Society

82% of EU Agricultural Subsidies are Channeled into Climate-Damaging Animal Products

The European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy channels a large proportion of its agricultural subsidies into supporting the production of emission-intensive animal-based foods.

According to a new study, 82% of EU agricultural subsidies are channelled into the production of emission-intensive animal products, with a portion being provided directly and another portion indirectly through feed subsidies. This practice is at odds with the European Green Deal and the growing calls for more sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture.

The analysis of global physical input-output datasets in conjunction with public subsidy data showed that the subsidy intensity for animal products increases significantly when the necessary feed is included. These animal products are associated with 84% of embodied greenhouse gas emissions from EU food production. Despite their high share of total emissions, these same animal products provide only 35% of calories and 65% of proteins.

A picture of a forest taken from above, displaying in white CO2
© Philip-stock.adobe.com

Time to level the playing field

In January of this year, the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change released a report outlining several recommendations for addressing the climate crisis, including shifting subsidies away from animal agriculture. The authors stated that the common agricultural policy “should be better aligned with EU goals” and suggested shifting financial support “away from emission-intensive agricultural practices, including livestock production”.

Jeremy Coller, founder of FAIRR, which last year signed a statement urging the G20 group to reform “harmful” agricultural subsidies by 2030 to transition to net zero GHG emissions and restore nature by 2050, said: “Globally, governments are setting bold climate and nature goals, but in the same breath are undermining those ambitions with almost $500 billion in harmful agricultural subsidies for high-emitting commodities such as red meat. We need to realign subsidies to nature goals to support a transition for farmers and to ensure a level regulatory playing field for alternative proteins and other sustainable solutions.”

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