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Unlock the true green potential of carbon farming and avoid greenwashing, the EEB urges Agricultural Ministers

Speaking in Strasbourg this morning, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) urged Agricultural Ministers to harness “carbon farming” to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises while improving the livelihoods of farmers.

Agricultural Ministers met today at the informal Agriculture and Fisheries Council, held every six months, to discuss “carbon farming” ahead of a new EU regulation specifying rules for the certification of carbon removals, expected at the end of the year.

Invited to address the Ministers, the EEB underlined the importance of designing strict rules and effective incentives and warned of the danger of relying on carbon markets to finance carbon farming.

The European Commission’s recent Communication ‘Restoring Sustainable Carbon Cycles’ presents carbon farming as a “new green business model”, where farms that sequester carbon in their soils or plant trees would receive financial compensation, including from companies offsetting their CO2 emissions via carbon credits.

NGOs warn that relying on carbon offsets will not deliver real climate benefits and would undermine efforts to reduce emissions as well as the transformative potential of carbon farming.

Carbon farming risks becoming an empty buzzword if carbon sequestration is pursued without consideration for biodiversity or rural livelihoods, and investments are made in false solutions like monoculture plantations or intensive no-till farming.

“The health of soils and ecosystems must be at the heart of all efforts to promote carbon farming, to ensure it benefits the climate, biodiversity and rural communities. If done right, it could make a real difference in cutting emissions from agriculture while also restoring Europe’s soils. Agricultural Ministers must steer clear of false solutions and push for a transformative agenda” said Patrick ten Brink, EEB Deputy Secretary General and Director of EU Policy.

“The climate and biodiversity crises require us to transform our agriculture, but farmers cannot do it alone. The EU and its Member States need to design ambitious, fair, and effective policies to promote a transition to agroecology and the restoration of key carbon sinks. We hope the Commission’s work on certifying carbon removals will be a first step in that direction”, said Célia Nyssens, EEB Senior Policy Officer for Agriculture and Food Systems.

Carbon farming is defined as land management practices that increase the sequestration of carbon in soils and vegetation – in short, it keeps and boosts carbon sinks that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Intensive farming has drastically reduced the carbon content of soils and has consequently reduced the capacity of soils to cycle nutrients (like nitrogen), support life, and absorb and retain water. This has lowered the ability of farms to cope with extreme weather events like the droughts and floods seen in recent years.

USEFUL LINKS

Carbon Farming for Climate, Nature, and Farmers report

Summary of EEB’s view on carbon farming

EEB Joint Letter on Carbon Farming

OpEd – Burying the problem: carbon markets and sustainable agriculture