Commission sets the carbon farming initiative in motion

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Today the European Commission published the final report of a two-year study on how to set up and implement carbon farming in the EU. Building on this study and on the input from several EU-funded projects and events, the Commission plans to launch the carbon farming initiative by the end of 2021.

The study “Technical Guidance Handbook – setting up and implementing result-based carbon farming mechanisms in the EU”, carried out from 2018 to 2020, explored key issues, challenges, trade-offs and design options to develop carbon farming. It reviewed existing schemes that reward climate-related benefits in five promising 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. It also explored how a widespread adoption of carbon farming can be triggered in the EU.

The study concludes that result-based carbon farming can contribute significantly in the EU’s efforts to tackle climate change, bringing benefits in terms of carbon sequestration and storage and other co-benefits, such as increased bio-diversity and preservation of eco-systems. 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 stakeholders’ knowledge and understanding of the potential benefits for them. The study will serve as a guidance to help private actors and public authorities start up an increasing number of carbon farming initiatives.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said: Our climate action must first and foremost reduce human-made emissions. But we also need to restore and protect natural carbon sinks, so that we can capture CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in our soils and forests. Carbon farming offers new income opportunities for farmers. It is an example of how the new Common Agricultural Policy’s ecoschemes and private funding can reward agricultural practices that help us fight the climate and biodiversity crises.

Nature-based solutions that remove carbon from the atmosphere can help the EU achieve climate neutrality and should therefore be rewarded. Therefore, as announced in the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Commission will promote carbon farming as a new green business model that creates a new source of income for actors in the bioeconomy, 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. The Commission plans to publish a Communication setting out an action plan for both initiatives by the end of 2021.

Carbon farming can be promoted via EU and national policies and private initiatives. This new type of financial support will create a new source of income for land managers. Member States will be able to accelerate the roll out of carbon farming practices in the context of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), for instance via eco-schemes or rural development support, and through State aid. Depending on the outcome of the CAP negotiations, eco-schemes can bring between EUR 38 billion to EUR 58 billion to farmers. The Commission already included carbon farming in its recommendations to the Member States’ CAP Strategic Plans. The Commission is furthermore organising a workshop on 25 May to help Member States design carbon farming schemes in their CAP Strategic Plans.

Pilot projects are also co-financed by the EU through the LIFE programme and the European Regional Development Fund, among others.

More information

Carbon Farming Study:

Commission webpage on Carbon Farming