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3rd Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture, March 2015. © INRA, MAITRE  Christophe

Climate change: COP21, research to find solutions

INRA's participation in the International Forum on Agriculture and Climate Change

On 20 February 2015, just before the Salon international de l'Agriculture (SIA) in Paris, and  a few months ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) to be held here in December, the farming world outlined its proposals for solutions to deal with climate change.  This forum was organised by the National Exhibition and Agricultural Fair Centre (CENECA).

By Eric Connehaye - Nicole Ladet
Updated on 02/27/2015
Published on 02/22/2015

Already some important impacts on agriculture and global food security

During a first session devoted to climate change, its determinants and effects on agriculture, the scientists' viewpoint was represented by Jean Jouzel (CNRS), Vice-Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Jean-François Soussana, INRA's Scientific Director for the Environment.  The former recalled that "the aim is to remain within the scenario of global warming by 2°C versus the pre-industrial era.  We should be able to adapt to this".  Jean-François Soussana underlined impacts on agriculture and global food security that have already been considerable, recalling for example that during the summer of 2010 in Russia, climate shock had direct effects on both yields and agricultural prices.  Jean Vettraino, a member of the Climate Action Network from Caritas France, expressed the viewpoint of civilian society, stating that "it is in southern countries that the greatest progress must be achieved in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting agriculture to climate change".

"The aim for the Paris conference in December is to develop a true programme for work to prevent desertification and improve soil fertilisation", added Laurence Tubiana, Climate Ambassador, who summarised progress with the negotiations on COP21.  A round table discussion then looked at the solutions and different actors which could ensure competitive agricultural development and be able to attenuate GG emissions.  Among the solutions proposed, Paul-Antoine Sebbe, Director General of SEDE (Veolia) presented the IRRI-ALT'EAU project implemented in Pech-Rouge with INRA on the controlled irrigation of vineyards.   Jean-Christophe Gouache, International Director at Limagrain, described Phénome (high-throughput plant phenotyping), an INRA-Arvalis project on the breeding of plants with greater resistance to environmental stresses.  Bruno Dufayet, a livestock farmer, pointed out that "the notion of progress must underpin agricultural common sense".

The need for more applied research

The last part of the day-long meeting was devoted to the role of public policies.  In his introduction to this session, Jose Graziano da Silva, Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) expressed the "need for more applied research".  Senzeni Zokwana, South Africa's Minister of Agriculture, indicated his commitment, saying "we are fighting for food security and against food waste".  Similarly, Sharon Dijksma, Minister of Agriculture in the Netherlands, explained "we are among the leading countries supporting climate-smart farming", and Aziz Akhannouch, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries in Morocco, added "through the Green Morocco Plan, we have reduced water waste by 400,000 m3". Abdelouahab Nouri, Algerian Minister of Agriculture, highlighted the fact that "the Green Dam project (8 million ha – 1,200 km) dates from the 1970s, which is indicative of how early we were aware of these issues".

Xavier Beulin, President of the French Farmers' Union (FNSEA) went on: "we need a common vision regarding both our need for research and practical implementation of its results by farmers".  Stéphane Le Foll, French Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, recalled the ambition of "sustainable agriculture that can meet economic challenges and participate in improving social conditions in different territories", declaring that "the carbon storage potential of European soils needs to be doubled".  François Houllier, President of INRA, noted that "a great deal is expected in this area from research and the scientific community".

The SIA will testify to everything that is best in human initiative.

Laurent Fabius, French Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development then cited Ban Ki-Moon, saying "there is no plan B, because there is no planet B". Xavier Beulin recalled Charles de Gaulle as saying "France would not be France without its grandeur", and assured the audience that "France can gain in stature from COP21".  Concluding these interventions,  President François Hollande declared that the forum was "proof that the farming world is assuming its responsibilities in the face of climate change".  He went on: "throughout history, disorders of the climate have always been a challenge for peace and security".  Among areas to be explored, he indicated that "public research must be free in Europe, within the boundaries of our laws", and "We must have the right urban policies to fight against the artificialisation of soils".  Finally, he stated that "at the end of 2015, we shall be setting up the Green Fund to finance energy transition in the least advanced countries", before concluding: "tomorrow, the SIA will testify to everything that is best in human initiative".