MEPs Discuss a Greener CAP

In a recent debate about a future CAP, members of the EU Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee discussed the need to integrate environmental policies into the CAP in light of population and climate changes. Following an own initiative report, ‘on EU agriculture and Climate Change’ (2009/2157(INI)), by French Socialist MEP, Stéphane Le Foll, there appears to be a growing recognition of the potential function agriculture could have in global warming mitigation. The report also proposes some initiatives for adaptation in EU agriculture to tackle climate changes.

With regard to climate change mitigation, Le Foll’s report identifies three key areas which need to be addressed. First, the paper proposes that greenhouse emissions could be reduced (agriculture still accounts for 9% of total EU’s Greenhouse emissions, but this percentage has already dropped since 1990), highlighting a need to cutback on fossil fuel consumption. Second, Le Foll notes that not enough attention is paid to the sequestration of carbon in agriculture (both through plant photosynthesis and soils carbon storage) which is associated with numerous benefits including reduced soil erosion and air pollution as well as an increased capacity to handle waste materials. Third, the report recognises the need to develop the use and production of sustainable and renewable energies within agriculture.

The report argues for several changes to help tackle the anticipated water shortages, new diseases and effects of more frequent or severe weather events...

Le Foll also points to adaptation and the importance of increasing the resilience of farming systems as a means of addressing climate change. In particular, the report argues for several changes to help tackle the anticipated water shortages, new diseases and effects of more frequent or severe weather events associated with climate change. Proposals of this kind included the use of more proficient irrigation systems, the implementation of crop rotation to combat diseases and drought, and for hedges to be planted as farmland protection. With regards to emissions the report advocates the reduction of methane and nitrous oxide emissions via the use of alternative (and much more diverse) diets and limited use of fertilisers.

Some opposition did emerge during the discussions as wariness of a new CAP taking the role of ‘manager of the bio-sphere’ mounted due to the unknown financial costs of addressing such environmental concerns. This was coupled with considerable contention that the profitability of agriculture for farmers is being overlooked in lieu of climate change and the environment. Le Foll counters this by maintaining though that his report provides not just an ‘ecologically, [but also] economically and socially efficient agriculture’. In his report he calls for a CAP which offers economic incentives for EU farmers to assist them with the implementation of ‘the necessary agronomic adaptation measures’. In addition to this, he argues that the farming community should be allocated more resources and a more proportionate CAP budget, in keeping with the basic investments the EU farmers would have to make.

Discussions stressed the need for a long-term policy response

Discussions stressed the need for a long-term policy response which, Le Foll asserts, lies in the proposed transition to a more environmentally aware EU agriculture. It has been duly noted that the groundwork for such a transition is already in place within the second pillar of the CAP and that it is playing a significant role in climate change mitigation.

The European Parliament committee on agriculture and rural development is scheduled to vote on the Le Foll report on the 17th of March 2010.


09 Feb 2010




The Institute for European Environmental Policy coordinates CAP2020. It is an independent not for profit institute which undertakes research in a number of policy areas including agriculture and rural development.