EU Budget Announcement: Implications for Ecology and Biodiversity

Last week the European Commission announced their plans for the new EU budget. The new budget, known as the Multi Annual Financial Framework (MFF) sets how much will be spent over the years 2014 to 2020, and how this money will be allocated.

Overall few changes have been made to the size of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget however there have been significant changes in the way in which this money will be allocated. Of the overall €372 billion budget around two thirds will be allocated to Pillar 1 which makes direct payments to farmers. 30% of direct payments from the CAP will be used to encourage environmentally sound practices, as part of a greening of the CAP. €4.5 billion will be spent on research into food security.

The Pillar 2 budget, which is used to fund agri-environment schemes, will be cut over the period by about 7%, leading some organisations such as WWF to doubt the ability of the new budget to deliver the ambitious environmental goals set out in Europe 2020. Sacrifices in this part of the budget have been made to avoid cutting direct payments to farmers. Another key concern is the new freedom that member states will have to move funding around between pillars 1 and 2 which many anticipate will further reduce the amount spent on environmental projects.

The budget for LIFE+, the EU scheme to fund nature and biodiversity projects has only been increased by a small fraction leading many organisations to doubt the ability of the new budget to maintain the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. National financing plans for Natura 2000 may be the only hope to protect our natural capital

The external budget, which funds initiatives such as the Global Climate and Biodiversity Fund and the European Development Fund, has been increased but it remains unclear how much funding will go specifically to projects to protect biodiversity and ecosystem services. Whether this money will be used in a way that contributes towards the millennium development goals whilst simultaneously delivering solutions for biodiversity remains to be seen, although the budget does state that the European Parliament are committed to contributing financially to help meet commitments on biodiversity and climate change.

Funding for research will focus on projects that cannot be achieved by countries acting alone. The budget states that Horizon 2020, the new framework for research funding, will focus on key sectoral policy priorities such as climate change, food security and unsustainable resource use.