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LIFE Carbon Farming

Development and implementation of a result-based funding mechanism for carbon farming in European mixed crop livestock systems


Climate change is a major threat to society, the economy and the environment. It is primarily caused by carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions from economic activities, particularly fossil fuel production and consumption. These heat trapping gases, collectively known as carbon or greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions are warming the climate system at an alarming rate. To mitigate climate change, Ireland and the European Union (EU) have committed to cutting carbon emissions by over 50% by 2030 and aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Mixed and grass-based livestock farmers can support Europe’s transition to a net-zero carbon economy by 1) improving efficiency, 2) adopting low emission technologies and, 3) storing more carbon in soils and vegetation i.e. increase sequestration. The EU “Farm to Fork” strategy plans to accelerate climate action in the farming sector by developing incentives for carbon farming. This new type of agriculture focuses on the management of carbon stocks and GHG emissions at farm level, with the goal of mitigating climate change.


LIFE Carbon Farming aims to reward farmers for reducing emissions and increasing carbon sequestration. Public and private carbon markets offer a promising opportunity to support the implementation of climate mitigation actions on farms. Many farmers in Ireland and Europe currently struggle to access carbon markets, as there are no approved tools for measuring, reporting and verifying (MRV) emission reductions on livestock farms. LIFE CARBON farming will develop a standard MRV process to overcome this obstacle and develop a funding mechanism to encourage greater adoption of mitigation actions on commercial farms.


The overarching goal of LIFE CARBON FARMING is to employ climate finance to reduce the carbon footprint of 700 livestock farms by 15% over a 6-year period. The broad objectives of this European project are:

  1. Establish reference levels for GHG emissions from livestock farms and determine baseline rates for carbon sequestration.
  2. Develop and apply climate actions to mitigate the carbon footprint of livestock production.
  3. Quantify the GHG emission reduction and carbon sequestration gain caused by 18 carbon farming projects/initiatives.
  4. Evaluate wider environmental impact of applying climate actions on livestock farms.
  5. Analyse the socio-economic impact of carbon farming projects/initiatives.


LIFE Carbon Farming is building on work undertaken in LIFE Beef Carbon and LIFE Dairy Carbon. Both of these projects demonstrated that livestock farms can reduce carbon emissions without compromising beef and dairy production. However, they also showed it is challenging to reduce the carbon footprint of commercial livestock farms without advisory and financial assistance. LIFE CARBON FARMING will work to develop both forms of support by collaborating with multiple stakeholders i.e. livestock farmers, advisors, certification companies, aggregators and carbon buyers.

The main actions of LIFE CARBON FARMING are:

  • Create harmonized tools and standards for whole farm sustainability assessments.
  • Develop an MRV process for implementing carbon farming initiatives.
  • Apply low carbon practices and technologies on 700 mixed-crop livestock farms in Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain.
  • Determine implementation costs of carbon farming projects.
  • Establish result-based carbon funding mechanism via 18 carbon farming projects.
  • Structure, build and promote a low carbon farming network in Europe.
  • Develop a common EU framework and strategy to replicate CARBON FARMING projects.

Expected Outcomes

  • A network of 700 demonstration farms earning carbon credits by implementing low carbon practices and technologies.
  • Referential for assessing costs associated with carbon mitigation measures and an engineering tool to facilitate carbon farming projects.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions mitigated by 630,000 tons of CO2 equivalents and carbon footprint of livestock farms decreased by 15%.
  • Carbon credit sales ranging from €6,000 to €12,000 per livestock farm; total revenue from public and private carbon markets amounting to €3 million.
  • Cohort of 78 European advisors and consultants experienced in applying carbon auditing tools and carbon farming projects.
  • A common results-based climate funding mechanism that will incentivise an expansion of carbon farming initiatives.

Project Flyer: LIFE Carbon Farming

Project Coordinator: French Livestock Institute (IDELE)

Leading Partners: Teagasc, ASOPROVAC, ATB, CREA, I4CE, University of Liege

Duration: 01/10/2021 to 01/10/2027

Contact: Donal O’Brien

For further information visit the LIFE website and check out our newsletters and reports.

LIFE Carbon Farming (pdf)