Land as an Environmental Resource

The EU’s rural land is essential for delivering all ecosystem services – food, energy, timber, as well as clean water, carbon sequestration and landscapes, underpinned by biodiversity. However, there are tensions about how to produce more crops, timber and, increasingly, energy alongside a healthy environment and rectifying the serious environmental deficit that already exists. These tensions are likely to become more pronounced over the coming decades and will mean that significant trade-offs between different land uses and the intensity of crop and animal production need to be faced. Where such conflicts occur, it tends to be the environment that loses out.

This report, for DG Environment, looks at some of the ways of addressing these tensions and trade-offs in a way that seeks to maintain and enhance the delivery of environmental services in the future so that the EU’s rural land is resilient to climate change and its long term productive capacity is protected without causing undue pressure elsewhere. It suggests some of the solutions that will need to be considered and where EU policy initiatives are needed. It highlights that more coherent approaches to land use are needed and that, although traditionally there have been considerable political sensitivities about EU policy initiatives on land use, this is an issue that can no longer be avoided.

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