Conservatives Set the ‘Kilkenny Principles’ on Sustainable Agriculture

Environment - November 6, 2023

Editorial. At their meeting in Kilkenny, Ireland, Conservatives discussed the tensions in the current European approach against Global Warming. At a broader level, they voiced uneasiness towards an ideologically-rooted approach that, under the label of Green policies, threatens the future of important sectors, including agriculture, while the ultimate impact on Global Warming is debatable.

If anything, the Commission’s approach to issue an increasing number of regulations undercuts national democracies and, with that, the genuine consultative approach that should be at the basis of any relevant policy innovation. Farmers, for instance, have been the target of what they perceive is a hostile posture by some governments that risks driving them out of market. The irony of this approach is that their lost production is being taken over by farmers located outside the EU who are happy to compensate for the shortfall. They do so by relying on the very (sub-)standards that the EU says it wants to fight in its own policies and regulations aimed at European crop and livestock farmers. At a more strategic level, this posture leaves the EU vulnerable to foreign autocracies willing – and now increasingly able – to weaponize food security as well as the critical raw materials needed for our Green Transition.

Against this ill-conceived approach, the thrust of the conversations among panelists and delegates gathering at Kilkenny highlighted the importance of the following five principles:

  1. The knowledge and experience of European farmers in sustainable agriculture should be taken as relevant input for any regulations and/or policies.
  1. Such Regulations and/or policies should focus on incentives and voluntary compliance rather than the enforcement of rules drafted by officials at times with little knowledge of the sector in question.
  1. Sustainable agriculture should benefit from more investment in research and innovation, not just more regulation.
  1. New measures should be informed by applicable cost/benefit analysis to ensure proportionality and relevance.
  1. Any appraisal of new measures should be extended to the reaction of non-regional players so as to avoid that non-EU players free-ride on those same measures advsersely impacting EU farmers.

With the European elections looming, these Principles will inform a pragmatist, enviromentally-sound agenda that the Conservatives will unveil to the EU electorate.