EU Court of Auditors: ‘Most CAP funding has little positive impact on biodiversity’
Brussels, 5 June 2020
Today, the European Court of Auditors (CoA) — the body that oversees and ensures that EU taxpayer money is spent wisely and well – released a report on the impacts of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on biodiversity in the EU .
Between 2014-2020, the Commission planned to spend €86 billion on biodiversity - €66 billion of that was supposed to come from the CAP. But in reality, the Commission has grossly overestimated how much CAP money goes to measures beneficial for nature. Over the past seven years, the bulk of the CAP has been spent on subsidies that mostly fund intensive and factory farming. The intensive agriculture model it promotes directly leads to biodiversity loss, water and air pollution, over-extraction of water and contributes to climate change.
The CoA report find that “most CAP funding has little positive impact on biodiversity” . Among the elements of the CAP they criticize are the highly controversial ‘direct payments’ where most of the CAP budget goes. These are per-hectare payments handed out on the basis that minimal biodiversity requirements are met on farmlands. Adding insult to injury, the requirements are poorly enforced, and the CoA concludes that the “sanctions scheme has no clear impact on farmland biodiversity”. They also highlight the failures of the so called ‘greening’ of Pillar I of the last CAP reform, which had potential to benefit farmland biodiversity by, for example, paying farmers for providing space for nature on their farms, but whose effectiveness was undermined by the high uptake of ‘low-impact options such as catch or nitrogen-fixing crops’.
Unsurprisingly, the Auditors note that despite the alleged 66 billion Euros of the CAP spent on improving and strengthening biodiversity in the EU, between 2014-2020, there has been no measurable improvement. They also acknowledge the difficulty of definitively assessing the CAP’s impact on biodiversity due to poor monitoring and indicators, something they propose to improve in the next CAP, including monitoring harmful spending. Nevertheless, they conclude that “in fact, available data on farmland biodiversity in the EU unambiguously shows a decline in recent decades”
The Commission has accepted all of the Auditor’s recommendations, and in its latest position on how to improve the CAP’s environmental credentials, said the CAP must deliver on the European Green Deal. But the European Parliament and the Agriculture Council, who are currently making amendments to the Commission’s proposals, must not weaken the environment aspects.
Harriet Bradley, EU Agriculture Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe:
66 billion Euros was supposedly spent on nature through the CAP over the past seven years, yet there is nothing to show for it. The problem wasn’t that there wasn’t enough money – the problem is the money was going to the wrong farmers doing the wrong things. This report clearly shows the path the EU must take to stop the destruction of nature in Europe – stand up to the intensive farm lobby, end harmful CAP subsidies and put real money for biodiversity on the table in the EU Budget.
For more information, please contact:
Harriet Bradley, EU Agriculture Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe
+32 478 88 73 02
Notes for editors:
 The EU Court of Auditors Special Report - Biodiversity on farmland: CAP contribution has not halted the decline
 The Court of Auditors report finds “most CAP funding has little positive impact on biodiversity”:
- The report condemns directly harmful payments for biodiversity like production support or ‘coupled payments’, most of which currently go to the meat and dairy sector.
- They also highlight the failures of the so called ‘greening’ of Pillar I of the last CAP reform, which had potential to benefit farmland biodiversity for example by paying farmers for providing space for nature on their farms, but whose effectiveness was undermined by the high uptake of ‘low-impact options such as catch or nitrogen-fixing crops’.
- The Agriculture Council and Agriculture Committee in the European Parliament are again attempting to weaken this requirement in the current CAP reform negotiations, whereas the Parliament’s Environment Committee has proposed to strengthen it.
- The Auditors also point to the better potential of Pillar II to contribute to biodiversity, because here money can be spent in a targeted way according to objectives, such as on agri-environment schemes.
- For this reason, BirdLife Europe supports the phase out of Pillar I direct payments, in favour of this targeted approach. [n.b. this is what is being proposed in the UK, with direct payments phased out in favour of payments for public goods].
BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that compose BirdLife International. Based in Brussels, it supports the European and Central Asian Partnership and is present in 47 countries including all EU Member States. With more than 4100 staff in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of skilled volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 nature sites totalling 320,000 hectares.