ABC Balkans

Dealing with the Climate & Biodiversity Nexus in the Western Balkan

Towards Agroecology Territories for Sustainable Food Systems addressing the Climate Crisis

Climate change and biodiversity loss are interconnected challenges, and there is an urgent need to address them together. This nexus is highlighted by the current joint work-program of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The climate and biodiversity Nexus is also an important aspect of European Union (EU) growth policy framework, namely the EU Green Deal and its related Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies. Climate change and biodiversity loss are not new problems and have been the subject of intense research over the past decades. Bringing them together in analytical and practical terms is nothing short of simple, while the risks of addressing climate change without considering biodiversity loss has been more clearly demonstrated, on three main points:

Climate change hastens biodiversity loss and any effort in reducing climate change helps to reduce the stress put over our ecosystems; in a context of severe biodiversity degradation in which 2/3 of our global ecosystems are degraded.

→ At the same time, biodiversity is essential to climate mitigation and adaptation. For example, more than 30% of mitigation efforts aimed at keeping global warming below 2°C could rely on natural climate solutions, as terrestrial and marine ecosystems are acting as climate regulators and carbon sinks.

→ Finally, it is important to recognize that some climate change mitigation options are both highly detrimental to biodiversity and undermine our collective ability to achieve carbon neutrality.

More efforts are needed to go through integrative solutions which anticipate conflicts of use or even conflicts of objectives, and this is particularly challenging when it comes to agriculture & food systems.

Under the current and dominant “cheap food” paradigm, the functioning of agriculture and food systems is highly detrimental for the environment – and people health. Today, agricultural production and food consumption globally contribute both to 1/3 % of GHG emissions, being the second largest source of GHG and are the primary driver of biodiversity loss as the expansion of agriculture in a key driver for deforestation, soils degradation and water pollution. At the same time, extreme events such as floods, droughts, cold spells, the disruption of traditional rain patterns, and other events adversely impact food production and thus threaten food security. Food and farming sectors are therefore subject to a double constraint of adaptation to the impacts of climate change, while having to transform profoundly in order to reduce their carbon and biodiversity footprint.

Without fundamental action, it is more likely that global emissions from food systems will prevent the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 or 2°C above preindustrial levels.

he main hypothesis of this proposal is that to shift from “nexus
thinking” to “nexus action”, is it necessary inform climate and biodiversity synergies and or trade-off and at the level of “territories”. While GHG accounting can be reduced to a single metric (i.e. CO2eq) and addressed through sectoral policies, biodiversity issues are related to specific ecosystems and their associated human practices and need to be considered from a co-evolutionary and place-based perspective. Thus, it is worth going further the “land use” approach, using the concept of territory, to adopt a broader and systemic understanding of how communities interact in a dynamic way with different landscape elements. This is particularly true when it comes to agriculture and food systems in Europe, where co-evolutionary processes are at the origin of a rich patrimony of agrobiodiversity and biodiversity-rich landscapes. If nowadays, agriculture is no longer the only evolutionary driver of territories, it is part of the interconnected nature of the stakeholder’s relationships at a local scale. Therefore, the territory provides an appropriate framework to find integrative solutions which anticipate conflicts of use or even conflicts of objectives.

In that sense, the notion of agroecology territory refers to places (and people) engaging in a process toward sustainable agriculture and food systems. This encompass three dimensions: adapted agricultural practices using and enhancing the functionalities of the agro-ecosystems amongst which carbon sequestration (along with nutrient cycling, soil and water conservation, etc.), conservation of biodiversity and natural resources and sustainable food systems, in which food sovereignty is a key element to ensure food security and contribute to good nutrition.

Addressing competing issues such as environmental conservation, climate justice and rural development in a systemic and multi-scale manner, the agroecology territory can place itself at the forefront of the transition to systems sustainable food toward climate neutrality.

Western Balkans (WBC) countries are aligning their respective policy frameworks with the EU Green Deal – in line with international commitments – through the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans (GAWB). However, like the European Union, the WBC faces pressure to maintain the status quo, from powerful sectors and interest groups lobbying governments. Moreover, climate adaptation schemes are favoring mainstream – and easily bankable – agricultural models whose carbon neutrality is not proven. In addition, at national scale, climate inaction – or low and slow action – in the energy sector (of high carbon intensity, amongst the highest in Europe) is compensated by forest and agricultural carbon sinks. However, this choice is highly questionable. Therefore, there is a coordination need of actors involved and committed to these transitional strategies, to balance this situation.

A network of agroecology territories is therefore considered as a platform capable of acquiring advocacy power with public administrations – including European ones – and of giving voice to more sustainable and equitable forms of food production and consumption.


ABC-Balkan action was conceived and organized by a multi-disciplinary team composed of:

  • François Lerin (PhD) francois.lerin[at]
  • Orianne Crouteix (PhD) crouteixo[at]
  • Jimmy Balouzat jb[at]
  • Alexandre Maillet am[at]
  • Claire Bernard-Mongin (PhD) claire.bernard-mongin[at]
  • Tamara Zivadinovic tamara.zivadinovic[at]…

…from the following organizations:

  • AIDA – International Association for AgroEnvironment Mainstreaming, operating from the global environmental issues to Balkan & Mediterranean territories
  • CIRAD – French agricultural research and cooperation organization working for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions
  • AirCoop – Cooperative of Entrepreneurs of Change part of a European network aiming to have a positive impact
  • Mena Group – Facilitation, training and Translation to support creative and innovative solutions to adapt to the continuously changing environment