Dr. Christine Chemnitz
Food, agriculture, and forestry are of great importance for climate neutrality, biodiversity conservation and other key sustainability goals at national and international levels. The necessary knowledge on how to achieve these goals is largely available. Despite this, current agricultural, forestry, and food policies in Germany and the EU are not sufficiently aligned to the sustainability goals. We would like to change that.
At the independent think tank Agora Agriculture, we work on the central areas of action of the transformation at the interface between science, policy, society, and the private sector. With our work, we want to contribute to achieving the democratically negotiated sustainability goals and support future societal negotiation processes for the transformation.
We produce science-based analyses, organize dialogues, and develop politically feasible solutions for a broad range of topics, from the transformation of livestock farming to the rewetting of peatlands, sustainable arable farming and land use in the bioeconomy, and sustainable food systems.
An important basis of the work of Agora Agriculture is the integrated consideration of the sustainability dimensions. This, together with cooperation with Agora Energiewende, Agora Verkehrswende and Agora Industry, enables the comprehensive consideration of synergies and conflicting goals in the context of future land use. We focus on the transformation in Germany; however, we also work on key processes at the EU level and consider the international implications of political action.
Since transformation is a task for society overall, we address our analyses and recommendations to political decision-makers, interest groups from the private sector, agricultural producers, civil society, and journalists. We see the necessary change as an opportunity – not only for society – but also for the sectors involved. These change processes require a democratic and knowledge-based design. Agora Agriculture contributes to this.
The Council of Agora Agriculture brings together key stakeholders of the agricultural, forestry, and food policy debate. It will be established by summer 2022, and will bring together around 20 people from politics, associations, business, science, and civil society.
The Council is a forum for the open and trustful exchange of different perspectives on the challenges of sustainability transformation in food, agriculture, and forestry and on the work of Agora Agriculture.
In addition to the Council, we will establish a Scientific Advisory Board consisting of about 20 scientists from different disciplines. The Scientific Advisory Board will advise Agora Agriculture on complex issues that can only be addressed in an inter-and transdisciplinary way.
Agora Agriculture is supported by private foundations and organisations. The organization works independently of economic and partisan interests.
Agora Agriculture is part of the Agora think tanks, which also include Agora Energiewende, Agora Industry, and Agora Verkehrswende. The organisations are united in the pursuit of a climate-neutral future in Germany, Europe and globally. They work in a science-based and interdisciplinary manner to develop sound and politically feasible paths for the major transformation sectors. The Agora think tanks share knowledge with stakeholders from politics, business, science and civil society and strive for a productive exchange of ideas.
Agora Agriculture, Agora Energiewende, and Agora Industry are part of the non-profit SEFEP gGmbH, which is funded by grants from foundations and public institutions. The organization is not beholden to corporate or political interests.
Berlin, 17 May 2022. With today's launch of Agora Agriculture, the independent think tank begins its work on sustainable food, agriculture, and forestry in Germany and the EU. These areas are central to climate protection, biodiversity conservation, and to achieving other sustainability goals at national and international levels. The new organization joins Agora Energiewende, Agora Verkehrswende, and Agora Industry, covering another sector that is central to achieving climate neutrality. The food system as a whole is responsible for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. In addition, agriculture and forestry are of particular importance for biodiversity due to their share of about 80 percent of Germany’s land area.
Agora Agriculture aims to develop science-based policy proposals for sustainable food, agriculture, and forestry. Through sound analysis and the organization of dialogues, the think tank will support political negotiation processes to achieve key sustainability goals. The focus of Agora Agriculture’s work includes restructuring of livestock farming, sustainability in arable farming and sustainable land use, the rewetting of peatlands, sustainable forest use, and healthier and more sustainable diets.
The think tank is co-chaired by agricultural experts Christine Chemnitz and Harald Grethe. "Food, agricultural, and forestry policies need to be oriented towards key sustainability goals," said Harald Grethe, Director of Agora Agriculture. “The areas that require urgent political action are well known. With our work, we want to help ensure that political decision makers shape the transformation in a knowledge-based, transparent way and with a long-term perspective.”
"Contributing to solving the climate and biodiversity crisis holds great opportunities for the sectors involved and for society as a whole – also in politically uncertain times,” said Agora Agriculture Director Christine Chemnitz. “Agora Agriculture is committed to preserving production resources such as soil and water, developing new sources of income, and increasing societal appreciation of agriculture and forestry."
An important foundation of Agora Agriculture's work is its integrated approach to key sustainability dimensions. This, together with the cooperation with Agora Energiewende, Agora Industry, and Agora Verkehrswende, enables a holistic view of synergies and conflicting goals in the context of future land use. "We are very pleased that with the launch of Agora Agriculture, the Agora think tanks now cover another essential area in the transformation to climate neutrality," said Markus Steigenberger, Managing Director of Agora Energiewende.
Chemnitz and Grethe will head Agora Agriculture and build an interdisciplinary 14-member team. Both have many years of professional experience in the fields of agricultural and food policy: Christine Chemnitz was previously Head of the Unit on International Agricultural Policy at the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation for more than 15 years. Harald Grethe heads the International Agricultural Trade and Development Group at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and was Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board for Agricultural Policy, Food and Consumer Health Protection at the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture from 2012 to 2020.
