18.04.2019 |

Study: Agroecology can help to mitigate climate change

Agroecology, a viable solution (Photo: CC0)

Agroecology, including organic farming, can make an enormous contribution towards keeping global warming below 2°C, according to a new report from the French think tank IDDRI. The study, published on April 16th, compares different scenarios for agriculture with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, which would be required if we want to keep global warming below 2°C. The scientists write that “the sustainable intensification of agricultural production, in a land sparing logic, is most often considered as a necessary step to achieve this.” Those climate mitigation strategies rely on intensifying food production by increasing yields to free up land for afforestation and bioenergy. However, the authors question those scenarios, given the importance yield increases play therein. “Assumptions on yield increases seem very high (up to +30%) if one considers, on the one hand their recent stagnation in Europe (particularly for cereals),” they write. On the other hand, this intensification would require a high use of pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, which risks damaging soil health and biodiversity. This could result in potentially further degradation of organic matter content and thus lead to lower yields rather than higher ones, while potentially undermining the capacity of European farming to adapt to climate change.

The IDDRI paper demonstrates that there are viable alternatives, presenting two scenarios of a transition of European agriculture to agroecology by 2050 (Ten Years For Agroecology – TYFA). The TYFA scenario is based on the generalisation of organic farming (abandoning synthetic pesticides and fertilizers), the extension of agroecological infrastructures and the adoption of healthy diets, to feed 530 million Europeans by 2050 (despite a 35% drop in production). This scenario would lead to a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, offers a potential for soil carbon sequestration of 159 MtCO2eql/year until 2035, and a reduction of bioenergy production to zero, as almost all the land would be used for food production due to lower yields. This TYFA scenario would thus be difficult to reconcile with the objective of carbon neutrality although it offers many co-benefits for biodiversity, natural resources and health.

For this reason, the researchers propose a variant of this scenario, the TYFA-GHG (for greenhouse gases), which improves these performances with a view to achieving carbon neutrality, while conserving the core assumptions of the initial scenario. TYFA-GHG is based on a greater reduction in bovine livestock (-34% compared to 2010, whereas the TYFA only included a 15% reduction in cattle numbers) and the controlled development of anaerobic digestion using grassland grasses and animal manure as feedstock. A transition to agroecological farming based on this model could lower European agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by 47%, while bioenergy production would amount to 189 TWh per year. In addition, tonnes of pesticides per year would be avoided in European farming, benefitting biodiversity. The dietary changed complementing this transition to agroecology would also be good for human health.

IFOAM EU, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements at EU level, welcomed the study. “The Ten Years For Agroecology prospective scenario is a ground-breaking exercise as it shows how a full conversion of European agriculture to organic farming could contribute to climate change mitigation, while preserving our natural resources and protecting biodiversity,” said Eric Gall, Policy Manager at IFOAM EU. “It is crucial that prospective and policy debates on how to decarbonise the agricultural sector better integrate biodiversity and soil health issues and consider the need to phase out the use of pesticides.” This view is shared by Rob Percival, head of policy for food and health at the Soil Association, the UK’s leading food and farming charity and organic certification body. “Agroecological farming, including organic, offers our best hope of responding to climate change,” he stressed. “We urgently need to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, but we must also protect soil health, nurture biodiversity, and build resilience into agricultural systems. Pesticide-hungry ‘intensification’ offers a false solution,” he warned. (ab)

Zurück zu den Meldungen


Unterstützer von Verlag der Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft e.V. Bioland biovision Brot für die Welt Brot für alle Bund für Umwelt- und Naturschutz Deutschland Demeter Zukunftsstiftung Entwicklung in der GLS Treuhand Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Heidehof Stiftung Mission EineWelt Misereor Naturland Public Eye | Erklärung von Bern Rapunzel - Wir machen Bio aus Liebe Swiss Aid, Ihr mutiges Hilfswerk tegut W-E-G Stiftung
English versionEnglish versionDeutsche Version