The European Commission seeks to develop specific measures in order to support carbon farming, a concept that refers to business models in the agricultural sector that contribute to simultaneously reduce significantly its level of emissions, increase the amount of carbon it sequesters, and as much as possible, augment the share of biomass that can be used in substitution of fossil. This Policy Brief lays down key design principles of a “Carbon Farming Scheme” that would simultaneously foster climate mitigation and be in support of the other objectives set forth by the Farm2Fork and Biodiversity strategies.
- To foster a sustainable transition of EU agricultural and food systems aligned with the Green Deal’s objectives, a Carbon Farming Scheme (CFS) should target systemic transitions of farming systems, through the adoption of a multi-dimensional approach (beyond a carbon-focused one). The following criteria would need to be considered in such a perspective: an absolute reduction in all GHG emissions; enhance carbon sequestration in soils and agroecological infrastructures; foster the diversification of agroecosystems from plot to landscapes; and reduce the overall dependency of farming systems to external and synthetic inputs.
- Such an approach could only deliver on climate & biodiversity objectives if associated with a reduction in the EU consumption and production of animal products, as animal feed consumes today the bulk of all the biomass (43%) used within the EU (vs 13% for food, 23% for biomaterials, and 20% for energy).
- While the farm should be the smallest level of intervention (no practice change should be supported without considering the broader dynamics at the farm level), an effective approach to carbon farming should also be deployed at the value chain and/or landscape levels and involve collective organizations (interbranch organizations, producer organizations, local governments) capable of triggering systemic changes often difficult to obtain at the individual level (such as crop diversification and the reintroduction of leguminous crops). This approach to transition beyond the farm would also help to create irreversibility and thus facilitate the management of risks associated to the non-permanence of agricultural practices/soil carbon sequestration.
- Funds dedicated to a CFS should primarily be directed to support systemic and sustainable transitions of farming systems on the basis of a clear and multidimensional evaluation/certification framework. In that respect, this framework should be deployed in a “taxonomic” way, i.e. to help public and private investors to identify the right projects to support.