New EU reforms fail European wildlife
Despite political proclamation of increased environmental focus, experts argue that the European Union’s recent agricultural reforms are far too weak to have any positive impact on the continent’s shrinking farmland biodiversity, and call on member states to take action.
|© flickr | ELKayPics_away | zigzag|
Leipzig, Germany, 6 June 2014
Latest reforms of the EU’s Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP) have been declared significantly "greener” by
the Members of the European Parliament, following promises to make the
environment and climate change ‘core issues’ for the new CAP.
leading conservation experts writing in the journal Science warn that
after three years of CAP negotiations the environmental reforms are so
diluted they will be of no benefit to European wildlife, and
biodiversity will continue to decline across the continent.
the new CAP almost a third of direct payments to farmers are now
subject to conditions relating to ‘greening measures’. However,
disagreements over the measures have led to a wide range of exemptions
being put in place.
After analysing the details of the reformed
CAP, experts from a number of major organisations revealed that about
half of all farmland and 80-90% of all the farmers in the EU could be
exempt from having to abide by two of the three new environmental
requirements. At the same time, budgets to support voluntary ‘greening
measures’ have been reduced. Individual member states must use the
flexibility offered by the reforms to design national plans for
sustaining ecosystems, say the experts. Unless member states take
serious steps beyond those required for the CAP, the EU’s own
biodiversity targets for 2020 are very unlikely to be met.
weak environmental reforms in the CAP put the fate of Europe’s
declining biodiversity at the hands of the individual member states,”
said Dr Guy Pe’er, lead author from the Helmholtz Centre for
Environmental Research, who collaborated with a range of experts. "The
EU should openly communicate this dependency, and encourage member
states to make responsible decisions, rather than pretend that the
reform allows meeting the EU’s important ecological targets”, says
The authors maintain that expansion of the EU and its
common market continues to drive agricultural intensification across
Europe at the expense of wildlife and natural habitats.
Common Agricultural Policy – which uses almost 40% of the EU’s budget
and influences the management of half of its entire territory – provides
subsidies that increase the scale of farming throughout the EU. This
has led to increased grassland conversion and peatland drainage. The
situation is particularly severe in new member states, where the use of
agri-chemicals such as fertilizers has grown rapidly. This continues to
take a heavy toll on wildlife, with dramatic declines in everything from
the farmland bird index to ‘permanent’ grassland that, in newer member
states, has shrunk over 11% in just the last decade.
this, the new CAP made 30% of all direct payments to farmers conditional
on compliance with three ‘greening measures’: establishing Ecological
Focus Areas, maintaining permanent grasslands, and setting minimum
requirements on number of crops grown to stop areas slipping into
homogenous ‘monocultures’. However, following thorough analysis, experts
have found that the large number of clauses introduced to the greening
measures exempt over 88% of farmers in the EU, and over 48% of its
agricultural areas from having to incorporate Ecological Focus Areas.
81% of arable farmers are now exempt from the crop diversity measure,
and the measure meant to protect natural grassland allows a further loss
of 5% of their extent by 2020.
This article originally appeared at UFZ
Tags: Biodiversity Management | European B&B Campaign | Agriculture and food
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