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New FiBL study shows ways for climate-neutral organic agriculture by 2040

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A tractor is driven on a field
Based on current knowledge, organic agriculture can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 15 per cent. Picture © Richard Bell / Unsplash

Net-zero emissions in organic agriculture in Switzerland are challenging, but possible. This is the conclusion of a study published today by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). While 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions could be saved in agriculture, consumers are also called upon to do their part by changing their consumption patterns, it says.

Based on the database on organic agriculture and climate protection compiled in the study, FiBL researchers modeled various scenarios to estimate the condition of climate-neutral organic agriculture in 2040 and identify the greatest challenges. In doing so, they came to the following conclusions:

Based on current knowledge, organic agriculture can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 15 per cent and offset them by 45 per cent. This will require diverse and substantial contributions from farmers.

Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by an additional 25 per cent via adjustments in consumer behavior: in particular, through reduced consumption of animal-based foods and reduced food waste and losses.

Further increased innovation in agriculture and consumption is needed into 2040 to also achieve the remaining 15 per cent of the target.

Measures will help ensure food security

About 15 per cent of emissions could be reduced through operational measures. In addition, there is the potential to offset about 30 per cent of emissions through storing C (soil organic carbon, plant charcoal and agroforestry). Another 15 per cent of emissions could be indirectly offset through renewable energy production (including agrophotovoltaics). Based on these assumptions and calculations, agriculture could contribute a total of up to 60 per cent to achieving the target.

Markus Steffens, soil and climate researcher at FiBL and co-author of the study, also thinks that the ambitious 'net zero' target in organic agriculture poses major challenges and requires the cooperation of all stakeholders in the entire food system. At the same time, however, he also draws attention to the opportunities of climate-neutral organic agriculture: "Many of the measures also contribute to adaptation to climate change and thus help to be able to ensure food security in the future."

A summary of the study can be found here (in German).


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