The EU Commission has today set out its vision for the future of nature and farming policies, as it prepares to put the European Green Deal at the heart of its corona recovery plan.
On World Bee Day, the EU has published its long awaited plans to boost biodiversity and set a new direction of travel for Europe’s food and farming system, with two crucial strategies: one on biodiversity for 2030 and another one on food systems called ‘Farm to Fork’.
As the corona crisis continues, an increasing number of scientists are warning about the links between biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, unsustainable agriculture and current and future threats to human health.
The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental organisations with more than 160 members in over 30 countries. Our Brussels-based policy experts work on a range of EU environmental issues, including a five-strong Nature and Agriculture team.
Boost for biodiversity
The biodiversity strategy includes a number of commitments for the EU to achieve such as increased resources for implementation and enforcement of the EU’s flagship nature laws, supported by €20bn of nature protection and restoration funding every year.
It also seeks to protect 30% of all EU land and 30% of all EU seas by 2030, granting one-third of that are under strict protection.
Learning from the failure of its previous voluntary targets, the Commission intends to propose new legislation to restore nature across the EU and has made a commitment to restore 25,000 km of free flowing rivers.
Sergiy Moroz, EEB Policy Manager for Biodiversity and Water said:
“The coronavirus has taught us how important it is to listen to scientists and heed their warnings and scientists have been warning about the threat posed by biodiversity loss to our own survival for decades. Restoring and protecting nature brings so many benefits, from climate and flood protection to defence against the emergence of new diseases.”
“It is good to see that the European Commission listened to the science in proposing those important commitments, it is now up to Member States to endorse them and have all hands on deck to tackle the biodiversity crisis we are facing.”
The Farm to Fork strategy seeks to halve pesticide use on European farms. Targets for cutting fertiliser use and nitrogen pollution are also included, but little is said about transforming our diets to be healthier and more sustainable.
Celia Nyssens, EEB Policy Officer for Agriculture said:
“The Farm to Fork strategy sets a welcome direction of travel but the real moment of truth will come when the EU updates its €60bn-a-year Common Agricultural Policy. “
“The target to cut nitrogen pollution from fertilisers is welcome but far from sufficient. Our environment is overloaded with nitrogen pollution, and the EU must do more to tackle the problem, including by beginning a phase out of the use of all synthetic fertilisers.”
“However, most conspicuous by its absence is any serious attempt to improve the quality of European diets and end the overproduction and consumption of meat and dairy products. If European governments really want to improve public health, helping farming produce and people consume food that is healthy and sustainable is a great place to start – in that sense, this strategy is a real missed opportunity.”
Reforming the CAP
Alongside the Strategies, the Commission has published its own analysis of how the Common Agricultural Policy relates to these initiatives and the European Green Deal more broadly.
Discussions about reforming the CAP have been taking place for years, with reforms proposed by the previous Commission falling far short of its environmental promises. Campaigners and scientists agree that delivering on the environmental ambition of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies will be impossible without a fundamental transformation of the CAP.
This is still just aspirational
Most of the commitments are aspirational and will need to be endorsed by the European Parliament and EU Member States.
Some commitments can only be achieved if they are delivered by existing legislation, like the Directive on Sustainable Use of Pesticides, others will need new legislation, including the new nature restoration law.
Show us the money
Several commitments will need funding – while the financing needs of the Natura 2000 network estimated at €15bn-per-year will be met, nature restoration will require additional funding – up to €150bn will still be needed for nature restoration up to 2030, from both public and private sources.
The Commission will make a major announcement about its Green Recovery package and plans for the EU budget on Wednesday 27 May.
Anton Lazarus, Communications Manager
Sergiy Moroz, Policy Manager for Biodiversity and Water
Celia Nyssens, Policy Officer for Agriculture