Addressing Eutrophication | WWF
© © Thomas Öberg / WWF

Addressing Eutrophication

Pushing emissions reduction through agricultural policy and practice
A major solution to the problem of eutrophication lies in addressing land-based measures with the promotion of more sustainable farming and land management practices.

The most significant drivers of regional agricultural practices are the global market and the subsidies provided by the European Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) which promotes the adoption of intensified and unsustainable agriculture practices.
Many farmers are committed to caring for the environment and making active choices to use greener agricultural methods. But agricultural policy reform is necessary in order to stop harmful practices on a large scale.  Financial support to the agricultural sector accounts for almost half of the EU budget. Agricultural policies and subsidies to farmers within the EU have long been obstacles to reaching the goal of a more environmentally friendly agriculture, since they promote practices that are not sustainable.
WWF works successfully with farmers and has built alliances with the agriculture sector and governments in the region, with the aim of development of regional policies such as the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, agricultural policy at national, regional and European levels and EU directives. WWF also works to promote behaviour change in other relevant actors across the food production chain, including daily consumption patterns and product choices.

    © Juhan Särgava personal collection
Regional winner of the Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award 2013, Juhan Särgava from Estonia
© Juhan Särgava personal collection

Farmers are leading the way

To highlight the importance of sustainable farming and promote farmers who contribute to the fight against eutrophication, WWF together with farmers’ organizations around the Baltic Sea, launched the “WWF Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award" in 2009. This is an award showcasing individual farmers taking on their own initiatives best practices in Baltic-Friendly farming to reduce nutrient runoff to the Baltic Sea.

Redirect harmful subsidies

With the current CAP, significant financial support to farmers will continue without requiring much in return in terms of public goods. If this support is used to reach agreed environmental, social and economic objectives, instead of locking it up in a system of environmentally harmful subsidies, we could both save the Baltic Sea and make better use of taxpayers’ money.

WWF is of the view that subsidies should only go to farmers who can clearly prove that they have taken concrete measures to provide environmental benefits to society as a whole. As an alternative to existing policies WWF proposes that by following a few simple principles, a sustainable European agriculture would be within reach.

Principles for sustainable agriculture

Public payments for public goods. Public money should only be used for provision of public goods such as sustainable water management, preservation of biodiversity, maintenance of cultural and historic landscapes, rural employment and public access to rural areas.

Payments linked to clear objectives and targets. A thorough evaluation of each subsidy is necessary to see if it delivers the sustainability objectives.

Information on payments should be available in the public domain. This ensures that the use of public funds is transparent and open to public scrutiny.