The means to pay farmers for sequestering carbon are being considered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for a “strategic CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] plan” for Ireland.

Minister Michael Creed pointed out that provision for such methods is made in the EU’s recently published Farm to Fork Strategy.

Responding to a written parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy, Minister Creed said: “The EU Farm to Fork Strategy…includes reference to a new EU model of financially supporting farmers for sequestering carbon on their farms.

Under the European Commission’s proposals for a new CAP, 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.

These eco-schemes, the minister added, would also work by “encouraging specific additional environmental action through schemes established in Pillar II [Rural Development Programme]”.

“Such measures could reward action to increase carbon sequestration on farms. For example, by encouraging sustainable management practices to reduce carbon loss from land,” Minister Creed highlighted.

He also pointed out that measures of that type would require the establishment of a “baseline” to ensure that proposed measures would meet the additional requirements set out by the EU.

Pointing out specific practices that may play a part in future carbon sequestration eco-schemes, Minister Creed highlighted continued afforestation.

“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,” the minister stated.

“An example of a positive development to date in this area is the ‘Woodland Environmental Fund’ where businesses can part fund the establishment of native woodlands on farms. The additional funding provided amounts [up to] €1,000/ha and is paid directly to farmers,” he added.

In return for this, Minister Creed explained, businesses can declare the carbon captured by these trees against their carbon footprint.

According to the minister, businesses including Accenture; Microsoft; Aldi; Lidl; KBI Global Investments; and An Post have participated in the scheme.

Concluding his response to deputy Carthy’s question, Minister Creed said: “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.”