In a Nutshell
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) aims to support farmers and ensure Europe’s food security. It sets out the EU legal framework and funds the support member states can provide to agriculture, forestry, and rural development. It has a double objective of ensuring Europe’s food security and incentivising environmentally friendly agriculture.
The CAP has greatly evolved since its creation in 1962. In its latest iteration, the CAP 2023-2027 pursues 10 overreaching objectives aimed at ensuring agricultural productivity and farmers’ income while encouraging environmentally friendly practices.
The total budget of the CAP 2023-2027 amounts to EUR 386.6 billion. The budget is divided into two funds, which are often referred to as the two pillars of the CAP:
- The European Agricultural Guarantee Fund, which totals EUR 291.1 billion, provides direct support to farmers and funds market measures.
- The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, with a total allocation of EUR 95.5 billion dedicated to rural development.
Each country implements the CAP 2023-2027 at their national level through a CAP Strategic Plan. These plans operationalise the numerous targeted interventions each country undertakes while contributing to the ambitions set by the European Green Deal.
Direct payments to support farmers are granted on the condition that they implement “good agricultural and environmental conditions” (GAEC). Around 90% of the total European utilised agricultural area (UAA) is covered by this conditionality. Furthermore, 25% of direct payments are optional and require farmers to implement eco-schemes (specific to each country) rewarding environmentally friendly farming.
Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and the CAP interact closely in several important ways. Practices that improve carbon sequestration in soils and ecosystems have many overlaps with soil health and agriculture and thus the CAP. The CAP provides an array of measures aiming to incentivise agroforestry practices, as well as the maintenance and restoration of land ecosystems. Finally, enhanced weathering and biochar are two novel CDR methods that also intersect with farming and may thus interact with the CAP in the future.
There is, however, a dual dynamic within the CAP. On the one hand, some measures within the CAP still indirectly promote intensive farming practices depleting soil carbon stocks. On the other hand, more and more measures are targeted towards improving soil carbon stocks. The significant leeway provided to member states in their implementation of national measures means that the contribution of CAP to carbon removals varies across the EU.
What's on the Horizon?
The CAP 2023-2027 and the national CAP Strategic Plans entered into force on 1 January 2023. In 2024, countries will have to report to the EU Commission on their performances. In 2025, the national CAP Strategic Plans will be reviewed by the EU Commission.
A new obligation to protect wetlands and peatlands will be included in the CAP by 2025 at the latest; wetlands and peatlands are part of the conventional CDR methods.
The Commission will propose an improved methodology to ensure that the contribution of the CAP to climate action is correctly measured and accounted for by 2026 at the latest.
National Strategic Plans and support mechanisms
Within the CAP 2023-2027, CAP National strategic plans operationalise the CAP’s policy objectives at the national level.
The CAP amounts to 20% of the total EU budget and plays an enormous role in the EU’s intervention in the land sector. It provides different support mechanisms:
- income support through direct payments, among others, to incentivise environmentally friendly practices;
- market measures to deal with difficult market situations;
- rural development measures (national and regional programmes to address specific needs and challenges).
Each member state has relative freedom to distribute funding across these three types of support mechanisms and can freely allocate up to 25% of its budget between income support and rural development. The CAP Strategic Plans outline this allocation and describe which measures will be supported within each member state. The CAP 2023-2027 puts higher emphasis on tracking outcomes by setting an annual performance report and a biannual review process for national plans, assessing progress towards their goals and the 10 CAP overarching objectives.
Direct payments use the biggest share of the CAP funding and are conditional to Good Agricultural and Environmental Practices (GAEC), which include measures on maintaining a minimum soil cover, limiting erosion and maintaining soil organic matter, and requiring farmers to save at least 3% of their arable farmland for non-productive areas/features with the possibility to get support to extend it to 7% of the arable land. The new CAP introduces a requirement prohibiting drainage, burning or extraction of peat from peatlands. This prohibition could have a favourable impact on peatlands, allowing them to serve as carbon sinks rather than as sources of carbon emissions.
While a large share of utilised agricultural area (UAA) is set to be farmed under GAECs, only a limited share is set to be under commitments to reduce emissions or to maintain or enhance carbon storage, which includes permanent grassland, permanent crops with a permanent green cover, agricultural land in wetland and peatland. Moreover, this share varies dramatically between countries, from 0% to 85%. The metrics used in the strategic plans are also not the same; some mention the peak coverage year (note: peak year also varies between countries) while others use the average over the 2023-2027 period. It is quite concerning to see that several states currently have no measures to increase soil carbon storage. Experts have also raised the question of whether the measures proposed are enough to reach the objectives set in the strategic plans.
