EU bows to protesting farmers on pesticides, plans massive cut in CO2 emmissions

Europe  Reuters - Kacper Pempel
FEB 7, 2024 LISTEN
© Reuters - Kacper Pempel

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday recommended the bloc bury a plan to cut pesticide use in agriculture as a concession to protesting European farmers.The EU has also said it wants to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent by 2040.

The original proposal on pesticides, put forward by her European Commission as part of the European Union's green transition, "has become a symbol of polarisation," she told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

Noting that the plan – to halve chemical pesticide use in the EU by the end of the decade – had also stalled in discussions in the parliament and in the European Council representing EU member countries, von der Leyen said she would ask her commission "to withdraw this proposal".

The pesticide issue is just one of a long list of grievances that have prompted a mass protest movement by EU farmers, who in recent weeks have used tractors to block key roads to complain of shrinking income and rising production costs.

With far-right and anti-establishment parties – which are predicted to make significant gains in June's European elections – latching onto the farmers' movement, the environment debate has turned politically explosive.

Last week, 1,300 tractors clogged the area around an EU summit in Brussels, forcing their revolt to the top of the leaders' agenda and resulting in a number of other concessions, especially in France.

Protests were continuing on Tuesday, including in the Netherlands – and with demonstrations called for outside the parliament in Strasbourg.

"Many of them feel pushed into a corner," von der Leyen acknowledged, adding: "Our farmers deserve to be listened to."

At the same time, though, she emphasised that European agriculture "needs to move to a more sustainable model of production" that was more environmentally friendly and less harmful to soil quality.

Cutting greenhouse gas
Meanwhile, the EU has also urged a 90-percent cut to its greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

"Based on the best available science, and a detailed impact assessment, we are recommending that the 2040 target should be a 90 percent emission cut" compared to 1990 levels, said the EU climate commissioner, Wopke Hoekstra.

He called for a "fair transition" that will still allow EU businesses to thrive and ensure "nobody is left behind" as the bloc seeks to become carbon-neutral by 2050.

There is a vocal backlash from some industries to the bloc's climate policies and several national leaders are now calling for a "pause" in new environmental rules.

Eleven EU countries, including France, Germany and Spain had sent a joint letter to Brussels saying that the transition for an "ambitious" 2040 target needs to be "fair and just" and "leave no-one behind, especially the most vulnerable citizens".

The recommended target given Tuesday was accompanied by new post-2030 climate projections the commission was required to produce in the wake of the COP28 UN climate negotiations that took place in December in Dubaï.

The next European Commission will be tasked with turning the outline into proposed legislation ahead of next year's international climate summit (COP30).

The bloc's 2040 targets are expected to rely in part on the capture and storage of ambitious volumes of carbon dioxide - incensing climate campaigners who criticise the technologies as untested and want to see gross emissions-cut pledges instead.

Even so, the plan would require a sizeable effort from every sector of the economy - from power generation to farming, which accounts for 11 percent of EU greenhouse gas emissions.

Even so, the plan would require a sizeable effort from every sector of the economy - from power generation to farming, which accounts for 11 percent of EU greenhouse gas emissions.

(with AFP)