European farmers at the moment are living in times of change. For farmers change has always been part of life, but in the next couple of years European farmers will face at least two major changes of a very fundamental character. First of all there is the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the second is the need for climate change mitigation and adaptation practices. Unfortunately many EU policies, such as the common agricultural policy (CAP), do not yet include strategies or policies to explicitly address the current and future impacts of climate change.
What seem to be other drivers of European agriculture in the next decades? tte first to mention is the growing demand for safe and quality food together with growing awareness for nutrition issues and healthy food. Due to climate change mitigation demand for renewable energy is increasing. We can expect also increased demand for biodegradable paper, fibres, polymers, lubricants, surfactants and solvents. Increased demand for bio-pharmaceuticals can be expected, as well, ttere is also challenge in what type of farming is needed in Europe in future. To produce domestically some of the food and raw materials that Europe needs, there is a much greater control over how these are produced. It is also needed that farming does its part in caring for European landscapes and even for the global environment. Europe should neither aim blindly for productivity at all costs on the one hand, nor treat farmers only as glorified park-keepers on the other hand. Certainly practical support should be given to both aspects of farming: the private goods for the market, and the public goods which Europeans also want.
Regarding climate change mitigation EU forestry strategy remains the maintenance and development of existing carbon stores and carbon sinks, the expansion of forest area where appropriate, the replacement of fossil fuels with fuel-wood from sustainably managed forests and the replacement of high-energy products (e.g. steel, aluminium and concrete) with industrial wood products (low-energy renewable raw material). Agriculture has also an important role, on the one hand renewable raw materials should be produced on farms (i.e. biomass, bio-fuel) but also animal manure can be used as a substitute for high energy fertilisers. European agriculture is already able to produce biofuels at a large scale and the use of biofuels must be considered as a strategy issue in the future policy concerning both climate change and energy.
Regarding climate change adaptation it is mostly needed in particularly vulnerable regions in Europe, ttose where there is a large reliance on traditional farming systems and production of quality foods. Where such farming and production systems depend on favourable climatic conditions, climate change may cause large disruptions in rural society (Parry, 2000). To prevent or limit severe damage to the agriculture, society and economies, and to ensure sustainable development even under changing climate conditions, agriculture adaptation strategies are required at European, national, regional and local level. Adaptation needs the participation of all stakeholders who are involved in agricultural policy, business or service that is or will be affected by climate change. Agrometeorological community should help in this process to deal with the misconception that adaptation strategies and subsequent actions are always expensive to implement and that non-action is a cheaper alternative (Stern, 2006).
Climate change is likely to exaggerate the water resource differences between northern and southern Europe. As a consequence, the already existing pressures on water resources and their management in Europe are likely to increase over the next decades, ttis situation also calls for involvement of agrometeoroloy in long-term planning and pro-active management in order to ensure a sustainable use of water resources across Europe.
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