According to a new study, “A greener path for the EU Common Agricultural Policy,” published in Science magazine, the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is unlikely to improve environmental protection. In fact, the opposite might be true.

The researchers analyzed the proposal for the CAP post-2020 as well as 450 relevant publications with three main questions in mind: is the proposal in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals? Does it reflect the public debate about agriculture? And does it improve upon the current CAP?

The answer? The reform proposal for the next CAP is a step backward compared with the current one, the researchers say.

The European Union (EU) has pledged its commitment to invest in sustainable agriculture practices, fight climate change, and protect biodiversity. However, “the proposal made by the European Commission for the CAP post-2020, published in June 2018, demonstrates very little of this intention,” said one of the research teams.

One of the criticisms is that the EU wants to maintain some CAP instruments that are ineffective and damaging to the environment, such as the Direct Payments. These are subsidies paid to farmers based on cultivated area alone – not productivity, for instance. This has led to them being unequally distributed, as the numbers show: 1.8% of recipients get 32% of the money. 

At the same time, the reform proposal for the new CAP shows an intent to cut funding to the “Rural Development Programme,” also known as Pillar 2, which includes instruments to protect biodiversity and fight climate change. This will risk both the environment and rural societies.

“The EU obviously lacks the will to meet public demand for sustainable agriculture and to implement the global environmental and development goals it had a share in adopting,” said Dr. Guy Pe’er, one of the researchers. “Lobby interests have clearly outweighed both ample evidence and public interests.”

The way to improve the CAP to make sure it’s an effective instrument for biodiversity protection and climate change action is, then, to end the Direct Payments and strengthen the Rural Development Programme, according to the researchers.

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Photo: Ryan McVay/Photo Images