The Working Group on ecosystem services consists of representatives from different national and regional advisory bodies which have longstanding experience on issues such as sustainable food production, biodiversity and fresh water.
Through communication and coordination, as well as the combined knowledge, expertise, and resources of its members, the working group is able to address a number of relevant issues with regard to European, national and sub-national policy developments.
The Working Group is currently Chaired by:
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The EEAC Network and the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the EU organized a policy debate on the way forward to a sustainable European food system. Over 65 invited guest joined the session in Brussels on February 2nd 2023.
European society and its food system are facing a triple challenge, guaranteeing a healthy diet for all, mitigating and adapting to climate change, as well as protecting and restoring habitats for their biodiversity and ecosystems services. This triple challenge requires a systems approach. The Legislative Framework for sustainable food systems, which the European Commission has announced in the Farm to Fork strategy and is expected to adopt by the end of 2023, could provide a strong basis for the system approach. The ambition as well as the challenges to achieve a sustainable food system in the EU are vast and raise questions. How should the Legislative Framework best foster human and planetary health in a coherent and balanced approach between an agricultural supply policy, environmental policy and food (consumption) policy? And will the Legislative Framework direct the strong innovation capacity of actors away from ever lower food prices towards more sustainable farming, food processing and food consumption? Or how can a just transition be ensured?
The debate facilitated a a constructive and open exchange of views about the opportunities and challenges of transforming the European food system and the role that the EU legislative framework for sustainable food systems could play in this transformation. The Exchange was timely given that the European Commission is in the midst of preparing the EU legislative framework on a sustainable food system in the EU. It furthermore built upon the recently issued EEAC position paper on a sustainable food system in the EU.
Presentation EEAC Position Paper
EEAC Position Paper
Following the CBD COP15, SRU Council member Prof. Dr. Josef Settele gave a presentation on the process and outcomes of the Conference. Representatives of ten advisory councils from across the EU joined the internal EEAC session that took place on Thursday December 22nd 2022.
In prelude to CBD COP15, The EEAC Working Group on Ecosystem Services produced observations, insights and recommendations on the draft post 2020 Framework for Biodiversity. Read More
The European food system does not deliver sustainable diets, with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to a healthy life for present and future generations. To make the system more resilient, an EU Framework Law on Sustainable Food Systems should foster human and planetary health in a coherent and balanced approach between an agricultural supply policy, environmental policy and food (consumption) policy. A policy on a sustainable food system should direct the strong innovation capacity of actors away from ever lower food prices towards more sustainable farming, food processing and food consumption. However, a just transition is key: to the extent that healthy diets are not affordable for consumers compensation should be given by changes in minimum wages, social security or income taxes. This advice is given by a consortium of national advisory councils on environment and sustainable development, , in a position paper on the framework law.
In its Farm-to-Fork Strategy, the European Commission has proposed a Framework Law on Sustainable Food Systems. The framework law should govern the food system with the purpose to “Ensure sustainable diets”. It could be formulated as follows:
to guarantee a resilient European food system that ensures sustainable diets with low environmental and ethical impacts that contribute to food and nutrition security and to a healthy life for present and future generations by enabling that
- healthy, sustainable diets are available for all European consumers at prices that reflect their true cost in coherence with ‘the polluter pays’ principle;
- food is produced in adequate quantities, with processes that result in environmental performance that is as best as reasonably achievable and regenerate climate-resilient, healthy agro-systems;
- the food system works as inclusively as possible and relations between food chain actors are balanced which results in livelihoods with fair incomes and working conditions for farmers and workers;
- new technologies are developed and best available technologies in relation to climate change and ecosystem services are promoted, respecting the precautionary principle.
