Huge EU farming subsidy is failing to fight climate change, auditors say

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Three cows with tags in their ears, photo: Annie Spratt via Unsplash

The European Union’s huge subsidy programme for agriculture is failing to control the greenhouse gas emissions from animal farming, auditors said on Monday.

EU negotiators will this week try to agree on new rules for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the farming subsidy plan that will spend 387 billion euros, a third of the EU budget for 2021-2027.

A key point is whether the EU should use the money to protect the environment.

The environmental impact of agriculture is increasingly being criticized. A report by the European Court of Auditors said the CAP has failed to support more climate-friendly farming.

“The 100 billion euros of CAP funds attributed during the period 2014-2020 to climate action had little impact on agricultural emissions,” report author Viorel Stefan said.

The auditors said the new CAP should encourage emissions reductions from animal farming and fertilizers. The new CAP should also pay farmers to restore drained land so it can absorb and store CO2.

They said that the European Commission should examine countries’ plans on how they will spend their CAP money to make sure they do not risk raising emissions in the future.

The auditors said the CAP has promoted animal products and encouraged farmers not to reduce their number of animals. If they did, they would receive less money.

EU subsidies have supported practices to reduce fertilizer use, such as organic farming, but it is unclear if this has reduced emissions, the report said.

So far, CAP funds have supported mostly climate-damaging practices, the auditors concluded.

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