Agriculture has a unique role to play in the EU’s efforts on climate

Agriculture, alongside the forest sector, has a unique role to play in the EU’s efforts on climate change. In addition to its potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through changes in land management, it could increase atmospheric COremoval by increasing carbon sequestration in soils, trees and other vegetation.

The sector is far from reaching this potential, with concerns actions required are too expensive or would reduce the capacity to produce food. However, there is evidence of no- and low-cost mitigation actions that are being underused.

Some actions have little or no impact on production and can lead to efficiency gains and deliver wider environmental benefits, such as improving water quality and soil functionality. These actions include the use of catch/cover crops, planting and preventing removal of farmland trees, optimising feeding strategies for livestock or using soil and nutrient management plans.

Many actions are straightforward to implement and could be supported via the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), particularly through rural development policy, should Member States choose to do so. In addition, the lack of explicit GHG emission reduction or carbon sequestration targets for the agriculture sector creates little incentive to focus attention in this area.

Our report on the consequences of climate change for EU agriculture for the European Parliament has shown that to date, Member States have not made the most of the climate opportunities provided by the CAP. The budget allocated to climate objectives and their associated targets is generally very low, a conclusion echoed in a recent European Court of Auditors report.

Moving towards climate-smart production is only one part of the solution. To enable a real transformation towards achieving net zero emissions by 2050 requires consumption to become more sustainable, through tackling issues like food waste and reducing the amount of animal protein consumed.

Click here for more information on IEEP's work on climate and agriculture and to access our recent reports or contact Ben Allen, Martin Nesbit, Anne Maréchal.