MEPs have today (Tuesday, November 21), voted in favour of setting up a framework to improve the EU’s capacity to quantify, monitor, and verify carbon removals.
The framework includes rules on carbon farming which could reward farmers for reducing emissions and increasing soil carbon sequestration.
However, MEPs voted against an amendment which sought to include a non-exhaustive list of examples of carbon farming activities eligible for certification.
The recognition of activities across nature and landscape, wetlands and peatlands, cropland, permanent grassland, and forestry as carbon farming was rejected by the plenary.
Amendments to consider planting hedgerows, rewetting peatlands, conversion of cropland to permanent grassland, biochar as a soil additive, and afforestation, for example, did not pass.
Carbon removal framework
The European Parliament adopted its position on a EU certification framework for technological and natural carbon removals to help achieve EU climate neutrality by 2050.
The parliament’s position for negotiations with EU member states was adopted by MEPs with 448 votes to 65 and 114 abstentions. The council adopted its position last week.
The definitions, quality criteria and rules on carbon removals, carbon farming and carbon storage must be distinguished due to their different environmental impact, MEPs said.
The scheme must also be in line with international standards and a “EU registry” must be set up to ensure transparency, provide information to the public, and to avoid double counting, MEPs said.
Certification will help attract private investment in carbon removal projects, rapporteur Lidia Pereira of the European People’s Party (EPP) said after the vote today.
The policy lead on carbon removals at the Carbon Market Watch, an independent, not-for-profit research organisation, Wijnand Stoefs said the parliament’s position is “not good enough”.
Stoefs said the plenary vote “survived an attempt to add a hodgepodge list” of carbon farming activities, many of which, he said, had “little to no regard for potential climate benefits”.
“The proposed list of agricultural practices was an obvious and counterproductive attempt to get a host of agricultural business-as-usual activities certified, without them having any benefit to tackling the climate crisis.
“Turning the [Carbon Removal Certification Framework] into another subsidy for climate-damaging agricultural activities was thankfully stopped,” Stoefs said.
Welcoming the approval in the parliament today, Fine Gael Midlands North West MEP Colm Markey said the vote on carbon farming is a “win for farmers and a win for the environment”.
The framework could potentially open up a new income stream for farmers, however, the framework has to be funded outside the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), he said.
“We must ensure that this carbon certification framework is of the highest standard.
“That it has robust methodologies, ensures additionally and effective monitoring, reporting and verification in order to deliver the highest possible value for the market,” the MEP said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) received over 450 submissions on the development of a national carbon farming framework.
It is anticipated that a draft national carbon farming framework will be published by the second quarter (Q2) of 2024, according to the DAFM.
A stakeholder working group has been established to oversee the development of the framework. The findings of the public consultation will inform the group’s decision making.
The stakeholder group consists of representatives of government departments, agencies and industry representatives.