An agro-ecological transition to an extensive system is urgent for the fight against climate change.

Changing the model of the agro sector is one of the keys to the survival of the planet. Without an agroecological transition to a system based on an extensive livestock model it will be almost impossible to contain global warming below 1.5º and effectively mitigate the effects of climate change. It is one of the conclusions of the Conference organized by the International Institute of Law and Environment (IIDMA) at the headquarters of the European Commission Representation in Madrid to present different data and conclusions of the work framed within the European Project “EUKI. Unavoidable step after Paris: cutting emissions from farming”. If the current production system, which is not sustainable, is not reformed, 2.8 planets will be needed by 2050 to maintain it, according to data from WWF.

IIDMA presented during the event the report “Cutting Emissions from Farming”, carried out by CE Delft as part of the EUKI project, which identifies and analyzes the measures with the greatest potential to mitigate climate change and the current barriers in the sector. The measures would be based on a model of agroecological transition to a system of extensive farming. Financial barriers are the main obstacle identified, but barriers related to knowledge and training are drawn as a difficulty with a key importance: professionals in the sector do not know many of the measures, its effectiveness, accessibility and long-term benefits, which causes a general distrust towards their adoption.

Farmers cannot assume the risks and investment that an agro-ecological transition might require, due to the high level of uncertainty. Nevertheless, the model has great benefits for them as it increases their importance in the production chain and increases the benefits and quality of the products. The solution? More training, transmitting the need for change to farmers and ranchers, facilitating access to aid and relevant data, and creating a scenario of greater legal certainty and coherent long-term policies. Economic measures should always be accompanied by measures that focus on knowledge to jointly overcome both obstacles.

“The current model of intensive farming is unsustainable and incompatible with the Paris Agreement. As the latest IPCC reports have made clear, we are running out of time to avoid a disaster on our planet, and measures to reform this model of the agricultural sector, due to its level of emissions and its vulnerability to the effects of climate change, must be a key axis to mitigate the impacts of this countdown. The agro-ecological transition should be seen as a basis of policies to tackle climate change, just as the energy transition is, and for this policy makers must ensure coherent long-term policies that offer certainty and profitability to producers” says Massimiliano Patierno, IIDMA environmental engineer and coordinator of the project in Spain.

Thus, the importance of the agro sector as responsible for and victim of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be central to the development of climate policy and legislation. The current outlook addressed at this Conference is decisive for the coming years: with the new CAP about to be presented, a future Spanish Law on Climate Change and National Energy Transition, the final draft of the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), to be presented by the end of the year, or different strategic and rural development plans aimed at curbing climate change at European and national levels, the political will of governments today will be decisive for the coming years, in which these instruments will develop their effects.


The necessary measures within the agricultural sector

Within the concrete measures proposed by the EUKI Report, the main ones address the following aspects:

  • Livestock production: Manure storage, anaerobic digestion of manure, animal management and transition to an extensive farming model.
  • Soil management: Conservation and sequestration of carbon in the soil, management of synthetic fertilizers, management of organic fertilizers.
  • Land use: change in agricultural products, agroforestry or conversion to another use.

These measures must be complemented by a change of diet and managing food waste in our society: less processed food, certified productions that guarantee sustainably produced food (in particular by encouraging extensive systems) or encouraging the consumption of legumes and vegetables and reducing the consumption of meat. A change to a sustainable diet would mean a 25% reduction in GHGs or a 23% reduction in the water footprint, as well as social and economic benefits, such as greater welfare of the population, savings in public health spending and compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDS).

Necessary steps are the inclusion in many of these plans and regulations of a “Green Architecture” that involves measures of greater environmental ambition based on science: more training, investment in assets and machinery, renewal of municipalities, ecological production, aid to spaces of the Natura 2000 Network, forestation and intergovernmental cooperation, stimulating from the EU the change of the productive model, incorporation of eco-schemes, promoting and sharing best agroecological practices, compliance with the EU Water Framework Directive, measures for the sustainable management of slurry, adjustment of the contribution of nitrogen in crops or the promotion of the rotation of certain types of crops.

WWF, SEO/BirdLife, UPA (Spanish Union of Small Farmers), and the Ministries of Ecological Transition (MITECO) and Agriculture and Fisheries (MAPA) intervened during the event. All the experts agreed on the importance of reforming the model by giving priority to measures in the agro sector in the fight against climate change, increasing cooperation between countries, and including these commitments in both environmental and agricultural legislation.

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