EU agricultural policy and climate change

EU agricultural policy and climate change

In December 2019, the European Parliament declared a climate and environmental emergency in Europe and across the globe – a recognition of the challenges that the EU faces in this area. The agricultural sector is not only affected by climate change but also contributes significantly to it, according to some assessments. Evidence from a range of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre points to the impacts that climate change will have on yields, length of growing season, water availability, biodiversity, and habitats. The pattern of climate change will have a differential impact in terms of the regions affected. A clear north–south divide emerges, with countries of southern Europe likely to face declining yields due to increased temperatures and reduced precipitation. In the legislative proposals for the common agricultural policy (CAP) for the post-2020 period, the European Commission has set a high level of ambition in both environmental and climate change objectives, taking into account the fact that agriculture is responsible for around 10 % of the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The European Green Deal outlined in the Commission’s political guidelines aims to make Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. A range of mitigation and adaptation responses are available, designed to curb GHG emissions and reduce vulnerability to climate change. The EU can use the CAP as a tool to influence policy-making in the area of climate change. In fact, data on the operation and impact of the CAP on climate change and GHG emissions have been examined using a range of sources, including a study undertaken for the Commission. One of its conclusions is that there are a range of CAP measures that are only partially relevant to climate needs, as the CAP is constrained by the lack of compulsory implementation. Additionally, a series of inconsistencies and ‘missed opportunities’ were identified in the study. It remains to be seen how such findings will influence the content and design of the new CAP strategic plans, given that the Commission’s future proposals for them include giving greater discretion to Member States.

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