Different policy instruments are needed to balance the objectives. Food system actors should not be exempted from economy-wide measures like carbon pricing. Certification of all commercial farms, as an extension of methods in organic farming and private label certifications is needed. Digitalisation of the food chain transactions can support certification and reduce costs. Such a system should be used by food processors and retailers to label consumer products for environmental and social sustainability, in addition to labelling for preventive health. Governments can use the certification to allocate subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy or land and emission rights. Rewarding farmers for the costs of their sustainability improvements can be realised with a blending obligation for food processors to buy-in a certain percentage of the most sustainable products and pay farmers a price that offsets the extra cost. This would reward more sustainable producers and raise the average price of the product towards its true cost.
Monitoring the impact of sustainable food policies at farm level can be based on the proposed Farm Sustainability Data Network (FSDN) in an integrated way at sample farms, collected in an auditable accounting approach. For the political governance of the food system, a coordination mechanism between the European Commission and the national ministries should be set up that is cross-cutting through the traditional policy domains. Member States have to develop comprehensive national strategic plans for sustainable food systems including actions in the social domain for a just transition.
Towards a sustainable food system _ An EEAC Network Position Paper
The Chairman of the EEAC Working Group on Ecosystem Services published a summary of the observations, insights and recommendations that were discussed in the context of the upcoming CBD COP15 by experts that are part of advisory councils on the environment and sustainable development. The experts from seven different advisory councils met online twice and shared their insights during several written rounds.
As a starting point, the experts took note of the state of negotiations on the text of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. They focused their exchange on the content of some crucial targets in the negotiation text and on the relationship between those targets.
The experts make a plea to better integrate biodiversity in 1) all spaces, and 2) within all domains. Both tasks must be properly anchored in the system of targets of the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, so as to have a ‘spinal role’ for the other targets in the text. Experts further underline that the European Union should opt for a realistic, fair and results-driven approach in the run up to and during CBD COP15 itself. In this process, the EU’s active and ambitious stance in the negotiation process needs to be reinforced, by also explicitly reflecting critically on the actions of the EU and its Member States in the context of biodiversity, they argue.
CBD - COP15: The need for integration & a realistic, fair and result-driven approach
A group of representatives from various advisory councils met for the second time to discuss the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Council representatives took stock of the ongoing negotiations and discussed the need for integration of biodiversity policies in all spaces and domains, as well as the need for a realistic, just and result driven approach by the EU and its Member States ahead of the CBD. Insights and views shared by council representatives are to be used as input for an EEAC document that will be sent in the context of the finalization of the CDB COP15 negotiations in Montreal in December 2022. The group will continue the work in September and October 2022.
Representatives of advisory councils e-met to discuss the 1.2. version of their joint document on sustainable food systems in the EU. The document will be finalized over summer and is expected to be launched at the start of September 2022.
A group of representatives from advisory councils from Belgium, Catalonia, Flanders, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal met to discuss the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Council representatives took stock of the ongoing negotiations ahead of the Nairobi (June) and Kunming (August/September) meetings.
Furthermore, council representatives discussed issues such as Target 3, financing the Global Biodiversity Framework and the relation between climate and biodiversity.
Insights and views shared by council representatives are to be utilized as input for an EEAC Chairman’s letter that will be sent in the context of the finalization of the CDB COP15 negotiations this summer. Next steps are scheduled for the period June and July.
Following the expert meeting in Brussels on April 5th, the councils e-met to analyze and discuss the reflections of the stakeholders. The councils also discussed the (expected) impacts of the geopolitical developments on the food systems. Following the exchange, a updated draft text will be circulated among the advisory bodies involved in the process in May 2022.
The Working Group on Ecosystem Services organized an expert hearing on sustainable food systems. European institutions, interest groups, think tanks and NGOs reflected on a zero-draft document in which the advisory councils that are member of the EEAC Network have set out observations and recommendations on a sustainable food system in Europe. The advisory councils will take the reflections of the stakeholders and the geopolitical context into account when drafting a follow-up text. The councils will e-meet a to discuss further steps at the end of April.
A group of advisory councils met digitally in the context of the EEAC Working Group on Ecosystem Services to discuss the need for a sustainable food systems framework at the European level. The group met in December 2021 for the first time, and is expected to have an additional three workshops in 2022, that are expected to lead to the formulation of joint insights and preliminary recommendations as to the establishment of a sustainable food systems framework at the European level.
