Obama Persuades Unilever, Wal-Mart to Help Farmers Cut Emissions

Unilever NV, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other large companies reliant on agriculture agreed to encourage farmers who supply them to cut carbon pollution, the White House said, as President Barack Obama pushes forward on initiatives to try to stem climate change.

In conjunction with the private-sector commitments, the Department of Agriculture said it would spend about $7 million on 550 renewable energy projects and upgrades at small farms and businesses in rural areas.

“By investing in renewable energy and supporting climate-smart agricultural practices, rural communities and businesses can help slow the effects of climate change while creating jobs and growing the economy,” the White House said in a statement.

The president has made combating climate change a top priority in his second term, despite friction in the Republican-controlled Congress. Wednesday’s announcement comes a day after Google Inc. and other companies committed to spend $34 million for a White House initiative to help developing countries better respond to climate-related disasters.

Obama hopes to conclude a global climate-change pact at a meeting in Paris at the end of the year. At the Group of Seven summit in Germany on Monday, he said world leaders had made progress toward the agreement.

If successful, the United Nations talks would for the first time commit all nations to promise to rein in their carbon emissions.

Companies that agreed to participate in the administration’s agriculture program say they’ll encourage environmentally friendly practices on millions of acres of North American farms.

Unilever NV said that by 2017 it will get 100 percent of its soy from lands farmed in ways that curb pollution, and the remainder of its raw agriculture commodities by 2020. The company will work with farmers to gather data about their fields and agricultural practices and then join with them to implement changes that promote reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. both said they will better quantify the use of water, fertilizer and energy and greenhouse emissions at fields that supply corn used to sweeten sodas.

Wal-Mart said a new program with 17 suppliers on 23 million acres of land in the U.S. and Canada may reduce greenhouse emissions by 11 million metric tons by 2020. That’s the equivalent of removing more than 2.3 million passenger vehicles from the roads for a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Environmental organizations including the Environmental Defense Fund and the Nature Conservancy said they’ll establish programs to help farms reduce their impact on wetlands and waterways.

Other major agribusinesses including Cargill Inc., Monsanto Co., and General Mills are participating in a meeting Wednesday at the White House to discuss emissions reductions and rural economies.

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