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Citizens are fed up with industrial agriculture

Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was a big issue at this year’s Green Week in Berlin. With all the billions of euros available, the agro-ecological transition is more than possible, especially if subsidies to agribusiness and factory farms were stopped, write Harriet Bradley and Trees Robijns.

Harriet Bradley is EU Agriculture and Bioenergy Policy Officer at BirdLife Europe. Trees Robijns is Agriculture and Bioenergy Policy Officer at NABU, a German environmental organisation.

We are at the End of the International Green Week in Berlin, an international exhibition of the food, gardening and agriculture industries. While the businesses and marketing people were focusing mainly on digitalisation and high tech, NGOs and civil society took the opportunity to raise the alarm about the real problems. The loudest voice could be heard during the protest march: we are fed up with industrial agriculture! (Wir haben Agrarindustrie satt!).

For the 9th year and this time supported by over 100 organisations and more than 35,000 people, the streets of Berlin were filled with demands for low-impact farming, animal welfare, climate justice and good food, for thriving family farms and rural communities, for biodiversity, for pesticide-free farming, for development cooperation based on ecological principles, and for a just and ecological reform of the EU’s farm subsidies, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

That last topic – the CAP – was quite a big issue at the Green Week, and, even if the industry – and a big chunk of the Green Week organisers – pin all their hopes on high-tech ‘solutions’, civil society turned the spotlight on the politicians and how they are not even acknowledging the real issues of huge insect and farmland bird declines, the disappearance of small farmers and the sustainability of animal production.

In the same week, yet more studies and media revelations reminded the public of the sobering reality of Europe’s current farming model and subsidy system, calling the bluff on the shiny propaganda of the official Green Week fair.

And the fact that there is a lot of ‘bluff’ to be called across the EU is illustrated by the following examples from Germany.

  • The biodiversity crisis: where German scientists showed a real insectageddon inside nature protection areas. While the WHO is pointing at the carcinogenic effects of pesticides like glyphosates, the former Agriculture Minister Schmidt gave the go ahead to renew the controversial herbicides’ licence without the consent of his government colleagues causing a big popular uproar.
  • The horrendous animal welfare situation which has been exposed by video material, shot by undercover activists in factory farms.
  • And last but especially not least: the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), where the Scientific Advisory Councils to both the agriculture – as well as the environment – ministry strongly criticise the policy, which spends most of the money on flawed direct income payments that are free of any meaningful conditions.

After all this science and public uproar, it is astonishing how many EU governments and Members of the European Parliament are happily taking very clear positions to weaken down the policy, while Germany remains mostly silent.

Those speaking up are pursuing an aggressive simplification agenda: making eco-schemes voluntary, further weakening environmental spending in Pillar 2 and ring fencing money for direct income payments instead, hollowing out the basic principles of the ‘conditionality’ (the baseline for payments, previously called ‘cross compliance’ and ‘greening’), bringing in even more income support tools that harm the environment like risk management etcetera, etcetera. The list just goes on and on.

It is time to show where you stand now. Today the Agriculture Ministers of each EU country are meeting again, and they are discussing the green architecture and the ‘new delivery model’ which promised a new CAP focused on results and higher environmental ambition. We expect Germany and all other Member States to inspire us with their vision for the future of food and farming, and therefore call on ministers to stand up for nature, climate and nature-friendly farmers by supporting:

  • Real money for nature, the environment and climate: The next CAP needs to deliver at least €15bn per year for effective biodiversity measures, to be funded out of an overall 50% ring-fencing across the CAP for all environment and climate measures.
  • An end to perverse subsidies by ending the harmful aspects of coupled support, investment aid, areas of natural constraints payments, risk management and direct payments
  • Real law enforcement by strengthening the conditionality for farms getting subsidies, including setting common baselines such as 10% space for nature on all farms
  • A strong accountability and performance framework, including SMART objectives and rigorous indicators, the inclusion of environmental authorities and public interest civil society organisations in decisions on how the money is spent and finally sufficient penalties and incentives systems for Member States so as to encourage strong environmental ambition and punish cheating

With all the billions of euros available, agro-ecological transition is more than possible, all the more so if subsidies to agribusiness and factory farms were stopped. All that is currently missing is the political will to stand up to the intensive farm lobby and agribusiness interests.

