FFA2019 post-event blog 5:

Climate change: Are we doing enough?

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, speaking at FFA2019 presented the EU’s strategy to implement the 2030 targets of the Paris climate agreement and its vision for a climate neutral economy by 2050.

The key 2030 legislative framework is in place and projected to deliver a 45% reduction in domestic greenhouse gas emissions, noticeably higher than the 40% target. Last November, the Commission tabled a strategic vision for a climate neutral economy by 2050. This requires a combination of technical innovation, appropriate enabling conditions and input from all sectors of the economy.

Speaking to a packed room during his keynote address, he explained that farmers play a key role in the EU’s climate change policies. They can also expect new business opportunities by supplying biomass and storing carbon emissions in the soil. But they “need support to ensure that the transition to a more sustainable farming system is effective and fair,” the Commissioner stressed.

Speaking during the following panel session, Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director-General DG ENVI, European Commission, pointed out that 64% of farmers and 92% of non-farmers believe the CAP can do more for the environment. Equally, at the Davos World Economic Forum, climate change, environmental damage and extreme meteorological phenomenon emerged as the top three risks for business.

He acknowledged that previous reforms had not delivered the hoped-for results. But “if we change the way we are doing things and become more sustainable we can meet the challenges”. He added: “We also have to tell the truth: time is running out and we need to step up action.”

Philippe Lamberts, MEP and Co-chair of the Greens/EFA group, criticised the proposed CAP reforms as “tweaking at the edges” of an agricultural system that remains production-oriented for a global market. “To address the root problem, you have to have a paradigm shift. You have to rethink agriculture in terms of ecosystem services and shorter supply chains,” he insisted.

Without that shift, “don’t expect us to meet the targets that we need to reach if we want to ensure the survival of humanity on this planet”.

Lesley Rankin, Researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research, called for a better understanding of the severity and pace of environmental breakdown, of its implications for human systems (“they really do threaten the preconditions of our societies to flourish”) and of the need to move to a “sustainable, just and prepared” society.

The co-author of a report released in February – This is a crisis: Facing up to the age of environmental breakdown – emphasised the need for today’s younger generations to be given every help possible to prepare them for their future leadership roles.

Jean-Marc Bournigal, General Manager of the Wheat Producers Association (AGPB), France, explained how agriculture and forestry help minimise climate change. Wheat captures seven times more carbon than it emits. Innovation, particularly in genetics, robotics and digitalisation, will help maximise the contributions. But policy coherence and a balance between demands on farmers and opportunities are needed.

Mr Lamberts highlighted that the room was quite divided and polarised and in response he said: “if you want to call inconvenient truths ideology then I bring you ideology but I am afraid to say these are facts.” Despite their differences, none of the panellists considered business as usual an option, although as Mr Calleja acknowledged there was “disagreement on the diagnosis”.

Watch videos of all the sessions at FFA2019 here >

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