A group of advisory councils met digitally in the context of the EEAC Working Group on Ecosystem Services to discuss the need for a sustainable food systems framework at the European level. The group is expected to have an additional four workshops in 2022, that are expected to lead to the formulation of joint insights and preliminary recommendations as to the establishment of a sustainable food systems framework at the European level. The next meeting was scheduled to take place on January 26th 2022
The Working Group gathered for an online session that focused on the national implementation of the new EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2022-2027, and the potential role that advisory councils can play in that process.
The negotiations between the European Commission, the Council (representing the EU member states) and the European Parliament on the CAP reform package 2022-2027 are approaching their climax. It is expected that the negotiating parties will reach an agreement in June 2021. If the agreement is reached, an important phase will begin: the national implementation of the CAP 2022-2027.
Even more than in previous policy periods, the (green) ambition level of the CAP will be determined by the choices made in national implementation. The adage will be: the CAP will set the framework, the Member States will work within it.
In this context, CAP Strategic Plans will be an important instrument that national and regional governments will use when implementing the CAP 2022-2027. Each Member State will have to draw up its own strategic plan, which will have to meet the environmental and sustainability requirements laid down in the CAP regulation.
The finalization of these CAP Strategic Plans in the second part of 2021 could be considered an excellent opportunity for both national and regional advisory councils to contribute their opinion and views for the country/region specific situation, and by doing so helping to define the contours of the agricultural, food, soil, nature and water policies of the coming years.
Purpose of the session
With this session the Working Group informed the colleagues of the different advisory councils about the policy process that will start after the finalized CAP negotiations, and what role advisory councils at national and sub-national level can play in the pursuit of a CAP implementation that does justice to the specific challenges in the different countries and/or regions. Additional attention was paid to optimizing policy coherence between CAP, climate, environment and biodiversity policies.
The OECD and EEAC Network organized a joint webinar on the findings from the OECD’s Making Better Policies for Food Systems report. The report brings together decades of OECD research and policy recommendations into a coherent view on food systems to support policy makers around the world develop better policies for food systems. Following a presentation on the report by the authors, an assessment of the report and possible policy implications from the perspective of the European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils Network was shared. Experts from the German Council on Global Change, the Dutch Council on the Environment and Infrastructure and the Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia contributed. Following the presentation and reflections, interaction on the performance of the global food system followed. Participants also discussed the design of coherent policies, factors complicating the task of achieving better policies and key priorities for food system policy approaches. You can view the session recordings here.
The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) will e-present its recent publication, entitled: ‘Rethinking Land in the Anthropocene: from Separation to Integration’.
The session will take place on February 11th and is open to all colleagues of the EEAC Network. During the hour-long session, Jan Siegmeier and Susanne Neubert (WBGU) will present the findings and recommendations of the report, and will engage in collegial exchange.
Where does international sustainability policy stand at the beginning of the 2020s? The answer is sobering….. In their latest report the WBGU appraises the situation and reveals an urgent need for action by many elements of government to develop a new approach to land stewardship.
Only if there is a fundamental change in the way we manage land can we reach the targets of climate-change mitigation, avert the dramatic loss of biodiversity and make the global food system sustainable, the WBGU argues in its latest publication.
During the e-presentation, five multiple-benefit strategies illustrating ways of overcoming competition between rival claims to the use of land will be introduced. Attention will also be paid to five governance strategies- including setting suitable framework conditions, reorienting EU policy and establishing alliances of like-minded states, all required to overcome the lock-in of rival claims to the use of land.
The members of the working group will convene online to discuss the agenda for 2021.
Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of the water needed to meet basic human needs. This will inevitably increase risks in energy production, food security, human health, economic development and poverty reduction, and consequently represents a serious threat to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, both climate change and the human responses to it will add to the existing pressures on water systems and ecosystems.
