Just transition in the EU agriculture and land use sector

A just transition urgently needs to be planned and enacted for European agriculture. This new paper by IEEP looks into how, at a critical moment in decisions over how CAP subsidies are spent.

This paper examines how a ‘just transition’ model could be applied to European agriculture. It sets out the relevance of just transition to agriculture and land use, some key issues arising in its application to the complex web of European farms, potential winners and losers, and proposes a first list of policy components to include in a focused EU plan.

The concepts of transition and just transition take on a distinctive character when applied to the agricultural and food sectors. Unlike sectors facing redundant technologies, outright factory closure and cessation of production (such as in the power or transport sectors), agriculture and land use will continue in many cases. However, it will have to be transformed. Further, there are additional ways in which the land-based sector is distinctive, including due to its strategic role in food security and its profound impacts on climate and the environment, as well as the important implications for dietary health.

This paper seeks to unpick some of the complexities of the just transition model when applied to agriculture and then puts forward a case for embarking on a concerted EU plan for transition, within which the CAP could make a significant contribution. It offers a frank (but very initial) assessment of the potential winners and losers from the kinds of transitions that are needed in the sector to address multiple challenges, including GHG emission reductions, nature recovery, sustainable resource use, dietary shift and food security.

Identifying possible winners and losers is a critical step towards designing a just transition plan for EU agriculture, with policies that can assist and compensate where this is fair, reasonable and effective alongside the capacity and willingness to regulate where this is necessary.