Member Spotlight

Agriculture and climate change: Scientists and stakeholders break down walls in Berlin

by Gareth Salmon

I recently returned from Berlin, where I attended the first International Conference on Agricultural GHG Emissions and Food Security (#AgriGHG) The agricultural sector contributes significantly to human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change. Responding to this, the conference brought together scientists and stakeholders (policy makers and advisors, farmers’ organisations and the food industry) to discuss the challenges and opportunities for emissions mitigation within the sector.

My primary objective of attending was to present a poster introducing the Livestock Data for Decisions (LD4D) community of practice and its Livestock Fact Check project, which investigates the data behind popular livestock facts. The goal is to highlight the context and calculations of key facts, ensuring their appropriate interpretation and use in discussions and decisions.

On a personal note, I was looking forward to attend as my PhD thesis focused on GHG emissions intensities of livestock production systems in low-income countries, and I was keen to stay engaged with this specific field.

In addition to the boat tour through Berlin, a highlight of the conference was a captivating poster session, a considerable achievement. Delegates were led around posters in groups, and each poster was presented for several minutes by its author. The LD4D poster was well-received by delegates, who agreed that we had relevant objectives in attempting to improve livestock data and its application for low and middle-income countries. The Livestock Fact Check project, which promoted energetic discussion, proved a useful tool to introduce LD4D.

Overall, the conference was exceptional. The global agricultural community recognises the considerable contribution agriculture has on climate change, and how difficult it is for the agricultural sector to make complex decisions and take action. Despite this, the positivity and enthusiasm to take action was encouraging. Presentations and posters covered a variety of topics including national emission reduction plans, innovative approaches to GHG monitoring, specific technologies to reduce emissions, assessments of costs and implementation, and global challenges and policies. It was apparent and incredibly heartening for LD4D that all these things rely on data. Without appropriate data nothing can be measured, evaluated or predicted, thus limiting the potential for action planning.

The main message I took away from the conference was that scientists have a responsibility to accurately understand global agriculture, both the challenges and the opportunities. Only then can scientists hope to engage effectively with stakeholders. Without a clear message based on plenty of evidence, how can we expect stakeholders to take action? Communities of practice, such as LD4D, offer an opportunity for scientists, from varying institutions and disciplines, to formulate clear messages, with which we can all engage and promote collaboratively.

Gareth Salmon is a researcher with the Supporting Evidence Based Interventions (SEBI) Programme based at the University of Edinburgh. He attended the AgriGHG conference as a member of the Livestock Data for Decisions (LD4D) community of practice. All views expressed are those of the author.

Header image: Malawi livestock household in the rainy season. S. Mann (ILRI). Source.