Watch events live from the U.S. Center in Copenhagen. Follow the U.S. Center on YouTube and Flickr.About the Author: Billie Gross serves as Public Affairs Specialist for the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She is currently on assignment at the U.S. Center in Copenhagen.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack delivered today’s keynote remarks at the U.S. Center at COP-15. Secretary Vilsack began his presentation by highlighting a report released by the Department of Agriculture yesterday: “The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems.” This report identifies the effects of climate change on natural resources and ecosystems services in the United States over the next several decades and concludes that climate change is already affecting U.S. agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity, and will continue to do so.
For our farmers, ranchers, and those who make a living off the land, this challenge presents unique opportunities. President Obama believes it is crucial that we engage rural communities in the work of preventing the worst impacts of climate change, and today, Secretary Vilsack shared how the Administration is actively partnering with these communities to create solutions and how a viable carbon offsets market – one that rewards farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners for stewardship activities – will play a very important role in helping America reduce its dependence on oil. Rural economies will benefit from incentives in comprehensive energy legislation that reward production of renewable energy and sequestration of global warming pollution.
Today, the Department of Agriculture and U.S. dairy farmers announced that they are entering into a historic agreement to help accelerate the development of manure to energy systems and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Anaerobic digesters convert animal manure into electricity and are a powerful renewable resource. One 700 head dairy herd can power 200 homes with electricity. However, the United States is only utilizing dairy power on 2% of the farms that serve as candidates for profitable and sustainable sources of energy. The U.S. Dairy industry has committed to a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas by the year 2020. The Department of Agriculture can support this goal through program modifications, added program enhancements, and better marketing of anaerobic digesters to dairymen.
Secretary Vilsack signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the United States Department of Agriculture and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. The MOU will make many steps and common sense improvements to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with dairies and is yet another example of the strong actions the United States is taking at home to combat global climate change.