Target 3a

Increase the contribution of agriculture to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity: “By 2020, maximise areas under agriculture across grasslands, arable land and permanent crops that are covered by biodiversity-related measures under the CAP so as to ensure the conservation of biodiversity and to bring about a measurable improvement* in the conservation status of species and habitats that depend on or are affected by agriculture and in the provision of ecosystem services as compared to the EU2010 Baseline, thus contributing to enhance sustainable management. (*) Improvement is to be measured against the quantified enhancement targets for the conservation status of species and habitats of EU interest in Target 1 and the restoration of degraded ecosystems under Target 2.”


According to the IPBES (2018) Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Europe and Central Asia (https://www.ipbes.net/assessment-reports/eca), land use change is the major driver of biodiversity loss of both biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe. Production-based subsidies have led to intensification in agriculture and forestry, and together with urban development, has led to biodiversity decline. In addition, the report concluded that the EU Renewable Energy Directive (2009) has driven an increase in biofuel production and consumption in Western and Central Europe. There is a risk biofuel production can compete with food production as well as negatively affecting biodiversity, both within the EU and further afield. At the same time, agricultural residues could contribute to biofuel feedstocks going forward and thus substantially contribute to energy production.

In conclusion, evidence suggests that the CAP and other EU policy measures have not been sufficient to ensure the conservation and restoration of biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems. The extent to which this is the case will be examined in an evaluation in 2019 of the impacts of the CAP’s measures on biodiversity see https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/initiatives/ares-2018-5223823_en

On the 1st June 2018 the European Commission published its proposals for the CAP for 2021-2027. As it is proposed that Member States will have much more flexibility in their choices over the implementation of the CAP and its environmental measures, the potential impacts on biodiversity are uncertain.

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has evolved to incorporate biodiversity objectives and corresponding measures to mitigate detrimental impacts, maintain and restore biodiversity-rich farmland habitats and encourage biodiversity beneficial farming practices . However, continuing declines in common farmland birds and grasslands butterflies (see Target 1), and the unfavourable conservation status of a high proportion of species and habitats of EU interest associated with agriculture indicates that the CAP’s environmental measures are not sufficiently effective, and/or carried out at sufficient scale. Furthermore, agricultural intensification has negatively affected water quality in coastal waters - see Target 4.

Indicators used in this assessment

SEBI 1: Abundance and distribution of selected species (i.e. farmland and forest birds, grassland butterflies)

SEBI 3: Selected a) forest species and b) agricultural species

SEBI 5: Selected a) forest habitats and b) agricultural habitats

SEBI 020 Area under organic farming

Relevant websites, links, and files

Commission Staff Working Document (2015), EU Assessment of Progress in Implementing the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020

EEA (2015), Technical report on State of Nature in the EU

IPBES (2018), Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Europe and Central Asia

IPBES (2018), Assessment Report on Land Degradation and Restoration