Big week for nature and climate in the EU | WWF
Big week for nature and climate in the EU

Posted on 19 October 2020

This moment can be a turning point.
What’s happening and why does it matter? 
A series of pivotal decisions this week will determine key features of EU agriculture and nature policies for the coming decade. There are also important votes and discussions taking place on deforestation and climate.

Agriculture ministers meeting today and tomorrow will most likely reach agreements on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Farm to Fork Strategy. The European Parliament is also due to vote on the CAP in plenary this week, with voting sessions planned from Wednesday to Friday. With a deplorable pre-agreement between the largest political groups that would  lower the environmental conditions attached to EU farm subsidies, the CAP looks set to weaken its reputation even further and fail to deliver on the ambitions of the European Green Deal. WWF is urging the Council and Parliament to reconsider their positions and agree a CAP that truly supports farmers in the transition to nature- and climate-friendly farming. 
See more on WWF’s detailed asks below.

“As it stands, the future of the CAP looks grim. Neither Council nor Parliament appear to care about the climate and biodiversity crises as they strip away conditions for farm subsidies and push for greenwashing loopholes. Policy-makers must hit the emergency brakes and change direction before it is too late,” said Jabier Ruiz, Senior Policy Officer for Agriculture and Food at WWF European Policy Office.

Conclusions on the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy are expected from the Environment Council on Friday 23 October. This is taking place just days after the European Environmental Agency’s State of Nature report - published later today. The report is expected to confirm that we are not on track to curb biodiversity loss. The commitments in the Biodiversity Strategy can be a beacon of hope, but they must be fully endorsed and rapidly implemented by the Member States. WWF is calling on all EU Environment Ministers to fully endorse the Strategy on 23 October. Environment ministers are also set to discuss the EU Climate Law (see below).  
See more on WWF’s detailed asks below.

“In 10 years time, I hope that we can look back at this moment as a turning point for EU biodiversity. Environment Ministers can seal their legacies and become champions for nature by getting behind one of the best biodiversity strategies to date. We urge them to get on the right side of history - nature can’t wait and neither can we!” said Sabien Leemans, Senior Policy Officer for Biodiversity at WWF European Policy Office.

The EU causes biodiversity loss and climate change far beyond its borders due to imports linked to deforestation, like beef and soy. This week the European Parliament is to vote on an own-initiative report which proposes far-reaching, ambitious legislation to tackle the EU’s deforestation and ecosystem footprint. The report also takes a clear stand on the need to address human rights violations linked to deforestation. By voting through the report, MEPs can show they are serious about tackling deforestation everywhere.  
See more on WWF’s detailed asks below.

Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, Senior Forest Policy Officer at WWF’s European Policy Office, said: “This week’s vote will be the Parliament’s first public proposal for meaningful, ambitious legislation to tackle the EU’s global deforestation footprint and its impact on other ecosystems being ravaged by commercial agriculture. If key groups come together, an absolute majority for the report is still possible. Will MEPs be the roadblock to green progress , or side with 200,000+ of their voters who have so far demanded strong, new legislation to safeguard  nature and our future?”

EU Environment Ministers are due to discuss the proposed climate law on Friday. The biggest issue is of course the 2030 climate target. The EU Commission has proposed a weak 55% ‘net’ target - meaning in actual fact it’s only about 50-53% as it includes carbon removals from sinks, while the European Parliament supports a 60% emissions-only target. Last week, EU leaders said they would come back to the target level in December. The Parliament also made valuable additions on an independent expert advisory body, on access to justice and on making financial flows consistent with climate targets. The Council needs to get behind those things, increase the target level to at least 65% emissions cuts, and add what’s still missing - for example an EU roadmap to be updated every five years. 
See more on WWF’s detailed asks below.

