Thoughts from FFA Chairman

FFA2019 Chairman Janez POTOČNIK began the conference by addressing the audience with these strong words: “We are not sleepwalking. We did that 30 years ago when the scientific community started ringing the alarm. We did it as the first glaciers disappeared and the weather started to change.

We are not sleepwalking. We are choosing to ignore the fate of tomorrow in favor of a comfortable today. That may be pleasant today – it will even get you elected. But it is not worthy of ourselves, our politics, and certainly not of the next generation of citizens, farmers, consumers around the world. 

We are not sleepwalking. We are engaged in an experiment to see who can ignore reality the longest. Unfortunately, the winner of that contest will be the biggest loser of all, and they will take all of us with them.”

During his remarks, he noted the critical importance of climate change to the future of the food system, as well as the need to finance the transition to sustainable production and consumption models, and that the CAP remains the best-funded tool that the EU has to tackle these questions, but that its current reform did not do justice to the urgency of the moment. `

Because of the urgency of the challenges we faced, Mr. POTOČNIK dedicated FFA2019 to the next generation, who “have as much right as anyone in this room to a sustainable, just and happy life”. To achieve these ambitions, he called on political leaders in Europe and around the world to take charge, or let the next generation take over, and identified three key issues for them to tackle: the political focus on short-term election cycles which do not offer the chance for long-term sustainable solutions, an economic dependency on consumerism, and the failure of policy makers to deliver a just and equitable transition to sustainable food systems.

During his closing address, the FFA2019 Chairman offered three solutions to help tackle some of the problems outlined above. First, he noted, the EU and other countries should immediately consider lowering the voting age to make sure that the voice of the next generation is heard now. Second, he urged European leaders to sign “a Sustainability Compact [which] should demand action on climate change, on our food system, and the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals” along with legally binding targets. Finally, he urged all those in the audience and around the world to take their responsibility as citizens and consumers, and to elect leaders who would be worthy of the ambitions laid out at FFA2019.

However, the Chairman remained optimistic about the future, saying that “our models show that if we really make an effort, if we reshape our economies and policies to protect the climate, use our resources wisely, behave as responsible consumers, and treat our land sustainably, we can all live well.

If we act – as we promised the world we would – on the Sustainable Development Goals, if we dare to be brave and bold, if our politicians have courage, we can deliver a better future for the next generation. But only if we really act, not if we just pretend to.