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Member States use billions of EU subsidies to fund nature harming activities - new WWF study

14 May 2024
by WWF -- last modified 14 May 2024

A new WWF report reveals that Member States are channelling between €34 billion and €48 billion of European subsidies annually into activities that harm nature. While these harmful subsidies span all major sectors of the economy, the bulk of them is allocated to agriculture.


According to new research, up to 60% of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding, totalling €32.1 billion annually, is spent by EU countries on activities that encourage large-scale unsustainable farming. These practices devastate natural habitats while providing only minimal support to farmers for a just transition towards sustainable and climate-resilient practices. Direct subsidies in other sectors such as fisheries (between €59 - €138 million), transport infrastructure (€1.7 billion - €14.1 billion) and water infrastructure (€1.3 billion - €2 billion) are also significantly contributing to nature loss.

"Every year, more than €30 billion from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds activities that harm nature and fail to support farmers. This impressive number roughly amounts to the whole annual spending of national governments such as Croatia and Luxembourg. As European citizens are grappling with a severe cost of living crisis, exacerbated by misguided fiscal policies, and are about to head to the polls, these findings should be a wake-up call. EU governments must urgently realign public expenditure with environmental and social imperatives", says Tycho Vandermaesen, Policy & Strategy Director at WWF European Policy Office.

This misallocation of funds from EU countries starkly contrasts with the needs identified in the EU's 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, which requires an estimated €48 billion annually to finance activities by farmers, landowners, rural and coastal communities to effectively protect and restore biodiversity. Currently, the EU and its Member States fall short of this target by more than €18 billion each year.

"Not only are governments spending billions of euros of taxpayers' money on harming nature, they are also undermining the EU's efforts to protect and restore it, in line with its stated objectives and international commitments. Redirecting these subsidies could easily close the financing gap needed to achieve the EU's biodiversity goals", says Ester Asin, Director of WWF European Policy Office.

WWF urges governments and the EU to establish a legally binding framework to guarantee a timely and socially fair phase-out of subsidies that harm biodiversity, and redirect them towards nature-based solutions that could better protect European citizens from climate impacts. WWF is also calling on politicians to step up actions to end the EU's fossil fuel dependence, prioritise nature and fix our broken food system, while leaving no-one behind.

Read the executive summary

WWF is an independent conservation organisation, with over 30 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth'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.