Moving forward at greater speed and cohesion to reach Europe’s sustainable goals
The Farm to Fork Strategy, together with the Biodiversity Strategy, is at the heart of the European Unions’ Green Deal, formulated as an ambitious answer to the great challenges of our time. It aims to transform the European Union into a “fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use.” The Green Deal “also aims to protect, conserve and enhance the EU's natural capital, and protect the health and well-being of citizens from environment-related risks and impacts”, and is an integral part of the European strategy to implement the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At the 10 Year Anniversary Event of the Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change, Nathalie Sauze-Vandevyver (DG AGRI), reiterated this ambition “to halt biodiversity decline, to protect and preserve ecosystems, and to manage natural resources on land and in sea in a sustainable way, with the objectives to ensure food and nutrition security, to have a clean and healthy environment, climate neutrality and adaptation.” The importance of primary production in combating climate change was further stressed by Simon Kay (DG Clima): “A major policy dilemma is the need to keep producing food, feed and energy from agriculture and forestry, and at the same time the need for carbon sinks and the urgency to address biodiversity and sustainability in general. The crucial research questions need to focus on what actions are possible to manage such a balance.” Finding answers to these dilemma’s and challenges is of crucial importance, and needs to happen fast: “the next decade is the decade where we need to accelerate transformation in all our economic sectors, in particular the food system”, says Sebastien Treyer (IDDRI).
Transformation requires joint efforts…
Transnational initiatives like FACCE-JPI have been playing an important role in bringing together the strategic research priorities of a large number of European countries with the ‘goal to align and make a difference in finding solutions through co-investment in research and innovation activities’, as the FACCE-JPI chair Gudrun Langthaler pointed out during the day. With the new ambitious goals set out by the European Green Deal and supported by the Common Agricultural Policy, FACCE-JPI member countries stress the need for concerted action. José Manuel González (Spain) stated that in addition to the members states’ ensuring that national priorities are in line with the European ones, there is also “a need for more emphasis and acknowledgement in the EU for specific national priorities”. Joint efforts also include a greater involvement of stakeholders such as industry and SMEs, and the involvement and position of primary producers: “any transition should address firstly farmers and consider their viability and capacity to adapt to a changing environment and should strengthen their livelihood” according to Gianluca Brunori (FACCE-JPI Scientific Advisory Board chair).
… and research that translates into impact in an international context.
Research and innovation are crucial in determining impact of policies: “What needs to be done is to assess the outcomes”, Tassos Haniotis (DG AGRI) mentioned. At the same time, “improvements will only be seen if famers are equipped and informed”, as Guillaume Gruère (OECD) says. This requires closer interaction between science, innovation, and policies, as is reflected in the words of Frank O’Mara (Teagasc): There is a real urgency to involve farmers into research and innovation action and “to support farmers to adopt the knowledge that we are generating”.
It is obvious that Europe’s ambitions will have impact for other parts of the world as well, and that strong international collaboration is key - both in addressing the challenges, but also in ensuring that a positive effect for Europe does not entail a negative effect elsewhere in the world. Irene Hoffmann (CGRFA, FAO): “An important message [is] that research and technology should address all segments of agriculture and particularly the small-scale farmers in diverse ecosystems”.
FACCE-JPI will continue contributing towards a greater alignment and impact of research and innovation in a time when, according to Janny Vos (CABI): “the need for improving food security around the globe is increasing in urgency”. James Lomax (UNEP) stressed that “this” is the time because there is a global conversation about food systems transformation. The Joint Programming Initiative will continue to join its voice to this conversation directed at transforming our food systems, or as the chair pointed out: “food systems must not be only for the production [but] also take care of environment, nature-based solutions, nature positive solutions and biodiversity and ecosystem services”.