Agriculture, forestry and other rural sectors are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The common agricultural policy (CAP) has therefore a key role to play in promoting climate mitigation and supporting these sectors to adapt to climate change.
The European Commission published today an external study to analyse the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and EU-added value of the climate action of certain key CAP measures. Launched in 1962 to support the production of affordable and good-quality food for European citizens, the CAP introduced climate action as one of its general objectives in 2013. The study shows that thanks to CAP support, the agricultural sector has made efforts over time to adapt its practices, while being able to preserve the European family farm model and its diversity and to prevent potentially damaging land abandonment in rural areas.
Agriculture and rural development Commissioner Phil Hogan said:
The agriculture sector and rural areas are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. It is our duty to ensure that our farmers get rewarded for the work they do and to offer them the right tools to face the effects of climate change. As highlighted by this study, more needs to be done and fast. This is why our proposals for the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy set higher environmental and climate ambitions, necessary to respond to this challenge.
Since 1990, non-CO2 emissions from agriculture decreased consistently by more than 20%. The Commission welcomes all efforts undertaken by farmers but recognises that a transition to a greener agriculture is needed and this is why, among other things, the post-2020 CAP proposals:
- set higher environmental and climate ambitions with a new green architecture to facilitate and encourage environmental care and climate action in agricultural practices
- introduce a ‘new way of working’ to allow Member States to design their CAP Strategic Plan to achieve the EU common environmental and climate change objectives, setting quantified targets and taking specific local needs and conditions into consideration
- require Member States to demonstrate how their CAP strategic plans will contribute to climate action objectives
- increase the budget for research and innovation (R&I) in food, agriculture, rural development and the bioeconomy, this will play a key role in reducing agricultural emissions and improve environmental care
The study’s conclusions provide an overview and assessment of the impact of several CAP measures on climate change and greenhouse emissions:
- Among measures that have a positive impact on emissions, the study found that greening measures under income support have particularly contributed to a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions thanks to the maintenance of permanent grassland and areas beneficial for biodiversity (ecological focus areas). By using a simulation model, the study concluded that these measures decreased agricultural emissions by 2% on an annual basis.
- Rural development programmes have also shown to contribute to a reduction of emissions for quantifiable measures. The study concluded that they have reduced emissions by 1.5% on an annual basis. In addition, organic farming, supported by the CAP, has also helped reduce agricultural emissions according to the study.
- As for voluntary coupled support (VCS), income support linked to production for a sector undergoing difficulties, shows more contrasted results depending on the sector. The study found that for the livestock sector, this scheme leads to a net increase in GHG emissions, while not being able to quantify it. For protein crops, VCS support reduces emissions but is for the moment only used on a small scale.
- As not all CAP measures’ effect on climate and GHG emissions is quantifiable, the study also highlighted indirect influences. For example, income support for farmers contributes to sustaining a diversity of farms across Europe, leading to benefits for the environment. Finally, the study also recognised the EU added-value of the CAP, which has raised the level of climate ambition in Member States.
This external study is part of an overall evaluation done by the European Commission to assess its policies.
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27 May 2019