03 Dec 2019, 13:40
Benjamin Wehrmann

Merkel seeks to appease protesting farmers, says effective climate action is 'common cause'

Clean Energy Wire

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has invited representatives of the country's agricultural sector to a summit at the Chancellery, following large-scale protests by thousands of farmers in Berlin against an agricultural reform package that aims to reduce the use of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides. "This dialogue is very, very important to me," Merkel said, adding that the government is aware of the difficult situation many farmers find themselves in. She noted that agriculture is simultaneously supposed to provide a sense of tradition and identity, while also modernizing to remain economically viable and ecologically sustainable. Merkel said she can understand that farmers are frustrated because many commentators lack first-hand experience. "People who work in agriculture know what nature is like," she said, reassuring the farmers that they will not be made scapegoats for environmental problems that stem from intensive farming. The chancellor said many farmers today struggle to plan ahead due to quickly changing conditions, and that changes in the climate are particularly damaging to their business. "We have a common cause," Merkel said, adding that climate change and the loss of species can only be addressed "in partnership."
German Farmers’ Association (DBV) President Joachim Rukwied said the discussion was "a good start for a necessary dialogue that we now need to intensify and continue." He said cooperation on environmental protection is necessary to make progress on issues like insect conservation and reducing the impact of fertilisers on soil quality but argued that "sweeping bans" on certain activities would not help. The DBV published a position paper on Germany's climate package ahead of the COP25 UN climate summit, which promises the country's agricultural sector will "increase its contribution to climate action" but also insists agriculture receive credit for its function as a carbon sink. "Exploiting this potential will not work without rewarding farming and forestry's efforts," Rukwied said.

Agriculture accounts for roughly seven percent of Germany's emissions, excluding the greenhouse gas effect of land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). German farmers have been hit hard by droughts and heatwaves in the past few years and have called for emergency aid to cushion the climate impact on their businesses. The protests in Berlin followed a call by the farmers' movement 'Land schafft Verbindung', which argues that farmers are being unfairly blamed for problems caused by society as a whole.

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