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Exploiting Soil-Management Strategies for Climate Mitigation in the European Union: Maximizing “Win–Win” Solutions across Policy Regimes

Christian Bugge Henriksen, Department of Agriculture and Ecology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen
Karen Hussey, The Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University
Peter E. Holm, Department of Basic Sciences and Environment, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen


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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified a number of soil-management strategies that can be implemented to reduce GHG emissions. However, before deciding which of these strategies are most appropriate in any given situation, it is important to investigate how these strategies affect other aspects of sustainable development. For instance, some attempts to sequester carbon in the landscape could alter the soil’s capacity to filter water. Alternatively, other strategies could unintentionally increase net energy consumption through greater fertilizer use. Focusing specifically on opportunities to implement soil-management strategies in the European Union (EU), we discuss the synergies and trade-offs of those strategies with respect to water resources management and energy security. The focus of the analysis is two-fold: first, we analyze the net benefit of strategies such as crop management, nutrient management, tillage and residue management, water management, and bioenergy vis-a-vis their implications for water resources and energy security; second, we undertake an assessment of the EU’s relevant policy frameworks to assess whether the potential synergies from various soil-management strategies are being encouraged or, conversely, where perverse outcomes or trade-offs are likely. Our findings suggest there is much scope to encourage soil-management strategies in Europe that would mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but these synergies are currently not fully exploited at the EU policy level. We identify a number of options for better policy integration among the Common Agricultural Policy, the Water Framework Directive, and the Climate Action and Renewable Energy Package.

Key words

Climate Action and Energy Package; climate change mitigation; Common Agricultural Policy; energy security; European Union; greenhouse gas emissions; soil management; Water Framework Directive

Copyright © 2011 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087