Published Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The consequences of climate change for EU Agriculture: Follow up to the COP21 UN Climate Change conference 

This IEEP report for the European Parliament reviews and discusses the implications for the agriculture sector of the COP21 UN Paris climate change conference and the EU’s climate policy proposals for 2030. It looks at the role the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) plays in supporting climate action within the agriculture sector and considers how the CAP might evolve post-2020 to support the sector in reducing GHG emissions and adapting to climate change. 

Agriculture is the fifth largest contributor to GHG emissions in the EU and, with its reliance on natural systems and its exposure to changing weather patterns, it is one of the most susceptible to climate change. Despite this, there remain no clear decarbonisation agenda or GHG emission reduction targets for the agricultural sector at EU level, and despite the availability of support within the CAP, Member States place more emphasis on adaptation of the sector than increasing its mitigation efforts.  

There is, therefore, an urgent need for a longer-term vision setting out agriculture’s role in supporting the EU’s climate ambition. This should take account of the obligations and opportunities available in the EU’s climate policy framework as well as the current and future CAP to ensure the right incentives are in place to support not just action on the ground but also capacity building and knowledge exchange. This may require a more strategic approach to the use of CAP funds, a greater role for other private and financial instruments, consideration of specific climate mitigation targets for the sector and a shift towards more sustainable consumption patterns in order to facilitate a more rapid transition towards net-zero emissions by mid-century.