Conference on "Climate Change in Agriculture"
Dr. Norbert Röttgen, German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
What role does agriculture play in climate protection and how can it adapt itself to climate change? What approaches in science and policy can address this problem, and how can the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) contribute in this area? Over 100 scientists, policy makers, and experts from pertinent government agencies and associations discussed these and other questions at the conference "Climate Change in Agriculture", which took place on 20 January 2011 at the headquarters of the Permanent Representation of the Federal State of the Saarland in Berlin and was moderated by Prof. Dr. Beate Jessel. Norbert Röttgen, the German federal minister of the environment, opened the conference, which was organised by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation with the help of Ecologic Institute. The conference was also made possible by funds from the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
Climate Change constitutes one of the most important environmental, social and economic challenges of our time on both the global and regional level. Agriculture’s role in climate change is three-fold. Firstly, it causes part of the release of greenhouse gas emissions through intensive land use, livestock and land use changes. Agriculture is also directly affected by the consequences of climate change through phenomena such as droughts and water scarcity and is also subject to heavy rain events, which endanger productivity. In addition, agriculture serves to preserve natural resources and established cultural landscapes by increasing soil carbon contents and adapting management practices to preserve carbon sinks.
In developing solutions, experts in the fields of policy, science, agriculture, environment and nature conservation must work together on both the European and national level. A central question for this topic is what contribution the future common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can make toward enabling European agriculture to sustainably meet the challenge of climate change.
In his speech to open the conference, Norbert Röttgen, German federal minister of the environment pointed out that everyone’s common goal must be to transform our consuming, destructive economy to a sustainable economy and way of life, including sustainable agriculture. Another goal must to foster the protection of resources and energy efficiency. Only by pursuing these goals is it possible to fulfill the responsibility owed to the next generation.
Through the lectures given by Prof. Dr. Heinz Flessa (vTI), Gerd Sonnleitner (President of the DBV) und Prof. Dr. Hubert Weiger (President, Friends of the Earth Germany) concerning the challenge presented by climate change from academic, agricultural as well as environmental perspectives, it became clear that efficiency plays an important role. This debate included a wide variety of aspects ranging from nitrogen and surface efficiency of reduction measures over increased production efficiency in light of surface scarcity and securing supply, to so-called low input production systems as a contribution to a more sustainable economy.
The second group of lectures, presented by Dr. Peter Wehrheim (DG Clima, EU Commission), Clemens Neumann (BMELV) and Andreas Vetter (UBA), proposed solutions to climate change in European and national agricultural policy as well as in the German adaptation strategy to climate change. Through these presentations, it became clear what an influential role the design of the future CAP will have on climate protection. Simultaneously, suggestions for concrete implication and the possibility of a mandatory “greening component” in the first pillar of the CAP were also discussed.
These inputs also showed that agriculture has taken on a transdisciplinary function in these transitional times and thereby revealed new perspectives on the subject.
Bioenergy promotion, for example, produces additional income for farmers, while the challenges of climate change can be met with improved water management, an adequate selection of crop species and varieties as well as optimised production processes.
Panel discussion with Reinhild Benning (BUND), Prof. Dr. Heinz Flessa (Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut), Friedhelm Decker (German Farmers Association), Prof. Dr. Beate Jessel (BfN), Dr. Peter Wehrheim (EU Commission), Ursula Heinen-Esser (BMU) und Clemens Neumann (BMELV) (from left to right)
In the closing discussion, the key role played by consumer behaviour was emphasised by many participants. It was decided that the consumption of animal products and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions require a dialogue to inform consumers about the consequences of such acts on climate change and to thereby bring about a change in consumer behaviour.
The presentations as well as a picture gallery of the conference are available for download.