CAP greening: what are its environmental prospects?

AUTHORS: Kaley Hart

This report examines the choices made by nine Member States for implementing the new CAP greening measures – Ecological Focus Areas, the maintenance of permanent grassland and crop diversification and assesses their potential environmental implications. In the majority of cases the evidence suggests that Member States have used the flexibility available to them in the regulations to increase the overall environmental ambition on farmland. Rather they have maximised opportunities for farmers to meet their obligations without having to make significant changes, for example by allowing continued crop production, using species that are not necessarily beneficial to biodiversity and permitting the use of fertilisers and pesticides.

The report suggests that the designation of environmentally sensitive permanent grassland, which may not be ploughed, may bring about some benefits for biodiversity, carbon, soil and water. But even here most Member States have only designated land within areas that are already protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives and only four countries have designated land outside these areas. Disappointingly, the report also shows that the greening measures do not appear to have led to an increase in the environmental ambition of the Rural Development Programmes under Pillar 2, as had been hoped – in a number of countries, there are significant decreases in the agri-environment budget for 2015 onwards compared with previously.

It concludes that the actual environmental impact will only become evident once it is clear what choices farmers have made on the ground, however it is already clear that the chances of achieving any significant additional environmental benefits from the €12.5 billion/year allocated to the greening measures are much diminished as a result of the frameworks put in place in the Member States.

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