Keeping track of climate delivery in the CAP?

Faustine Bas-Defossez is the Principal Policy Analyst and Head of Agriculture and Land Management Programme at IEEP

The CAP is one of the instruments with the highest potential in influencing farming practices and their climate delivery – but is the EU keeping good and accurate track of climate delivery within it?

The European Commission's climate expenditure tracking methodology for the Common Agriculture Policy has been developed from the approach taken by the OECD for measuring the climate flows of funding under the Rio Conventions.

It uses three categories to ‘mark’ or ‘score’ EU funds ex-ante in terms of whether they are anticipated to make a significant (100 %), a moderate (40 %) or insignificant (0 %) contribution towards achieving climate change outcomes – both mitigation and adaptation.

Independent assessments have concluded that the Commission’s assumption made for the Pillar 1 (19.46% of the budget deemed as climate-relevant) is likely to be an overestimate.

This IEEP policy brief outlines some of the limitations of the tracking methodology for assessing the contribution of the CAP budget to climate action

Given that this methodology only provides an indication of the proportion of a fund’s budget that is climate focussed and is not tailored to provide an accurate picture of the precise level of expenditure spent on climate-related activities in practice, it is not possible to have an accurate budget of what is currently spent ex-post for climate under the CAP.

However, those assessments are somewhat backed by evidence analysing the actual climate performance of CAP Pillar 1, which concludes that the overall impact of the Basic Payment Scheme on greenhouse gas mitigation is likely to be low and that Voluntary Coupled Support to livestock is likely to lead to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions – although this could not be quantified.

Despite those criticisms and the shortfalls of the methodology itself, for the period post-2020, the Commission has proposed that the tracker for CAP Pillar 1 is doubled, from 20% to 40%.

In a policy brief commissioned by NABU, IEEP analysed the new elements and changes in the CAP proposals that could justify such an increase and listed a number of additional safeguards and amendments to the proposals themselves that would be required to increase the climate ambition and potential delivery of Pillar 1 in terms of GHG reductions.

The nature of the climate tracking methodology (broad brush and ex-ante), however, will always mean that the match between the 40% marker and actual level of climate expenditure on the ground remains only a very rough indication of the proportion of the CAP’s budget that has the potential to be climate focussed.