EU cuts eco-friendly farm funding despite missing targets

Despite failing to meet its green targets, the EU has cut funding for eco-friendly farming measures by €1bn.

That’s according to new analysis by both European Environmental Bureau and Birdlife Europe in Brussels.

These findings, based on research into rural development plans of 19 EU countries and regions, including Ireland, were presented last Monday in Brussels. They compare the CAP 2014-2020 to the prior CAP 2007-2013.

Some 14 of the EU 19 member states or regions have reduced their spending on agri-environmental measures, the groups claim.

Moreover “the quality of the measures was overstated in 79% of the cases we looked at,” according to Trees Robijns of BirdLife Europe.

A factsheet issued by both groups notes that more than a third of ecosystems spending goes on basic income support “despite the fact that no environmental conditions are attached to these”, it claimed. It also stated that only 17% of EU land will be under contracts that “meaningfully contribute to the EU’s Biodiversity strategy”.

Ireland does not perform well. The state of the Irish environment was described as “alarming” with 100% of extensive grasslands in unfavourable conditions — well above the EU average of 83%.

The factsheet notes that while “73% of budget in Ireland [is spent on] measures that should benefit biodiversity, water and soil”, almost half of this goes to “basic income support instruments without any environmental conditions attached to it”.

The sheet distinguished between generic ‘light green’ measures ‘dark green’ eco measures target specific species or habitats or issues; e.g. pollinator strips.

Just a third of Ireland’s 2014-2020 agri-environment fund will be spent on ‘dark green’ measures. Ireland also sees a massive 40% drop in the agri-environment spending for the 2014-2020 period, when compared to 2007-2013.

Recommendations for Ireland include a more targeted approach to wild and farm bird schemes, along with better support for targeted schemes already in place.

“If member states want to be serious about their biodiversity commitments in farmland, they need to urgently put more money into the measures that actually deliver, whilst changing those that are currently just money for nothing,” Trees Robijns concluded.

Having failed in its stated aim of halting biodiversity loss by 2010, overall EU performance has not improved.

While specific, targeted interventions have shown some successes, in January the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, was “crystal clear” in pointing out that “without substantial additional efforts, the EU will in 2020 again fail to achieve its agreed targets. 

"The figures speak for themselves. The EU-28’s ecological footprint is twice as large as Europe’s biocapacity. Barely 23% of species and 16% of habitats have a favourable status”.

European farmland bird populations have decreased by over 50% since 1980.


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