5 July 2021

EU CAP didn’t help to tackle climate change despite €100 bn in 7 years, Court of Auditors says

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ECA Report: between 2014 and 2020, more than a quarter of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) resorces were allocated for climate change mitigation. But greenhouse gas emissions have not decreased

by Matteo Cavallito

 

Over the past seven years, the European Commission has provided around €100 billion in funding for climate mitigation strategies under the CAP or Common Agricultural Policy. This effort, representing a quarter of the total budget for the sector’s initiatives, however, has had “little impact” since greenhouse gas emission levels “have not changed significantly since 2010″, the European Court of Auditors has revealed. “The CAP,” says a report released these days, “measures with a low potential to mitigate climate change”.

Il settore dell'allevamento è responsabile del 50% delle emissioni del comparto agricolo. Immagine: Corte dei conti europea (European Court of Auditors) su dati Agenzia europea dell'Ambiente (European Environment Agency) Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Livestock sector is responsible for 50% of emissions from the agricultural sector. Image: European Court of Auditors based on European Environment Agency data Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

CAP under fire

The analysis, which focuses on the three most important variables – livestock farming, soil fertilization and land use – has revealed some CAP shortfalls. Including, according to the auditors, the lack of concrete actions to limit the impact of the livestock industry ( which is responsible for 50% of emissions from the agricultural sector9. In addition to the disputed support for cultivation in drained peatlands (20% of the total release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases). And there is more.

According to the survey, “Emissions from chemical fertilisers and manure, accounting for almost a third of agricultural emissions, increased between 2010 and 2018. The CAP supports practices that may reduce the use of fertilisers, such as organic farming and grain legumes. However, we found that these practices have an unclear impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, practices that are more effective received little funding.”

Emissions are no longer falling

Greenhouse gas emissions generated by the European agricultural sector, the survey says, “greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture decreased by 25% between 1990 and 2010, mainly due to a decline in the use of fertilisers and in the number of livestock.”. Since 2010, however, the trend has been halted. The amount of gases being released, in other words, has been essentially unchanged for a decade.

This situation, of course, contrasts with the commitments set by the EU since 1997 when Brussels signed the Kyoto Protocol. Under the deal the EU agreed to cut 20% of its emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. Current goals call for a 40% reduction by 2030, although the Commission has proposed raising the target to 55 percentage points. By 2050, Europe is seeking to achieve zero net emissions.

PAC inefficace. Il calo delle emissioni nella UE si è arrestato da anni. Immagine: Corte dei conti europea (European Court of Auditors) su dati Agenzia europea dell'Ambiente (European Environment Agency) Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

CAP is not working. The decline in emissions in the EU has stalled for years. Image: European Court of Auditors based on European Environment Agency data Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

New agricultural policies are needed

Designed for the 2014-20 period, the latest edition of the European CAP was born under the best of hopes by recognizing the close link between the activities of the agricultural sector and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the survey, the substantial failure to ensure effective incentives to induce farmers to adopt good practices has been crucial.

Recently, however, the Commission unveiled a new initiative to “reward climate-friendly agricultural solutions.” The project, conducted within the new Common Agricultural Policy, could thus address the shortcomings reported by the Court of Auditors. However, in order to achieve a new scenario we need to move forward in different directions. The Commission, the report says, is called to take action to reduce agricultural emissions by focusing on drained organic soils used for crops. As well as reporting regularly on the CAP’s contribution to climate mitigation. Before it’s too late.