Update: On October 23rd 2020 the European Parliament voted to pass the CAP (non)reform at the detriment of climate justice. It is now on the Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, and the national governments represented in the Council to stop the current draft agreed upon.
Our agricultural system is broken and, sadly, the European Common Agricultural Policy (also known as CAP) is a big part of the problem.
What is the CAP and why should I care?
The CAP is one of the oldest policies of the EU and was first introduced in 1962 to provide subsidies for EU farmers to improve agricultural productivity and food security in post-WWII Europe.
However, since then, the CAP has mushroomed into an outdated, inefficient and unaccountable mechanism dominated by big agri-lobbyists and agricultural countries - and accounts for 40% of the EU’s budget – that is, all the money that member states contribute to finance EU-wide projects and policies – goes directly to the CAP.
The problem with Europe’s agricultural policy
The EU agricultural budget is first distributed among all member states based on a proportional calculation. In a next step, these subsidies available to the member states are passed on to the companies applying for it.
The amount of money each company gets is calculated mainly - and this is the big problem - according to the area of operation and its production capacity.
Regardless of their environmental contributions or, conversely, how much they harm it.
This system has led to an industrial overproduction of food that the European market can’t even consume and has put substantial pressure on our soils and wildlife.
80% of the total funds end up in the hands of only 20% of farms, predominantly big corporations. Or the other way around: 80% of companies have to survive on only 20% of the available budget. A budget that is indirectly benefiting damaging agricultural practices over ecological, regenerative ones.
Why the new reform changes nothing
Industrial agriculture is now the number one driver of deforestation and a huge carbon contributor. It’s eroding our soils, pushing wildlife, insects and plants into extinction. With a lack of regenerative practices, agriculture as whole is responsible for about 30% of the world’s total emissions of greenhouse gases.
About 50-70% of carbon historically sequestered in the world’s soils has already been released as a result of industrial agriculture.
Last year, European citizens voted for a new set up of the European Parliament (EP).
Here at Ecosia we urged our European followers to go vote. With too little time to curb climate change and because the EP is voted for only every five years, its set up was more important than ever before.
Luckily, the Parliament saw a significant increase of green-leaning individuals and parties entering the stage. Unfortunately, it seems this is not enough. There is still a majority of short-sighted members in the Parliament.
That has become painfully clear after this week’s votes on the different amendments to the CAP. The new design of the next funding period for the CAP from 2021 to 2027 has been in negotiations since last year.
The new proposal, of which you can read a summary here, still doesn’t get rid of the direct payments, which is problematic. Farmers should only get direct payments if they provide a service to society: food production and environmental protection.
Even after its reform, the European agricultural policy continues to protect the big agricultural lobby, bringing us further away from reaching any goals laid out in the European Green Deal.
Here’s how you can help right now
Members of the European Parliament are tied to national parties. However, these parties don’t sit as such in the Parliament. Instead, they are grouped along ideological lines.
For example, in Germany, the conservative party CDU has a representation in the EP. In the EP, this party sits in the EPP Group (European People’s Party) along with other European parties with similar ideologies, such as the Partido Popular in Spain.
A closer look at the votes cast yesterday proves that established political groups in the European Parliament are dooming the continent to a climate disaster.
This is especially true for the S&D group, where most of Europe’s traditional socialist parties sit, such as the German SPD or the Spanish PSOE.
While prior to the elections to the European Parliament in 2019, the socialist parties comprising this group in the EP pledged they would vote for a complete reform of the CAP, their vote this week – with a few notable exceptions – contradicts their promises.
Today, on October 23, the EP will cast its last votes on the CAP reform. Because the S&D group has a significant number of seats in the EP, their vote for or against the last details of this reform could actually vote the CAP down, and save Europe’s organic and regenerative farms, rather than financing agricultural practices that are threatening our future.
Head to Ecosia’s Twitter account to find a list of MEPs whose votes could make the difference. Tag these MEPs along with their national parties in your country to call them out for breaking their promises.
This vote will decide whether we rob future generations of their right to fertile soils and a stable climate, or not.