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Think2030 conference – Session focus on agri-food

Reaching climate neutrality in agri-food – identifying the right policy mix

To limit the global mean temperature (GMT) increase within 1.5C, the EU has an objective to become climate neutral by 2050 and to reduce GHG emissions by 55% by 2030 (57% once the carbon sink target is factored in). GHG emissions have decreased by one third since 1990 in the EU27, decreasing particularly in the energy supply, industry, and residential sectors. However, despite this progress, in order to meet its future targets, substantive efforts in reducing emissions will need to be made in all sectors.

To reach climate neutrality by 2050, the European Commission has suggested in a recent communication that the EU sets a target to reduce emissions by 90% by 2040. Currently, agriculture accounts for approximately 13% of the EU’s GHG emissions. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA, 2022), approximately 45% of non-CO2 emissions from this sector come from enteric fermentation from livestock causing methane (CH4) emissions, while around 38% comes from nitrous oxide emissions (N2O) from agricultural soils caused by synthetic fertilisers, organic fertilizer, crop residues and cultivation of organic soils, and around 15% comes from manure management (both CH4 and N2O emissions). Emissions reductions in this sector have stagnated over the past two decades, and the sector is currently on track for a 5% reduction by 2030. The contribution of the agriculture sector to this target is inescapable: a feasible pathway to 90% would entail reductions in agricultural emissions between -35 to -45%, according to the EU’s scientific advisory body. Thus, a potential target of 90% reductions by 2040 will require a significant acceleration of reductions.

However, there is little evidence thus far to suggest that enough progress is being made under the current EU climate policy framework in the agricultural sector. In December of 2023, the Commission released a report analysing Member States’ submitted draft updates to their National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs). In its report, the Commission has emphasised that ambition gaps remain, with additional measures proposed falling short of the 55% GHG reduction target for 2030 by 4%, calling for additional measures to address agricultural emission. A recent report by the ESABCC has also suggested that there are currently policy gaps in the EU’s climate framework in addressing agricultural emissions, recommending an exploration of new climate policy instruments such as carbon pricing. This recommendation echoes an assessment of the Common Agricultural Policy conducted by the European Court of Auditors in 2022, which recommended the Commission explore potential polluter-pays-principle policy options for agricultural GHG emissions. In response to the ECA’s recommendation, the Commission recently commissioned an exploratory study to examine potential policy models for an agricultural ETS. This study concludes that while an ETS could potentially incentivise emission reductions along the agri-food value chain, a potential carbon pricing policy will need to be considered as part of a larger policy mix needed for agricultural emissions. In particular, the level of financial support needed to assist farmers in transitioning towards climate-friendly practices needs to be addressed.

This panel will discuss the policy mix that the EU could put in place in order to deliver on these reduction targets. What policy levers are needed to deliver climate mitigation in agriculture? How can this be done in a way that supports the agriculture sector in a just transition, and is complementary with achieving other societal goals including biodiversity protection, animal welfare and public health?

Moderated by Harriet Bradley – Head of Programme CAP&Food, Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP)

Presentation by Julia Bognar – Head of Programme Climate & Land Use, Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP)


• Aaron Scheid – Fellow at Ecologic Institute, member of Think Sustainable Europe network in Germany

• Valeria Forlin – Policy Officer at DG CLIMA, European Commission

• Marion Picot – Secretary General at European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) (invited)

• Marco Contiero – EU Policy Director on Agriculture, Greenpeace

• FAIRR representative (name tbc)

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