For this reason agriculture has to cope with climate change in two respects: On the one hand it is requested to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions; on the other hand it is left with no other choice than to adjust to the changed climate conditions. With a great number of measures, such as environmentally compatible and sustainable management, the promotion of regional marketing and bioenergy generation, domestic agriculture is making an important contribution to climate protection.
Greenhouse gas emission trends
Whereas the total greenhouse gas emissions in Austria increased by 2.4% in the period from 1990 to 2009, those from agriculture decreased by 11% in the same period. According to the 2011 greenhouse gas inventory, which depicts the greenhouse gas emissions of 2009, about 9.5% (7.6 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents) of the Austrian greenhouse gas emissions are generated by agriculture.
In agriculture, we usually distinguish between the three categories “Enterogenic fermentation” (i.e. emissions from the digestive processes of animals), “Agricultural soils” and “Organic manure management”. The first and the second of these categories account for about 43%, respectively 41%, of the emissions arising in agriculture; the category “Organic manure management” is responsible for only 16%.
In all three categories a marked reduction of emissions has been recorded since 1990. This is above all due to reductions in cattle stocks and fertiliser use and to the active participation of farmers in the Austrian Agri-environmental Programme.
Adaptation to climate change
The national strategy for adapting to climate change, which is expected to be available in spring 2012, is to provide a federal subordinate framework of action which will then render it possible to (develop) derive concrete measures.
For agriculture, the following key priorities were identified:
- Enhanced establishment and promotion of water-saving irrigation systems as well as improvements in irrigation planning
- Sustainable formation of soil and ensuring soil fertility, structure and stability
- Integrated landscape design for the protection of the soil and the improvement of agro-ecology including the maintenance and tending of landscape elements
- Breeding and targeted use of water-saving, heat-tolerant crops (species / variety) for the purposes of regionally adapted management
- Provision of scientific background for new diseases and pests
- Environmentally compatible and sustainable use of pesticides
- Adaptation of the fertilisation management to seasonal weather conditions
- Checking the suitability of sites due to changing climate conditions and elaboration of recommendations for the choice of site-adapted crops
- Taking into account the future requirements of animal stable air-conditioning due to rising thermal stress
- Optimisation of greenhouse cultivation in respect of energy supply, water supply and refrigeration utilities for greenhouses
- Revitalising of alpine pasture management and maintenance of existing alpine pastures