The land sector is key for reaching a climate-neutral economy, because it can capture CO2 from the atmosphere. However, to encourage the agriculture and forestry sectors to deliver on climate action and contribute to the European Green Deal, it is necessary to create direct incentives for the adoption of climate-friendly practices, as currently there is no targeted policy tool to significantly incentivise the increase and protection of carbon sinks for individual land managers.
For this reason, the Commission announced in the Farm to Fork Strategy that in 2021 it will launch a Carbon Farming initiative to promote a new green business model that rewards climate–friendly practices by land managers, based on the climate benefits they provide. In addition, as announced in the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Commission will develop a regulatory framework for certifying carbon removals based on robust and transparent carbon accounting to monitor and verify the authenticity of carbon removals.
Carbon farming will provide financial incentives to the actors of the bioeconomy for climate-friendly activities resulting in carbon removals and storage, thus creating a new source of income and helping them adapt their businesses to withstand the effects of climate change.
Examples of effective carbon farming practices include:
- Enhancing soil organic carbon in depleted arable land, which also improves the productivity and resilience of farming activities;
- Planting new forests, restoring degraded forests, and improving the management of existing forests;
- Supplying biomass for the production of long-lasting bio-based products;
- Protecting carbon-rich soils, such as grasslands and peatlands, thanks to appropriate management techniques.
The Commission has already promoted carbon farming in its recommendations on the Member States’ CAP Strategic Plans and will continue outlining carbon farming possibilities in its further assessment of the plans until their adoption.
Restoring sustainable carbon cycles
On 9 September 2021, the Commission published the roadmap for the Communication “Restoring Sustainable Carbon Cycles” on the certification of carbon removals and carbon farming.
Technical guidance on carbon farming
On 27 April 2021, after a two-year study the Commission published a technical handbook on how to set up and implement carbon farming in the EU, aimed at helping private actors and public authorities start up carbon farming initiatives.
The study explored key issues, challenges, trade-offs and design options. It reviewed existing schemes that reward carbon sequestration or reduced emissions in five areas: peatland restoration and rewetting; agroforestry; maintaining and enhancing soil organic carbon (SOC) on mineral soils; managing SOC on grasslands; and livestock farm carbon audit.
The study concluded that result-based carbon farming can contribute significantly in the EU’s efforts to tackle climate change and provided concrete recommendations on its implementation. Pilot initiatives should be developed at local or regional level in order to gather experience to upscale carbon farming. This will enable improving design aspects, in particular the certification of carbon removals, and expanding farmers’ knowledge and understanding of the potential benefits for them.
The Commission organised several events on carbon farming and the role of agriculture, land use and forestry in a climate-neutral EU. To discuss the progress of the two-year study and its findings, two roundtables were held in 2019 and 2020. Several workshops also took place in 2020 and 2021 with more to follow to discuss the concept of carbon farming with relevant stakeholders.
- 25/05/2021 - Workshop “Carbon farming in the CAP Strategic Plans”
- 21/04/2021 - Workshop “Gathering ideas on the next steps for carbon farming”
- 25/02/2021 - Workshop “The role of agriculture and land use sectors in a climate neutral EU in 2050”
- 06-09/10/2020 - Workshop “Climate neutral food and wood: Showcasing best climate practices in agriculture, forestry, food systems and the bioeconomy’’
- 23-24/09/2020 - 2nd EU Carbon Farming Roundtable
- 09/10/2019 - 1st EU Carbon Farming Roundtable
Carbon Farming initiatives can be financed via the Common Agricultural Policy, other public funding instruments such as State aid, private initiatives linked to carbon markets, or through a combination of these funding options.
Examples of co-financed projects on carbon farming
The goal of the project is to identify and accelerate the development and adoption of novel incentives for carbon sequestration and the increase and maintenance of the organic carbon stock in soil and biomass in Europe. With the aim of promoting a well-functioning voluntary carbon market, the project will uncover the key factors in supply and demand measures to invite the private sector to accelerate climate action. The results of the project will feed into the development of the EU agricultural and climate policies.
The project aims at mitigating climate change whilst improving agricultural soils, by implementing carbon sequestration techniques on the farm. It focuses not only on carbon sequestration, but also facilitates collaboration between farmers and interested parties, in- and outside the food chain.