The European Environment Agency (EEA) has projected that crop and livestock production will decrease and may even have to be abandoned in parts of Europe’s southern and Mediterranean regions due to increased negative impacts of climate change, including extreme events like droughts, heatwaves and floods.
A new study by the Agency, announced 4 September, says that adapting to climate change must be made a top priority for the European Union’s agriculture sector if it is to improve resilience to extreme events.
“Despite some progress, much more must be done to adapt by the sector itself, and especially at farm-level, and future EU policies need to be designed in a way to facilitate and accelerate transition in this sector”, said Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director
Adverse impacts of climate change are already being felt across Europe. Extreme weather, including recent heatwaves in many parts of the EU are already causing economic losses for farmers and for the EU’s agriculture sector. Future climate change might also have some positive effects due to longer growing seasons and more suitable crop conditions, but these effects will be outweighed by the increase in extreme events negatively affecting the sector, according to the report.
The report looks at key climate change problems facing agriculture in the EU and the outlook for the years ahead. It also gives an overview of how EU policies and programmes address climate change adaptation and includes examples of feasible and successful adaptation actions. The EEA assessment is consistent with the key messages from the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on climate change and land.
The report identifies adaptation at farm level as key…most of the EEA member countries have national adaptation strategies in place. While all of these strategies include agriculture as a priority sector, only a limited number of countries included adaptation measures specific to the agriculture sector.
One of the EU’s objectives is to mainstream adaptation in various EU policies, including the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). However, adaptation at the farm level often does not take place because of lack of financing, policy support to adapt, institutional capacity and access to adaptation know-how. The EEA report stresses that more knowledge, innovation and awareness raising are required to improve the effective use of the already available adaptation measures, like introducing adapted crops, improved irrigation techniques, field margins and agroforestry, crop diversification or precision farming.
These practices should also lead to lower greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, better management of soil, land and water resources, which in turn will help preserve local ecosystems and biodiversity. The report also suggests that EU Member States should better prioritise adaptation in the agricultural sector, for example by increasing the financing of adaptation measures through the implementation of the CAP.