The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has traditionally been one of the most important competencies of the European Union. It has also been one of the most contentious; over the years, critics have lined up to accuse the CAP of being wasteful (producing surplus ‘butter mountains’ and ‘wine lakes’), costly, damaging to the environment, and unfair towards farmers in developing nations. Nevertheless, there have been reforms since its was first introduced in 1962.

For one thing, the relative cost of CAP has been decreasing steadily, as the share of the EU budget dedicated to it has fallen from 73% in 1985 to 39% in 2013. In recent years, there has also been a push to ‘green’ the CAP, with a greater consideration for the environmental impact of EU policies.

On 4 June 2015, Debating Europe held a youth forum in Brussels. The event, in partnership with Friends of Europe and Green Week 2015, brought together young people with European policymakers to discuss biodiversity and environmental sustainability. We had the opportunity to put questions from Debating Europe readers to several of the people attending the event, and one of the issues that came up was the impact of the CAP on biodiversity.

Curious to know more about the importance of biodiversity in Europe? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).


The European Environment Agency (EEA) recently published a report on biodiversity. According to the EEA, the majority of habitats and species in Europe have an “unfavourable” conservation status, and efforts to protect them remain limited and patchy. The EEA’s report also suggests that agriculture is indeed the single biggest threat to biodiversity in Europe, with grasslands suffering as farming intensifies.

We had a question from Jim who argues that the CAP must take a large part of the blame for the loss of biodiversity in the EU. He believes that payments from the CAP encouraged farmers to cut down “apple orchards and hedgerows, opening up fields that once were small and historic and basically killing off animals, flora and fauna, birds and insects in our ecosystem”.

To get a reaction, we put Jim’s comment to Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director at the European Environment Agency (EEA). How would he respond?

We also had a question from Inês asking why there aren’t better laws to protect biodiversity in Europe. If biodiversity is gradually being eroded, shouldn’t there be a stronger legal and policy framework in place to protect it?

We put this question to Christian Schwarzer, a Member of the Steering Committee of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network and Youth Ambassador for the UN Decade on Biodiversity. What did he have to say?

Finally, we had a question sent in from Tanya, a student from Denmark, asking who should pay the bill for a better environment? This is a particularly timely question as this week is ‘EU Sustainable Energy Week 2015‘, bringing together public authorities, energy agencies, research organisations, NGOs, businesses, and representatives of private consumers in Brussels to discuss how to supply the EU with secure, clean and efficient energy.

As Europe considers how to make the switch away from fossil fuels, will there be costs, particularly in the short term, associated with the transition? For that matter, are there costs associated with protecting biodiversity and the environment in general? And, if so, who should foot the bill?

To get a response, we put Tanya’s comment to Maddy Bartlett, Founding Chair of the Bristol Nature Network. What would she say?

Could the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) do more to protect biodiversity in Europe? Why aren’t there stronger EU laws to protect biodiversity? And who should foot the bill for a better environment? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – alfonsobenayas

35 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Jason Picci

    No, for our security, biodiversity should be abolished in favour of NWO’s food hegemony, via one or two companies, like Monsanto.

  2. avatar
    Ferenc Lázár

    Especially the E.U. should do more about banning the Gmo products forced by big American corporations into some European countries!

  3. avatar
    Ferenc Lázár

    You’re right Ivan Burrows on this matter but the solution is not to go out fron Europe, because than the USA can use even more the European countries against each others economies! THE SOLUTION IS TO REFORM THE E.U., MAKE SURE THAT UNELECTED COMMISSIONERS BE FULLY CONTROLED BY THE ELECTED LEADERS OF MEMBER STATES! I think your PM, Mr. Cameron has the right approach on this- force the E.U. Institutions to be reformed in its roots basically…

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Ferenc Lázár
      Good idea BUT there are too many corrupt countries (e.g. the Club Meds) and too many selfish countries in the EU that do NOT want reform.

  4. avatar
    David-Ulrich Jrqt

    Today it would be very hard to find someone who’s convinced that biodiversity doesn’t need to be protected!!!

  5. avatar
    Ferenc Lázár

    Isn’t the treaty change what is the main concern here, but the flexibility and keeping the basics of EU common interests..Britain getting out would not resolve anything!

    • avatar

      It would restore British democracy, restore Britain’s fishing waters to Britain and it would allow Britain to retain its net contribution. It would solve many problems for Britain. Plus, Britain would no longer be subject to most of the undemocratically imposed rules from the Eurosoviet Politburo (Commission).

  6. avatar
    Roberto López Gallardo

    Well, as of now mainstream policy is exactly doing the opposite by imposing the neoliberal agenda of massive energy-intensive monocultives (many to growt ruinous and heavily subsidized agrofuels) and food imports. Ofc it should.

  7. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    YES- and a good start would be to reform the EU in its totality!

    20th March 2015 was International day of Happiness! The idea to control & measure human advancements not only in political terms- but by comparing the overall well-being of various country’s- using the unique method of measuring “HAPPINESS”! Sounds crazy? No! See here:

    This is a step in the right direction and can address & reflect all spheres of best practice with lesser governance! It can guarantee less dirty & costly politicking, less unwanted outside pressures, less corruption, less tension by avoiding inequalities, better accountability (politician back at home again) and better protection from ruthless global corporatism and incentives for others to improve their own happiness! How?

    By reclaiming once more full sovereignty- by achieving closer democracy- but grouped with similar “happy” counties & newly negotiated multi lateral cooperation agreements with speeds to suit everyone. Sorry & a pity for all the wasted years!

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @EU Reform- Proactive
      Some good and interesting ideas mein freund!

  8. avatar
    Alex Bell

    There should be a common policy for incentives in EU. In Slovakia people are paid to mow their fields and many don’t grow a thing but live well off the taxpayer money. This is complete outrage and should be dealt with and with similar such examples, and eradicated across EU. Biodiversity is achieved simply by market diversity. Market diversity is achieved by incentives toward less common crops, and little to none for crops for which supply is higher than demand.

  9. avatar

    Its an EU policy, in reality that’s all you need to know if you are wondering why it is such a huge disaster, especially for the cited farmers from developing nations.

    One should not have to say it, but the real reason the CAP exists is a racist one: French farmers who sought state aid against competing farmers from African countries.

  10. avatar

    In order to promote biodiversity, one should sign the TTIP treaty, Monsanto poisons are guaranteed to increase biodiversity… oops I meant decrease it… forget I mentioned it at all.

  11. avatar

    We talk about biodiversity/ttip. TTIP has passed in the eu parliment folks with all its negatives and hundreds of thousands of signatures against.. But do we know why it was passed??
    In the dutch forums it states that Mr Verhofstadt and Mrs Rachida Dati have been recieving large amounts of cash from one Exmar en Suez to push ttip and greece, greece for the fracking rights.. And sources have it that there are more high ranking eu officials with shady financial sponsers..
    This should be looked into asap, and if this is proven to be fact these people need to take the higher moral ground and step down. If true they shouldnt represent any kind of organization and as far as i am and im sure many others are concerned they should be behind bars!
    The EU needs a cleanup, people like this have no right in office!!!!

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