Climate change is one of the most challenging issues the mankind faces today. The Earth is warming up! The burning of fossil fuels, the cutting of forests and environmentally-unfriendly farming practices are the key reasons why the average temperature of the Earth’s surface has risen by 0.74 °C since the end of the 19th century. The temperature rise causes glaciers, permafrost and sea ice melting. It disturbs and destroys ecosystems and species, causes sea levels rising, seasons changing and more extreme weather, resulting in more frequent flooding and drought, more disease, more famine and hundreds of millions of environmental refugees.
The role of agriculture
Contrary to most other sectors, agriculture is both the source of greenhouse emissions (GHG) and a likely victim of climate change. Agriculture is a significant source of two greenhouse gases: nitrous oxide and methane. Agricultural soils and livestock directly emit GHG, while agriculture’s indirect emissions include fossil fuel use in farm operations, the production of agrochemicals and the conversion of land to agricultural use from forests. Agricultural direct emissions globally make up 14% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions. However, the total global contribution of the agricultural sector, including all direct and indirect emissions, is in the range of 17-32% of all global human-caused GHG emissions. Livestock farming and fertiliser use are by far the two most significant sources of GHG deriving from agriculture. Through enteric fermentation in the rumen, ruminant livestock (cattle, sheep and goats) produce methane, contributes to about 60% of all global methane emissions. Additionally, both methane and nitrous oxide are emitted from the storage, application and decomposition of manure in the soil. Nitrogen fertilisers applied on agricultural land emit nitrous oxide, a gas whose global warming potential is nearly 300 times greater than of CO2. Besides livestock farming and fertilisers, agriculture emits GHG through the production of legume crops, residue burning and land use change (e.g. conversion of carbon-rich grassland soils or forests into arable land).
Organic farming and GHG emissions
Organic farming contributes to the reduction GHG emissions because it reduces the consumption of fossil fuels (notably those used in fertiliser manufacturing), reduces emissions of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. It also reduces vulnerability of soils to erosion, while at the same time increasing carbon stocks in the soil. Consequently, conversion to organic farming is believed to be a viable way of reducing GHG emissions. Depending on the commodity produced, organic farming emits 6-60% less GHGs than non-organic farming. However, when calculated per kg of product, in the case of substantially lower yields, organic farming can result in a higher global warming potential.
The conference objectives are to:
- Inform about potentials and challenges of organic farming in regard to climate protection.
- Provide opportunity to exchange ideas about research, education and demonstration projects and opportunities on organic farming and climate change.
- Inspire to adopt policies fostering development of organic farming and promoting the spread of its practices.
The conference will bring together a range of organic farming stakeholders, mainly from Central and East European countries, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The participants are expected to come from the ministries, universities, research institutes, extension service, organic NGOs and the business sector.