How sustainable is the #FutureofCAP?

by Evangelos Koumentakos, Senior Policy Expert

22 October 2020 | Reading 3 mins.

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Despite the hiccups of decision-making, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will take substantial steps in contributing to the new EU Green Deal.

We are witnessing renewed criticism regarding the environmental and climate ambitions of the future EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the period 2021-2027. While this reaction can be justified on the grounds of diminished environmental and climate ambition, for example by deleting the Commission’s suggestion for “immediate benefits in terms of farmer’s income, soils and water quality and emissions (mitigation)” the simplification of farmer’s administrative burden regarding CAP compliance, and “boosting the digitalisation of the sector and the CAP, and the level-playing-field for all farmers” (GAEC 5 on the Use of the Farm Sustainability Tool for nutrients, FaST), it remains an after-the-fact reaction to a process that has been ongoing for many months.

If one wants to influence decision-making, then you need to get there earlier, which is the reason why there are significantly less possibilities for important changes once a piece of legislation reaches the ‘trilogue’ phase between European Commission, Parliament, and Council of the European Union. The gap between the approaches of the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI) that leads the CAP dossier, and the associated EP Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), makes it very difficult to find a middle way. This converging exercise was further impeded by COVID-19.

While, due to the exclusivity of COMAGRI, environmental and climate progressive voices have been traditionally more reactive than pro-active in the EP CAP decision-making process, the current policy setting with the EU Green Deal and the accompanying initiatives suggest an extra window of influence towards the actual implementation of the future CAP. The Impact Assessment of the Green Deal gives more than enough hints and scenarios to map out the hot spots of such direction. However, it remains unclear if the reactions from civil society reflect the opportunities and relevant prioritization.

The CAP lesson from the EP process shows that disrupting the ‘business as usual’ decision-making process does not always work in favour of increased ambition.

The EU Green Deal sets the scene for a more targeted policy framework regarding agriculture, forestry, as well as for the power sector, transport, and buildings. Following the CAP developments, it would make sense to start making the links between the future Agriculture, Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses (AFOLU)Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR)Emissions Trading System (ETS), the biodiversity strategy and the upcoming adaptation strategy, with the future CAP implementation. Those are less than evident, and policy and market developments, are already having their impact on land management, the climate, and the environment. The upcoming Impact Assessments for AFOLU and ESR, will certainly help in that direction, but time is of essence. We need to move now.

There is no need for grieving, nor for stalemates due to impossible-principled requests. We are in the radical process of realizing a new horizon of possibilities that is challenging our fossil-free society, and we can find positive contributions everywhere, even in the Commission’s proposals. The 2015 Paris Agreement is being implemented dynamically, in a post-LULUCF EU-wide policy framework, including the CAP. Balancing anthropogenic emissions by sources and removing with carbon sinks is the aim that we need to reach as soon as possible and no further than 2050. The ball is already in everybody’s court.


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