Alpine farming products have special characteristics of naturalness and high quality. Often they derive from Alpine species and are produced through traditional or locally adapted methods. Local production and consumption allow for a reduction of CO2 emissions, and regional tourism in the Alps especially outside winter has seen an increase in local or regional green or climate-neutral offers and packages.
Alpine agricultural products enter value chains extending sometimes far beyond the Alpine region. If on the one hand this provides a significant economic trigger to local products, on the other hand this could be responsible for emissions from transport for food miles. At the same time, tourist diversification represents a major phenomenon to be observed across the Alps and visitors appreciate tasting local products on site, live a comprehensive tourist experience and bring back some of them to their places of origin. Alpine farming products show an inner high natural quality, tend to organise as niche productions, and need to see their full value (and costs) recognised in the consumer price. The resulting pathway tends to incorporate different trends and address both climate & socioeconomic dimensions in the agricultural sector in the Alps including support to regional agriculture, local consumption of mountain products, direct marketing (shortening of the value chain), simplified access to mountains, promotional activities including a “climate message”, climate and value added indicators applied at the level of farms.
Identification of proper indicators for climate-friendly and sustainable farming to be applied at the farm level (organisation) or at the farming product level (good): indicators have to include mitigation and adaptation dimensions (e.g., use of renewable energy, GHG emissions, water use, use of chemicals, use of locally produced animal feed, etc.) as well as economic and social sustainability metrics (e.g., added value, serviced people, canteens, restaurants, shops, etc.). Indicators can be collected and harmonised from existing experiences within and outside the Alpine region. The resulting system of indicators should deliver a complete information on the GHG impact of products from Alpine agriculture that can be used as a basis for private and public decision-making.
An “EU Day” dedicated to mountain/Alpine products with major events and supported by an EU-wide campaign should be determined and launched with a widespread support from Alpine countries and the Alpine Convention/PSAC.
On this day, special voluntary public & private initiatives for promoting the consumption and knowledge of Alpine products and their attached benefits (including climate-friendliness, ecosystem services, biodiversity, cultural aspects, etc.) should be held in major cities in the Alps.
Commercial initiatives by farmers, restaurants, agritourist facilities etc. could be concentrated in the period around the EU Day (e.g., Alpine cuisine menus in restaurants, tasting events, courses, a multi-media campaign etc.)
This pathway needs the involvement of the following stakeholder categories:
Academics or Consultants in the field of sustainability indicators, EU Commission DG Agriculture, DG Climate, DG Environment, Alpine Convention – ACB, PSAC and Contracting Parties, national and regional administrations involved in farming & food policies, tourism development, environmental policies, representatives/ stakeholders of tourism and mountain destinations or centres, companies and entrepreneurs in fields linked to food value-chains, farmers’ associations
NGOs involved in promoting sustainable tourism (CIPRA, ALPARC etc.)
Mountain agriculture plays a central role in ensuring Alpine traditional landscape, regional breeds and species and preserving local culture, heritage and traditional techniques. However, mountain agriculture is also highly environmentally sensitive and therefore especially vulnerable to climate change. This characteristic and the market position of Alpine food products as high quality and “niche” products pave the way for additional climate-change efforts of mountain farmers. Besides reducing greenhouse-gas emission of mountain agriculture, these efforts may also help increase value-added and income in the agricultural sector in the Alps.
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