Agriculture Policy Updates - April 2022
The ongoing war in Ukraine caused some rearrangement of priorities in EU policy-making. While the release of the EU Pesticides Regulation and the Nature Restoration Law have been postponed to a later date, the Commission publishes controversial temporary measures for safeguarding food security.
EU Commission postpones the publication of long-awaited policies on pesticides and nature restoration
As it was feared, due to increased industrial lobby pressure in the recent month, the European Commission has announced the postponement of publishing the Pesticides Regulation and the highly anticipated Nature Restoration Law — both were originally expected to be published on 23 March 2022.
The postponement happened in spite of strong calls not to do so from the NGO community. In mid-March, CEEweb joined an impressive group of 160+ non-governmental organisations in an open letter calling on the European Commission to keep up the ambition of strategies under the EU Green Deal and not to set back progress on sustainable food production, biodiversity protection and other sustainability-focused topics, over unjustified claims of threatened food security. CEEweb and leading environmental NGOs agree that legally binding nature restoration targets are urgently needed to address the drastic decline of biodiversity in the EU. The new law would help us mitigate the climate crisis and to build resilience in the face of climate change.
At the end of March, we learned that the new date for publication is set at 22 June 2022.
Commission publishes controversial communication for safeguarding food security
The European Commission published a communication on ‘Safeguarding food security and reinforcing the resilience of food systems’ (and its Annex) in which, although it assured of its continued support of the Green Deal in words, not so much in deeds. The measures proposed to "stabilise EU agricultural markets and support farmers’ incomes" are particularly worrying, they include allowing the cultivation of crops on fallow land, a market safety net and financial measures to support a number of sectors (including the livestock sector), and derogations to pesticide maximum residue levels (MRLs) in food and feed imports.
At the same time, the European Parliament voted on a resolution "on the need for an urgent EU action plan to ensure food security inside and outside the EU." This text does not openly reject the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies, but certain measures seem to be in conflict with the ambition and promise of both strategies. The resolution pushes for derogations and promotes a strong "production-first" approach across the board. Some amendments detrimental to nature passed with very thin margins, among them, rejecting a "10 % decrease in production area" (implicitly rejecting the Biodiversity Strategy’s target for space for nature) and calling for an impact assessment of the Farm to Fork Strategy for its impacts on food security.
EU Commission’s call for evidence on certification of carbon removal
The European Climate Law requires the EU to achieve a balance between greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and removals at the latest by 2050 and to achieve negative emissions thereafter. In October 2021, the Commission announced in its 2022 Work Programme a proposal for the certification of carbon removals with a view to scaling up the deployment of sustainable carbon removals and creating new business models for land managers and industrial companies, in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal and the European Climate Law.
In December 2021, the Commission adopted a Communication on Sustainable Carbon Cycles. The Communication focuses on short-term actions to, on the one hand, upscale carbon farming as a business model incentivising practices in ecosystems that increase carbon sequestration, and, on the other hand, to foster new industrial value chains for the sustainable capture, recycling, transport and storage of carbon.
With the recently closed call for evidence, the Commission aimed to ensure that the general public interest across the EU was well-reflected. The results of the consultation will inform the Impact Assessment accompanying the Commission’s proposal on this initiative. Here you can read more about the background and rationale behind the call for evidence.