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Member States use billions of EU subsidies to fund nature harming activities - new WWF study

A new WWF report reveals that Member States are channelling between €34 billion and €48 billion of European subsidies annually into activities that harm nature. While these harmful subsidies span all major sectors of the economy, the bulk of them is allocated to agriculture.

According to new research, up to 60% of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding, totalling €32.1 billion annually, is spent by EU countries on activities that encourage large-scale unsustainable farming. These practices devastate natural habitats while providing only minimal support to farmers for a just transition towards sustainable and climate-resilient practices. Direct subsidies in other sectors such as fisheries (between €59 - €138 million), transport infrastructure (€1.7 billion - €14.1 billion) and water infrastructure (€1.3 billion - €2 billion) are also significantly contributing to nature loss.

Every year, more than €30 billion from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds activities that harm nature and fail to support farmers. This impressive number roughly amounts to the whole annual spending of national governments such as Croatia and Luxembourg. As European citizens are grappling with a severe cost of living crisis, exacerbated by misguided fiscal policies, and are about to head to the polls, these findings should be a wake-up call. EU governments must urgently realign public expenditure with environmental and social imperatives”, says Tycho Vandermaesen, Policy & Strategy Director at WWF European Policy Office.


This misallocation of funds from EU countries starkly contrasts with the needs identified in the EU’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, which requires an estimated €48 billion annually to finance activities by farmers, landowners, rural and coastal communities to effectively protect and restore biodiversity. Currently, the EU and its Member States fall short of this target by more than €18 billion each year.


“Not only are governments spending billions of euros of taxpayers’ money on harming nature, they are also undermining the EU’s efforts to protect and restore it, in line with its stated objectives and international commitments. Redirecting these subsidies could easily close the financing gap needed to achieve the EU’s biodiversity goals”, says Ester Asin, Director of WWF European Policy Office.


WWF urges governments and the EU to establish a legally binding framework to guarantee a timely and socially fair phase-out of subsidies that harm biodiversity, and redirect them towards nature-based solutions that could better protect European citizens from climate impacts. WWF is also calling on politicians to step up actions to end the EU’s fossil fuel dependence, prioritise nature and fix our broken food system, while leaving no-one behind.


Notes to the editor


The WWF report investigates biodiversity harmful subsidies within the EU 2021 – 2027

Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), specifically targeting direct financial support for the agriculture, forestry, fisheries [1], transport and water sectors.


The study, conducted by environmental consultancy Trinomics, focuses on the effects that the identified subsidies have on biodiversity but does not consider their impact on climate change. Indirect subsidies that harm biodiversity, such as some tax exemptions, also exist but are only provided as examples in the report.


The research methodology relied on desktop research and literature review to identify direct biodiversity harmful subsidies, and analysis of EU funding programmes to quantify potentially harmful subsidies. Given the degree of uncertainty, the study provides lower and upper limits.


[1] For more information on subsidies linked to fisheries, please read “RETHINKING FISHERIES SUBSIDIES. An analysis of Mediterranean public fisheries funds” by WWF Mediterranean


For more information, please contact:

Camille Gilissen

Communications officer, EU elections


+32 473 56 37 75

Every year, Member States channel between €34 billion and €48 billion of European subsidies into activities that harm nature