EU ministers disconnected from the European Green Deal’s ambitions

Posted on January, 27 2020

Today, ministers at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council looked set to pursue a weak reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, completely at odds with the European Green Deal’s ambition on climate and biodiversity action.

WWF regrets that the Council today did not show any willingness to change the course of the ongoing CAP reform, maintaining contradictions such as the weakening of the basic environmental conditions attached to CAP subsidies. For instance, the Council is rejecting the inclusion of a “crop rotation” requirement under conditionality, when crop rotation is a critical and effective farming technique that reduces the use of pesticides and maintains healthy soils. 

However, some countries did call for more ambitious goals for European farming. France were disappointed that there were no quantitative targets for pesticides reduction in the European Green Deal, while Spain underlined their commitment to achieving an agriculture with net zero GHG emissions before 2050. Nevertheless, these statements do not reflect the content of the latest drafting suggestions prepared by the Council, which contain no amendments to increase the environmental ambition of the CAP regulations proposed by the European Commision and instead water them down.

“Once again, the Agriculture Ministers flaunted the supposedly green credentials of the farming policy and its potential contribution to Von der Leyen’s European Green Deal, whilst under-handedly stripping away basic elements of the green architecture of the future CAP” said Jabier Ruiz, Senior Policy Officer for Agriculture at WWF European Policy Office. “Things could still change in the coming months, if forward-looking Ministers rise to the challenge and steer the Council debates in a different direction, transforming the CAP into a tool to support the transition to a greener, more sustainable Europe.”

WWF calls on the Agriculture and Fisheries Council to take bold steps towards a successful European Green Deal, by making the following key changes to their position on the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy post-2020:

  1. CAP conditionality must be maintained, at the very least, at the level that the European Commission proposed. Additionally, to ensure a level playing field, the Council should add some quantitative targets for all Member States to respect. The general watering down of the CAP conditionality that the Council is proposing in their latest drafting suggestions is unacceptable, as is the addition of productive options (i.e., catch crops and nitrogen fixing crops) to the “green infrastructure” requirement (GAEC9), which could lead to repeating the failure of greening.

  2. The climate and environmental expenditure ring-fenced under the CAP must not only increase in quantity, but also in quality. Therefore, this expenditure must only be composed of measures that truly deliver on climate and environmental challenges, and any untargeted interventions such as areas of natural constraints payments or the basic income support for farmers should not be included in them. 

  3. A CAP that is aligned with the European Green Deal should enhance its support to organic farming and Member States plan their interventions to ensure a reduction of GHG emissions from the agricultural sector in the coming years. However, the Agriculture Council has not yet agreed any amendments in this regard and, instead, they are weakening the tools that the European Commission could use to secure a higher environmental ambition by all Member States. 

  4. Opening the possibility that CAP eco-schemes are paid for “all eligible hectares” in a farm or “per livestock unit”, as the Council proposes, could transform them into a low-ambition flat-rate payment for all farmers, or a way to support factory farming. Their original spirit and intention should not change: they should reward those farmers who are already delivering more public goods, with higher rewards for more ambitious commitments to sustainability. 

  5. A performance-based farming policy must be based on solid objectives, indicators and targets agreed at the EU level, and an enhanced monitoring and evaluation system to correct the deficiencies detected. Instead, the Council is not willing to include any targets for impact indicators, or even to collect the information needed to establish them, and rejects any further development of their CAP management databases (IACS and LPIS) which could impede better monitoring of impacts on the ground.

Edel Shanahan
Communications Officer, Biodiversity and Agriculture

Farming and climate change
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