While the EU is still waiting for the European Commission to propose a common framework for promoting farming practices that help remove carbon from the atmosphere, Slovakia has charged ahead and drawn up a new land-use climate fund.
The money from the fund will reward farmers for environmentally friendly practices on the land, according to the ministry’s state secretary, Martin Kováč.
Speaking to EURACTIV Slovakia, Kováč explained that farmers will be able to receive special subsidies, for example for applying more organic rather than synthetic fertilisers, practising no-till and regenerative farming, and the creation of landscape features or contour crop rotation.
“This improves the ability of the soil to retain water and also store carbon,“ he said.
In this way, Slovakia’s new fund represents financial support for what the European Commission has recently framed as carbon farming.
Slovakia’s new climate fund will not be linked to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the EU’s farming subsidies programme, but will be financed through multiple sources, Kováč explained.
Firstly, it will be funded from part of the revenues from the EU-wide carbon emission trading system (EU ETS). The second stream will flow from voluntary contributions coming from private companies interested in storing carbon in the land.
Finally, the ministry aims to finance the fund from financial sanctions collected from farmers who mistreat the land.
“The aim is to motivate farmers to practice better and more benign land management. The sanction mechanism would come as a last resort,“ the state secretary added.
The fund is part of a new guiding concept of the government named ‘Land: water and carbon bank’, which is being prepared by Kováč, who took office at the ministry in January.
He plans to draft a legislative proposal for the fund this year. However, it is not yet clear what response this idea will encounter in the governing coalition.
EU action lags behind
Meanwhile, the EU executive is set to table a proposal for an EU-wide framework on how to certify and remunerate farming practices that help capture carbon in the soil – that is, carbon farming – by the end of the year.
Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski has repeatedly voiced his support for boosting carbon farming and the Commission set out first steps in this direction in a communication on carbon cycles published at the end of last year.
Finding a common position of the member states on the matter has also been a priority of French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie for France’s presidency over the council of EU agriculture ministers, which lasts until the end of June.
However, a range of technical and practical questions over what a certification and remuneration system would look like are still open, and the issue has somewhat faded into the background lately as worries over the impact of the Ukraine war came to the fore during agricultural ministers’ meetings.
Slovakia is not the first country that has forged ahead with national initiatives while awaiting an EU-wide framework.
France, for example, has already put in place a voluntary system of carbon credits, via which farmers can sell negative emission certificates to other businesses, and Spain has chosen to remunerate some low-carbon practices via CAP subsidies.
[Edited by Natasha Foote/Zoran Radosavljevic]