two largest agricultural sources: methane from livestock production and nitrous oxide from fertilizer usage. Dairy farmers can reduce methane emissions by altering feeding practices, improving the animals’ diet to enhance digestion, and by lengthening the productive life of dairy cows to generate fewer emissions per unit of milk produced. Farmers can reduce nitrous oxide emissions from too much fertilizer usage by employing more precise and well-timed methods of fertilizer application.

“This report offers guidance to policymakers, farmers, and ranchers who may be unaware of the cost-savings and often low-technology means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said primary report author Ethan Elkind, Bank of America Climate Change Research Fellow at UCLA Law and Berkeley Law. “Through improved practices and renewable energy production, California’s agriculture industry has an opportunity to become a global force for fighting climate change. The sector has significant incentive to do so, given the risks it faces if climate change is not controlled.”

In the long term, the agriculture industry will need assistance from policymakers in their efforts to generate renewable energy from agricultural byproducts. The report recommends a simplified permitting process for equipment that converts methane and agricultural biomass into renewable energy; and a revised feed-in tariff policy, which provides payments to producers of renewable energy to encourage more investment in new technologies. It also suggests education programs for farmers and ranchers about new ways to improve methane management, fertilizer application, and water usage.

Additional long-term steps policymakers can take to remove the barriers to GHG emissions reduction include:

• Expand and improve existing research programs for technologies and best practices to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture;
• Strengthen and expand existing incentive and financing programs for equipment, training, and supplies for GHG control technologies;
• Streamline and consolidate the regulatory environment for GHG-reducing technologies and projects;
• Promote GHG-reducing practices that have proven cost-savings potential.

“Ultimately, the financial investment, research and progress that California agriculture makes in reducing GHG emissions will be a model for farmers and ranchers worldwide,” Elkind said.

To read a full copy of “Room to Grow: How California Agriculture Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” visit the Berkeley Law Web site or the UCLA Law Web site.

The paper’s recommendations are the result of a climate change workshop convened by the UCLA and Berkeley law schools to prioritize the most effective methods of reducing agriculture’s GHG emissions. Participants included industry leaders, policymakers, water experts and private company officials. It was the third of four workshops, all of which are funded by the Bank of America as part of the bank’s 10-year, $20 billion environmental initiative focused on addressing climate change.

The workshops are organized by the Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment and the Environmental Law Center at UCLA School of Law; the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at the UC Berkeley School of Law; and the California attorney general’s office. Each workshop results in a set of policy recommendations to encourage more sustainable business practices and help California’s business community prosper in an era of climate change regulation.

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law: For over a century, Berkeley Law has prepared lawyers to be skilled and ethical problem-solvers. The law school’s curriculum—one of the most comprehensive and innovative in the nation—offers its J.D. and advanced degree candidates a broad array of nearly 200 courses. Students collaborate with leading scholars and practitioners working on legal issues at more than a dozen interdisciplinary centers, institutes and clinical programs within its Boalt Hall complex. For more information, visit www.law.berkeley.edu and follow us on Twitter.

UCLA School of Law, founded in 1949, is the youngest major law school in the nation and has established a tradition of innovation in its approach to teaching, research and scholarship. With approximately 100 faculty and 970 students, the school pioneered clinical teaching, is a leader in interdisciplinary research and training, and is at the forefront of efforts to link research to its effects on society and the legal profession. For more information, visit www.law.ucla.edu.