Adaptation-mitigation trade-offs in the European land system

09:00 Thursday 30 May


Room S7


Mark Rounsevell (Germany) 1; Calum Brown (Germany) 1; Heera Lee (Germany) 1; Bumsuk Seo (Germany) 1

1 - Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Europe will experience severe impacts of climate change across different land sectors (e.g. agriculture, forestry, nature conservation), especially under high-end scenarios, and this will require considerable adaptation. At the same time, the land system has been identified as a major contributor to climate change mitigation through the CO2 removals potential offered by afforestation/reforestation (AF/RF) and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Many of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) proposed by governments following the Paris agreement to limit global average temperature change to 1.5°C above pre-industrial, envisage substantial contributions to mitigation (a quarter of all mitigation commitments) from the land sector. However, land is finite, and competition for food, timber and energy production is likely to require trade-offs in decision-making. We present the results of a study that explored these adaptation-mitigation trade-offs within a scenario framework. We applied the IMPRESSIONS Integrated Assessment Platform (IAP) to a range of climate and socio-economic change scenarios, including the RCP/SSP framework and stylized scenarios to explore the role of technological development and dietary change.

Results show that some regions of Europe will benefit from climate change (especially the mid to high latitudes), e.g. increasing agricultural and forest productivity in northern Europe. But, these benefits will be offset by detrimental impacts and an inability to adapt in other parts of Europe, e.g. water stress, heat stress and loss of land productivity in southern Europe and parts of central and Eastern Europe. Adaptation-mitigation trade-offs were found between food production and mitigation through AF/RF. The shift to low intensity, organic agriculture in the SSP1 scenario provides benefits as an adaptation strategy, but with the consequence of deforestation arising from the expansion of food production areas.

Conversely, the high intensity agricultural production in SSP5 (driven by fossil fuel use and fertilization) results in more land becoming available for AF/RF. However, the apparent benefits of AF/RF in SSP5 are offset by high carbon intensity in food production. SSP5 also assumes food imports, which displace environmental degradation, potentially including deforestation, to other parts of the world. Increasing the area of bioenergy production also leads to deforestation (and additional carbon emissions) because of the competition for land with food production. We find that considerable changes in the European food system would be needed to achieve mitigation-based, AF/RF targets. This includes shifting to diets with less (or no) meat consumption, lower calorific intake and major improvements in crop yields through technological development.