.
F

austine Bas-Defossez, an expert on sustainable agriculture at the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), has spoken to farmers about climate change for years. Recently, she’s noticed a shift—and she agreed to speak to Diplomatic Courier about it. “I used to face an obstinate audience of farmers. Nearly everyone was in denial about climate change, soil depletion, and losses to biodiversity. Now it's different. I see younger faces, and my audience acknowledges that we have an emergency. Many see climate change on their farms—they are looking for solutions.”

The Agriculture Timebomb

The trouble for the agriculture sector is that it's a victim, but also a perpetrator, of climate change. It is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. While the energy sector’s emissions have decreased by 47% since 2005, agriculture’s have barely fallen.

Because of climate change, the value of farmland in southern Europe is expected to fall over 80% before 2100. Crop yields will fall by 12% to 50%, which could cost countries up to 120 billion euros. Growing seasons may lengthen in northern and eastern Europe, but extreme weather events will spare no one.

Cutting back on fertilizers, pesticides, and animal consumption is essential but excruciating in the short-term. An estimated 11,200 Dutch farms must shut down to meet the Netherlands’ ammonia and nitrogen emissions reduction targets.

Europe’s Green New Deal

The EU is instituting a collection of policies called the Green New Deal to make Europe carbon-neutral by 2050. Farm to Fork, a complete overhaul of the European food system, is central to the project.

“You cannot solve the unsustainability of farming without looking at the whole food sector,” Bas-Defossez explained. “You need to look at consumption, marketing, and food labeling. Retailers have a lot of power, and they’re the ones driving prices down at the expense of the environment.”

For Farm to Fork, IEEP is helping to revise the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a long-standing subsidy system for farmers. Right now, farmers must comply with certain environmental standards to access EU funds. These include crop diversification and pollinator habitat creation, but no specific emissions reduction targets.

With no embedded climate standards to meet, CAP has led to increased livestock emissions. Funds intended to support livestock farmers have led to expanded output rather than sustainability.

In the revised CAP, which is expected to go into effect in 2023, the agriculture sector will need to reduce emissions. Some EU member states are pushing back.

What’s War Got to Do with It?

Certain agriculture unions and politicians hope to suspend or relax climate policies while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fuels global food insecurity.

Bas-Defossez has a problem with this argument. “They say we need to produce more and use land designated for biodiversity to grow crops to tackle food insecurity. But this argument isn’t very true. Most of the grain produced in Ukraine feeds animals. Many of the plants grown in Europe turn into biofuel, which is unsustainable. If we were to reduce our consumption and production of these products, food security would increase substantially.”

Enrico Somaglia at the European Federation of Food, Agriculture, and Tourism Unions (EFFAT)—an organization which advocates for unions on the national and European levels—is a strong supporter of the EU climate agenda.

“The agriculture sector is undergoing a massive revolution. There’s no alternative,” Somaglia explained. Many farmers are progressive. They just need the resources.

He cautioned against suspending climate policies. “The current scenario exposes the vulnerabilities of our food system, including our dependence on imported gas, oil, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, and animal feed. Farm to Fork shows the path to a sustainable agro-food sector. Moreover, it sets goals for the medium term. We need to act now to reach them.”

Fighting for a Just Revolution

EFFAT’s mission is to ensure a just revolution. They want socio-economic impact assessments to understand how employment will be affected by EU climate policy, and resources and oversight to ease any growing pains.

EFFAT affiliates have negotiated bans on working in high temperatures and compensation for days lost during extreme weather events in a handful of countries. Somaglia cited a study which found an increase in accidents when temperatures exceed 30 °C (86 °F). EFFAT also pushes for clothing to protect workers from UV exposure and skin cancer. Tragically, Somaglia added, it's often places that have witnessed worker fatalities that implement these policies.

Bas-Defossez acknowledged the short-term challenges of Farm to Fork. “To make the food system sustainable by 2050, we will need to drastically reduce meat and dairy production. There will be job losses in slaughterhouses, processing plants, and farms.” She also noted that Europe has the money to help workers adjust. European countries heavily invested in the hospitality industry during the pandemic, and over 55 billion euros are spent annually under the Common Agricultural Policy, she explained.

Beyond money, the EU needs a global perspective. The Green New Deal cannot depend on extracting materials from other countries, preventing their own ecological transitions. Bas-Defossez wants to see Europe export the Green New Deal. Diplomacy is necessary to keep the EU economy sustainable and competitive.

About
Millie Brigaud
:
Millie Brigaud is an aspiring journalist pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and French at William & Mary (class of 2023). Before joining the Diplomatic Courier, Millie interned at Rue89 Strasbourg, a local online newspaper in Strasbourg, France.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

A Massive Agricultural Revolution is Underway

Mölsheim, Germany. Photo by Karsten Würth via Unsplash.

