The role of the LULUCF sector in the EU’s long-term climate strategy

In its Decision adopting the Paris Agreement in 2015, the Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) decided to convene a facilitative dialogue among Parties in 2018 to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the Agreement’s long-term goal and to inform the preparation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) (Para. 20). It also asked those Parties that had submitted intended NDCs prior to the adoption of that Decision, such as the EU, “to communicate or update by 2020 these contributions” (Para. 24). Furthermore, it requested Parties to communicate to the secretariat , by 2020, mid-century, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies in accordance with Article 4, paragraph 19, of the Agreement (Para.

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Accounting for the LULUCF sector in the EU’s 2030 climate targets

The land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector is assigned an important role in both global and EU climate policy because it is an important store of carbon (around four times as much carbon is stored in soils and biomass including forests as in the atmosphere itself (Lal, 2004) and it is, to date, the only sector with the large-scale potential to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

The Paris Agreement highlights the potential contribution of the LULUCF sector by setting an objective to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century in order to meet its overall goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

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Long-run perspective on EU agricultural output growth and GHG emissions

The extent to which agricultural growth can take place while at the same time reducing agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is much debated. There is a widespread view, reflected in the agricultural mitigation chapter of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report in 2014, that changes in food consumption patterns will be necessary if GHG emissions from global agricultural production are to fall sufficiently to help to stabilise the climate by 2050. The diet changes proposed, including a shift away from meat and dairy product consumption, would deliver emissions reductions by reducing agricultural production. Others point instead to the potential of technological advances to reconcile increased agricultural output with lower emissions, effectively allowing the decoupling of emissions growth from agricultural growth.

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Who makes up the AGRI Committee for the 9th parliamentary term?

Last week, the new European Parliament elected in May set out to constitute itself for the coming parliamentary term. The Parliament’s President (David Sassoli, PS&D) and Vice-Presidents were elected for the first half session (2.5 years) and the political groups nominated their members to the various Parliamentary Committees. We now know the names of the 48 AGRI Committee members for the coming period (up from 46 members in the outgoing AGRI Committee), but who are they? And will the new faces make a difference to the Committee’s position on the various files it must address, not least the ongoing debate on the next CAP reform?

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Capping direct payments – a modest proposal

DG AGRI has published its latest breakdown of the distribution of direct payments in financial year (FY) 2017, which refers to payments made to farmers in the claim year (CY) 2016. The report itself has less text than usual, but lots of graphs showing the distributions of payments and recipients for the EU28 and by country. The detailed tables showing the numbers behind these graphs are given in the statistical annex.

A couple of points are worth remarking. The tables distinguish between the distribution of decoupled payments, other direct payments and total direct payments. The decoupled payments include the basic payment, greening payment, redistributive payment, young farmers’ payment, and the payment to areas facing natural constraints in Pillar 1.

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Climate policy in agriculture and carbon leakage

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a single country will usually lead to increased emissions in other countries – a phenomenon called carbon leakage (for simplicity, I will use the term carbon leakage although the same outcome also applies to other greenhouse gases). Various mechanisms contribute to this effect:

  • If climate policy increases production costs, this will reduce the competitiveness of domestic production relative to countries without or with a laxer climate policy. Consumers will shift their purchasing to the cheaper imported alternatives. The effect will be that some emissions-producing production will shift to third countries with the laxer climate policy – the competitiveness channel.
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What will the European Parliament elections mean for CAP reform?

The European Parliament (EP)’s agricultural committee adopted its Opinions on the three CAP-related legal proposals earlier this month. However, lack of time during this Parliamentary session before elections take place to the EP at the end of May means that the Parliament itself will not vote on these Opinions until after the new Parliament reconvenes in July.

While the outgoing committee would like to see the new Parliament use its Opinions as the starting point for its plenary voting, there is no guarantee that this will be the case. The composition of the political groups in the new Parliament may be very different to what has existed in the current Parliament.

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The GHG emissions challenge for agriculture

Agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU-28 have flat-lined since 2005 (see chart below). They fell slightly between 2005 and 2012 and have been increasing since then. In 2016, the agricultural sector was responsible for 430 million tonnes of GHG emissions in CO2 equivalents (CO2eq) compared to 434 million tonnes in 2005. This relative stability is due, I suspect, to a slow improvement in emissions intensity per unit of output offset by increased levels of output. The increase since 2012 is likely mainly associated with the removal of dairy quotas in 2015 which has allowed an expansion in the dairy herd in some countries, though these speculative hypotheses should be subject to more rigorous analysis.

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Designing CAP Strategic Plans to maximise environmental and climate potential

Those seeking to influence the design of the CAP post 2020 should understand the process of designing Strategic Plans, and the opportunities and constraints inherent in this process. In a recent working paper, I try to explain how Strategic Plans will be constructed and the key entry points for those seeking to improve the environmental and climate ambition of these Plans. The paper is written from a development perspective but the messages have a more general relevance.

The paper does not discuss how the CAP legislation itself might be improved from an environmental or development perspective. The Parliament’s Committee on Development and Environment Committee have submitted their Opinions to the agriculture committee with a range of suggestions in this regard (the latter still only available in Italian), although few were taken on board in the AGRI Committee voting .

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The looming EU- US WTO Spanish ripe olives dispute

An agenda item on the AGRI Committee’s last meeting in this Parliamentary term yesterday dealt with a presentation by DG AGRI’s Director for International Affairs John Clarke on the agricultural component of ongoing trade negotiations and other relevant issues of trade policy (starts at 16:23 on the meeting video). Amid a chorus of complaints from AGRI MEPs about poultry imports from Ukraine, tomato imports from Morocco and potential Brazilian tariffs on EU exports of garlic, Mr Clarke gave a robust and trenchant defence of the Commission’s role in managing international agricultural trade relations.

Among the items he covered was the EU response to the US imposition of countervailing and anti-dumping duties in 2018 on the import of Spanish ripe olives, confirming earlier preliminary determinations to impose provisional duties.

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