Designing an effective agri-environment-climate policy as part of the post-2020 EU Common Agricultural Policy


  • Uwe Latacz-Lohmann
  • Alfons Balmann
  • Regina Birner
  • Olaf Christen
  • Matthias Gauly
  • Regina Grajewski
  • Harald Grethe
  • José Martínez
  • Hiltrud Nieberg
  • Monika Pischetsrieder
  • Britta Renner
  • Norbert Röder
  • Julia Christiane Schmid
  • Achim Spiller
  • Friedhelm Taube
  • Lieske Voget-Kleschin
  • Peter Weingarten



The European Union is facing huge environmental and climate-related challenges. Greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity losses, ammonia emissions and continuing excessive nutrient loads in water bodies demand a much more targeted and consistent agri-environment-climate policy than has hitherto been the case. Agri-environment-climate policy measures to date – including within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – have not sufficiently reduced the environmental pollution caused by agriculture.
In its 2018 draft regulations, the European Commission proposes a “new delivery model” for the post-2020 CAP. This model shifts responsibility for policy-making towards member states and strives for greater “results orientation”, offering member states the possibility of implementing the CAP to focus much more on the public good. Under these legislative proposals, the EU will in future only specify the objectives and broad types of interventions, leaving member states to quantify targets and design the specific measures. To that end, each member state will produce a national strategic plan for its entire territory in which measures in Pillars 1 and 2 of the CAP are jointly programmed. This plan is to be submitted to the European Commission for approval.
Three policy tools are envisaged in the design of the CAP’s “green architecture”: the “conditionality” of direct payments; the new so-called “eco-schemes” in Pillar 1; and environmental and climate-related regulations in Pillar 2 (AECM II). These three policy tools combined offer member states much greater leeway than they have had in the current funding period (2014-2020). In Germany this requires more extensive coordination between the Federal Government and German states.
The Advisory Board’s conclusions on the legislative proposals submitted by the European Commission are mixed. Member states are being offered new opportunities to implement targeted agri-environment-climate measures, but the scope they are being given is so broadly defined that it is possible for their agri-environment-climate policies to be relatively unambitious and continuing to focus on income support. The Advisory Board recognises a risk of a race to the bottom in terms of the level of ambition of agri-environment-climate policy if the European Commission, which is the impetus behind it, does not apply more ambitious budgetary provisions or stringent criteria for the approval of national strategic plans. Whether a challenging, targeted and efficient agri-environment-climate policy is developed or member states stick with the status quo of agricultural aid primarily depends on their political will to take action.
In the present report, the Advisory Board evaluates the legislative proposals for their potential to produce a targeted agri-environment-climate policy, and offers suggestions for an effective national design of this policy area as part of the CAP’s “new delivery model”. The Advisory Board also gives details of its April 2018 recommendation to gear the post-2020 CAP more towards serving the public good (WBAE 2018).

To design an effective agri-environment-climate policy as part of the post-2020 CAP, the Advisory Board makes the following recommendations for the Federal Government and in part for state governments:

I) Clearly identify agri-environment-climate policy issues and operationalise objectives. (1) Based on the issues identified, prioritise objectives; (2) state the contribution the CAP should make to achieving national environmental and climate action plans; and (3) support the interpretation of target income according to the case law of the European Court of Justice, thus focusing the CAP on safeguarding agriculture’s social functions.

II) Specify and gradually increase the minimum budget shares for agri-environment-climate protection. For national implementation: (1) spend at least 30 % of the sum from direct payments and EAFRD funds on agri-environment-climate action objectives from the start of the new funding period; (2) increase this budget over ten years so that 100 % of Pillar 1 funds are available for ambitious eco-schemes, AECM II or animal welfare measures; (3) communicate this change in premiums in good time; (4) if eco-schemes are oversubscribed, reduce the basic premium (“basic income support for sustainability”); and (5) reallocate more funds from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 as early as 2020. Furthermore, at EU level, support: (6) the complete removal of the basic premium over ten years; (7) the possibility of the basic premium being co-financed nationally; (8) a distribution of funds between member states in line with the challenges faced and added value to Europe; and (9) the stipulation that all member states spend at least 30 % of the sum from direct payments and EAFRD funds on agri-environment-climate objectives.

