This article is part of our special report Climate change prevention measures in the new CAP.
Climate and environmental problems are the main focus of the new multiannual EU budget proposed by the European Commission after 2020, which is reflected in the common agricultural policy (CAP), EURACTIV Poland reports.
The European Commission presented a proposal for the framework of the CAP beyond 2020 on 1 June 2018, one month after the presentation of the draft of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the years 2021-2027. The European Commission proposed a CAP budget of €365 billion.
This is less than in the current financing period, which saw over €408 billion allocated to the CAP budget. After taking inflation rates into account, this represents a reduction of over 10%.
Furthermore, the European Commission proposed the CAP should play an important role in mitigating environmental and climate issues, with climate change, resource sustainability, biodiversity and preservation of the natural landscape featuring highly in the general objectives of the CAP.
This builds on the previous MFF for 2014-2020, in which various instruments to support farmers’ income were made conditional on the application of environmentally and climate-friendly practices, thus rewarding climate-friendly farmers.
However, the new CAP aims to go further, proposing new obligations and an incentive scheme.
Direct payments and environmental protection
First, direct payments are set to be closely linked to compliance with stricter environmental and climate protection requirements.
This means that payments will no longer be simply proportional to the area of farmed land, but will instead be linked to environmental issues and used to support young farmers and smaller, family farms.
Each member state will also have to create eco-schemes that support farmers which go beyond mandatory environmental requirements in their activities. These eco-schemes will be financed from direct payments at the national level, i.e. from pillar I of the CAP.
Under the new proposal, environmental and climate measures must receive at least 30% of the national allocations for rural development, as provided in the CAP’s second pillar. The Commission envisages that, in total, as much as 40% of CAP funds will be spent to contribute to the prevention of climate change and degradation of the natural environment.
For comparison, the average of such expenditure under all EU programmes and policies is currently 25%. The role of the agricultural sector in the fight against climate change and over-exploitation of the natural environment will, therefore, be vital.
Shifting resources to environmental and climate action
Under the Commission’s proposal, it will also be possible to reallocate 15% of funds between the two pillars in order to finance environmental and climate action.
In this way, individual member states are able to decide how best to use the funds allocated to them under the EU agricultural policy, offering greater flexibility than ever before.
Furthermore, there is much stronger support for agricultural innovations, such as the introduction of various types of precision farming techniques designed for the more efficient application of plant products.
This will be more economically and ecologically efficient, helping to reduce the amount of products used in the agricultural sector.
The farm advisory system is also intended to cover a much wider range of activities,. This includes compliance with regulations and environmental protection requirements relating to the maintenance of quality and purity of water and air and the use of pesticides, as well as access to innovation and technology.
A new system of possible penalties and rewards will also be introduced to ensure progress in various CAP-related areas, including climate and environmental issues.
For example, EU member states that meet biodiversity, environment and climate targets will be eligible for a premium of up to 5% of their allocation to rural development at the end of the MFF period.
However, if the annual progress report shows that insufficient progress has been made, the Commission will be able to intervene to ensure that funds are targeted on results.
Depending on the nature of the shortcomings, such intervention could include, for example, imposing a specific action plan, suspending payments or making top-down changes to the national programme.
What is outside the CAP?
The implementation of climate and environmental objectives, which can also be used by those engaged in agriculture, will also be supported by the LIFE Programme.
This programme is a financial instrument dedicated exclusively to the co-financing of environmental and climate protection projects. This includes support for the implementation of EU environmental rules and the promotion of new solutions to environmental problems and challenges.
In the EC proposal for the years 2021-2027, €5.45 billion has been allocated for the LIFE Programme, €1.95 billion more than in the previous seven-year financial perspective. This budget is allocated for tasks related to supporting biodiversity in the natural environment, the creation of a closed-loop economy, climate and energy issues related to greenhouse gas emissions, and issues related to energy efficiency and small-scale renewable energies.
Some of these issues also include agriculture. As far as renewable energy sources are concerned, this includes the provision of substrates for biogas plants.
Funds from the EU research programme Horizon Europe will also be available, with €10 billion earmarked to support specific research and innovation projects in the field of food, agriculture, rural development and the bio-economy.
The European Commission, before presenting its proposals of the new MFF 2021-2027 and CAP reforms, conducted a broad public consultation across the EU.
It showed strongly that EU citizens want a stronger focus on the environment and climate, including agricultural policy. Many elements of the Commission’s proposal directly result from these consultations.
[Edited by Natasha Foote and Benjamin Fox]