The Committee has received a request for an exploratory opinion from the incoming Latvian Presidency, which recommended to look at the following aspects in regard to the agricultural and forestry sectors: rural development, social aspects, regional contribution and the potential in achieving objectives and the "self-sufficiency" of the EU in the fields of food and renewable energy. A holistic assessment and approach is required in order to facilitate the reduction of GHG emissions without hampering the sustainable development and competitiveness of the EU.
The opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee would help the Member States to raise awareness and find the best ways to reduce GHG emissions in a cost effective manner while continuing work on the "Climate and energy policy framework for the 2020 to 2030 period" during the Latvian Presidency.
At the suggestion of the rapporteur, the opinion will look at the following climate and energy policy framework aspects with regard to the agricultural and forestry sectors:
- potentially positive impacts on EU agriculture and forestry, also taking into account the security of food supply;
- adaptation: the adequacy of current policies and measures, and recommendations for their improvement;
- recommendations for additional adaptation measures;
- mitigation: the effectiveness and socio-economic consequences of existing policies (in particular with reference to such themes as rural development and security of supply, both for food and energy);
- recommendations for additional mitigation measures;
- cross-cutting the aspect above, the opinion will assess the role of bio-industries in climate mitigation and adaptation policies in the agricultural and forestry sectors.
Taking into account the need to ensure coherence between the EU's food security and climate change objectives and keeping in mind the broader EU goals of growth and jobs, the opinion will take an open and holistic approach and aim to identify opportunities for the agriculture and forestry sectors. In particular, it will examine how the climate and energy policy can bring about developments with positive impacts on rural communities in terms of job creation, additional economic benefits for farmers and forest owners and boosting new innovative industry opportunities.
While underlining the challenges ahead, the opinion will suggest possible solutions to creating long-term sustainability, reducing energy dependence and benefiting consumers by means of decreasing energy prices and reducing energy poverty. It will also assess the importance of in-depth research and development as well as of education and training in promoting a smart, sustainable bio-economy based on creating maximum added value from raw materials.
- The EESC stresses that climate change is a global challenge. When deciding on the EU's contribution to the global climate agreement, the EU and the Member States should take into account the difference of policies worldwide and consider impacts of climate change and mitigation potentials. EU policies must address the challenge of maintaining food security in spite of the growing demand, while maintaining the competitiveness of the EU's agricultural and forestry sectors and strengthening the attractiveness of local EU producers, without imposing unnecessary burdens on farmers and forest owners. The EU should lead by example in economically, socially and environmentally sustainable farming. The EU policy framework needs to be coherent and consistent.
- The decision to integrate land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) in the post-2020 targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction creates a high degree of uncertainty for the farming and – in some cases – the forestry sector. Any decision has to be science-based and should be taken after a proper impact assessment of different options at Member State level. The EESC calls for flexibility, especially in Member States which have significantly lower footprints in agriculture or forestry.
- Given the expected positive economic and social impact, especially for job creation in rural areas, the EESC encourages an active strategy, taking into account the potential for sustainable and economically viable growth of biomass for bioenergy and the bioeconomy in general as well as sustainably intensified agriculture, guaranteeing stable additional income for farmers, forest owners and rural communities and boosting investment in infrastructure and the social needs of rural areas.
- Research, innovation and development are the main drivers for the transition to sustainable agriculture and forestry, including for bioenergy and the bioeconomy, in line with climate policy objectives. The EESC calls on the EU institutions and Member States to increase the funding for work in this field, and calls for a joint effort where findings are shared between the research communities. The key to successful implementation of innovation is to actively promote it via consultative and educational bodies to the end users in the agricultural and forestry sectors.