EU money being wasted on some green schemes – RSPB

Some EU member states are throwing money at projects which are damaging, rather than protecting, the environment, according to a report funded by the RSPB.

The report, Could Do Better, has looked at the effectiveness of environmental schemes being paid for by the EU through the CAP.

It highlights that some member states – including the UK – are using the money to help farmers create and protect habitats for wildlife.

But it says in some countries money is being “thrown at projects which are of no benefit to the environment and are sometimes causing lasting damage.”

“In principle this European funding is great news for wildlife because it supports agri-environment schemes which protect biodiversity – but the truth is that implementation of the policy by many members states is weak,” said RSPB’s head of agriculture policy Gareth Morgan.

“In compiling this report we found examples of agricultural schemes receiving large amounts of public subsidy from the EU which had no environmental benefit at all, in fact some were causing the degradation of the environment.

“We found some great examples of schemes – including in the UK – but there is no way the CAP can continue unless the EU starts delivering what tax payers want in terms of environmental benefits.”

RSPB’s examples of money down the drain

  • Portugal – €790million has been invested in irrigation projects which the RSPB says will destroy wildlife habitats and increase water over-abstraction.
  • Italy, Finland, Ireland – The society says agri-environment schemes that have no impact on normal farming practice and no benefit for the environment. For example, payments for limiting insecticide treatments on olive groves in Tuscany have been introduced, even though this is already par for the course in the area.
  • Cyprus – Conservation money is being spent on opening more forestry roads and creating forest firebreaks which the RSPB says fragment bird habitats and disturb populations.

RSPB’s examples of money well spent

  • Greece – Support is given to farmers to purchase and install electric fences to allow co-existence of livestock farming and carnivores (bears and wolves), and also for bird equipment such as artificial nests and feeders.
  • France – Farmers receive a financial incentive to maintain their livestock densities between an upper and lower limit to ensure wildlife friendly levels of grazing
  • England – The RSPB says agri-environment schemes in England are well designed and are delivering benefits for biodiversity. They have been drawn up in cooperation with the farming industry and environmental experts.
  • Wales – Grants have been made available for projects with environmental benefit such as the restoration of traditional boundaries, creation and restoration of ponds, scrub management and bracken control.