Climate change is a reality that affects everyone, as is reaffirmed in each report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. From the local to the international level, France is working to avoid the unmanageable and to manage the inevitable through actions that started in the early 2000s. All industry and sectors are included in this effort.
Several factors linked to climate change affect agriculture now and will affect agriculture increasingly in the future:
- Growth in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, an increase in temperature, changes in rainfall and evaporation, modified runoff and drainage patterns, evolution of cloud cover and sunshine levels are all bio-climactic factors that influence the functioning of ecosystems and can have an impact on agriculture.
- Climactic extremes, with an increase in frequency and intensity of extreme climate events like episodes of drought, storms, heat waves, and strong rainfall can cause significant losses for agriculture.
- The indirect effect of disease and pests: Even if it hasn’t yet been totally demonstrated, the link between climate change and the increase in disease and pests is equally strongly anticipated. The consequences of these changes are very variable depending on regions, both at the global and European scales.
Even if agriculture contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, it can also be a solution! Directly impacted by the effects of climate change, agriculture and forests are the only two sectors to also be able to naturally stock and capture carbon in soils and biomass. In this way, they also contribute in reducing emissions from other sectors by producing substitutes that allow to decrease their fossil fuel consumption.
Defining links between agriculture and climate
The acceleration in climate evolution is due to greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activities. The primary sectors that are responsible for the acceleration are energy, industry and transportation. Emissions caused by agriculture and deforestation have stabilized, but are still responsible for 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions – 11% for agriculture, 10% for changing land use (deforestation, for example) and 3% for other causes.
However, the “land sector” can plan a major role and could contribute from 20 to 60% of the potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions before 2030. How? Thanks to the overlooked role of agriculture and forest as a carbon pump, allowing it to store carbon and compensate for the emissions of other sectors, by the production of renewable energy and materials and by changing the methods of production (notably agroecology).
France’s agroecology project
“Agroecology constitutes a response to make sure that agriculture can efficiently fight against climate change. The idea is simple: work with nature, not against it. It’s about revolutionizing agricultural practices to produce just as much as now, but with less resources and better planning, with a triple objective of economic, ecological and social performance.
I wish to engage our agriculture on the path of economic, ecological and social performance, to make the environment an asset of our competitiveness. It’s a dynamic supported by the strength of our collective actions and the richness of our territories, on innovation and spreading out new knowledge,” Stéphane Le Foll, French Minister of Agriculture, said at the launching of the agroecology project in France in December 2012.