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New study shows CAP reform risks being greenwashed

[Dublin, Ireland] A new study launched today has found that the greening of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is on course to end in failure by allowing farmers to secure European funding while not taking measures to protect the environment. The study evaluates how a proposal supported by Agriculture Ministers under which farmers would be considered ‘green by definition’ could work on the ground in Ireland and four other Member States, and whether it can fulfill the objectives of the reform. The study was launched in Dublin at a conference [1] organised by the EEB, Europe’s largest Environmental Citizens Organisation, with the support of Irish partners An Taisce and BirdWatch Ireland.

The study, [3] commissioned by the EEB and carried out by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), assesses in broad terms the degree to which existing certification schemes for farm products (involving environmental requirements) or voluntary measures under agri-environment schemes could be considered to be ‘equivalent’ to the package of three compulsory greening measures proposed by the Commission in October 2011 [4]. It looks at both management practices and their potential environmental impacts.

The study concludes that while equivalence may sound like a sensible and practical option in theory, the practical issues with its application are likely to lead to far greater administrative complexity and cost, both for Member States and within the Commission and with little additional environmental benefit.

Concern has grown that since the European Commission released its proposal to ‘green’ European agricultural policy, the reform has gone awry and will not now meet its objectives. In response to a vote in the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament which tried to ‘greenwash’ environmental measures and introduce double payments for farmers, almost 90 000 people rallied in defence of the environment, calling on their MEPs to vote for a genuine green reform in the European Parliament.[2] No doubt partly in response to this public outcry, the plenary of the Parliament rejected several of the Agriculture Committee’s proposals for de-greening the reform, including the proposal for an equivalence mechanism. However, just days later, the Agriculture Council endorsed this equivalence mechanism at its March meeting in Brussels on the grounds of introducing more flexibility and simplification.

Faustine Defossez, EEB Senior Agriculture Policy Officer, said: ‘The greening of the CAP must simplify rather than expensively over-complicate future delivery of environmental outcomes from agriculture.’ She added: “Current attempts by decision makers to maintain the status quo against a real reform and greenwash the policy with questionable mechanisms such as ‘equivalence of benefits’ and ‘green by definition’ might do nothing more than contribute to burying this policy in the long term.”

Coming just one day before final closed-door trialogue negotiations between the European Parliament, Council and Commission will try to come to a final agreement on the reform of the CAP, the conference [5] represents a timely opportunity to exchange views on the latest developments in the policy’s reform, with a focus on the key role the Irish Presidency will play in trying to seal the deal.

"The idea of ‘green by definition’ is a theory - and what this report brings home is that there is little or no real benefit to Ireland in practice" said Alex Copland of BirdWatch Ireland.

"Green 'by definition' does very little to position farmers for lower pollution and more competitive production", according to James Nix, Policy Director of An Taisce, adding that "green 'by definition' simply doesn't offer value for money: unless we're improving our model of production to better position farmers to withstand future challenges, we're just greenwashing." he said.

ENDS

[1] Conference information: http://www.eeb.org/EEB/index.cfm/news-events/news/sealing-the-deal-on-a-greener-cap/
[2] Almost 90000 people participated in an eAction calling for MEPs to green the CAP. The EEB reaction to the Plenary vote is available here: http://www.eeb.org/index.cfm/news-events/news/eeb-reaction-european-parliament-plenary-vote-on-the-cap/.
[3] The study focuses on schemes operating in five Member States: France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. A briefing on the study can be found here.
[4] The three requirements proposed by the Commission are as follows: Crop diversification: three different crops to be grown on arable land over 3 hectares, with no crop covering less than 5 per cent of the area and the main crop covering no more than 70 per cent. Permanent grassland: maintain 95 per cent of the area of permanent grassland on the holding as declared in 2014. Ecological Focus Areas: 7 per cent of the holding (excluding permanent grassland) must be managed as ecological focus areas, examples of which include landscape features, fallow land and buffer strips (European Commission COM (2011) 625 final).
[5] The conference will gather environmental NGOs, representatives from the European Commission, Agriculture Ministry representatives and the Irish Presidency, consumers’ organization, farmers’ organization
[6] Those unable to attend the conference in Dublin can watch via webstreaming at www.eeb .org or http://fastforwardproductions.ie/live.html
[7] A 4 page briefing of the study is available here. The draft study will be available shortly.

For more info, please contact:

Philippa NUTTALL JONES

philippa.jones@eeb.org Communications Manager

Tel: +32 (0) 2289 13 09

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