New schemes could be on the horizon for farmers to reduce emissions
Farmers might have to take part in a range of new schemes in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions post-2020, according to Artur Runge-Metzger of DG Climate at the European Commission.
Runge-Metzger was speaking to farmers and journalists at a meeting this week organised by Irish MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan on the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) regulation which is going through European Parliament at the moment.
Should the regulation, which concerns GHG emissions and removals from the LULUCF sector, be adopted, it would see the land use sector being formally included in EU climate policy for the first time.
The framework, as it is, doesn’t set out exactly what farmers and foresters will have to do under the new regulations.
“A lot of that will still have to be decided at Member State level. But if the Member State would do the rational thing and the right thing, it would aim to improve farming systems and try to make farms climate-smart.
“National governments would have to support farmers to take on these farming practices, or a number of them.”
Runge-Metzger outlined a long list of different farming practices, which farmers could be incentivised to undertake on their farm, to comply with the regulation and reduce emissions.
Potential mitigation actions farmers could have to comply with under the land use category could include:
- Conversion of arable land to grassland to sequestrate carbon in the soil.
- New agroforestry.
- Wetland/peatland conservation restoration.
- Woodland planting.
- Preventing deforestation and removal of farmland trees.
- Management of existing woodland,hedgerows, woody buffer strips and trees on agricultural land.
- Improving grassland management to increase carbon sequestration.
- Use of grassland to reduce fire risk.
Meanwhile, under the crop production category, possible actions farmers might have to comply with include:
- Reduced tillage.
- Zero tillage.
- Leaving crop residues on the soil surface.
- Ceasing to burn crop residues and vegetation.
- Use cover/catch crops.
- Biochar applied to soil.
- Extend the perennial phase of crop rotations.
- Maintain soil pH at suitable levels for crop/grass production.
- Delay applying mineral Nitrogen to a crop that has had slurry applied.
Runge-Metzger said that these actions should not be taken as given that every farmer will have to comply with.
“It will depend on where your farm is located and what from this menu is going to fit in with your farm.”
When it comes to forestry, he said that, there is ample room in Europe to improve forest management, without moving into unsustainable practices.
“So, sustainable forestry is still possible, with higher levels of productivity from forests.”
Runge-Metzger said that he thinks it is for national governments to set out how exactly they want to implement the LULUCF regulation.
“They have a whole range of instruments at their hands, whether that is through measures that are supported through things like the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) or whether it is setting new standards in terms of defining what is good practice in terms of land practice.
“There’s different ways of doing that but it is left to national governments – it’s not the Commission saying how things will be done [in each Member State].”