The European Commission has bent the knee to protesting farmers - and is dropping key passages in a proposal for a new 2040 goal aimed at cutting greenhouse gas pollution.
According to the EU exeuctive's plan, "all sectors" need to now contribute to the effort - but the previously mandated 30% cut to agricultural production between by 2040 is gone. The revised draft has also excluded a mandate for citizens to make lifestyle changes - such as eating less meat, and a push to end fossil fuel subsidies, Politico reports.
Farmers' protests have broken out in many countries across Europe in recent weeks, with the industry expressing discontent over the EU’s green policies. Some of the largest demonstrations have been in Germany, prompted by a cut to diesel subsidies. Brussels has faced calls from industry groups and some political parties to lay out a 2040 climate pathway that doesn’t ignite further anger.
The EU's plan is set to be presented on Tuesday and will recommend a 90 percent cut in total EU emissions by 2040 from 1990 levels — a suggestion in line with scientific advice.
The updated version of the plan, which is still subject to change, framed agriculture in a more positive light compared to earlier drafts. The role the sector plays in the EU’s “food sovereignty” was also emphasized.
"We need to make sure we have a balanced approach," said European Commission Wopke Hoekstra, who unveiled the revised proposal. "The vast majority of our citizens sees the effects of climate change, does want protection, but is also worried about what that implies for their livelihood."
Meanwhile, the BBC reports that the EU has also scrapped plans to cut pesticide use in half across the EU - which was to take effect by 2030 as part of the so-called "Green Deal."
The changes were spearheaded by the powerful center-right European People's Party (EPP), the political family of top EU executive Ursula Von der Leyen, and constitutes the EU Parliament's largest group.
"Our farmers deserve to be listened to," said Von der Leyen in a Tuesday meeting of Parliament. "I know that they are worried about the future of agriculture and their future as farmers."
EPP environmental spokesman Peter Liese said on Monday that the 2040 target for a 90% cut over 1990 levels was conditional on greater emphasis being placed on "positive opportunities" for farmers, and less on "new instruments that rather see the farmers as an enemy of climate policy."
That said, one EU official told Politico that reality is hard to escape - which is that the agricultural sector 'could and should' contribute to the EU's climate goals.
"Despite all the semantics in the [Commission], there is an unequivocal Impact Assessment making a very compelling (business) case for an ambitious headline target and all sub-targets for sectors," said the official.