III) Establish specific budgets at EU level for biodiversity and moor preservation across member states. At EU level, lobby for: (1) the establishment of specific EU budget shares for the Natura 2000 network and moor preservation (as a pilot project); and (2) the implementation across the EU in the medium term of a specified minimum percentage of extensively farmed land at regional level for species and biotope protection.

IV) Replace blanket cross-compliance of direct payments with “specific conditionality”. (1) Minimise the conditionality requirements for individual farms in the CAP strategic plan and instead programme targeted, ambitious and well-funded eco-schemes and AECM II; (2) enshrine selected funding regulation standards in regulatory law to maintain land in a good agricultural and environmental condition (GAEC); and (3) from a certain subsidy amount, place beneficiaries under an obligation to receive advice or undergo individual farm sustainability checks.

V) Reinforce constitutional and target conditionality. In EU negotiations, support the introduction of: (1) a sliding scale of constitutional conditionality; and (2) the implementation of binding target conditionality across the EU as part of the CAP strategic plans.

VI) Overhaul the CAP’s performance framework. In EU negotiations support: (1) a closer alignment of the reported indicators and objectives; and (2) the simplification of reporting.

VII) Clearly state the requirements for approval of the CAP strategic plans, thus increasing transparency and planning predictability. In negotiations at EU level, support: (1) the stipulation of minimum requirements in terms of the ambitiousness of eco-schemes; (2) timely public access to member states’ strategic plans; and (3) maximum inclusion of requirements in the basic legal instruments and not in the form of implementing acts or delegated legislative acts.

VIII) Design targeted and efficient eco-schemes. (1) In the national strategic plan, programme measures that are of interest nationwide and have been formulated for the relevant objectives; (2) design and reward measures differently by location; (3) differentiate efficiently between eco-schemes and AECM II, and create targeted combination options; (4) exclude eco-scheme payments from capping or degression.

IX) Open up eco-schemes to animal welfare measures and develop animal welfare support. At EU level, support: (1) the ability of member states to compensate for some of the costs incurred by increasing regulatory animal welfare standards considerably above the EU average with state payments within the scope of the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) or the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD); (2) open up eco-schemes to non-investment animal welfare measures that can be linked much more effectively to the number of animals than to the eligible area. For national implementation: (3) considerably increase the use of funds for animal welfare funding; and (4) make use of opportunities to appropriate funds within the Joint Task for the Improvement of Agricultural Structures and Coastal Protection if funding does not come from eco-schemes.

X) Increase the focus of Pillar 2 agri-environment-climate measures on objectives by means of innovative incentive mechanisms. (1) Test incentive tools for improved spatial steering of agri-environment-climate activities in practical applications; (2) develop programmes for results-based reward of environmental and climate performance; (3) do not stand in the way of a shift towards a more targeted agri-environment-climate policy by using the argument of higher administration costs.

XI) Improve the institutional prerequisites for collectively organised agri-environment-climate protection. (1) Examine the extent to which elements of the Dutch system of collective nature conservation arrangements could also be applicable in Germany; (2) improve the institutional prerequisites for the implementation of collective models of environmental and climate action; (3) in pilot projects in the current finance period, support the grouping of relevant local actors into “biodiversity-generating communities”.

XII) Revise the definition of subsidy beneficiaries and eligible land. At EU level, support: (1) the eligibility of all land managers who perform agricultural activities within the scope of Pillar 1; (2) the expansion of the definition of “agricultural activities” to include paludiculture in the draft CAP strategic plan regulation; and (3) the expansion of the definition of “permanent grassland” in the draft CAP strategic plan regulation so that member states can distinguish “permanent grassland” on a particular qualifying date. For national implementation: (4) make as much use as possible of the freedom to encourage high-quality nature conservation-related management and care of non-forest areas through Pillar 1.