There are policy initiatives at various levels intended to counter the effects of climate change to our fresh water resources. At the European level, the recent fitness check of the EU Water Framework Directive concluded that the Directive is sufficiently prescriptive with regard to the pressures to be addressed, and yet flexible enough to accommodate emerging challenges such as climate change and water scarcity. Though this might seem like reason for optimism, in reality plenty of challenges remain.
For this reason, the EEAC Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs dedicated an online working session to the challenges of water quantity governance in the context of climate change. In this context, we (A) looked into the options to match the ambitions for greening energy production with those of the Water Framework Directive, (B) discussed how energy neutrality in the water sector can be reached, and (C) considered how opportunities in the NEXUS- approach can be used to improve water quality governance.
Session outcome letter by Jan Verheeke, updated version
Session outcome letter by Jan Verheeke
Water Nexus and Climate Change, by Prof. Dr. Ad de Roo
Energy neutrality in the water sector where are we and what can we do by Bertrand Vallet
Presentation by Claire Baffert (WWF EU) be aware of possible encryption failures
The EU Environment Council discussed the fitness-check of the EU water directives during its session on Thursday, March 5th. To provide the latest information and insights coming from the Council discussion, the EEAC Network’s Working Group on Water organized an online working session a week later, on Thursday March 12th.
This meeting was subsequent to our recent online working session on the fitness-check of the EU water directives. This time we focused on the outcomes and possible consequences of the Environment Council meeting. Hagar Ligtvoet of the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the European Union kindly introduced the outcomes and possible consequences of the Council meeting during our working session.
The Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs met, together with other stakeholders, online to discuss the outcomes and possible consequences of the fitness checks of the EU Water Directives.
Hans Stielstra (European Commission, DG Environment) guided the participants through the fitness check, its outcomes and its possible consequences for the work ahead.
The European Commission launched the fitness check outcomes of the EU Water Directives just before the Holiday Season. In its communique, the European Commission made it clear the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is ‘fit for purpose’ and a critical pillar of the EU’s environmental legislation.
In its statements, the European Commission expressed its expectation that the momentum of the European Green Deal will allow to make a leap forward with regard to the fresh water policies in the EU. The Farm to Fork Strategy and the Zero-Pollution ambition are for example very relevant in this perspective.
The purpose of the online gathering was to develop a clear and shared view of developments ahead and of the activities that we as network and as advisory bodies could undertake.
following this session, an session outcome letter will be drafted.
Outcome letter by Jan Verheeke
Fitness Check of the Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive, by Hans Stielstra
The Advisory Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia (CADS) and the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat) hosted the ‘Feeding on Future’ International conference on food systems in Barcelona on 11 October 2019. This conference brought together relevant experts to debate the future of our food systems to deliver inclusive, sustainable and resilient societies. The conference was organized with support of the EEAC Network.
By 2050, the world population will exceed 9.8 billion inhabitants. This growth, the increase in purchasing power of large sections of the population that are in currently developing countries and the change in diet that this may bring about has led the FAO to estimate that there will be a gradual increase in global food demand as high as 60% by 2050. This, alongside the pressure that it may place on increasingly scarce natural resources, the impacts of climate change and the global change in food and agriculture production, has sounded the alarm over a possible world food crisis of vast dimensions.
The United Nations has long been focusing on the reduction of hungry people and by September 2015, through the resolution “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development” they have set the goal to make hunger disappear by 2030.
In this context, many international organisations are providing reflections on the necessary transformation of the food system to face all of these challenges. An example is the report that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented in early August 2019, focusing on the need to transform food production and consumption models.
This debate has reached European institutions and many national and regional governments. In Catalonia, in 2018, CADS issued the “Feeding on Future” report, a reflection on the challenges facing the Catalan food system and proposing recommendations in order to face them. Given the relevance of this issue, the CADS and the Diplocat – Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia – organize the conference “Feeding on Future”, where leading European experts in the field of food security and sustainability presented their analyzes on the food system, the challenges that the current context raises and the proposals of actions to overcome them:
Professor Eeva Furman. Director of the Environmental Policy Centre of the Finnish Environment Institute and Chair of Finland’s Sustainable Development Expert Panel.
