Farmers deserve a just ecological transition, and the CAP should pay for it
To avert the climate and biodiversity crises, we must drastically reduce our carbon footprint. So far, that’s pretty straightforward, and frankly, not very controversial (except for a small and shrinking bastion of climate denialists). But the thing is, drastically reducing our carbon footprint unavoidably implies that we have to transition to a carbon-neutral economy. What does that mean for the people living in regions whose entire economy has been made dependent on ecocidal activities such as coalmining or intensive farming?
EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen recognises this is a serious issue. That’s why she wants to create a Just Transition Fund, and has made it a key point of the European Green Deal. The aim of this fund is to support the people and regions whose jobs and livelihoods risk being the most affected by the ever more urgent climate transition.
According to the Commission, 5 billion euros would be needed for this fund (which could reach up to 35 billion by leveraging private investment), and they want to source it from already planned spending. To pay for this, they are thinking of using the Cohesion Policy: a chunk of the EU budget which helps support economically disadvantaged regions.
This is fantastic news, but there’s an elephant in the Berlaymont here: why not also source the money from the Common Agricultural Policy? The CAP, which is worth 60 billion euros, is a big chunk of the EU’s budget – one third, in fact. Sourcing money from the CAP for a just transition for farmers would make perfect sense.
It makes sense not just because of the money, but because the CAP is in urgent need of massive transformation. Intensive agriculture, fuelled by the CAP, is at the very heart of the ecological crisis. It is by far the biggest driver of biodiversity loss, as well as the main source of pesticides and nutrients pollution. On top of that, it is directly responsible for 12% of greenhouse gas emissions. Remarkably, the agriculture sector is almost unique in seeing its greenhouse gas emissions increase over the past 5 years.
By subsidising anti-ecological practices, the CAP has trapped farmers in a system that damages biodiversity and the climate. It is only fair and logical that the money to repair that damage should come from the CAP as well.
The Just Transition Fund is a good and necessary idea. It should go hand in hand with reforming the CAP. Otherwise, the ecological crisis will not be averted, and European farmers will be hit the hardest.
If the European Commission is serious about the European Green Deal, and President Von der Leyen means it when she says “we leave nobody behind,” they must seize this opportunity: make the CAP the engine of a just ecological transition.