Farming ministers have adopted conclusions on carbon farming, based on the parts of the Commission’s ‘sustainable carbon cycles’ communication that deal with agriculture and forestry, and aiming to encourage agricultural practices that help to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soil or biomass in a sustainable way. These practices may include, on the farming side, planting hedges or trees, growing legumes, using catch crops and cover crops, practising conservation agriculture and maintaining peatlands, and on the forestry side, afforestation and reforestation.
The conclusions specify what the Council expects from the certification framework for carbon removals, for which a legislative proposal will follow at the end of this year, to ensure that economic value is attached to practices that increase carbon removal and storage, based on scientifically proven measurement requirements.
In its conclusions, the Council welcomed the communication and acknowledged the key role that farming and forestry could play in the fight against climate change by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Ministers also recognised the importance of providing financial support that offers sufficient incentive to farmers and foresters alongside the common agricultural policy, from both public and private resources, in order to encourage them to adopt these climate-friendly practices. Moreover, they supported the Commission’s plan to set up an expert group of farming and forestry representatives, considered that this group would be well placed to evaluate and take account of existing carbon certification schemes and share examples of best practice from across the EU, and invited the Commission to work with the group to look into extending certification to include reductions in greenhouse gases, particularly methane and nitrous oxide.
Member states also stressed that the primary purpose of EU agriculture, as stipulated in the treaties, is to ensure food security, and that this aim must not be compromised. Finally, the conclusions highlighted the importance of taking into account regional specificities and avoiding any unnecessary administrative burden when setting up the certification framework, which should be as simple and transparent as possible.
Under the European Green Deal, one of the aims agreed under EU climate law is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, so as to achieve climate neutrality at EU level by 2050. Carbon removals (i.e. the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere and its storage through various means, for example via trees and plants, as well as protecting carbon-rich soils) can play a crucial role in achieving climate neutrality. The Commission’s communication on sustainable carbon cycles, adopted on 15 December 2021 as part of the Fit for 55 package, aims to help develop sustainable solutions for carbon removal. It also represents a first step towards a carbon removal certification framework, which will form the subject of a legislative proposal.