Agora Agriculture works independently of economic and partisan interests and is supported by funding from private foundations. These include the Robert Bosch Stiftung, Porticus, the European Climate Foundation and the Michael Otto Environmental Foundation. The Mercator Foundation is also among its supporters.
Agora Agriculture develops scientifically sound and politically feasible paths for the transformation to sustainable food, agriculture, and forestry. The organization works independently of economic and partisan interests.
Phone +49 30 700 1435-000
Fax +49 30 700 1435-129
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Nutrition decisions take place in a politically, economically, and culturally shaped environment. Agora Agriculture develops concepts for the design of food environments that enable all people to make healthy and sustainable food choices. These choices have an impact on their health, but also on climate, environment and animal welfare, as well as social conditions along the value chain.
Livestock farming in Germany is criticized due to the conditions under which livestock is raised as well as due to the sector's impact on climate, environment, and public health. In order to meet changing societal demands, a restructuring of the sector must take place according to the guiding principle "less and better." This will only succeed if better animal welfare conditions are also financed by society and there is a political strategy for reducing the consumption and production of animal products. There are concrete proposals on the table for restructuring the livestock sector. Agora Agriculture is helping to develop these further and enable their political implementation.
Drained peatlands contribute massively to the climate crisis. They cover only about 7% of agricultural land but cause about 40% of emissions from agriculture and agricultural land use in Germany. These emissions decrease significantly when peatlands are rewetted. That is why the guiding principle counts: "mires must be wet." However, rewetting is a major challenge. It requires a paradigm shift because until well into the 20th century, draining peatlands was considered an achievement and a contribution to food security. Rewetting poses a considerable reduction in the utilization possibilities of today's owners and users, which is why rewetting can only be implemented in consultation with them. In this respect, wet mire utilization must also open economic opportunities. Agora Agriculture promotes this dialogue with different interest groups in order to develop a peatland strategy with concrete goals and a strategic mix of political instruments.
About 12 million hectares of land in Germany are used as arable land to feed people and livestock and to produce raw materials for energy and materials. Arable farming faces the challenge of continuing to achieve high yields, but with a significantly lower impact on the environment and climate. To achieve this, nutrient cycles must be closed to a greater extent, plant protection must be made more sustainable, and agricultural landscapes must become more diverse. Agora Agriculture is helping to shape the necessary transformation in such a way that sustainability goals are achieved and income opportunities for farmers are created.
Land use generates climate-damaging emissions, but at the same time, the plants extract CO2 from the atmosphere. In order to design effective climate protection policies for agriculture and forestry, these two different effects must be considered in an integrated manner. This includes emissions from land use and the buildup of carbon sinks in natural systems (e.g., soil carbon, and trees), the buildup of carbon sinks in downstream material stores (e.g., construction wood), and the substitution performance of biomass used for energy or materials.
The increasing demand for biomass for the production of energy and materials has implications for land and food prices as well as for cropping patterns and biodiversity. Agora Agriculture structures the debate around the potential contribution of agriculture and forestry to the decarbonization of other sectors, analyzes the implications for multiple societal goals, and develops policy proposals for use oriented towards different sustainability dimensions.
With a share of over 30%, forests are the second most important form of land use in Germany after agriculture. Forests are important for biodiversity, as a carbon sink for climate protection, contribute to water storage and fulfil an important socio-cultural function for humans as recreational areas.
Despite their importance to society, the diverse ecosystem services provided by forests have been under-rewarded and therefore under-provided for. At the same time, climate change is endangering forests and thus also the services they provide to society.
Agora Agriculture structures the debate on conflicts of forest use in the light of the different sustainability goals and develops proposals for a goal-oriented design of forest policy.
The EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the major levers for shaping and financing the transformation of agriculture in Germany and the EU. Under the CAP, around six billion euros in EU funds are made available each year in Germany to support agriculture. In future, this money should be paid to farmers in a targeted manner for the provision of services of public interest (especially environmental and climate protection and animal welfare). Agora Agriculture is developing concepts for further developing the CAP at the EU level as well as proposals for German policy in order to orient the CAP more strongly towards sustainability goals within the framework set by the EU.
Christine Chemnitz previously headed the Department of International Agricultural and Food Policy at the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation for more than 15 years. She studied agricultural sciences in Göttingen and Berlin and received her PhD in Agricultural Economics from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in 2011.
Harald Grethe has been a Professor in International Agricultural Trade and Development at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin since 2016. Previously, he headed the Department of Agricultural and Food Policy at the University of Hohenheim and was Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board on Agricultural Policy, Nutrition and Consumer Health Protection at the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (WBAE) from 2012 to 2020.
Telephone +49 30 700 1435-000
Telefax +49 30 700 1435-129
Smart Energy for Europe Platform (SEFEP) gGmbH
Agora Agrar is part of the Smart Energy for Europe Platform (SEFEP) gGmbH. The company is registered at Amtsgericht Charlottenburg, HRB 126 115 B.
Note: Only informal contacts are possible via e-mail. Legally binding declarations cannot be delivered this way.
SEFEP is run by the management team of Agora Energiewende, consisting of Matthias Buck, Simon Müller, Frank Peter, Jesse Scott, and Markus Steigenberger.
Dr. Jahel Mielke
Dr. Christine Chemnitz
Prof. Dr. Harald Grethe
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