EU fails to cut farm emissions despite $119bn climate drive

Watchdog says bloc's agriculture policy does not provide incentives to reduce livestock numbers

FILE PHOTO: Cows gather in a field in Saint-Hilaire-de-Chaleons, France, June 3, 2021. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

The EU spent half its climate budget on a drive for greener agriculture that failed to reduce farming emissions, a watchdog has found.

More than €100 billion ($119bn) of the EU's farming subsidies were reserved for tackling climate change.

The funds represented a quarter of the bloc’s agricultural funds from 2014 to 2020 and half of its total spending on climate action.

But the European Court of Auditors found that there had been no reduction in farming emissions over the past decade.

This was because the EU continued to support practices that did not help climate efforts and authorities did not provide incentives to reduce livestock farming.

Livestock production is responsible for about half of all farming emissions, with the majority coming from cattle.

The EU has a target of becoming climate neutral by 2050 and wants to cut emissions by 55 per cent compared with 1990 levels by the end of this decade.

But its Common Agricultural Policy "does not seek to limit livestock numbers, nor does it provide incentives to reduce them", the auditors said.

“CAP market measures include the promotion of animal products, consumption of which has not decreased since 2014.

“This contributes to maintaining greenhouse gas emissions rather than reducing them.”

Emissions from manure and chemical fertilisers increased in the EU between 2010 and 2018.

While there was some EU funding for tackling these emissions, more effective measures received little support from Brussels, the watchdog said.

In addition, there was no extra funding for planting new trees and converting farms to grassland.

“The EU’s role in mitigating climate change in the agricultural sector is crucial,” said Viorel Stefan, the auditor responsible for the report.

“We expect our findings to be useful in the context of the EU’s objective of becoming climate neutral by 2050.

“The new Common Agricultural Policy should have a greater focus on reducing agricultural emissions, and be more accountable and transparent about its contribution to climate mitigation.”

Responding to the report, the European Commission said its drive for greener agriculture had other objectives besides reducing emissions.

These included protecting biodiversity and rural communities and reducing the use of pesticides, it said.

The commission said it was not the role of EU leaders to reduce consumer choice by banishing livestock products.

“The CAP never had the specific goal of reducing livestock emissions,” it said.

“Emissions remained stable, while production increased.”

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