In just a few months time, Europe will go to the polls. The result will have a huge impact on biodiversity, climate and long-term food production, but also on our fundamental values and rights as both citizen’s and civil society organisations. Let’s make the CAP another reason for Europe’s citizens’ to believe in Europe, and answer their demands for a fundamental reform towards environmentally sustainable farming, before they cast their vote.

 

Source: https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/opinion/citizens-are-fed-up-with-industrial-agriculture/

 

EU budget: Commission proposes to increase funding to support the environment and climate action

For the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission is proposing to increase funding by almost 60% for LIFE, the EU programme for the environment and climate action.

The LIFE programme is among the EU funding programmes for which the Commission is proposing the largest proportional increase, with a budget of €5.45 billion between 2021 and 2027. The Commission has integrated climate action into all major EU spending programmes, in particular cohesion policy, regional development, energy, transport, research and innovation, the Common Agricultural Policy as well as the EU’s development policy, making the EU budget a driver of sustainability. To implement the Paris Agreement and the commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Commission proposes to raise the level of ambition for climate financing across all EU programmes, with at least 25% of EU expenditure contributing to climate objectives.

Commissioner for Environment Karmenu Vella said: “The EU is a global leader for environmental protection and climate action; where we spend our money should reflect this. With more funding, we can strengthen our LIFE programme to ensure that it can effectively contribute to protecting our environment and speeding up the transition to a clean, energy-efficient, low-carbon and climate-resilient economy – a priority of the Juncker Commission.”

Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete added: “A stronger LIFE programme will play an important role in expanding investments in climate action and clean energy across Europe. By continuing to support climate change mitigation and adaptation, LIFE will also continue to help the EU deliver on its climate goals and commitments under the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

The main features of the new LIFE programme are:

  • An increased focus on clean energy: One of the main aims of the new LIFE programme is to stimulate investment and support activities focused on energy efficiency, especially in European regions lagging behind in the transition towards clean energy;
  • An increased focus on nature and biodiversity: The new LIFE programme will support projects that promote best practices in relation to nature and biodiversity, as well as new, dedicated ‘Strategic Nature Projects’ for all Member States to help mainstream nature and biodiversity policy objectives into other policies and financing programmes, such as agriculture and rural development, ensuring a more coherent approach across sectors;
  • Continued support of the circular economy and climate change mitigation: The new programme will continue to supportimportant EU policy objectives such as the transition to a circular economy, protecting and improving the quality of the EU’s air and water, implementing the 2030 energy and climate policy framework and meeting the Union’s commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change;
  • A simple and flexible approach: The new programme has been designed to be simpler, more flexible and to facilitate a broader geographical access. It will focus on developing and implementing innovative ways to respond to environment and climate challenges. It will also ensure sufficient flexibility to address new and critical priorities as they emerge during the programme’s duration.

Next Steps

A swift agreement on the overall long-term EU budget and its sectoral proposals is essential to ensure that EU funds start delivering results on the ground as soon as possible.

Delays similar to the ones experienced at the beginning of the current 2014-2020 budgetary period would mean that projects will not be able to start on time; that cities and regions will not receive the necessary funding to improve the quality of air and water for their citizens, to treat their waste properly or to address climate change and its impacts.

An agreement on the next long-term budget in 2019 would provide for a seamless transition between the current long-term budget (2014-2020) and the new one and would ensure predictability and continuity of funding to the benefit of all.

Background

Launched in 1992, the LIFE Programme is one of the spearheads of EU environmental and climate funding. It has financed over 4,500 projects, contributing €5.9 billion to environment protection and climate action. The present LIFE programme started in 2014 and runs until 2020, with a budget of €3.5 billion.

LIFE has played a significant role in the implementation of major EU environmental legislation including the Habitats and Birds Directives. The proposal for the new programme for 2021-2027 builds upon the results of the mid-term evaluation of the present programme as well as an impact assessment.

Source: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/news/press/index.htm#pr2018