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Social organizations warn against withdrawing from the Green Deal. Both agriculture and society as a whole will bear the costs

ECOLOGYSocial organizations warn against withdrawing from the Green Deal. Both agriculture and society as a whole will bear the costs

Last week, 140 social organizations from across Europe, including Poland, issued an appeal to EU institutions warning about the consequences of departing from the Green Deal. In recent months, the European Commission has begun to soften some requirements, partly due to protests by farmers in member countries. “The Green Deal is not just a matter of agriculture; it’s a matter for all of us,” environmentalists argue. In their view, if concrete actions are not taken, the costs of inaction and climate change will be borne by everyone – both farmers and society.

The European Green Deal is a set of initiatives developed by the European Commission, aiming to achieve climate neutrality on the continent by 2050. The program’s principles have been known to the public since December 2019. However, emotions surrounding it erupted four years later and reached a peak during agricultural protests in various member states, including Poland.

“The European Green Deal is not just about agriculture; it concerns all of us because we depend on what happens in agriculture, on the direction in which agriculture will develop. A significant portion of EU citizens expect agriculture to align with the European Green Deal,” says Justyna Zwolińska from the Living Earth Coalition.

In Poland, farmers’ opposition to the Green Deal emerged as a second demand during protests against the import of food from Ukraine. The proposed changes are presented as a serious threat not only to Polish agriculture but also to food security in a broader sense.

“We want to hear that ecology is something contrary to agriculture, but in reality, they are allies. We shouldn’t ask how to reconcile environmental protection with agricultural interests; instead, we should discuss how to enhance their connection. What technologies, what solutions should we use, and above all, how to adequately compensate farmers for their environmental and climate protection efforts,” says Justyna Zwolińska.

As experts from the Institute of Public Affairs point out, the European Green Deal aligns with the objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy 2023–2027. Both plans emphasize, among other things, equal opportunities between farms of different sizes regarding environmental protection and support for small entities, which constitute about 80 percent in our country. The European Green Deal places greater emphasis on supporting farmers who adopt environmentally friendly practices. Among the most controversial aspects of the deal are, for example, fallowing part of the land (4 percent of land on farms larger than 10 hectares), the “farm to fork” strategy, which aims to reduce the use of chemical pesticides, and a minimum 20 percent reduction in the use of artificial fertilizers. However, as indicated by research from the Ministry of Agriculture in 2020, the majority of farmers declared readiness to implement such changes. Experts from the Institute of Public Affairs suggest that the issue lies not in the requirements of the European Green Deal itself but in the lack of communication, informational chaos, or problems with advisory services and support.

“I would like us to stop discussing what is more or less profitable for agriculture, what is beneficial, what solutions we should adopt, and instead start considering what food policy we should adopt in the European Union and also in Poland, which would be good for both agriculture and consumers,” emphasizes a member of the Living Earth Coalition.

“In recent months, under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission has softened regulations regarding pollution standards for industrial animal farming, abandoned plans for sustainable food production, renounced goals to reduce pesticide use, and shelved initiatives to ensure stable water supplies. Some national governments have frozen EU plans for restoring natural resources in Europe and weakened the principles of due diligence for companies protecting human rights and the environment. Now the European Commission wants to abolish basic environmental standards for farms to appease industry lobbyists, and agriculture ministers want to weaken new EU regulations in the fight against global deforestation,” reads the appeal from 140 European social organizations, including the Living Earth Coalition.

According to a new report from the European Environment Agency, Europe is the fastest warming continent in the world, and climate phenomena threaten energy and food security, ecosystems, infrastructure, water resources, financial stability, and human health. Many of these threats have already reached critical levels. Experts estimate that only active environmental actions can prevent a catastrophe and slow down adverse trends, which could soon be very severe for people, animals, and plants.

“Looking at what is happening with the climate, the fact that 2023 was the hottest year in history, surpassing extremes in temperature, agriculture is a particularly vulnerable sector to climate warming. Warming also brings new diseases and pests for plants and animals, raises issues with access to water. Poland is already struggling with access to drinking water in the summer and has been dealing with agricultural drought for some time,” says Justyna Zwolińska.

Experts predict that the water deficit will increase. Extreme weather events are also forecasted, including late frosts in spring, heavy rains, prolonged periods of drought, hurricanes, and violent storms. Agriculture will be the first to feel the impact.

“Farmers cannot confine their production to a hall, as is done in manufacturing cars, for example. They are dependent on weather conditions, so if they become unstable and more extreme phenomena occur, the cost will be borne by both farmers and society as a whole,” says a representative of the Living Earth Coalition.

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