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FFA2019 : The next generation
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
Square, Brussels

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FFA2019 post-event blog 1:
The Next Generation

12th Apr 2019
Janez Potočnik

Janez Potočnik, the Chair FFA2019 and Chairman of the RISE Foundation, opened the daylong proceedings by apologising for telling last year’s participants: “We are sleepwalking into a catastrophe of our own making.”

“We are not sleepwalking – we are wide awake, seeing rising temperature, falling biodiversity and vast inequality, but consciously choose to do very little,” he told Europe’s largest annual agricultural conference.

The evidence is clear. The recent Global Resources Outlook 2019 report from the UN International Resource Panel, of which he is co-chair, confirms the world is massively overusing its supplies of biomass, fossil fuels, metals, minerals, land and water. Last year, the IPCC warned only 12 years remain to tackle climate change.

“This is the way of life we have built in the last two centuries. It cannot continue. Not if we want to give the next generation a chance,” he explained, introducing the theme of this year’s 12th Forum for the Future of Agriculture: The next generation.

Current markers of success – quarterly growth, stock markets and GDP – must be replaced by water quality, species richness and human happiness in a new fair and inclusive economic model.

Farmers, as major natural resource managers, have a key role to play. Society should recognise them as partners for change and support them to the hilt, especially in providing sustainable conditions for young people to enter the profession.

New FFA partners

The FFA is also embarking on a new adventure, moving away from a focus mainly on agriculture and the environment – though they remain at its core – to focus on the whole food system.

As a result, new partners are coming on board: WWF, Cargill, The Nature Conservancy, Thought for Food and Mondelez. Mr Potočnik also paid tribute to Romania for the importance it attaches, as current EU Presidency, to creating a sustainable food system.

In his closing comments, the FFA Chair identified three factors which have brought the planet to its current predicament: political focus on short-term goals and election cycles; economic dependency on consumerism and GDP fuelled growth; and failure to deliver a just and equitable transition and society.

These must be replaced by a longer-term vision. Production and consumption systems should be reformed and the circular economy embraced. “Waste, in essence, should be a word not known to anyone born today,” he said.

Three ingredients to make the vision reality

Mr Potočnik expressed his full support and admiration for the next generation already on the street demanding sustainable action. “They know the poisoned cup we are leaving them and they are not accepting it.”

He offered three ingredients to make the vision reality.

Lowering the voting age to give the young generation a chance to elect those who look after their interests. Adoption of a legally binding Sustainability Compact, along the lines of the EU’s fiscal stability compact, for action on climate change, food systems and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Europe’s citizens must stand up and play their full part, particularly as European and national elections approach.

He acknowledged that profound change can appear frightening. But he reassured participants: “It should also be exciting – it is about delivering a new world with new chances for so many of us.”

Watch videos of all the sessions at FFA2019 here >