Economic benefits for France when investing in the environment
According to the European Commission’s EU budget 2010-Financial Repor, in 2010, France contributed a total of EUR 19.6 billion (including customs and farm trade duties collected on behalf of the EU of which 25% was retained by France) and received EUR 13.05 billion. France is a top net payer country in the EU, contributing (net) EUR 6.4 billion in 2010. Its net paying position plays a key role in the EU budget debate, especially with regards to France’s position towards financing agriculture sectors.
France is the largest recipient of agriculture spending in Europe (EUR 9.85 billion in 2010) covering 17.35% of the total annual EU agricultural spending. EU payments have mainly focused on income support for French farmers and have had very little benefit to environmental upkeep.
The environment plays a key role in the French economy, especially within the agriculture sector. For example, the environment in rural areas provides services such as food for livestock, clean water, climate regulation, erosion and pest regulation as well as cultural heritage values. By 2050, it is estimated that the loss of biological diversity in the EU will cost the European society EUR 1.1 trillion per year, according to a study by the European Commission in 2008 in assessing the case of not meeting the 2010 biodiversity targets.
The French government has recently sought to form coalitions with other large influential Member States, during EU Budget discussions; notably with other net-paying countries where the awareness for environmental issues is relatively high.
The current public debt crisis in the EU and France’s role in it will clearly limit the availability of French public funds for the environment. At the same time, it is an opportunity for a debate on the most efficient and wise use of taxpayers’ money and for the phasing out of environmentally harmful subsidies.