Citizens across the world are already suffering the damaging effects of climate change and are hoping to see practical outcomes from the upcoming COP23 negotiations in Bonn.
One area that is often overlooked is agriculture. In the European Union alone, agricultural activities generated 470.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2012, corresponding to about 10% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
While agriculture is clearly a big part of the problem, new research shows that it can also be a part of the solution, turning agricultural soils into a carbon sink instead of a source of CO2 emissions.
A new report by the European Conservation Agriculture Federation (ECAF) found that a production system called Conservation Agriculture (CA) can sequester almost 200 m tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere across the EU annually, equivalent to closing 50 coal-fired power plants.
Conservation Agriculture involves three key principles: minimum soil disturbance (no-tillage), permanent organic soil covers through crop residues or cover crops, and practising rotation or diversification in annual crops. The combination of these methods results in greater yields, fewer inputs, greater biodiversity, improved soil structure, reduced CO2emissions, carbon sequestration, less water run-off and greater profitability for farmers.
At the launch of this report, Gottlieb Basch, President of ECAF, told MEPs that one of the lynchpins to achieving this success is the continued access for farmers to glyphosate, an essential tool for CA farmers because it allows them control weeds in pre-seeding and have the crops established without a mechanical seedbed preparation.
The EU will host a critical vote on the re-authorisation of glyphosate on 9 November. If it fails, the huge potential of Conservation Agriculture to mitigate the negative effects of climate change is put at risk.
According to Basch: “If glyphosate is banned, we lose the most effective tool in the box for farmers wishing to be more environmentally sustainable and forcing our farmers to return to less climate-smart practices.
“What European governments do not seem to realise is that banning glyphosate goes completely against the Paris Agreement objectives and will seriously set us back in achieving them. When they meet in Bonn this week, governments are looking for solutions. We have one. Why would they prevent us from implementing this solution by banning a safe and sustainable tool like glyphosate?”
The European Conservation Agriculture Federation calls on European leaders to stand up for science-based policy and for a sustainable and climate-smart agriculture by voting to re-authorise this crucial product.
A report launched this year by the European Conservation Agriculture Federation (ECAF) says that we are missing the opportunity to remove 189 million tonnes of CO2 annually from the atmosphere by implementing Conservation Agriculture on crop lands in Europe.