Regulations and the future of EU carbon farming initiative

The European Union aims for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a target legally bound by the Europe Climate Law announced in mid-2021. This means removals and emissions of greenhouse gasses must be balanced, while also aiming to strengthen resilience to climate change impacts, by 2050 and beyond.

Seen as a key tool to meet EU targets on climate, environment, and economy is carbon farming. These are sustainable land management practices to increase the amount of carbon captured and stored in plants and soils. And two goals are currently under consideration:

  • Climate neutrality for the entire land sector by 2035; and
  • Net annual removal of greenhouse gasses to 310 MtCO2eq by 2030, where carbon farming initiatives should contribute to 42 MtCO2eq (just a little over 13%).

On top of its climate mitigation potential, existing markets around carbon farming unlock additional economic benefits for participants. And if carbon farming is to be widely adopted as a viable green business opportunity within the decade, a clear pathway addressing crucial challenges in carbon farming must be established soon.

What would regulations in carbon farming in the EU look like? When regulatory frameworks are announced starting in 2022, expect guidelines for these 4 key areas that reinforce efforts to improve and speed up carbon farming adoption in EU member states.

eu carbon farming

4 key takeaways in the EU carbon farming initiative

Adopting a common standard for monitoring, reporting, and verification of carbon credits

Carbon farming aims to enhance the storage of carbon in ecosystems with biodiversity benefits and the reduction of carbon released to the atmosphere. Claiming successful carbon sequestration should be subject to accurate monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV). Otherwise, bigger risks of emission reversals with false carbon credits threaten the development of successful carbon markets and meaningful climate action.

Compliance carbon markets such as the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and voluntary carbon markets typically facilitated by private organizations should work to complement legally-binding climate action. Therefore, advancing carbon farming within the EU benefits to adopt a common set of MRV methodologies and guidelines to understand gains and losses in carbon sequestration.

Voluntary carbon markets can especially be susceptible to generating cheap carbon credits gained from misguided benchmarks with no oversight. This is dangerous for farmers and land managers’ bottom-line management, and buyers are at risk of investing in carbon offset credits that don’t actually contribute to their carbon mitigation plans.

To standardise MRV in the EU allows for transparency, environmental integrity, and a more robust management system that limits risks and uncertainties in carbon farming by generating true high-quality carbon credits.

A regulatory framework on carbon removal certifications

The certification of carbon removals validates whether or not carbon credits generated through carbon farming are authentic. Authentic carbon credits must have sufficient guarantees on storage duration (permanence), unambiguous measurements, and provisions on managing risks of carbon reversals and leakage.

A sound certification framework must adhere to a set of scientifically robust requirements that lowers the risks of error and fraud in carbon markets. Moreover, the framework also aims to enhance transparency on climate targets reports by organizations fulfilling corporate sustainability reports and such.

A transparent implementation procedure must complement a robust certification framework for the system to be effective. Innovations in strategy and digital tools, such as decentralised structures like blockchain technology, are considered to bolster transparency, ease-of-use, and cost-efficient methods to scale-up implementations.

The commission will involve a deeper collaboration between academia, public and private organizations, and civil society to support the development of an EU-wide certification concept and implementation mechanisms.

Improving farmers’ knowledge, tools, and skills

The European Commission 2022 communication on Sustainable Carbon Cycles highlights:

…every land manager should have access to verified emission and removal data by 2028 to enable a wide uptake of carbon farming

Updated EU directives on carbon farming could see further investing in farmers’ knowledge formation and training. Granting access to updated datasets and tools for monitoring and measurement will help farmers and land managers make informed decisions on how to sustainably manage farms.

Farms of various sizes and conditions, as well as farmers of different experiences, should have updated data made available to them. Equipping farmers with proper information will enable more reliable calculations to annual goals while enabling long-term knowledge-building that could see transformative changes in the agriculture industry within the century.

A switch to carbon farming in the region is a big ask for many farmers, and a lot of preparations must be made. To support advisory services, and knowledge and skills transfer, the EU will adopt the Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Get in touch with our agronomists to get expert advice on carbon farming now

Access to funding

Rolling out carbon farming will see new costs for farmers and land managers. For many, the cost alone is a steep barrier to entry into the scheme. Public funding opportunities for carbon farming can directly support carbon farming practices through sources such as CAP, the LIFE Programme, and state aid.

These funds can help with costs associated with monitoring, reporting and verification aspects, as well as engaging independent research and development, to update datasets on soils, emissions, and sequestration evaluations.

Access to initial seed funds is a boost many farmers need to kickstart their carbon farming projects. While carbon farming typically provides income from carbon credits trading after some period has passed, novel ways are now available to finance new carbon projects from private organizations.

Solid World uses decentralised digital technology to give farmers access to funds when they need it most—right from the start. Early access to funding options will speed up the development of carbon farming projects that help manage investment risks and uncertainties.

Learn more about Solid World and how they can help finance your journey to carbon farming

Conclusion: recognising the importance of carbon farming

carbon farming wheat crops

The European Commission will develop a new framework for the certification of carbon removals in 2022, as well as a common standard for monitoring, reporting, and verification of carbon credits, fast-track adoption with access to public funds, and enhancing agricultural knowledge formation and tools for carbon farming.

While the points mentioned above are not exhaustive, developing directives that support the EU Green Deal can accelerate carbon farming as a viable green business model built with credibility, transparency, and environmental integrity. Carbon farming is complementary to larger mitigation efforts and overall reduction to reliance on greenhouse gas-polluting activities.

Developing robust frameworks for carbon farming reinforce region-wide best practices ensuring implementation is done properly for both public and private carbon program schemes. Authentic carbon credits also take other co-benefits into account such as biodiversity and ecosystem enhancements and climate effects resilience, while providing incentives to farmers and land managers.

 

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