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Accelerating the shift to more sustainable agriculture, food and forestry systems

Land use

The agriculture, food, and forestry sectors are critical to achieving Europe’s climate, biodiversity, and conservation goals. Scientific evidence shows that the EU must reduce consumption of animal products, rewet peatlands, reduce nitrogen surpluses, and in general work with, not against, nature to meet these goals. Yet progress towards such a farming system is far too slow, due in part to the power of vested interests and the lack of a compelling alternative vision for agriculture. As a result, agricultural policies, especially the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), are perpetuating the status quo despite the EU’s stated objectives in the European Green Deal to shift to a more sustainable system, particularly through the Farm to Fork and biodiversity strategies and Europe’s 2030 climate goals. 

In Germany – the largest absolute contributor to the EU Budget and the third largest CAP beneficiary – civil society organisations came together in 2020 in a Commission on the Future of Agriculture and started to make more far-reaching proposals on the way forward for the German agricultural sector. Following 2021 federal elections, the new governing coalition took up part of this work package, opening a window of opportunity for Germany to implement reforms at the national level as well as to play a leading role in the shift towards a sustainable agriculture and food system at the EU level.

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An ECF network effort

To help seize this opportunity, the ECF supported the creation of Agora Agrar (‘Agora Agriculture’), a new think tank for food, agriculture, and forestry working at the German and EU levels.  Launched in May 2022, Agora Agriculture will focus primarily on the food and agriculture sectors, as well as the broader role of land use in climate action (including bioenergy, forests, peatlands, and forestry). To carry out its mission, Agora Agriculture will produce science-based analyses, organise 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.  

It joins the “Agora Family” of think tanks alongside Agora Energiewende, Agora Verkehrswende, and Agora Industry, which work on energy, mobility and industry. Agora Agriculture is thus perfectly positioned to understand both the synergies and competing interests over land use from different stakeholders. This systemic vision will be crucial for building consensus and making evidence-based policy recommendations at the German and EU levels. 

Agora Agriculture is led by two Directors: Dr. Christine Chemnitz, who previously led international agriculture and food policy at the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, and Prof. Dr. Harald Grethe, Professor in International Agricultural Trade and Development at Humboldt-Universität in Berlin and former chair of the scientific advisory board on agriculture at the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. 

The launch of Agora Agriculture also illustrates the ECF’s strategic role at the interface between the philanthropy community and civil society. It results from a collective effort by the ECF, together with the Robert Bosch Stiftung, Porticus, and Umweltstiftung Michael Otto, to help drive the shift to more sustainable land use systems in Germany and the EU.  

Looking ahead

As a first step, Agora Agriculture is undertaking an in-depth analysis of the reform agenda. It will work with think tanks and thought leaders in other countries, some of which the ECF is already supporting (e.g. IDDRI and the Institute for European Environmental Policy) to ensure that its policy recommendations are deeply rooted in the public policy debate in key EU Member States like Germany and France, and at EU level.  

  • Read more about Agora Agriculture

    The independent think tank Agora Agriculture works at the intersection of science, policy, society, and the private sector. Their aim is to develop science-based policy proposals for more sustainable food, agriculture, and forestry in Germany and the EU.