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EU environmental policy to 2030: A systemic change

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What are the goals of the new EU Environment Action Plan to 2030 and what has to be done to achieve them, Society?

As Europe, along with the rest of the world, faces the economic and societal impact of climate change, ecosystem degradation and overconsumption of natural resources, MEPs will vote on the EU's Environment Action Programme 2030, which aims to tackle some of the issues.

Find out about EU responses to climate change.

Towards a climate-neutral EU

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In November 2019, Parliament adopted a resolution declaring a climate emergency and urged the European Commission to ensure that future legislative and budgetary proposals are aligned with the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The first EU Environment Action Programme in 1973 aimed to reduce pollution, improve natural and urban environments and promote awareness of ecological problems. The 8th environmental action programme, which will be discussed by MEPs during July's plenary session, will focus on accelerating the transition to climate neutrality, to clean and efficient energies and to a circular economy.

A sustainable economy is key

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In its State of the Environment report, the European Environment Agency said that economic activities and lifestyle are Europe’s most important environmental challenges.

According to Parliament's environment committee, the EU should shift towards a sustainable well-being economy with the Sustainable Development Goals as the foundation. A wellbeing economy is one where public interest determines economics and not the other way around.

The priorities in the action plan proposal include:

  • Environmental damage should be seen as a priority, rectified at source and damage paid for by the polluter
  • Mid-term evaluation by the Commission in March 2024
  • Data technologies should be used to support environment policy, ensuring transparency and public accessibility of the data
  • The phase out of all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 and subsidies which fund environmentally harmful activities to be phased out by 2027.
Transparency and monitoring 

The new Environment Action Programme, which will support the European Green Deal, will include a new monitoring mechanism. The Commission is expected to come up with indicators to monitor and track progress by 31 December 2021.

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CO2 emissions

Commission adopts new annexes to EU Emission Trading System State aid Guidelines, defining applicable efficiency benchmarks and CO2 factors

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The European Commission has adopted two new annexes to the EU Emission Trading System State aid Guidelines (the ‘ETS Guidelines'). The new annexes supplement the ETS Guidelines and define the applicable efficiency benchmarks and CO2 factors. The ETS Guidelines aim at reducing the risk of ‘carbon leakage', where companies move production to countries outside the EU with less ambitious climate policies, leading to less economic activity in the EU and no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions globally. In particular, the Guidelines enable member states to compensate sectors at risk of relocation for part of the higher electricity prices resulting from the carbon price signals created by the EU ETS (so-called ‘indirect emission costs').

When the revised ETS Guidelines were adopted in September 2020, the Commission signalled that the two annexes on ‘Efficiency Benchmarks' and on ‘CO2 factors' would be published at a later stage. The efficiency benchmarks represent the quantity of electricity involved in the most efficient production process for each product. The CO2 factors, which are based on the mix of fossil-fuel power generation in each country or region, reflect the extent to which the wholesale price of the electricity consumed by the beneficiary is influenced by ETS costs in the relevant price zones.

The Commission has today adopted a Communication supplementing the ETS Guidelines, introducing the outstanding annexes. The efficiency benchmarks and the CO2 factors defined in the annexes are based on expert input, previous practice and statistical data. More specifically, the efficiency benchmarks were set on the basis of an expert study by an external consultant. The methodology to establish the applicable CO2 factors is similar to the one applied in the previous Guidelines, and is based on Eurostat data.

The new efficiency benchmarks and CO2 factors will enter in the calculation of the compensation amount for indirect costs incurred by the beneficiaries as from 2021, and are therefore important elements to ensure the proportionality of the aid measures granted under the ETS Guidelines.

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Agriculture

EU agriculture statistics: Subsidies, jobs, production

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Discover facts and figures about farming in the EU, including funding by country, employment and production, Society.

Agriculture is an important industry for all EU countries and they all receive EU funds through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These funds support farmers directly through the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund and rural areas, climate action and the management of natural resources through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

Find out how the Common Agricultural Policy supports farmers.

EU agricultural subsidies by country

In 2019, €38.2 billion was spent on direct payments to farmers and €13.8bn on rural development. A further €2.4bn supported the market for agricultural products.

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The rules governing how Common Agricultural Policy funds are spent is determined by the EU’s long-term budget. The current rules run until December 2022, after which the most recent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will come into effect and run until 2027.

