The direct emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) from agriculture account for approximately 10% of total European Union (EU) emissions. In 2010, the European Parliament asked the European Commission to carry out a pilot project on the “certification of low-carbon farming practices in the European Union” to promote reductions of GHG emissions from farming. The overall aim was to assess how efforts of European farmers to produce agricultural products with carbon-neutral or low-carbon-footprint farming practices might be incorporated into policy approaches (possibly via certification), so as to promote the reduction of GHG emissions from agriculture. The project included: i) a review of existing farm-level lifecycle-based climate-related certification and labelling schemes, ii) the development and testing of a user friendly open-source carbon calculator suitable for assessing the lifecycle GHG emissions from different types of farming systems across the whole EU, and iii) the design/assessment of policy options for promoting low-carbon farming practices.
The study shows that there are multiple options for using a farm-level Carbon Calculator for promoting low-carbon farming practices in the EU. Although this study evaluates the pros and cons of different policy approaches, more detailed study would be needed to assess the costs and benefits of each approach. There is a clear need for future versions of the Carbon Calculator to be incorporated in wider environmental impact assessment tools rather than being concentrated on a single issue only. The Carbon Calculator should be better aligned with the methods for lifecycle-based environmental accountancy that were established by the 2003 IPP Communication ILCD Handbook as well as the recent Organisation Environmental Footprint and the Product Environmental Footprint Methodologies annex recommendations from the Single Market for Green Products communication. The time spent on entering data into the Carbon Calculator could be reduced by developing an automatic data transfer from already existing farm databases. It is possible to envisage a certification scheme based on a Carbon Calculator which would inform the granting of subsidies, or the use of the Carbon Calculator in helping to allocate support for rural development measures that address climate change issues. This would require additional investment in an EU-wide tool that would optimise the functionalities of the Carbon Calculator based on the specific requirements of the chosen policy option.
Hanna L. Tuomisto, Vincenzo Angileri, Camillo De Camillis, Philippe Loudjani, Luigi Nisini, Nathan Pelletier, Palle Haastrup, European Union, 2013
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