The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has announced a public consultation to shape the development of a national carbon farming framework. The consultation, launched by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, and Minister of State at the DAFM, Martin Heydon, aims to gather ideas and insights from the public on creating a framework that supports and rewards farmers and landowners in meeting national climate objectives. Carbon farming involves sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and storing it in soils, and offers the potential for farmers to generate income by reducing emissions and increasing carbon sequestration.
The consultation comes at a time when a proposal for a voluntary framework for carbon removal across Europe, put forward by the European Commission in 2022, is being discussed in the European Parliament and Council. From a national perspective, carbon farming is seen as a key enabler in helping the sector meet Ireland’s climate targets as outlined in the Climate Action Plan 2023. However, Minister McConalogue acknowledges that there are still challenges and uncertainties to address in the development of carbon farming, including establishing baseline data, quantifying and verifying emission reductions, and certification processes. The DAFM is actively working in these areas.
The public consultation seeks to gather views on how the national framework for carbon farming can be tailored to the Irish context through an online survey. It aims to address the concerns of farmers, landowners, and foresters who have been calling for initiatives to support their participation in voluntary carbon markets. In parallel with the consultation, a multi-stakeholder working group will be established to oversee the development of the framework. The findings of the consultation will inform the group’s decision-making process, focusing on key areas such as identifying existing knowledge relevant to establishing baseline data, recommending pathways to address knowledge gaps, assessing future auditing requirements, developing voluntary carbon codes, exploring the potential for public-private partnerships to leverage private financing, and identifying best-practice governance structures.
The DAFM has been actively involved in efforts to gather national baseline data on carbon stocks and emissions for various activities. Initiatives such as the National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory and the pilot Soil Sampling Programme, along with research projects on peat soils, have been undertaken. The DAFM has also been involved in similar initiatives through the Woodland Environmental Fund and Agroforestry Scheme. Minister McConalogue highlights the benefits of incentivizing not only on-farm tree planting but a wide range of carbon farming practices, citing the Woodland Environment Fund as a model for targeted payments to land managers for positive environmental activities.
The public consultation and the establishment of the working group demonstrate the commitment of the DAFM to engaging with stakeholders and developing a robust framework for carbon farming in Ireland. It is an important step towards meeting national climate objectives and supporting farmers and landowners in their efforts to reduce emissions and enhance carbon sequestration.