Many events have changed the world and the political landscape since the publication of the CAP legislative proposals in 2018. Despite the urgency and the unprecedented political momentum, the question remains as to whether Member States will align their CAP strategies to the objectives of the European Green Deal, for the seven-year period to come.
This paper examines the role that the post-2020 version of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) could play in stimulating a transformation towards more sustainable and resilient agrifood systems, in line with the green growth ambition of the European Green Deal.
While the CAP has been reformed, designed and implemented to deliver more environmental and climate benefits than in past, with some success in some areas, evidence shows that this has not been sufficient to counter the negative trends. For example, with respect to biodiversity protection, some CAP instruments and measures, notably the agri-environment-climate and the Natura 2000 measures, appear to be effective and are contributing significantly to biodiversity goals, particularly where they maintain semi-natural habitats and support High Nature Value (HNV) farming systems. Their impacts are however often constrained by whether the measures are made available by Member States, by limited budgets, and the extent of uptake by farmers. Biodiversity declines in the EU also show that the CAP does not provide enough safeguards against damaging farming practices. On climate change, the CAP includes measures that can effectively support farming and food businesses in mitigating their emissions, increasing carbon stored in soils and become more energy and emission efficient; at the same time, it also provides support coupled to certain emission intensive forms of production such as ruminant livestock, and does little to tackle emissions from managed agricultural soils. The CAP is also a key policy through which climate adaptation can be supported.
However, EU agri-food systems still have a long way to go to become sustainable. Measures under the CAP could do far more to minimise the negative impacts of farming practices that still persist and could deliver a lot more environmental and climate benefits if their design, implementation and budget were better aligned towards these objectives.