Carbon farming – Great opportunity for farmers and forest owners if a market approach is promoted and remaining uncertainties resolved

The European Commission unveiled today the long-awaited communication on "restoring sustainable carbon cycles" (the so-called carbon farming communication), which will be followed by a legislative proposal on carbon removal certification by the end of 2022. Copa and Cogeca welcome the inclusion of carbon farming in the political agenda and future developments to capitalize agriculture's potential to fight climate change and achieve a greener Europe. 


The communication envisages a new green business model that rewards land management practices resulting in an increase of carbon sequestration in living biomass, soils, and/or dead organic matter by enhancing carbon capture or reducing the release of carbon in the atmosphere. Copa and Cogeca appreciate the Commission's recognition that carbon farming is very site-dependent in application and that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to carbon farming.


The communication identifies challenges farmers will face when implementing carbon farming practices such as financial burdens (including uncertainty about revenues and up-front costs of implementation), insufficient tailored advisory services and access to knowledge, regulatory obstacles, high complexity and costs of robust monitoring, revising, and a verification system. It also provides effective examples of improved land management practices that result in an increase of carbon sequestration. However, Copa and Cogeca regret that the use of organic fertilisers is not included in the communication since it is a very beneficial practice in terms of carbon capture, biodiversity, and water and soil benefits.


Copa President, Christiane Lambert welcomed the communication and underlined, "The agricultural sector has been undertaking efforts and deploying investments towards carbon farming practices which precede today's Commission communication. These efforts must be recognised, and future investments should be promoted. In addition, we consider it important to give flexibility on financing and to promote mainly private schemes in which farmers are actively involved."


For Copa and Cogeca many uncertainties still remain. This is, for instance, the case on how to establish carbon credits. Hence, the Commission's recognition of the uncertainty of a result-based approach to pricing carbon farming is appreciated. In particular, given the climate and site-dependent character of this type of farming. The issues of timing of payments and where to market carbon credits should also be addressed and clarified. A market-based approach is key, allowing that carbon credits become an additional income for farmers. In addition, the communication does not clarify how, and which sector shall be accredited for carbon removals through carbon farming. Measures should be put in place to avoid trade-off from companies and/or the industrial sector, that could acquire these credits, instead of a combined package of efforts to reduce emissions and compensation through removals.


Cogeca President Ramon Armengol commented on the Communication by stressing that, "Carbon farming is only part of the solution to climate change but should not substitute actions to reduce emissions. Clarity must be given to agriculture and forestry's overall contributions to the fight against climate change – ensuring that the different demands and/or targets resulting from several strategies, initiatives, and proposals under the Green Deal do not pose a threat to food and biomass security and to farming and forest viability. To this end, policy coherence must be ensured."


Copa and Cogeca appreciate that the Commission itself has recognised that many questions remain unanswered, and we look forward to further clarifications in this respect, facilitating additional updates in carbon farming practices by farmers and agri-cooperatives.


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