Mixed news for the EU’s environment from today’s MFF deal

‘There is mixed news for the EU’s environment and the green economy from today’s MFF deal’ says David Baldock, Director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP).

The endorsement of the commitment to spend at least 20 per cent of the MFF on climate related activities is a big step forward; it should translate into some €27 billion per annum in the next seven years. Nonetheless it is still modest compared to the investment needed to decarbonise and climate proof key sectors such as energy, transport and buildings.

Environmental priorities have not been dealt with so well in comparison. There is a serious question mark over the scale of the future LIFE programme, which looks as if it may suffer a cut of around a quarter.

In relation to the CAP, over 20 years-worth of efforts to increase spending on environmental public goods have been thrown into confusion, with proportionately greater cuts being made to the rural development budget than to Pillar 1 direct payments. The rural development budget for 2014-2020 was reduced even further in the final negotiations to €84.9 billion, a 13.5 per cent decrease compared to the current situation. In addition, for the first time ever, Member States will be allowed to transfer a proportion of their rural development budget to fund farmers’ direct payments in Pillar 1 (for most countries up to 15 per cent can be transferred, but some countries will be able to transfer a staggering 25 per cent). This dwarfs the positive provision which would allow Member States to move up to 15 per cent of their budget for direct payments to fund environment and climate actions in Pillar 2.

Fears that the Commission’s attempts to ‘green’ farmers’ payment would be significantly weakened have only partially come true. The agreement maintains the requirement for countries to allocate 30 per cent of the Pillar 1 budget to green measures that farmers will be required to carry out, and this is welcome. However the scope of the green measures has been limited so that farmers are not required to take land out of production. This means that extremely valuable management practices for protecting water quality, soils and biodiversity, such as buffer strips along water courses or leaving areas fallow, may be excluded.

Cohesion Policy, although shielded since the November summit, is cut 8 per cent compared to the current 2007-2013 period. A smaller budget could trigger unfavourable changes to the proposed concentration of the regional development fund on low carbon objectives. Further to this, one perverse consequence of drastically cutting the Connecting Europe Facility could lead to greater pressure on the future Cohesion Policy to prioritise road building and fossil fuel facilities rather than more sustainable modes of transport and cleaner energy supply systems.

On the positive side, the new provisions for improving the quality of spending through conditionalities, concentration of funds and performance checks are very welcome. ‘Of course, in order to work in practice, explicit provisions and rules on how funding concentration, performance checks and implementation measures will be needed in relation to environmental and climate objectives. These will come in detailed regulations yet to be finalised. We are only half way there,’ added Mr Baldock.

For more information, please contact:

  • General and Cohesion Policy: Keti Medarova-Bergstrom (kmedarova@ieep.eu)
  • CAP: David Baldock (dbaldock@ieep.eu)

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    Consequence of drastically cutting the Connecting Europe Facility could lead to greater pressure on the future Cohesion Policy

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PUBLICATION DATE

28 Feb 2013