Read Issue 1: All About the Climate Law here.
Read Issue 2: Responding to a Crisis: Climate and Corona here.
Read Issue 3: Will COVID-19 Destroy or Empower the European Green Deal here
Read Issue 4: Financing the Green Deal here
Read Issue 5: The EU Recovery Plan here
Read Issue 6: The Mercosur Trade Agreement: A Lose-Lose Deal here
Read Issue 7: Farm to Fork Strategy here
Read Issue 8: The European Climate Targets by 2030 here
In our previous blogs we have often discussed various sectors that are responsible for the climate crisis, but we haven’t discussed one of the biggest factors yet; the agriculture and food industry.
It is both hugely responsible and affected by climate change. The food we eat, how it’s made and where it comes from plays an important role in the system change that we are fighting for, since our global food system accounts for nearly one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is also responsible for 10% of the EU’s total emissions, however it also contains a lot of ‘hidden’ emissions that are attributed to – for example – the energy sector. About 20% of the food produced is lost or wasted, which represents an annual loss of 143 billion euros. Also, in EU financing it’s clear how important the agriculture sector is. With €365 billion between 2021-2027 the CAP will continue to be the second biggest budget of the EU.
The importance of Agriculture
It’s really important to understand the serious impact agriculture has on climate, biodiversity, degradation of land, deforestation and disposal of wastes.
40% of earth’s land is given to agricultural activities. This means we use almost half of our lands for growing food. If this is not done in a sustainable way, you can imagine what terrible effect that will have on us as well. Deforestation, and overgrazing can cause landslides because exposed areas are susceptible to soil erosion by wind and water. Agriculture is also very responsible for deforestation when it comes to growing soy, cattle ranching and logging. When it comes to biodiversity, agriculture can be very damaging as well by converting natural habitats to intensely managed systems and by releasing pollutants, including greenhouse gases and chemical fertilizers. Apart from this, agriculture also has a socio-economic impact by for example water and food scarcity causing famine in different countries around the world. Due to the unsustainable farming techniques there is an annual loss of 75 billion tons of soil a year. This is 340 billion dollars a year that is literally lost instead of invested in things like poverty, education, development aid.
To summarize, if we don’t start making our food production and agriculture sector sustainable, we will face a huge problem by not only accelerating climate change but also producing a vulnerable dependent food system that can’t ensure enough water and food on the long term anymore.
Introduction to CAP
The common agriculture policy (CAP) of the EU launched back in 1962 aims to safeguard and support farmers and also keep rural areas and the rural economy alive while also wanting to tackle climate change since agriculture and forestry also acts as a carbon sink. But in reality, farmers’ incomes are 40% lower than in non-agricultural sectors, and even the European Commission itself has stated that CAP has not had a positive impact when it comes to making farming practices more sustainable.
According to Bart Staes, José Bové, Maria Heubuch former members of the European Parliament, and Martin Häusling and Thomas Waitz, current members for the Greens/EFA group, the new CAP from 2021-2027 will be even worse – weakening a lot of mandatory green measures and weakening the EU’s overall climate ambition by pretending all the money that goes to CAP is also a part of the climate budget.
Since agriculture currently is not performed sustainably whatsoever, this is again investing money in the wrong practices.
The Farm to Fork strategy
Since the EU needs to achieve a CO2 neutral continent by 2050, they came up with a strategy to change our food system. On the 20th of May 2020, The EU Commission proposed the Farm to Fork strategy. The goal of this strategy is to reduce the impact of social and environmental/climate footprint in the process of food.
It is at the heart of the green deal aiming for our food system to have:
- A neutral or positive environmental impact
- Reverse biodiversity loss
- Ensure food security and preserve affordability
- Help to mitigate climate change and adapt to the consequences
The farm to Fork strategy lists 27 actions covering, food production, processing, retailing and waste and is articulating around four main elements:
- Consumers at the centre underline the role of consumer demand in driving the change.
- Using the CAP as a tool to enable a more sustainable agriculture
- Looking at industry behaviour and seeks concrete commitment from food companies on health and sustainability.
- EU trade policy should seek to obtain concrete commitments from third countries on the uses of pesticides, animal welfare.
It also sets some concrete targets, for example in the reduction of pesticides, for antibiotics and fertilisers, and also for increasing the amount of land farmed organically.
This all sounds very promising and especially highlights the crucial missing parts of the CAP. What Farm to Fork is actually all about is rescaling our food production to a local level. This would be good for the quality of the food, the wellbeing of the animals and the international competition between farmers.
On Euractiv we found that the draft working programme also recognises that the F2F is a “very important initiative that will map out many farm-levels actions to improve climate and environmental performance” and, as such, “arguably, it should also reflect the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to food security.”
This is because after COVID-19, a lot of countries have realised how dependent they are on other countries when it comes to food supplies. This is also a huge driver for EU member states to produce more locally. Other than that, using the Farm to Fork strategy as a tool to fight climate change is very efficient to come closer to the -insufficient- 2050 climate neutral target.
Contradictive EU policies
The Farm to Fork is one step towards the direction in agriculture to reach our climate goals. But next to that, Europe is in negotiations of an international trade agreement that would bring us 5 steps back: the Mercosur agreement.
Like mentioned in our last blog, the Mercosur agreement is an international trade between Europe and theSouth American countries Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. If this agreement goes through it will contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon forest, it will create more competition on the EU meat market which will further impact farmers livelihoods, while it also has no guarantees for food security for EU citizens.
Well that doesn’t sound like the goal of the Farm to Fork, it is even the opposite! It is important to make sure Europe continues the work of the Green Deal, and that means EU policies have to be coherent! It does not make sense to have a policy to save the climate and one to destroy it, we will never make it like that.
That is why we keep striking, calling on our politicians, on CEO’s… because there is still work to do if we want to make it to the Paris agreement that we signed!
So, are you joining?
We are Adélaïde Charlier and Anuna De Wever, two climate activists that launched the youth for climate movement in Belgium, internationally known as Fridays For Future. We went on strike for weeks and weeks, for more than a year. We worked together with scientists, politicians and activists. We recently sailed to Latin America to attend the CoP in Chile and to understand the threat to the Amazon Rainforest and the Global South facing the direct consequences of climate change.
After this, we felt like it was time for our activism to evolve and for us to get closer to the decision making process at the European level. We started an internship in the Greens/EFA Group in February 2020 and decided to write a regular blog to share information on the preparation of the European Green Deal within the Parliament.
We want to build the bridge between the climate activists in the streets and the politicians in the European Parliament. We would like to offer young activists more information about the internal trade-offs to pressure the right points, and debate with our politicians to show them there are millions of people all around the world ready and waiting for change.