The EU Farm to Fork strategy was launched recently. It includes reference to a new EU model of financially supporting farmers for sequestering carbon on their farms.
Under the EU Commission’s proposals for a new Common Agricultural Policy, there are options to provide support for environmental action on farms, through the establishment of eco schemes that would make a proportion of Pillar I direct payments conditional on additional environmental action, or by encouraging specific additional environmental action through schemes established in Pillar II Rural Development Programme Schemes. Such measures could reward action to increase carbon sequestration on farms, for example, by encouraging sustainable management practices to reduce carbon loss from land. Ireland has an abundance of peat based soils, much of which are a net source of carbon emissions at present.
The development of effective measures of this nature would require the establishment of a baseline to ensure that measures proposed delivered the additionality required.
My Department already supports afforestation, in a variety of configurations. Such planting can make an important contribution to carbon sequestration. The private sector may also have a role to play. An example of a positive development to date in this area is my Department’s ‘Woodland Environmental Fund’ where businesses can part fund the establishment of native woodlands on farms. The additional funding provided amounts to €1,000/ha and is paid directly to farmers. In return, businesses can declare the carbon captured by these trees against their carbon footprint. So far, Accenture, Microsoft, Aldi, Lidl, KBI Global Investments and An Post have participated in the scheme.
These and other possibilities will be considered in the context of developing a Strategic CAP Plan for Ireland for the period 2021 -2027, and having regard to our national and international climate change obligations.