Considering the Future of Sustainable Agriculture in the EU: Ensuring Production and Preserving Biodiversity

Biodiversity, the unique variety of life on our planet that underpins our economy and well-being, has sharply declined during the last century, already exceeding what environmentalists call a “planetary boundary” (Steffen & Al., Science, 2015). Indeed, the World Economic Forum listed ‘biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse’ as one of the top 10 global risks in 2015. Among the causes of such decline, agriculture is considered one of the most substantial, and agricultural biodiversity loss is usually linked to unsustainable intensification of agricultural activities on the one hand, and the abandonment of farming on the other.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) includes various instruments to support biodiversity, considering the implementation of greening measures as a compulsory condition for farmers to receive part of their direct payments, and binding Member States to allocate at least 30% of their budget for rural development programmes for environmentally beneficial measures. However, in its mid-term review of the Biodiversity strategy, published in 2015, the European Commission concluded that the strategy was not fulfilling expectations with regards to the contribution of agriculture to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity. Furthermore, the first edition of the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR), published by the Commission in February 2017, highlighted that three quarters of the habitats assessed indicate an unfavourable conservation status, blaming it, among others, on non-sustainable agricultural practices.

In April 2017, following a thorough evaluation of the Birds and Habitats Directives (the Nature Directives), the Commission published an “Action Plan for nature, people and the economy”, laying down four priority areas and 15 actions to meet the EU's biodiversity targets for 2020. The four priorities are: improving guidance and knowledge and ensuring better coherence with broader socioeconomic objectives; building political ownership and strengthening compliance; strengthening investment in Natura 2000 and improving synergies with EU funding instruments; better communication and outreach, engaging citizens, stakeholders and communities. Most actions will be launched in 2017 so that the Commission can report on their delivery before the end of its current mandate in 2019.

In light of these recent policy developments and the reiteration of the EU’s commitment to achieve its biodiversity targets for 2020, this international symposium will provide an invaluable opportunity to engage with the debate on biodiversity at EU level and scrutinise the future of sustainable agriculture in Europe. It will also enable delegates to analyse different methodological approaches to sustainable agriculture and biodiversity preservation and get to know recent technological developments that could foster sustainability. The event will bring together representatives from the EU and national institutions, the private sector and the civil society to share best practice and provide a broad range of perspectives.

Kosten: see Programme

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