Farming and forestry
Farming generates around eight percent of Germany's greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through animal husbandry and the use of fertilisers. While 30 years ago emissions were recorded at 90 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, today they are around 68 million tonnes. This decline was mainly due to the reduction in animal stocks in eastern Germany following reunification.
Reducing the use of nitrogen fertilisers
Greenhouse gas emissions in farming are mainly produced from animal husbandry and the use of nitrogen fertilisers. With the new Fertiliser Ordinance (Düngeverordnung) of 1 May 2020, there is to be a targeted reduction in nitrogen surplus and nitrogen and ammonia emissions in farming. Even if emissions from farming are unlikely to be completely preventable in the long term, they need to be reduced as far as possible.
Greenhouse gases from farming: methane and laughing gas
Methane is mainly produced in animal husbandry by the animals’ digestive process (primarily in cattle farming) as well as by liquid manure used as farm fertiliser. Methane is around 25 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide (CO2). Laughing gas is released when nitrogen fertilisers and animal manure are introduced into the soil. It is around 300 times more damaging to the climate than CO2.
Doubling organic farming
The proportion of agricultural land farmed organically is to increase from 9.7 percent at present to 20 percent by 2030. Increasing this can achieve a reduction in emissions of between 0.4 and 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents a year. This will be due, first and foremost, to the reduction in the use of chemical fertilisers, which produce greenhouse gas emissions when they are manufactured.
Within the framework of the Joint Task for the Agricultural Structures and Coastal Protection (GAK), the Federal Government and federal states (Länder) are promoting organic farming with nearly €110 million annually. The “Federal Scheme for Organic Farming and Other Forms of Sustainable Agriculture” has been significantly reinforced: in 2020 alone, nearly €29 million are available for this in the federal budget.
The Federal Government wants to further develop and improve the legal and financial support for, in particular, environmentally-friendly and sustainable land management practices, such as organic farming.
Climate-friendly land use
Great amounts of carbon dioxide are held in forests and the soil. As a result of this, there is enormous climate protection potential in the conservation and sustainable expansion of forests. Sustainable forest management and the use of wood, for example, as a building material, are also crucial. It is also important to preserve permanent grassland and re-wet moor soils. Achieving this reduction is necessary in order to meet the climate protection targets agreed in the Paris Agreement. This is not yet linked with any offsetting of other unprevented greenhouse gas emissions.
The Federal Government and federal states (Länder) are providing around €1.5 billion for measures such as reforesting and conversion to climate-compatible mixed forests.
Climate protection ensures food supply
On the one hand, farming is itself directly affected by climate change and therefore has a great interest in adapting itself. On the other hand, it is an important contributor to climate protection through its sustainable production of biogenic raw materials. Its key task is to safeguard the food supply in a sustainable manner and to produce raw materials for other purposes, for example, bioenergy and fibres. This is another reason why it is important to protect the natural foundations of life.
The Federal Government is funding research and development projects in order to open up further potential for adapting to climate change and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in farming.
Farming in Germany is to become more climate-friendly through a mixture of measures:
• less nitrogen surplus
• more organic farming
• fewer emissions from animal husbandry
• conservation and sustainable management of forests and wood use
• energy efficiency in farming
• humus conservation and formation in arable land
• conservation of permanent grassland
• protection of moor soils/reduction in use of peat in composts
• increase in sustainable diets including avoiding food waste