Policy brief: Getting to the roots of sustainable land management

This briefing paper seeks to inform EU, national and regional policymakers about how the latest Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform could deliver much-needed improvements in environmental and climate action.

For more than 50 years, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has influenced land management in Europe. Throughout most of those years, the policy was solely focused on the objectives of increasing agricultural productivity and market stability and ensuring availability of supplies and reasonable prices for consumers, often to the detriment of Eu-rope’s environment and natural resources.

In response successive CAP reforms have sought to integrate environmental and climate considerations into the policy since the late 1980s and early 1990s. The integration of environmental instruments and measures into the CAP has significantly altered how these objectives are expected to be fulfilled by the agriculture and forestry sectors, at least on paper.

However, in practice, efforts to mainstream environmental and more recently climate considerations into the CAP have delivered mixed results and have not been sufficient to address the scale of the sustainability challenges these sectors face. The CAP reform Post-2020 is the latest attempt by policymakers to put environmental and climate action at the heart of the policy.

CAP support can potentially create powerful incentives and disincentives that affect land management decisions. As a result, it can play an influential role in how farmers and land managers respond to key environmental and climate challenges.

This briefing paper seeks to inform EU, national and regional policymakers about how the latest CAP reform could deliver much-needed improvements in environmental and climate action.

It starts with a short introduction to the Commission’s proposals for the next CAP Post-2020. This is followed by an overview of the policy instruments most relevant to support more sustainable land management, with a specific focus on soil health.

The briefing then explores some of the opportunities the reform could offer to improve policy performance in reaching EU environmental and climate objectives and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as the possible risks the proposals present as they currently stand. 

The briefing draws on reports that have been produced by IEEP since the Commission’s proposals were published in June 2018. The proposals are now under review by the European Parliament and Council who are required to ratify them before any new policy can be enacted in EU law.

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