Background and issues

Agriculture, like other land-using sectors, holds a unique position in the EU’s response to climate change. It has the potential to both reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through more efficient and effective management of land, crops and livestock, and to enhance the removals of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere by increasing the carbon sequestered in soils, trees and other vegetation.  

GHG emissions from the agriculture sector are now lower than they were in 2005, but reductions have slowed over the past decade and, since 2012, emissions have begun to increase. With more rapid and sustained reductions in other sectors of the economy, agriculture’s share of the EU’s overall GHG emissions is also growing, putting more pressure on the sector to act. Furthermore, as other sectors reach their mitigation potentials, we are likely to see increasing competition for offsetting future emissions with removals from the land-using sectors.

The Paris Agreement heralded a commitment to more ambitious climate mitigation efforts globally. The EU’s response is set out in the 2030 climate and energy framework, identifying targets to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030 in line with 80% economy-wide emissions reductions by 2050. To meet these targets, the EU will need a longer-term strategic approach that defines the role agriculture must play as part of Europe’s low-carbon transition. This will entail an understanding of what a low-carbon or net-zero emissions agriculture sector could look like and the identification of the drivers and actions to enable the necessary changes.

Objectives

Delivering change within the agriculture sector is not without its challenges. Unlike many other sectors, change depends on the decisions of millions of individual farmers who face an already broad and increasing range of demands on the land that they manage. These include the production of food (for consumption within the EU, and for export) alongside a range of services to society such as the management of water catchments, the protection of habitats and species, as well as recreational and cultural spaces. Balancing the role of the agriculture sector in meeting these demands alongside increasing climate action is crucial.

The project aims to address these challenges by identifying the opportunities for improving climate mitigation action by the agricultural sector and looking at how to leverage the necessary support to ensure this happens. To achieve this, it will:

  • Develop an evidence-based, stakeholder-led vision for transition towards the decarbonisation and adaptation of EU agriculture by 2050;
  • Connect multiple innovative pro-reform stakeholder platforms in Brussels and at the national level.

In the first phase of the project (2017), we will bring together stakeholders to discuss the need for 2050 low-carbon and resilience pathways for agriculture, supported by research around the key drivers of change and implications for the agriculture sector. We will work together with, financial and private sector stakeholders, among others, to understand their potential role in influencing this transition towards a low-carbon and resilient agricultural sector. A separate stakeholder platform will be convened in France to understand the needs and demands of a Member State level vision. Subsequent phases will aim to develop, produce and disseminate a 2050 low carbon and resilience road map for agriculture in the EU