3 April 2013
Recent decisions by the European Parliament reject a radical reform of the environmental aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These decisions include reducing the sets-aside area devoted to nature protection (“Ecological Focus Area”) to 3% instead of the originally-proposed 7%, and a watering-down of the crop diversification requirements, thus encouraging continued intensification and expansion of large-scale mono-cropping (such as maize) across Europe.
In a letter to Parliament Members and Commissioners, SCB-ES expressed its deep concerns about these decisions and warns that it contradicts the principles and strategies of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Action Plan, as well as international agreements signed by the EU. SCB-ES states that “…the rejection of more profound CAP reforms amounts to a significant retreat from the international targets on sustainable development, environmental protection and biodiversity conservation”.
“The Parliament’s decision is disappointing not only because it counteracts the efforts to halt biodiversity loss, but also because it ignores scientific evidence and tools for reconciling economic and environmental needs.”, says Dr. Guy Pe’er from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ and chair of the Communication Committee of SCB-ES.
The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2020 states that “biodiversity safeguards contained in existing EU law must not be weakened, and new strategies must not fail” and that “CAP is a crucial tool for biodiversity conservation, mitigation of climate change, and ecosystem services.” SCB-ES is convinced that the current decision by MEPs on the CAP reform stands in stark contrast to these statements, and will lead to a failure in achieving a favourable conservation status of 40% of all habitats and species in Europe by 2020.
“We should not forget that there are areas of Europe, especially in the newly joined member states, that are both biologically and culturally diverse”, says Andras Baldi, President of SCB-ES. “These are being degraded at an exceptional rate, and the main culprit is agricultural intensification”.
Towards the upcoming meeting of the “trilogue” between DG Agriculture and Rural Development, the Council of Agriculture Ministers and representatives of the EU Parliament, SCB-ES urges the EU to take a last chance in correcting these anomalies of the CAP reform. They specifically called to maintain sufficient spending on the environment, set back the Ecological Focus Areas at 7% or higher (in fact, scientific evidence suggests that 10 % should be a more realistic figure), reinstate the protection of carbon- and biodiversity rich grasslands, and perform a careful inspection of eligibility criteria to ensure that funding is spent wisely. SCB-ES further calls to acknowledge the biological (and cultural) diversity of European landscapes and accordingly ensure crop diversification, especially in environmentally sensitive areas, in order to halt the rapid intensification of agricultural areas across Europe.
“Estimates suggest that 30-40% of the yearly food production in developed countries is wasted, and at the same time, farmers in Europe produce more biofuel and less food”, says Prof. Pierre Ibisch, Chair of the Policy Committee of SCB-ES. “This means that greater flexibility for the farming industry to maximise productivity, and less control on impacts, will not safeguard against food shortages but instead will hamper ecosystems services, and, in the longer term, productivity.”
1) Dr. Guy Pe’er, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ. Tel: +49-341-2351643, Email: guy.peer (at) ufz.de (English, Hebrew)
2) Dr. András Báldi, MTA Centre for Ecological Research, Institute of Ecology and Botany. Tel: Email: andrasbaldi (at) gmail.com (English, Hungarian)
3) Prof. Pierre Ibisch, Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management Faculty of Forest and Environment - Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development. Tel: +49-3334-65 7178 Email: Pierre.Ibisch (at) hnee.de (English, German)
4) Dr. Barbara Livoreil, Tel: +441248382953 Email: barbara.livoreil (at) gmail.com (English, French)
What we lose with intensification: pictures of
a) traditional agricultural landscape in Hungary (picture: Bajomi Balint)
b) a white stork in a meadow in Poland; agricultural intensification is one of the main threats on a species of high cultural importance (picture Adam Wajrak)
c) Common hamster: an Annex IV species that reached very low population size in Western Europe, and is rapidly declining in Central and Eastern Europe mainly due to agricultural intensification (picture: Adam Wajrak).
For further information:
The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) is an international organization of scientists and conservation professionals with thousands of members from more than 60 countries. Members include academics with expertise across the natural and social sciences, field biologists, educators, resource managers, administrators, economists, lawyers, and many others. SCB is dedicated to advancing the science and practice of conserving the Earth's biological diversity. The European Section (SCB-ES) represents conservation professionals from all the 27 EU member states.