Op-ed | Payment for carbon farming: we need an ambitious and pragmatic European certification
The European Commission will propose a ‘carbon certification’ by the end of the year as a first step towards remunerating farmers and foresters who contribute to carbon farming. This certification project raises debates and concerns. For Adeline FAVREL of I4CE, the EU can respond and develop an ambitious certification by relying on the experience of the Member States in this field.
We need carbon certification to incentivise farmers and foresters to act
The European objective of carbon neutrality aims to balance greenhouse gas emissions and absorptions, by drastically reducing emissions on the one hand and increasing carbon sinks on the other. Thus, it gives a decisive role to agriculture and forestry, which can capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil and biomass. But how can we encourage farmers and foresters to adopt practices that store more carbon, such as agroforestry? This can be achieved by paying them for the carbon removals, which is what the European Commission is planning.
Obviously, it will be necessary to clarify quickly who will pay and who will remunerate these stakeholders. Although the Commission currently seems to favour making the private sector pay via voluntary carbon offsetting, this will not be enough and other sources of funding will inevitably have to be explored: the European carbon market, a possible future Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) for the agri-food industry, and of course public funding, but first and foremost, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). At the moment, it is important to agree on a European carbon certification system in order to guarantee the impact the projects that will be financed will have on the climate, and on the environment as a whole. The aim is to direct funds, whether private or public, more effectively towards the climate friendly practices.
The Commission is currently working on this carbon certification project and will propose a regulation by the end of the year. The public consultation phase and the discussions organised in the various European bodies since the beginning of the year have raised many points of debate and even legitimate concerns. We can overcome them. We can find pragmatic solutions to these problems in order to build an ambitious carbon certification. This can be done by taking inspiration from the successes and failures of certifications developed over many years at international level or in some Member States, starting with the French Label Bas-Carbone that I4CE helped to build.
Should European certification be limited to carbon removals?
The first debate agitating European stakeholders is the scope of certification. Should we certify only carbon removals, or should we also take emissions reductions into account?