Alex Mason, Senior Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office said:
A robust EU climate law is essential if we are to bring EU policies into line with climate targets and build a just, climate-neutral and sustainable future. Environment ministers must back the improvements made by the Parliament to the Commission’s lacklustre proposal and add what’s still missing: a decarbonisation roadmap and a five year timeframe for future climate targets, in line with the Paris Agreement.” 

More details on what WWF is looking for:

The CAP has the potential to reorient the EU’s food and farming systems towards a more sustainable and resilient future. Both the Agriculture and Fisheries Council and the European Parliament have their part to play this week. There are four cross-cutting elements which they must include in their positions for a successful future of CAP:
  • Conditionality: a set of do-no-harm requirements attached to EU farm subsidies. These agri-environmental conditions must not be watered down in any way.
  • Eco-schemes: one of the very few novel instruments in the future CAP, a substantial share of funds should be allocated to eco-schemes and ensure these incentives do not end up as a low-ambition flat-rate payment for all farmers. 
  • Targets: part of the revamped performance framework, it must be a requirement for Member States to establish targets for the key CAP impact indicators and to collect all the data necessary for their calculation.
  • Ring-fencing: central to ensuring joint efforts towards common objectives, CAP funds should be robustly earmarked for biodiversity, climate and environmental objectives, and all greenwashing scrapped.
In the midst of the Covid 19 outbreak, it has become even clearer that human health and well-being are inextricably linked to nature. The EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy has the potential to trigger the transformative change desperately needed to bend the curve of biodiversity loss. To make this potential a reality, Member States must fully endorse the 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy and its commitments. This will make it possible to turn attention to urgent implementation of those commitments, with the following key priorities:
  • Make nature restoration for both climate and biodiversity a priority over the coming 10 years, by supporting and implementing legally binding targets to restore at least 15% of the EU’s land and sea.
  • Fully endorse and implement the target to protect at least 30% of land and sea and to strictly protect at least 10% of land and sea, including the protection of the remaining old-growth and primary forests.
  • Improve the management effectiveness and actual protection level of all existing and new protected areas 
  • Ensure that the Biodiversity Strategy is mainstreamed across all policy areas in their national context. 
In October, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee adopted a draft report which calls for an EU law to stop EU-driven deforestation. The report will be debated (currently expected to take place on Wednesday 21 October) and put to a plenary vote. All political parties are urged to support it and show they are in the side of their own citizens and voters - over 200,000 citizens have so far called for a strong, new EU law through the #Together4Forests campaign (which feeds straight into the European Commission’s ongoing public consultation). 

The vote will show how seriously MEPs are about making the European Green Deal a reality and moving towards a greener economy by tackling the root causes of EU-driven deforestation and nature destruction. It will also pave the way for discussions with the European Commission in 2021 concerning the flesh and bones of this law. As outlined in the report, a new and ambitious law should look across commodities, cover forests and other ecosystems and protect human rights outlined in the report, be a law which is cross-commodity, address EU impact on forests and s (such as savannahs, grasslands and wetlands),

WWF is calling for:
  • An emissions reduction target for 2030 of at least 65%, excluding carbon dioxide removal by sinks or any international offsetting and including international aviation and shipping.
  • Any EU policies that aren’t consistent with the EU’s climate objectives to be scrapped or changed by 2021.
  • An independent expert EU climate body to advise on EU climate policies and plans and their consistency with EU climate goals.
  • An EU roadmap that sets out the path to climate neutrality by 2040. 
  • A commitment that each EU Member State will achieve climate neutrality by 2040 at the latest
  • A process for adopting 5-year climate targets in alignment with global stocktakes under the Paris Agreement. More

Edel Shanahan (agriculture, biodiversity)
Communications Officer
+ 32 484 49 35 15

Sophie Bauer (deforestation)
Senior Communications Officer 
+32 471 05 25 11

Sarah Azau (climate) 
Media & Communications Manager
+32 473 57 31 37
Tree frog (Hyla arborea) on flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus)
© Wild Wonders of Europe /Dietmar Nill / WWF