Dr Alberto Garrido. Professor of Agricultural Economics and Policy, Vice-Rector for Quality and Efficiency of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and member of European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) Food and Nutrition Security and Agriculture Working Group.
Drs KJ (Krijn) Poppe. Chair of the Independent EC FOOD 2030 Expert Group and Member of the Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli).
Professor Marta G. Rivera-Ferre. Director of the Chair on Agroecology and Food Systems for social transformation at University of Vic and lead author of Rural Areas (AR5) and Food security (SRCCL) chapters of the IPCC.
Mr Peter Schmidt. President of the EESC Sustainable Development Observatory, European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).
In the run-up to its third management cycle, the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) is under review. Public consultation (part of the WFD fitness check) took place through March 2019. In early 2019, the European Commission launched its fifth WFD Implementation Report. These processes shed light on the partial success of the WFD’s implementation. Three issues stand out for the EEAC Network:
- a) Lack of adequate financing;
- b) Limited uptake of the WFD’s economic thinking;
- c) Lack of a paradigm shift to a systemic approach in water policies.
The EEAC Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs organized a round-table session in Brussels on 19 June 2019 to study possible solutions to these issues. A selection of national, subnational and European stakeholders joined the advisory bodies with a view to information-sharing and informed debate.
With regard to investments in water policies, there are no sufficiently clear data on the actual evolution of investments and spending over the past years in relation to the Water Framework Directive. Budgetary constraints were already evident before the existence of the WFD, i.e. at the level of what the WFD now labels ‘basic measures’. There is reason to believe that investments are falling short of need. However, is that the case? Xavier Leflaive (OECD) shared the preliminary findings of the joint European Commission and OECD gap-analysis, entitled Assessing member states’ investment needs and financing capacities for water supply & sanitation. The presentation can be found below.
As for economic thinking, the WFD requires EU Member States to base their water management on cost effectiveness analyses, to implement the principle of cost recovery as well as incentive pricing, and to define exemptions in terms of disproportionality of costs. The incomplete implementation of these principles and instruments put a strain on the implementation of the WFD. The concept of “payment for ecosystem services” could provide a method of revitalizing economic thinking but is not yet used. Andrew Farmer (IEEP) shared his insights on economic thinking in the WFD, focusing on cost and benefits. Andrew Farmer’s presentation can be found below.
A third issue of concern is the shift to a systemic approach. This paradigm shift to a systemic approach, which was claimed to be central to the WFD, seems not to have been fully integrated into the water policies of the Member States. System thinking would result in an approach that is more effective and cost-efficient. However, it can be observed that that the ecosystem thinking incorporated into the WFD has raised important governance concerns. Relevant questions that were addressed during the round table session included: 1) In which concrete situations would a systems approach be relevant and helpful (= bottom up)? 2) What expertise is needed? 3) Which tools? What budgets? 4) Which Member-States / Regions have come up with good solutions? On behalf of Laurence Carvalho (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology), Wim van Gils (Minaraad) presented ‘Solutions for Stressed Out Waters Enhancing Implementation of the WFD’. The presentations and session outcome document can be found below.
Presentation by Xavier Leflaive entitled Assessing member states’ investment needs and financing capacities for water supply & sanitation
Presentation by Andrew Farmer entitled Economic Thinking in the WFD Costs and Benefits
Presentation by Laurence Carvalho entitled Solutions for Stressed Out Waters Enhancing Implementation of the WFD
Session outcome document by Jan Verheeke
EEAC member councils active in the Working Group on Fresh Water Affairs discussed the context and questions of the Water Framework Directive’s public consultation. The session was utilized to update all councils on the progress of the Water Framework Directive, to discuss the (European) state of affairs and to exchange experiences and views from sub-national and national level with regard to water policy (advise).