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EU farming policy failing to fight climate change: Auditors

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Cows gather in a field in Saint-Hilaire-de-Chaleons, France, on June 3, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

The European Union's huge subsidy program for agriculture is failing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions from farming, despite 100 billion euros of such subsidies being labeled as climate spending since 2014, auditors say.

The environmental impact of agriculture is under increased scrutiny, as the EU seeks to eliminate its net emissions by 2050 - including the 10% of emissions that come from farming.

EU negotiators will this week attempt to agree new rules for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the farming subsidy scheme that will spend 387 billion euros, a third of the EU budget for 2021-2027. A key sticking point is whether the money should be tied to protecting the environment.

A report by the European Court of Auditors on Monday said so far, 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 incentivize emissions reductions from livestock and fertilizers, and pay farmers to restore drained land so it can absorb and store CO2.

They said in future, the European Commission should vet countries' plans to spend their CAP money to ensure they do not risk raising emissions.

The auditors said the CAP has promoted animal products and encouraged farmers to not reduce their livestock numbers because then they would receive less money. Livestock emissions, mostly from cattle, make up half of emissions from farming. They have not decreased since 2010.

EU subsidies have supported practices to reduce fertilizer use, such as organic farming, but it is not clear if this has reduced emissions, the report said. Chemical fertilizers and manure produce nearly a third of farming emissions.

Meanwhile, CAP funds have supported climate-damaging practices, by paying farmers to cultivate drained peatlands that emit 20% of EU agricultural emissions.

(Source: Reuters)


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