Farming should be a key part of global legislation on climate change, industry leaders have told United Nations officials.
The leaders spoke out as about 350 delegates met at a fringe meeting during the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen.
The aim of the meeting, the Agriculture and Rural Development Day, on 12 December was to assemble a plan for incorporating agriculture into the post-Copenhagen climate agenda.
US agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said farmers should be rewarded for fighting global warming as part of that plan.
“Farmers need incentives,” said Mr Vilsack. “It will be important and necessary for the private sector to be fully and completely engaged in this. That’s why it’s important to create incentives, markets that function.”
He said a new UN climate deal had to include farming which accounted for 14% of global greenhouse gases but had been poorly recognised under the existing Kyoto climate change agreement.
Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, was among British representatives who travelled to Copenhagen.
He said many farmers agreed that the livestock industry must be central to world farming despite its criticism over environmental concerns.
“Meat [production] is coming under fire from a lot of people, but we are saying that this is wrong,” added Mr Holden.
Jonathan Scurlock, NFU chief climate change and renewable energy adviser, said that a key message coming out of the talks was “a deal without agriculture is no deal”.
He added that world farmers were united in their firm belief that agriculture must be on the main UN climate agenda.
But Dr Scurlock admitted he felt disappointed that neither DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn nor British government officials had attended the fringe event.
A DEFRA official rebuffed the jibe.
“Agriculture is part of the solution to reduce emissions, and the farming industry in the UK is making notable progress in reducing its environmental impact.
“John Gilliland, the chair of the rural climate change forum – DEFRA’s principal stakeholder body on climate change and agriculture – attended the agriculture day on our behalf,” the official said.
Agriculture leaders are due to meet in Copenhagen again this Wednesday to discuss the prospect of building a global alliance in agricultural research.
The 7-18 December talks in the Danish capital are meant to agree the outline of a new global climate deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, for a full treaty to be signed next year.