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EU farm policy reform should aim to sustain biodiversity, say MEPs

Higher political priority should go to preserving and restoring damaged ecosystems, said Parliament in a resolution adopted on Friday. As the EU failed to meet its overall biodiversity target for 2010, biodiversity conservation should now be built into key EU policies, it adds. Environmentally harmful subsidies should be named and phased out by 2020, the text says.

MEPs point to recent studies showing a steady loss of biodiversity in the EU, which "leads to devastating economic costs to society, which until now have not been sufficiently integrated into economic and other policies".

The resolution, which was adopted by 414 in favour, 55 against and 64 abstentions, is a follow-up to the EU biodiversity strategy for 2020, as tabled by the European Commission in May 2011.

"The services that nature provides us with, like clean water, clean air, fertile soil, food, are not only crucial for the well-being of human kind, they also represent an astronomical economic value. According to economists, each year we lose 3% of GDP due to the loss of biodiversity. That costs the EU €450 billion year after year. Compared to these figures, investing €5.8 billion per year in Natura 2000 is a bargain!" said rapporteur Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE, NL).

"The real key to this issue is not this new strategy, but, rather, the forthcoming reforms of the common agricultural and fisheries policies and the multiannual financial framework (MFF)", the resolution says.

Redirecting the CAP

MEPs stress that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a tool not only for food production and rural development, but also for conserving biodiversity. They regret that CAP environment protection measures "have so far failed to halt the overall decline of biodiversity".

The CAP should be redirected towards compensating farmers for delivering public goods, "since the market currently fails to integrate the economic value of the important public goods which agriculture can deliver", they add.

EU should name subsidies that harm biodiversity

CAP payments, including those made from 2014, should "be underpinned by robust cross-compliance rules which contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services" covering legislation on birds and habitats, water, pesticides and biocides, MEPs say.
Inspection of agricultural practices should be strengthened in order to prevent the loss of biodiversity. "All existing environmentally harmful subsidies" should be identified, and phased out by 2020, they add.

Click here for links to adopted resolution, video recording of debate, etc.