The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) has recently produced a report summarising the results of a series of assessments of the climate and environmental ambition of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plans in four EU Member States: France, Spain, Poland and Germany.(link)
The report focuses on how these countries are addressing environmental and climate challenges through their strategic plans for agriculture. While the paper suggests that there is still much to be done to improve sustainability, it makes recommendations for improving the environmental and climate contribution of the CAP Strategic Plans.
Although the new CAP framework gives Member States more flexibility to tailor support to local conditions and needs, many countries have not used this opportunity to significantly increase support for environmental and climate actions.
The authors have highlighted a section showing how these countries allocate the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget between the different objectives.
Recall that Pillar I of the CAP focuses on providing direct income support to farmers, while Pillar II focuses on rural development and environmental and climate change measures.
According to the report, the four countries analysed allocated the majority of their budget to Pillar I, with Spain allocating 76% of its budget to this pillar. In comparison, Spain allocated only a quarter of its budget to Pillar II. However, some countries, such as Germany and France, planned to transfer funds from Pillar I to Pillar II to strengthen environmental and climate policies..
It is noteworthy that although the agricultural sector is responsible for 14% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU, with the livestock sector being the main source of emissions (58% of agricultural emissions), very few measures to reduce emissions from the livestock sector are included in the four strategic plans studied. In contrast, all four countries studied provide coupled support to the livestock sector.
GAEC (Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition) standards are the agronomic and environmental conditions that farmers must meet in order to receive CAP direct payments.
Member States have some freedom to define GAEC standards in their CAP strategic plans. For example, for GAEC 1, which aims to maintain permanent grassland, they can define permanent grassland to allow ploughing, tillage and reseeding (as is the case in France) and they can decide at what level they want to ensure this maintenance, which is mostly at national or regional level. The countries evaluated sometimes go beyond the minimum requirements of the legislation. The report mentions that there is potential to strengthen the GAEC standards and that GAEC 2 should be implemented as soon as possible.
Other countries go beyond the minimum requirements of the Regulation. For example, some countries require wider buffer strips along wetlands (GAEC 4) or introduce additional nutrient management requirements (Spain).
As regards the use of crop rotation to maintain soil fertility and prevent erosion (GAEC 7), not all EU countries comply (Denmark and Malta).
In summary, the report highlights that although the new structure of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) gives Member States more flexibility to improve environmental and climate sustainability, countries have not used this opportunity to significantly increase support for these measures. Instead, most funds are still earmarked for economic objectives and there are discrepancies between identified needs and proposed measures, particularly in relation to climate change.
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