August 22, 2022

The trouble for the agriculture sector is that it's a victim, but also a perpetrator, of climate change. Millie Brigaud spoke to Faustine Bas-Defossez, an expert on sustainable agriculture at the Institute for European Environmental Policy, on the current shifts taking place.

F

austine Bas-Defossez, an expert on sustainable agriculture at the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), has spoken to farmers about climate change for years. Recently, she’s noticed a shift—and she agreed to speak to Diplomatic Courier about it. “I used to face an obstinate audience of farmers. Nearly everyone was in denial about climate change, soil depletion, and losses to biodiversity. Now it's different. I see younger faces, and my audience acknowledges that we have an emergency. Many see climate change on their farms—they are looking for solutions.”

The Agriculture Timebomb

The trouble for the agriculture sector is that it's a victim, but also a perpetrator, of climate change. It is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. While the energy sector’s emissions have decreased by 47% since 2005, agriculture’s have barely fallen.

Because of climate change, the value of farmland in southern Europe is expected to fall over 80% before 2100. Crop yields will fall by 12% to 50%, which could cost countries up to 120 billion euros. Growing seasons may lengthen in northern and eastern Europe, but extreme weather events will spare no one.

Cutting back on fertilizers, pesticides, and animal consumption is essential but excruciating in the short-term. An estimated 11,200 Dutch farms must shut down to meet the Netherlands’ ammonia and nitrogen emissions reduction targets.

Europe’s Green New Deal

The EU is instituting a collection of policies called the Green New Deal to make Europe carbon-neutral by 2050. Farm to Fork, a complete overhaul of the European food system, is central to the project.

“You cannot solve the unsustainability of farming without looking at the whole food sector,” Bas-Defossez explained. “You need to look at consumption, marketing, and food labeling. Retailers have a lot of power, and they’re the ones driving prices down at the expense of the environment.”

For Farm to Fork, IEEP is helping to revise the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a long-standing subsidy system for farmers. Right now, farmers must comply with certain environmental standards to access EU funds. These include crop diversification and pollinator habitat creation, but no specific emissions reduction targets.

With no embedded climate standards to meet, CAP has led to increased livestock emissions. Funds intended to support livestock farmers have led to expanded output rather than sustainability.

In the revised CAP, which is expected to go into effect in 2023, the agriculture sector will need to reduce emissions. Some EU member states are pushing back.

What’s War Got to Do with It?

Certain agriculture unions and politicians hope to suspend or relax climate policies while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fuels global food insecurity.

Bas-Defossez has a problem with this argument. “They say we need to produce more and use land designated for biodiversity to grow crops to tackle food insecurity. But this argument isn’t very true. Most of the grain produced in Ukraine feeds animals. Many of the plants grown in Europe turn into biofuel, which is unsustainable. If we were to reduce our consumption and production of these products, food security would increase substantially.”

Enrico Somaglia at the European Federation of Food, Agriculture, and Tourism Unions (EFFAT)—an organization which advocates for unions on the national and European levels—is a strong supporter of the EU climate agenda.

“The agriculture sector is undergoing a massive revolution. There’s no alternative,” Somaglia explained. Many farmers are progressive. They just need the resources.

He cautioned against suspending climate policies. “The current scenario exposes the vulnerabilities of our food system, including our dependence on imported gas, oil, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, and animal feed. Farm to Fork shows the path to a sustainable agro-food sector. Moreover, it sets goals for the medium term. We need to act now to reach them.”

Fighting for a Just Revolution

EFFAT’s mission is to ensure a just revolution. They want socio-economic impact assessments to understand how employment will be affected by EU climate policy, and resources and oversight to ease any growing pains.

EFFAT affiliates have negotiated bans on working in high temperatures and compensation for days lost during extreme weather events in a handful of countries. Somaglia cited a study which found an increase in accidents when temperatures exceed 30 °C (86 °F). EFFAT also pushes for clothing to protect workers from UV exposure and skin cancer. Tragically, Somaglia added, it's often places that have witnessed worker fatalities that implement these policies.

Bas-Defossez acknowledged the short-term challenges of Farm to Fork. “To make the food system sustainable by 2050, we will need to drastically reduce meat and dairy production. There will be job losses in slaughterhouses, processing plants, and farms.” She also noted that Europe has the money to help workers adjust. European countries heavily invested in the hospitality industry during the pandemic, and over 55 billion euros are spent annually under the Common Agricultural Policy, she explained.

Beyond money, the EU needs a global perspective. The Green New Deal cannot depend on extracting materials from other countries, preventing their own ecological transitions. Bas-Defossez wants to see Europe export the Green New Deal. Diplomacy is necessary to keep the EU economy sustainable and competitive.

About
Millie Brigaud
:
Millie Brigaud is an aspiring journalist pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and French at William & Mary (class of 2023). Before joining the Diplomatic Courier, Millie interned at Rue89 Strasbourg, a local online newspaper in Strasbourg, France.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.