The agricultural sector recognizes its co-responsibility for climate change, says Piet Vanthemsche, chairman of the Boerenbond. ‘However, the Flemish agricultural sector has made a lot of effort in recent decades.’
Climate change is a fact. The role of human activity in this is beyond question and the agricultural sector recognizes its shared responsibility. Worldwide agricultural activity directly represents 13.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. In Flanders, this share is 12%. The Flemish agricultural sector has made a great deal of effort in recent decades to reduce emissions. The policy has played a guiding role in this. But it can and must improve.
Climate change in the flesh
The Flemish Environment Agency indicates that the annual average temperature in Flanders is already 2.4 ° C higher than in the pre-industrial period (1850 – 1899). The number of tropical days and heat waves has increased. In addition, there is an annual average of 13% more rainfall and the number of days with heavy rainfall has increased. The future scenarios indicate that Flanders will have to contend with more flooding, mainly in winter, and with long drought periods in summer. Apart from the catering industry on the coast, few are as concerned about the weather as the farmer. His portfolio literally lies in all weathers. Climate change can therefore be felt in every farmyard.
Tackling climate change
Flemish agriculture and horticulture have reduced CO2 emissions by 15% over the past two decades, mainly by focusing on energy efficiency and the switch to cleaner, more CO2-neutral fuels such as cogeneration and renewable energy. For example, the sector in Flanders has even evolved into a net electricity producer.
We are facing a very important climate summit in Paris. A global approach is absolutely necessary. Only a strictly European or Flemish climate policy will have little effect because business activities will relocate to regions where a less strict policy is pursued, the so-called ‘ carbon leakage’. A global agreement with binding agreements for all regions, countries, and major emitters must be the goal. In addition to mitigation – reducing greenhouse gas emissions – one must also fully focus on adaptation – increasing resilience against and adapting to climate change.
Voice of the farmer
Farmers worldwide are faced with the challenge of helping to combat climate change and mitigate its consequences. The World Farmers’ Organization (WFO) actively participates in international discussions. As a founding member, Boerenbond endorses the recommendations of WFO in the climate debate. Climate-Smart Agriculture focuses on agricultural techniques that lead to more production, fewer emissions, and greater resilience to climate change. After all, with a growing world population, it is not an option to reduce food production in order to emit fewer greenhouse gases. The vital food production must be as sustainable as possible, by using natural resources (water, soil, nutrients, etc.) as efficiently as possible and minimizing emissions to soil, water, and air (including greenhouse gas emissions). More and more agronomists and scientists are therefore arguing for ‘sustainable intensification’ at a global level. We will have to produce more worldwide with fewer inputs and fewer emissions.
n terms of climate, the agricultural sector is not only part of the problem, but also an important part of the solution, through the climate-friendly plant and animal production (as a source of much-needed nutritional elements such as proteins, minerals, and vitamins), the production of renewable and sustainable energy, sustainable soil management and adapted water management. The agricultural sector wants to make further progress in this, but the individual farmer cannot do this alone. There is a worldwide need for an adapted and supportive policy, based on the findings of research institutions and centers of practice. These important efforts involve important investments. The sector cannot bear this alone. Do you have an interest in agriculture? Visit ‘cannabis mites‘ for more details.