Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Report on Adapting EU Agriculture and Forestry to Climate Change Urges Better Communication of What Researchers Learn to Farmers and Land Managers

On March 30th, The British House of Lords EU Committee published its report on adapting agriculture and forestry to climate change. The Committee’s inquiry has focused on the European Commission White Paper, Adapting to Climate Change: Towards a European framework for action published in April 2009. 

The reports may be found by following these links:

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is important to any drive by the EU in adapting the agricultural sector to climate change, and the report sees the need for the CAP in future to support the sustainable intensification of agriculture.  Debate within the EU on the future of the CAP after 2013 is now underway, and the Committee calls on the Government to participate constructively in that debate.

Currently, the greatest need for adaptation lies in the southern parts of the EU, where some Member States are already facing severe problems caused by droughts and heat waves. The White Paper recognizes that, while most adaptation measures will be taken at national, regional or local levels, such measures could be strengthened by co-ordination at EU level. The Committee feels that between now and 2013 the EU needs to direct its efforts towards delivering change where it is needed most urgently.

The inquiry has highlighted the need to promote research and development into science and technology that will improve responses to climate change: the Committee stresses concern that, although the UK has continuing strengths in these areas, there has been a decline in the UK's research capacity over the last 20 or more years.

The report calls for better and more practical communication of knowledge gained from research to farmers and land managers. The European Commission has proposed a Clearing House mechanism for knowledge dissemination, but the Committee considers that this will only work if the knowledge is incorporated into practical advice for farmers; otherwise the take-up levels of adaptation measures will remain low. 

Further recommendations from the report include:
  • EU co-ordination of the process of identifying gaps in scientific and technological research on subjects such as the resilience of different varieties to projected climate changes
  • Strengthening the UK’s research capacity so that it can inform policy on adaptation to climate change effectively
  • The production by the Commission of a short annual report assessing Member States' approaches to using rural development programs to promote adaptation to climate change

Commenting on the report, Lord Patrick Carter, Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Environment and Agriculture, said, "We see an important role, for the EU and for individual Member States, in driving research forward, both into the science of climate change and its impacts, and into the technology that can help farmers and foresters with mitigation and adaptation.  A strong EU research and development capacity related to climate change will provide a basis to transfer knowledge to other countries.  The UK has historic strengths in relevant research areas which it needs to reinforce.

"But, while better research is needed, and EU funding can be better targeted, we are quite clear that governments must turn policies into specific help and guidance to farmers and foresters. Otherwise, EU proposals may never move from aspiration into reality."

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