April 23. 2024. 7:55

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Carbon farming certification to cover and soil and wetland management


Agricultural practices that store CO2 and those reducing emissions from soil are among the activities for which farmers might be remunerated for their contribution to combat climate change, according to a regulation agreed by the EU institutions.

The EU Council and the European Parliament reached a political agreement on Tuesday (20 February) on an EU-level certification framework for carbon removals. The system will be voluntary, and the regulation aims to set criteria to define a high standard for carbon removals from industrial and agricultural activities.

An EU ‘guaranteed’ certificate will cover the process of monitoring, reporting and verifying the authenticity of these removals.

As far as agriculture is concerned, the EU framework restricts the ‘carbon farming’ definition to some temporary activities. Among those are restoring forests and soil, wetland management, and maintaining seagrass meadows.

It will also include soil emission reduction activities, for example growing nitrogen-fixing crops, such as peas and beans, no-till and cover crops such as clover or alfalfa, and practices combined with reduced use of fertilisers and pesticides.

The agreement considers a potential inclusion of methane emissions reductions by 2026, mandating the Commission to study this option.

To be certified, activities included in the carbon farming definition must last at least five years.

Most of the practicalities of the framework, however, are not still written.

Once the regulation is formally adopted, it will be up to the Commission to propose certification methodologies for the different types of carbon removal activities.

The provisional agreement is yet to be rubberstamped by the member states in the Council and the European Parliament.

Reactions

The regulation, originally proposed by the European Commission in November 2022, has been hailed as a world first.

“This certification framework will stimulate innovative carbon removal technologies and agricultural carbon storage that contribute to achieving the EU’s climate, environmental and zero pollution objectives,” a Commission press release stated.

For stakeholders, the result of the negotiation is a mixed picture. Farming organisations Copa and Cogeca acknowledged the achievement of a “pioneering framework” bearing an “open definition of carbon removals”, but “regret that the proposed scope of application fails to properly and timely recognise the importance of livestock management practices”.

The organisations argue the scheme should have included in the certified activities also the reduction of methane emissions, allowing livestock operators to be remunerated for their efforts in adopting practices to lessen the emissions of cattle.

Since the regulation covers industrial technologies for carbon removal and carbon farming, some have questioned how such disparate practices can be covered by a single scheme.

“It remains to be seen how different activities with such different characteristics and storage uncertainty can be managed under the same framework,” the environmental NGO the Bellona Foundation stated, adding: “We can’t compare soils to rocks.”

However, companies specialising in carbon removal technologies do not agree.

“Agriculture’s greenhouse gas footprint is a complex mix of biology (organic matter) and industry (tillage and fertiliser) and a holistic solution will leverage both,” Adam Wolf, Founder and CIO at Eion and Sebastian Manhart, Chair of DVNE (German association for negative emissions) said in a joint statement.

Read more with Euractiv

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