Agriculture

San Salvatore Monferrato, Italy
Image credits: Gaetano Cessati on Unsplash, 2016

Key messages

  • The agricultural sector is not only a major driver of climate change but is also seriously affected by it. Policy efforts are, therefore, not only geared to climate mitigation in agriculture, but also to making the sector more robust and minimizing climate change impacts.

  • The EU Adaptation strategy, the LULUCF Regulation and the EU Common Agricultural Policy are instruments that can be used to stimulate adaptation solutions and improve resilience of the agriculture sector to climate risks. Adaptation knowledge and practitioners’ networks have emerged that facilitate information exchange and capacity building, including from several EU funded research programmes.

  • Monitoring, reporting and evaluation of agricultural measures at EU level will to a large extent depend on the formal reporting mechanism under the reformed Common Agricultural Policy.

Impacts and vulnerabilities

The agricultural sector is one of the main drivers of climate change, emitting methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2), mainly related to land use, fertiliser application and livestock production. The share in European GHG emissions is currently around 10%In turn, climate change affects European agriculture and requires agricultural systems and farmers to adapt. Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 concentration, changes in precipitation patterns and more frequent extreme events influence crop yields and livestock productivity in Europe, but also water management and conditions for transport and storage. Crop productivity is expected to generally decrease in Southern regions and to increase in the North, while more frequent extreme weather events will cause scattered and detrimental impacts all across Europe. 

 

Policy framework

The EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, adopted in 2021, aims to make adaptation smarter, faster (accelerate rollout of adaptation solutions) and more systemic (integrated solutions and plans). Stimulating local adaptation, nature-based solutions, sustainable uses and resilience of fresh water resources, are particularly relevant for the agricultural sector, whereas stepping up international action is essential to avoid disruption of EU agricultural imports.

The proposals for adaptation of the Land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) Regulation aim for increased carbon capture in agriculture and forestry, with important land cover change implications. The measures to achieve this, such as maintenance of grasslands, carbon farming and restoration of peatlands, will also help preventing soil erosion and reducing flooding risk.

Concrete adaptation measures in the agricultural sector are primarily supported through the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), with sustainability and climate action as core objectives. Dedicated adaptation measures have not played a prominent role in the CAP until now, but the obligatory and voluntary greening measures often provide short to medium term adaptive solutions at farm level.

green payment  under CAP Pillar 1 covers crop diversification, establishment of ecological focus areas and maintenance of permanent grassland. Rural development support under CAP Pillar 2 includes forest development, agri-environment-climate measures, organic farming, and Natura 2000 payments. The funding schemes are supplemented with training measures and other support to improve productivity and resilience to climate change from the Farm Advisory System, the Innovation Partnership and applied research. Ongoing negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU have pushed the proposed start date for the CAP reform to 1 January 2023 and in the meantime the Transitional regulation 2021-22 extends the current regime.

In line with the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Biodiversity strategy, the CAP proposals for 2023-2027 put more emphasis on environmental and climate action. Strengthened obligatory measures and more funding opportunities are established for the preservation of carbon rich soils, crop rotation, nutrient management and eco-schemes.

 

Improving the knowledge base

The IPCC Special Report on global warming of 1.5 °C addressed impacts on the agricultural sector in various chapters, pointing to related adaptation needs. Enhancing the knowledge in these areas, including on costs and benefits of agriculture-related adaptation measures, is a priority. The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land assesses the current scientific knowledge, including on land degradation, desertification and food security, issue framing and adaptation options, as well as on specific challenges and opportunities for the agriculture sector.

The EEA Report Climate change adaptation in the agriculture sector in Europe gives an overview of how EU policies and programmes address climate change adaptation and includes examples of feasible and successful adaptation actions.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) supports the European Commission in modelling the economic impact of climate change on the agricultural sector, and evaluating adaptation and mitigation policies (e.g., the PESETA projects). Several research projects dealing with adaptation in the agriculture sector have been funded under LIFE (e.g., AgriAdapt, ADAPT2CLIMA, LiveAdapt, etc) and H2020 (e.g., MOSES, BINGO, COACCH, Flourish, FATIMA, RUN4LIFE, RESFOOD, IoF2020) programmes.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) provides information, tool and data about climate change, including several demonstrator services for the Agricultural sector. It offers free and open access to the Sectoral Information System (SIS) available from Climate Data Store to support regional adaptation initiatives. Further services for the water sector provide  water indicators that can be used to select appropriate crops and plan irrigation infrastructure, as well as demonstrations in Climate Change Adaptation. The Copernicus Land Monitoring Service provides remote sensing data on Land Cover and Land Cover Changes, Vegetation Phenology and Productivity that will help defining crop yield. In future, remote sensing data may inform about regional land cover changes resulting from adaptation measures, as well as about aggregated trends at EU level.

The Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change, focuses research in 24 countries on addressing the interconnected challenges of sustainable agriculture, food security and impacts of climate change.

Several international networks, organizations and associations share knowledge within their communities of practice. They include the European Conservation Agriculture Federation, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (European Regional Group), and COPA-COGECA.  

 

Supporting investment and funding

EU funding for adaptation is supported by the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027 which ensures that climate adaptation actions have been integrated into all the major EU spending programmes.

Within this MFF budget, €386.6 billion is allocated to the CAP. The bulk, €270 billion, of the expenditure will go to income support under pillar 1, with an additional €20 billion being labelled for market support. The rest (roughly one quarter) will be spent on rural development support under the pillar 2.

An additional €10 billion will be available through the EU's Horizon Europe research programme to support specific research and innovation in food, agriculture, rural development and the bio-economy.

How much of the CAP budget will actually be allocated to measures beneficial for climate mitigation and adaptation is still being negotiated and will also depend on the implementation in national CAP strategic plans. In the original 2018 reform proposals by the European Commission, 40% of the CAP budget is expected to contribute to climate action, with 30% in each Rural Development Program to be allocated to measures relevant to environment and climate change.

Apart from the CAP investments, a range of EU instruments is available to support adaptation:

A comprehensive overview can be found on the EU funding of adaptation measures page.

 

MRE of adaptation

A reporting mechanism linked to the national strategic plans for CAP implementation to monitor and evaluate specific adaptation measures in the agricultural sector is still under development and a corresponding indicator framework has not yet been adopted.

Highlighted indicators

Relevant tile