Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

Carbon Farming Initiatives

Carbon Farming Initiatives

Carbon farming is a new green business model to reward farmers and land managers for curbing climate change, Donal O’Brien, Researcher at Teagasc Johnstown Castle, tells us more.

This form of farming is defined by the European Commission as a carbon removal activity that leads to greater storage of carbon in living biomass, dead organic matter and soils by enhancing carbon capture and/or decreasing greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.

Put simply, it is a management activity that removes and stores carbon in soils and vegetation, such as hedgerows, and may also reduce emissions from farming operations such as manure spreading. The EU expect carbon farming will contribute to the removal of several hundred millions tons of CO2 per annum from the atmosphere by 2030 and have proposed a regulation to certify this and other types of carbon removals.

How does it work?

Private companies or public authorities develop carbon farming schemes or initiatives with a group of farmers and land managers that goes above and beyond what is ordinarily required for tackling climate change. A carbon farming initiative normally runs for at least 5 years. The initial stage of a carbon farming initiative involves establishing baseline values for carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions. This is done on individual farms with actual management information and certified carbon accounting tools.

In the next phase, advisors or planners assist participants to create a carbon action plan. This plan contains climate actions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to remove and store carbon in soils and biomass. Land managers and farmers decide which measures to include in a carbon action plan and how to implement them.

A land manger may choose to increase carbon removals by planting hedgerows and trees, restoring forests and wetlands, incorporating straw into soils, cover cropping and conversion of cropland to permanent pasture. They may also decide to decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by adopting proven low emission technologies such as protected urea and by improving technical efficiency through better nutrition and genetics.

Scheme developers and advisors support participants to put their selected practices into place and monitor the actions on a yearly basis. Mid-term assessments are carried out to evaluate progress in implementing the carbon action plan. At the end of the initiative, final carbon stocks and GHG emissions are determined for participants and compared against baseline values. The total amount of carbon saved by an initiative is quantified and certified by an independent auditing body.

How can I make money from carbon farming?

A number of climate financing options exist to support land managers and farmers adopt this new green business model

  1. Public funding – Common agricultural policy, European Innovation fund, State Schemes
  2. Private funding – Insetting e.g., Co-operatives that pay bonuses to members in exchange for implementing specified climate actions.
  3. Voluntary carbon markets – Global (e.g., CORSIA and VCS) and domestic (e.g., MoorFutures and Woodland Carbon Code).
  4. Carbon labels – Label Bas Carbone.

Is there a framework in Ireland for Carbon farming?

An enabling framework is under development for carbon farming in Ireland. This framework will be aligned with the proposed EU carbon farming initative as described in the Farm to Fork Strategy. The DAFM are working with other member states and the European Commission in relation to a regulatory system for carbon farming which ensures a level playing field for farmers across the EU.

Farmers can prepare for carbon farming by:

  1. Knowing the GHG sources and sinks on the farm. Sources release more GHG than they absorb, whereas sinks absorb more GHG/carbon than they emit.
  2. Reviewing Teagasc Sustainability reports, Bord Bia feedback reports.
  3. Identifying climate actions and setting targets.
  4. Developing a farm sustainability plan.

The AgNav digital support tool provides details of the total emissions and carbon footprint of your farm. For further details visit www.agnav.ie or join the Teagasc Signpost programme to “Know Your Number” and “Make Your Plan”.

This article first appeared in the Signpost Programme newsletter. Sign up to future newsletters here.