EU Parliament and Council ignore the Green Deal and plough on with an outdated CAP

Posted on October, 21 2020

Last night, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU shut their eyes and ears to the biodiversity and climate crises and ploughed on with a future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with little environmental credibility.
In a surprisingly coordinated manner, both on timing and content, co-legislators have strongly opposed the European Commission and its Green Deal by diminishing the basic environmental conditions attached to EU farm subsidies. The greening of the farm policy will now largely depend on eco-schemes, a novel and untested system of incentives for farmers.  

“It is terribly disheartening. Behind their glossy words, MEPs and agriculture ministers are largely perpetuating a farm policy which will throw taxpayers’ money at polluting, industrialised agriculture until at least 2027. This flies in the face of scientific warnings about loss of nature and increasing greenhouse gas emissions from destructive farming, failing farmers and nature alike,” said Jabier Ruiz, Senior Policy Officer for Agriculture and Food of the WWF European Policy Office

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which receives around one third the EU budget, has been a driving force behind the intensification of agriculture in the EU. Overwhelming scientific evidence proves the CAP’s environmental failures, which have led to rapidly declining farm birds and pollinators, the pollution and drying up rivers and wetlands, and increased greenhouse gas emissions from farming [1][2][3]. Neglecting the scientific evidence, the European Parliament and EU governments seemed determined to protect a business-as-usual model and missed a rare opportunity to reform the farm policy in a way that would truly support sustainable farmers.

The Council’s position is certainly the worse of the two. With the exception of ring-fencing 20% of CAP direct payments to eco-schemes, the Council position weakens each and every environmental component of the draft CAP regulation proposed by the European Commission in 2018. Most notably, ministers have watered down the ‘do-no-harm’ criteria - known as CAP conditionality - to instead maintain existing standards. Some of these basic standards, such as “Ecological Focus Areas” or “Crop diversification” have a track record of failing to avoid the impacts of agriculture on nature and climate. Ministers have equally rejected the proposed increase in the environmental expenditure under the Rural Development fund of the CAP, notably by continuing to consider Areas of Natural Constraints payments (i.e. subsidies for farmers in mountainous and other types of land which are more difficult to farm) as 100% green. This will diminish the money to support farmers through agri-environmental schemes and investments to support the transition to agro-ecological farming.  

The Parliament position is not yet final, as the votes will continue in the coming days. However, the result of the first voting session yesterday evening - focused on the central environmental aspects of the CAP - was only marginally better than the Council. The Parliament ring-fenced more funds for eco-schemes (30%) and rejected the “crop diversification” standard to support a stronger “crop rotation”. However, worse than the Council’s position, the European Parliament rejected protecting grasslands and peatlands - one of the major reservoirs of carbon in EU soils-, and pushed for eco-schemes - an environmental intervention - to also be oriented towards economic objectives, seemingly ignoring that the rest of the CAP is primarily geared to support farm economies.

“The future of the CAP now hinges on the votes in the European Parliament - the battle is not over until MEPs adopt the full Parliament position. EPP, S&D and Renew, the architects of the dirty deal, must come to their senses and avoid turning their back on farmers and citizens who care about nature”, concluded Jabier Ruiz.


Edel Shanahan
Communications Officer, Biodiversity & Agriculture
+ 32 484 49 35 15

Jabier Ruiz
Senior Policy Officer, Agriculture & Food
+32 470 66 81 91​

[1] Alliance Environment report: Impact of the CAP on habitats, landscapes, biodiversity (2019).
[2] Alliance Environment report: Evaluation of the Impact of the CAP on Water (2020).
[3] Alliance Environment report: Evaluation of the CAP on climate change and greenhouse
gas emissions
Rusty, old tractor
© Pixabay