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Climate change affects many sectors of the economy, and agriculture is one of the most susceptible as farming activities are highly dependent on weather. Access to natural resources (soil, air and water) is crucial to agricultural sustainability. Increased weather variability year-to-year due to climate change impacts on production, crop yields and is a threat to food security. Farming is thus on the front line in the battle against climate change. Nevertheless emissions from agriculture are substantial and climate friendly farming can also help provide solutions to the EU‘s overall climate challenges. The agriculture sector needs to address the twin challenge of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time delivering a vital service to society with a growing global population - food.

Corn and Wheat Fields © iStock

EU domestic achievements

Since 1990, EU emissions from agriculture have decreased by 24%.

The EU's reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) does more than ever before to support sustainable farming practices that are resilient to climate change.

New ‘greening’ rules mean that 30% of the payments going directly to farmers will be linked to improving the environmental performance, for example to adopt practices beneficial for the climate. Some 30% of rural development funds are also aimed at specific regional environmental priorities.

Measures that bring farmers and researchers closer together will make it possible for the traditional agricultural sector to meet our 21st century needs. They boost innovation and address the fundamental challenge of how to produce more while still respecting our natural resources and learning to adapt to climate change.

EU involvement in UN and other international projects

In line with the EU's decision to dedicate 20% of its 2014-2020 budget to climate-related action, climate adaptation action and efforts to reduce emissions are being actively integrated into all sectors of development cooperation, particularly in agriculture. The Commission works in partnership with a number of agencies and organisations to promote and finance climate smart agriculture programmes and projects around the world. These include:

The Global Climate Change Alliance

The Global Climate Change Alliance flagship programme, which was set up by the EU in 2007 to strengthen dialogue and exchange experiences and with developing countries most vulnerable to climate change, is contributing to sustainable agricultural practices. Today, 46 GCCA programmes are operating in 38 countries, 8 regions and sub regions in least developed countries and small island developing states across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific. More than 50% of the GCCA programmes address agricultural issues promoting climate adaptation and mitigation practices.

The Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases

Ten EU countries are members of this global initiative which aims to find new ways to produce food without increasing emissions. The Alliance aims to deepen and broaden mitigation research efforts across the agricultural sub-sectors of paddy rice, cropping and livestock, and the cross-cutting themes of soil carbon and nitrogen cycling and inventories and measurement issues.

Climate and Clean Air Coalition

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) is dedicated to reducing short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone or some hydrofluorocarbons to protect human health, agriculture and the environment. The European Union is one of the main contributors to the programme which is managed by the United Nations Environmental Programme. Since its launch in February 2012, the Coalition has been working to identify actions that will help bring the health, agricultural, environmental and climate benefits of reducing SLCPs. An example of action identified by the CCAC is the reduction of emissions of methane and black carbon from the agricultural sector, which will not only contribute to tackling climate change but also increase food security.