Funding should be moved away from animal agriculture towards “lower-emitting products and activities,” according to Europe’s top scientific advisors.
The European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change made the comment in a new report titled “Towards EU climate neutrality.”
Specifically, the board recommends “better aligning the EU’s common agricultural policy with the EU climate ambitions.”
The common agricultural policy (CAP) has been a key part of the European Union (EU) since 1962. The CAP currently takes up about a third of the EU’s budget. The majority goes to subsidies for animal farmers.
Lucia Hortelano, EU Senior Policy Manager, ProVeg International told Plant Based News (PBN): “We agree with this report that subsidies for intensive animal agriculture should be shifted towards the production of more climate-friendly, plant-based foods. This proactive shift will pave the way for a legacy that future generations will deeply appreciate.”
Animal agriculture holds back EU progress
The report from the European Scientific Advisory Board does not introduce any new targets. Instead, it fills in some gaps from previous documents.
One major gap is meat and dairy. Animal agriculture is responsible for around 16.5 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Despite this, policymakers have ignored food system change as a solution for years. At COP28, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) mentioned “benefits” of cutting meat consumption in rich countries but fell short of calling for a transition towards a plant-based food system.
Calls for a plant-based food system have been getting louder. In a recent letter, 250 scientists and experts urged the US Secretary of Agriculture to “address both production and consumption of animal-based foods.” A growing number of councils and governments around the world have endorsed the Plant-Based Treaty.
Now, the EU’s leading climate scientists have acknowledged that animal agriculture is holding back progress on climate change.
Hortelano added: “By prioritizing funding for a climate-friendly initiative, we can contribute to a healthier planet, cleaner waterways, and improved well-being for countless animals. The EU is in a position to set a powerful example to the rest of the world by channelling its finances into research and development, production and export of plant-based foods.”
Subsidies for plant-based transition needed
The report mentions the lack of financial incentives for farmers to transition towards plant-based food as a key issue to address.
The authors note a need to “strengthen measures to encourage healthier, more plant-based diets,” as well as “develop a strategy for a just transition to a food system consistent with climate neutrality.”
This means updating the CAP to support farmers away from emission-intensive animal agricultural. Elsewhere in the report, the scientists are more blunt. The EU needs “concrete policies for delivering a sustainable food system, reducing food waste and encouraging healthy, plant-based diets,” they write.
Despite the report’s strong conclusions, some campaigners and politicians remain unconvinced that it will lead to anything in practice. Anna Spurek, COO of Green REV Institute, told PBN that the European Commission is “spending public money on meat and dairy advertising campaigns, and shelving the draft regulation on a sustainable food system.”
Spurek added: “Work has now started on the Common Agricultural Policy after 2027. But we are under no illusion. Unfortunately, the climate crisis and the planet will not wait – it is time to veganize the CAP.”