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October 2019: Reforms of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) may not be efficient in improving or re-designing mechanisms to address climate change, land use, and biodiversity loss. Scientists are calling for a stronger focus on sustainability, an increased number of scientists partaking in negotiations, and a reduced influence of agri-business representatives.


New evidence analysing the current reform proposals of the EU Commission on the CAP raises concerns about the reform’s efficiency. An analysis focused on the questions whether the proposal is compatible with SDGs, whether it is an improvement to the current CAP, and whether it reflects on the current public debate on agriculture; thus, concluding that the reformed CAP may regress mechanisms for environmental protection and social justice in agriculture. The study highlights that the CAP could support the realisation of 9 SDGs but only contributes to achieving two of them.

Implications & Opportunities

Maintenance of insufficient mechanisms such as Direct Payments may contribute to further land use intensification, biodiversity loss and subsequent risks to human well-being. Instead, the scientists are calling for a full re-design of the agricultural policy, including its budgets, instruments, and indicators for measuring success. This includes the EU Commissions “climate-friendly” label, which shows limited reliability in its methodology. Further, the report calls for specific and detailed instruments aimed at addressing climate change and concerns of the public debate. It proposes to include a higher number of representatives from society and the scientific community in reform negotiations.


The study’s methodology focuses on modelling the CAP’s efficiency at a European level and does not seek to address indicators at the local level; thus, the study’s results should be seen within the contexts of its methodology and geographic focus.


Pe’er, G., Zinngrebe, Y., Moreira, F., Sirami, C., Schindler, S., Müller, R., … Lakner, S. (2019). A greener path for the EU Common Agricultural Policy. Science, 365(6452), 449–451. doi:10.1126/science.aax3146

Food Navigator. (2019). EC ‘lacks the will’ to deliver sustainable food production, researchers insist. Retrieved from


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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.