Wasting EU subsidies on harmful activities
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) currently accounts for over 40% of the total EU Budget. In spite of the vast amount of taxpayers’ money involved, three quarters of the CAP budget continues to be spent without clear links to the delivery of public goods. In the UK alone, it is estimated that between EUR 1.3 – 3.8 billion (GBP 1 – 3 billion) a year is needed for environmental land management to pay for environmental policy commitments including biodiversity targets, Water Framework Directive requirements, climate change mitigation, and flood risk management. This is considerably more than the money currently available within the UK’s CAP Budget that is currently spent on the environment, but is comparable to the amount paid in direct payments each year.
The UK produces some of the safest drinking water in the world. However, it costs water companies at least EUR 163.9 million (GBP 129 million) in England and Wales alone to remove diffuse pollution from water – costs that are passed on to customers in higher water bills. Using CAP funds to reduce water pollution at the source would help cut these costs. Achieving good water quality by 2015 would bring economic benefits of EUR 1.3 – 4.8 billion (GBP 1 – 3.8 billion) a year to English and Welsh households.
Investing EU fund for Future Benefits
In 2000, the RSPB (Birdlife UK) purchased Hope Farm. It is a medium-sized profitable arable farm like any other. It is conventionally managed like 95% of all arable farms in England, with a typical rotation of winter sown wheat, oilseed rape, and spring sown beans. Yet, what makes it remarkable is the recovery of farmland bird numbers. The use of agri-environment schemes has led to the “farmland bird indicator”—the combined trend in numbers of a suite of farmland birds—rocketing by 200% over the last 10 years. This environmental improvement has been achieved while increasing food production and without affecting profits, proving that changes in farming practices can protect biodiversity and the farmer’s livelihood.