The European Union has decided to abandon a recommended target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture. The move comes as an attempt to calm farmers’ protests against the bloc’s green agenda, which has been going on for more than two weeks.
A text on how to reduce emissions by 90% by 2040, which was due to be published by the European Commission this Tuesday (6), no longer includes a reference to a target of a 30% drop in methane, nitrogen and other greenhouse gases. agriculture, three EU officials involved in the discussions told the Financial Times.
The measure comes at a time when widespread demonstrations by farmers are taking place in France, Germany, Belgium and, more recently, Italy, involving roadblocks, the toppling of statues and the use of police force.
Resistance to Brussels’ environmental rules has been fueled by the perceived perception that urban policymakers are ignoring rural areas — a feeling the far-right has sought to capitalize on ahead of European Parliament elections in June.
Italian farmers marched to Rome on Monday night (5) in protest against the import of cheap food from outside the EU and called for the reinstatement of tax exemptions.
The ferocity of the protests caught governments by surprise — including during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels last week.
In an attempt to appease farmers, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, initiated “strategic dialogues”, allowed land that should be set aside for nature conservation to be cultivated and allowed the capitals of EU member countries to impose restrictions on some agricultural imports from Ukraine.
Von der Leyen, as well as other politicians seeking re-election, are increasingly concerned that farmers will react at the polls and vote for far-right parties rather than the center-right forces they have traditionally supported.
In a letter to the Commission on Monday, the Greens said farmers were “trapped in a system that is crushing them” and that Brussels should propose measures including an extraordinary tax on agri-food companies to support them.
The 2040 target document aims to establish which paths the bloc could take to reduce emissions, to promote “a new industrial revolution” and to become carbon neutral by 2050, in line with international commitments.
Agricultural activities, which account for 10% of the bloc’s emissions, were initially announced as “one of the key areas to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2040”, according to a draft seen by the FT.
Policies should address the food sector as a whole, rather than just agriculture “in isolation”, the draft added, noting that large proportions of emissions could be reduced by decreasing food waste, changing the chemical composition of fertilizers and encouraging consumers to consume foods with lower carbon emissions.
EU climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra told the FT last month that the bloc must avoid a “false narrative” that industries will have to suffer as a result of climate policy.
In a separate assessment of the bloc’s climate transition document, the Commission highlighted that the lack of progress in reducing agricultural emissions is “concerning, requiring a shift in gear.”