Farmer holding a leaf

Climate Change

We are in a climate crisis. Farmers often bear the brunt of climate change with their crops and livelihoods at risk. Together, we campaign for organic to be included in policies tackling climate change.


We are in a climate crisis. Farmers often bear the brunt of climate change with their crops and livelihoods at risk.

Together, we campaign for organic to be included in policies tackling climate change e.g. as an active member of the farmers constituency within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Done right, agriculture such as agroecology and organic can be a transition pathway to the solutions needed for climate-friendly, sustainable food systems.

The Challenges

In the 2019 Special Report on Climate Change and Land, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of the massive impacts  the climate crisis will have on agriculture and forestry. At the same time, the report makes clear that arable farming, livestock farming and forestry are major contributors to global warming and calls for these sectors to finally assume responsibility and initiate changes to stem climate change.

Unsustainable agriculture is contributing to the crisis as the artificial fertilizers used to grow food are responsible for the majority of nitrous oxide released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity. Nitrous oxide has almost 300 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide and is responsible for about six percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Agriculture, forestry and other forms of land use  are responsible for approximately 20-30% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, with agriculture production accounting for the majority of emissions from the sector.

Overall the livestock sector accounts for 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, according to an FAO estimate in 2013. One third of the world’s cropland area is used to grow food for animal feed.

The soil is a “carbon sink”, locking two to three times as much carbon as there is present in the atmosphere. But agricultural soils have lost 116 billion tonnes of carbon since farming began - about a quarter of the amount released by burning fossil fuels since the industrial revolution. 

Today, agriculture is the sector contributing the most to nitrous oxide emissions due to large-scale production and application of synthetic fertilizers. 

We believe that limiting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) is still achievable through deep fossil fuel emission cuts and the transformation of our food system based on organic principles and agroecology. Given its potential for reducing carbon emissions, enhancing soil fertility and improving climate resilience, organic agriculture should form the basis of comprehensive policy tools for addressing the future of global nutrition and addressing climate change.

Organic agriculture can help with climate change by:

  • Reducing greenhouse gases, especially nitrous oxide, as no chemical nitrogen fertilizers are used and nutrient losses are minimized.
  • Putting carbon back into soils by keeping them covered with plants, increasing crop diversity, composting and carefully planned grazing.
  • Minimizes energy consumption by 30-70% per unit of land by eliminating the energy required to manufacture synthetic fertilizers, and by using internal farm inputs.

Learn how we work on advocating for the inclusion of organic agriculture in national governments’ policies to address not only climate change, but also hunger and poverty.

IFOAM - Organics International is an active member of the farmers' constituency within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Thanks to our role, we have the possibility of speaking out on behalf of the organic food and farming community and raising awareness about the urgent need to make organic agriculture part of a climate change solution.

Since 2017, parties and observer organizations have opportunities to debate around key topics linked to the agriculture and the climate crisis during a dedicated workstream called Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). This workstream is organized in 6 workshops that take place approximately every 6 months, each time covering different climate change and agriculture topics, in conjunction with the meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), which is a subsidiary body of the UNFCCC and advises the climate negotiators on matters of science, technology, and methodology. IFOAM – Organics International, as a member of the farmer's constituency, contributes to the KJWA process by taking part in the workshops and by giving the possibility to organic farmers worldwide to share their experiences in this international fora.

Read our last submission to KJWA on Improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems.

IFOAM - Organics International is a consortium member of the 4 per 1000 Initiative, aiming at demonstrating that agriculture, and in particular agricultural soils can play a crucial role where food security and climate change are concerned. The ambition of the initiative is to encourage stakeholders to transition towards a productive, highly resilient agriculture, based on the appropriate management of lands and soils, creating jobs and incomes hence ensuring sustainable development.

IFOAM – Organics International is a member of the civil society group CLARA, or the Climate, Land, Ambition and Rights Alliance. CLARA is focused on rights-based approaches to agriculture and forestry. In the report ‘Missing Pathways’, it examines the role of the land sector in ambitious climate action. CLARA has also published a position on how agriculture, forest and land issues should be addressed in the UNFCCC: Climate Action in the Land Sector: Treading carefully.

We are a Charter Member of the Global Landscapes Forum, the world’s largest knowledge-led platform on sustainable land use, dedicated to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement and aspiring to spark a movement of 1 billion people around sustainable landscapes.

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