Infographic with map showing the amount of Common Agricultural Policy subsidies per EU country in 2019. Key data can be found under the heading EU agricultural subsidies by country.
The division of the Common Agricultural Policy funds between EU countries  

EU agriculture employment statistics

The agriculture industry supported 9,476,600 jobs in 2019 and 3,769,850 jobs in food production (in 2018) and accounted for 1.3% of the EU's gross domestic product in 2020.

Romania had the most people employed in agriculture in 2019, while Denmark had the most people employed in food production in 2018.

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For every euro spent, the farm sector creates an additional €0.76 for the EU economy. The gross value added from farming - the difference between the value of everything that the EU’s primary agricultural sector produced and the cost of the services and goods used in the production process - was €178.4 billion in 2020.

Infographic showing the employment in agriculture (in 2019) and food production (in 2018) per EU country. Key data can be found under the heading EU agriculture employment statistics.
The food and agriculture sectors in the EU  

Agricultural production in Europe

EU agriculture produces a rich variety of food products, from cereals to milk. The EU has legislated to ensure that the food produced and sold in the EU is safe to eat. The EU’s farm to fork strategy, announced in 2020, aims to ensure that food is also produced more sustainably. MEPs want to cut pesticide use to better protect pollinators and biodiversity, end the use of cages in animal farming and increase land use for organic farming by 2030.

Infographic showing how many tonnes of different foods were produced in the EU in 2019.
Food production in the EU  

Common Agricultural Policy 

Data sources 

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Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

Common Agricultural Policy reform gets final approval from MEPs

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On Tuesday (23 November), Parliament gave the green light to the new EU Farm Policy. This reformed version aims to be greener, fairer, more flexible and transparent, AGRI, Plenary session.

During the negotiations on the legislative reform package, MEPs insisted that strengthening biodiversity and adhering to the EU’s environmental and climate laws and commitments will be key to the implementation of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), taking effect in 2023. While the Commission will assess whether national CAP strategic plans are in line with these commitments, farmers will have to comply with climate- and environmentally-friendly practices. Member states will be obliged to ensure that at least 35% of the rural development budget and at least 25% of direct payments will be dedicated to environmental and climate measures.

More support for small farms and young farmers

MEPs ensured that a minimum of 10% of direct payments will be used to support small and medium-sized farms and at least 3% of the CAP budget will go to young farmers. They also insisted that a crisis reserve with an annual budget of €450 million (in current prices) will be permanently ready to help farmers with price or market instability.

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More transparency and better compliance with labour rules

As a result of Parliament’s pressure, EU labour rules in agricultural sectors will be better monitored and infringements penalised thanks to the cooperation between national labour inspectors and CAP paying agencies.

Information about final beneficiaries of EU support will be more transparent thanks to an EU data mining tool, which member states will get access to and which helps to identify the risk of fraud occurring by cross-checking information in public databases.

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The “Strategic plans regulation” was adopted with 452 votes in favour, 178 against and 57 abstentions, the “Horizontal regulation” with 485 votes in favour, 142 against and 61 abstentions and the “Common market organisation regulation” with 487 in favour, 130 against and 71 abstentions.

Rapporteur for the 'Strategic plans regulation' Peter Jahr (EPP, DE) said: “By approving the CAP reform, we guarantee planning security not only for member states, but above all for our European farmers. We have ensured that this CAP is more sustainable, transparent and predictable. The new delivery model will reduce the bureaucratic burden of agricultural policy on farmers. Our vote today has shown that we want to protect and promote family farms, the people who maintain and preserve our cultural landscape.”

Rapporteur for the 'Horizontal regulation' Ulrike Müller (RE, DE) said: “Today marks a historic day for the new CAP, a day when we advance towards a more environmentally ambitious, socially aware and performance-oriented agricultural policy. The new delivery model will ensure that the focus of the CAP will be more on achieving its targets and less on simply complying with the rules. We also made sure CAP payments are more transparent and that the EU’s financial interests are better protected. This CAP will really be a success.”

Rapporteur for the 'Common market organization regulation' Eric Andrieu (S&D, FR) said: “For the first time in more than 30 years, thanks to the common market organisation part of the CAP reform, the reforms approved today will mean more market regulation than deregulation. We can be proud of how far we have come, because the progress made is important for farmers, for the sector, and for consumers. The common market organisation is certainly a first step in the right direction.”

Next steps

Current CAP rules were extended after 31 December 2020 and replaced by transitional rules until the end of 2022. Once approved by the Council, the new rules will be applicable from 1 January 2023.

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