The King’s Village Declaration on Organic Agriculture and Climate Change

The Netherlands - November 2009

By endorsing the King’s Village declaration, 98 participants, representing 28 nationalities, of the Avalon International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Climate Change, held on September 28 and 29, 2009 at King’s Village, Sophia, Bulgaria, would like to urge farmers, the business community, consumers and policy makers to act responsibly and to support the further adoption of organic farming.

Organic Farming & Protecting Our Climate

Organic farming can make a contribution towards solving numerous social, environmental, economic and agronomic problems. In particular, organic farming can contribute to protecting our climate from further degradation and undesirable changes. The existing scientific evidence suggests that organic farming mitigates climate change on two levels. It reduces the consumption of fossil fuels (notably those used in fertiliser manufacturing) and thus cuts emissions of greenhouse gasses. At the same time it increases the long-lasting carbon stock in the soil, decreasing its concentration in the atmosphere. Soil carbon plays a key role in maintaining long-term soil fertility. It provides plant nutrients, enhances the soil’s microbiological activity, structure and water holding capacity. The latter is particularly important in our time, when extreme weather conditions such as excessive rainfalls and droughts tend to occur more frequently.

Organic Farming, Climate & Food Productivity

Organic farming is a multi-objective concept and its environmental and socio-economic benefits go far beyond mere climate protection. The impact of potential large-scale conversion to organic farming on climate change is not yet fully explored and known. The few pioneering studies suggest that a wide-spread conversion to organic farming can contribute to reaching the greenhouse emission reduction targets. However, the role of organic farming in halting climate change should also be further explored in the context of its impact on regional and global food productivity. Organic farming’s “climate performance” should be assessed not only against the farmed area, but also against the quantity of food and fibre it produces. By adopting organic farming practices, farmers can help in mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Changing our habits

By buying organic food and by changing dietary habits, notably by eating fewer animal products, consumers can also help in reducing greenhouse emissions. Using environmentally-friendly means of transport for food shopping is another way for consumers to behave responsibly. The price we pay for food, in general, does not reflect the environmental and social costs associated with its production, transport, processing, storage and trade. These negative externalities are not internalised in the food price. When buying organic food, consumers do not buy only a climate-friendly product, but also a product that provides many other environmental benefits, scores high on animal welfare and tends to have a higher nutritional value per weight unit.

What can policy makers add?

A great deal of responsibility for climate protection rests on policy makers. The current international carbon trading schemes do not credit carbon-friendly farming methods. Paying farmers for avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and/or for sequestering soil carbon would be a good way of rewarding responsible farmers for the positive environmental externalities they create. In order to catalyse the further development of the organic food and farming sector, policy makers could put in place a set of regulatory, economic and informative policy instruments favouring the development of organic farming and discouraging climate-damaging farming methods.

Creating a dialogue

Avalon and its network partners will actively lobby for the recognition of the role of organic farming in halting climate change, and invite responsible farmers, consumers and policy makers to support and enable the further adoption and development of organic farming to help in solving one of the most challenging problems of humankind: climate change.

Interested in follow up?

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