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EU agriculture ministers crack open door to climate action

15 May 2019
by WWF -- last modified 15 May 2019

EU agriculture ministers appeared to begin to recognise the urgency of climate action, and the crucial role farming has to play, as they considered the EU’s draft long-term climate strategy today. While many ministers highlighted the difficulties in cutting emissions in agriculture, there was the beginnings of a discussion on how to make it happen.


Despite this, there were alarming signs that there could be a headlong rush into biomass. Using land for biofuel or energy crops, or harvesting more wood for fuel, will increase emissions even compared to fossil fuels - but there are no restrictions in the EU's revised Renewable Energy Directive to stop that happening.

Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office said:

"Farming can play a crucial role in helping the EU reach net zero emissions by 2040, which is what we need to be in line with the Paris Agreement. It is splendid that agriculture ministers today finally seemed to be getting the message on climate change. However, the sector needs to move faster to make the most of the contribution land and soil can add  in terms of carbon absorption, and to protect farmers and foresters from the worst of climate damage. On the other side using biomass energy use must be limited - with no meaningful sustainability criteria in the Renewable Energy Directive that's likely to make things worse not better."

Jabier Ruiz, Senior Policy Officer for Agriculture at WWF European Policy Office said:

"After the debate today, there is little doubt that EU's farming sector could become a lead actor in the fight against climate change, but agriculture ministers have not fully realised they have a responsibility to make this happen. With the right political will, the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020 could be shifted away from the current payments system and offer good incentives for farmers engaging in this transition towards climate-friendly farming."

There is a chance now to improve the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the climate and nature as it undergoes the 'reform' process. Unfortunately, a crucial piece of evidence for this reform - an assessment of CAP's impact on the climate - has still not been published by the European Commission, even though it was submitted last year. WWF therefore filed a request for the assessment on 3 May 2019. The European Commission has 8 working days left to reply.

Ministers were discussing the EU's draft long-term climate strategy 'A clean planet for all' at an afternoon session of their Council today. Their views will be fed into the European Council discussion in June, along with those from other Council formations, with many Member States pushing for EU leaders to then endorse the Commission's proposed net zero by 2050 goal.

WWF is one of the world's largest and most experienced independent conservation organisations, with over five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.