weather reporter: Mrs. Chemnitz, the Agora Agrar foundation puts the focus on agricultural change and diverts attention from energy and transport change. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are much lower than those from transportation and energy. Why is it necessary to found a new think tank right now?
Cristina Chemnitz: With our new foundation, Agora think tanks are now leading the way to climate neutrality in all major sectors, after energy, transport and industry, now also in agriculture, including food and forestry.
That is a great victory. On the one hand, because climate neutrality in industry and the energy sector is closely related to land use, ie agriculture and forestry.
On the other hand, because land use and nutrition also have to save considerable amounts of greenhouse gases. Food and agriculture together are responsible for around a quarter of German emissions.
Furthermore, agriculture, nutrition and forestry combine different dimensions of sustainability more than other areas. Agora Agrar therefore cares not only about climate neutrality, but also about other sustainability goals, such as the preservation of biological diversity and healthy and sustainable nutrition for all.
It has long been clear that agriculture needs a fresh start ecologically and in terms of climate policy. How do you want to ensure that existing knowledge is also applied? Do you have new approaches to this? Who is Ágora Agrar mainly aimed at?
We want to make it easier for political actors to put science-based concepts into practice. To do this, we want to make existing knowledge more accessible. Not only for political decision-makers, but for all those involved in the transformation process of our sector.
To support transformation, we not only develop scientifically sound analyses, but also political strategies. To this end, we want to engage in dialogue with those involved and help ensure that the findings are actually put to use.
We also have the impression that until now the existing knowledge has not been sufficiently taken into account for the design of the transformation process. That was an important motivation to found Agora Agrar.
The totality food and land useChanging the sector is a titanic task. Which set screws are the most important for the transformation? succeed and is it socially acceptable and economically viable?
What makes Agora Agrar special is that we deal extensively with agricultural, nutritional and forestry issues.
We focus on conversion in Germany itself. Our field of work here ranges from livestock and sustainable agriculture to land use issues and rewetting of moors to designing nutritional environments that allow everyone to choose a diet healthy and sustainable.
Of course, we will also deal with the EU level. The most important issues for us there are the European climate policy for land use and the redesign of the EU’s agricultural policy. To this end, we will work together with think tanks in Brussels and other EU countries.
How many greenhouse gases can the agricultural sector really save? According to a study by Agora Energiewende, agriculture will be Germany’s main emitter in 2050, with residual emissions of around 40 million tons of industrial agriculture.
He is co-director of the Agora Agrar think tank in Berlin, founded in May. The agricultural economist, who has a doctorate, previously headed the department for international food and agricultural policy at the Green-friendly Heinrich Böll Foundation for more than 15 years.
There is a high potential to save greenhouse gases in agriculture and agricultural land use. To develop this, the course must be set now.
The main adjustment screws are in three areas. First, the production and consumption of animal products such as milk and meat must be reduced. Second, synthetic nitrogen fertilizer should be used less and more efficiently. And third, most of the moors that are used for agriculture today need to be re-wetted.
These are important social challenges that require design. Agora Agrar wants to contribute to it.
How to avoid that the objectives are achieved at home but the problems are transferred to other countries? For example, meat consumption is falling in this country, but meat exports are increasing.
You are right, especially when it comes to meat production and consumption, there must be policy measures that change both supply and demand. The fall in production in Germany must not be compensated by meat imports from other countries. It is equally ineffective for greenhouse gas emissions in Germany if consumption falls here while export volumes rise at the same time.
Therefore, the political measures of consumption and production must go hand in hand. Agora Agrar will support the intelligent design and implementation of such measures.
Is organic farming in the form of 100% organic farming realistic for Agora Agrar? Are less common concepts such as agroforestry, malaria or regenerative agriculture also part of the solutions?
In my opinion, the question of 100 percent organic farming does not arise. Today, only about ten percent of the cultivated area is farmed organically. Promoting organic farming is correct because it follows important principles: extensive crop rotation, biological pest control, legume cultivation for soil fertility, animal-friendly farming.
Four groups of Agora experts
In ancient Greece, the agora was the cultural, event and market center of a city. As a meeting place and court, it played a central role in the orderly coexistence of the community.
Agora think tanks in Berlin want to find solutions with majority capacity for the transformation of the economy and society in order to overcome the climate crisis. After Agora Energiewende, Agora Verkehrswende and Agora Industrie, Agora Agrar started work in May as Agora’s fourth think tank. It is headed by agricultural economists Christine Chemnitz and Harald Grethe.
However, the fundamental renunciation of synthetic inputs, such as synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, is accompanied by a significant drop in yield. We can only achieve the federal government’s core sustainability goals with a fundamental transformation of nutrition, agriculture, and forestry.
Above all, this means far-reaching changes in conventional agriculture: improvements in crop protection are necessary and synthetic nitrogen fertilization must be significantly reduced. We also need more diversity in crop rotation and in the agricultural landscape.
We are also concerned with shaping the transition towards greater sustainability in such a way that it becomes an opportunity for the sectors involved. This also means that this translates into new sources of income.
That is why, for example, the malaria crops that you mention in re-wetted swamps are so important. If the majority of Germany’s moorlands are made moist again, renewable raw materials could be grown there, for example, which can then be used as insulating materials.