Agriculture and climate change


Agriculture is both a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and a sector that is negatively affected by climate change. It must adapt to climatic changes, reduce its emissions and contribute to combating climate change by increasing the storage of CO2 in soil and biomass.

Agriculture is particularly hard hit by climate change. Rising temperatures, heavy rainfall, droughts, storms and an increase in extreme weather events all have a direct impact on agricultural production. In some parts of the world, crop yields are already declining. Agriculture must adapt as effectively as possible to the new climatic conditions, for example, by making irrigation more efficient, diversifying cultivation systems and selecting drought-resistant species or varieties that are more suitable for a particular location.

At the same time, agriculture is a major contributor to climate change; its greenhouse gas emissions (especially nitrous oxide and methane from livestock farming and fertilisers) account for an estimated twelve per cent of global anthropogenic emissions. The drainage of peatlands for agricultural use is another significant source of emissions. The food system as a whole, from the provision of inputs through to consumption, is responsible for about 30 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions.

However, agriculture can contribute to combating climate change too by increasing the uptake and storage of atmospheric CO2 on farms, for example, through measures that increase soil carbon content or the production of above- and below-ground biomass (for example: agroforestry systems and perennial crops). Such measures often also increase the resilience of farms and their success in adapting to climate change.

The scale and speed of climate change often exceed the ability of smallholder farmers in developing countries to adapt to the new conditions. The lack of resources and knowledge makes it especially hard for such farmers to adapt to the consequences of climate change and, as a result, their livelihoods are threatened.

On behalf of the German Government, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH supports partner countries and donor communities in developing concepts that reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen the resilience of small farmers. The focus here is on ‘climate-smart agriculture’ which aims to bring about sustainable increases in yields and farmer income, adaptation to climate change and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. GIZ also advises on and supports the development of climate-smart and environmentally friendly agricultural value chains that enable food to be produced, processed and distributed efficiently and in a climate-friendly way. GIZ increasingly advises countries on the design and implementation of their national climate strategies as part of agricultural action programmes, which also address biodiversity protection. In this way, GIZ is making an important contribution to achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals.

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