Additional subsidies in the form of eco-schemes can be made available to states as a reward for more environmentally friendly practices. Eco-schemes support various types of voluntary actions that go beyond the CAP’s obligation of conditionality. These include practices related to agro-forestry and carbon farming among others. The Commission has published an extensive list of examples. However, it includes only a handful of practices linked to CDR. Member states are not exploiting this opportunity to the fullest, as only a minority of them plan to use eco-schemes in relation to CDR. Some environmental NGOs raised concerns questioning the eco-schemes’ true environmental benefits.
Carbon farming and related debates
The recent communication by the EU Commission on “Sustainable Carbon Cycles” has highlighted that the CAP should be one of the primary mechanisms to promote carbon farming at the European level, together with LIFE and Horizon Europe’s “Soil Deal for Europe”. The Commission encouraged states to include measures to incentivise carbon farming in their strategic plans. The current efforts on the Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRC-F), among others, aim to clarify what good carbon farming practices mean.
There are, however, several issues related to carbon farming that need to be discussed and tackled with high priority.
Firstly, carbon farming is a very loaded term. The EU defines it vaguely as “a green business model to reward farmers for adopting practices leading to carbon sequestration”. Therefore, carbon farming as an economic concept and the underlying practices it encompasses should be separated in order to differentiate the business model from the underlying practices.
Secondly, there is a strong opportunity in the CRCF to make clear that the durability of carbon sequestration in soil is lower than for other CDR methods. Any market-facing claims need to be strictly regulated to ensure that fossil emissions are not compensated for through such practices.
Thirdly, soil carbon sequestration comes along with many co-benefits besides carbon removal. These include improved soil quality, positive biodiversity impacts and better water retention. These practices should thus be incentivised. However, key questions remain, such as who should pay, and be paid, to implement these practices and what the basis for payment should be.
Finally, the measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) of soil carbon fluxes is still very much a work in progress. There is currently a trade-off between the accuracy of results and the costs/scalability of methodologies. The EU has yet to determine how best to deploy MRV and at which geographical scale and granularity. The purpose of MRV deployment should be better defined. Furthermore, the commodification of sequestered soil carbon requires more strenuous MRV.
Launched in 1962.
First big reform of the CAP to bring production closer to what the market needs.
Shift from market support to producer support through direct payments to farmers. Farmers are incentivised to endorse more environmentally friendly practices.
The CAP introduces income support tied to environmental, food safety and animal health and welfare requirements
The CAP is once again reformed to increase the competitiveness of the sector, promote sustainable farming and support rural areas.
The EU Parliament, the Council and the Commission agree on the need to reform the CAP again and shift implementation responsibilities.
A transitional agreement is put in place while the reform is negotiated.
Adoption of the CAP 2023-2027.
The CAP 2023-2027 and the CAP strategic plans enter into force.
The EU Commission will submit a report to assess the joint CAP strategic plans in reaching Green Deal targets.
Each country will present an annual performance report.
The Commission will conduct its first performance review of the CAP strategic plans.
The Commission will conduct an interim evaluation of the CAP 2023-2027.
The Commission will conduct a second performance review of the CAP strategic plans.
- Regulation (EU) 2021/2116 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 2 December 2021 on the financing, management and monitoring of the common agricultural policy and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013
- Regulation (EU) 2021/2115 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 2 December 2021 establishing rules on support for strategic plans to be drawn up by member states under the common agricultural policy (CAP Strategic Plans) and financed by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) and by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1305/2013 and (EU) No 1307/2013
- Regulation (EU) 2021/2117 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 2 December 2021 amending Regulations (EU) No 1308/2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products, (EU) No 1151/2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs, (EU) No 251/2014 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of aromatised wine products and (EU) No 228/2013 laying down specific measures for agriculture in the outermost regions of the Union
In a Nutshell
Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement establishes the Article 6.4 mechanism, a market-based instrument that countries can voluntarily use to trade credits from emission reduction and removal projects. Under the mechanism, reducing emission levels in one country can be used by another country to fulfil its climate target, Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).
Often seen as a tool to help countries achieve their climate targets cost-effectively, its real goal is to bring about higher ambition – enabling countries to do more than they could without using it. It’s built to incentivise and facilitate the participation of authorised public and private entities by crediting their emission reduction and removal activities. The projects need to deliver an overall mitigation in global emissions.
It’s a centralised UN crediting mechanism governed by Article 6.4 Supervisory Body. Being a successor of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol, it will operate under the Paris Agreement, where all countries have climate targets. This means that the host countries need to know that they can still meet their climate targets when selling credits via the Article 6.4 mechanism, and double counting of the same emission reductions or removals must be avoided through the double-entry bookkeeping for emissions accounting (“corresponding adjustments”).
Among its other work in setting up the instrument, the Supervisory Body is preparing the foundation for how the Article 6.4 mechanism will apply to removals. There is a growing ecosystem of novel removal methods, and many of these are poised to be used by countries in their climate targets. Given the lack of broadly accepted international accounting rules for a range of removal methods, the decisions taken under Article 6.4, and the methodologies approved under it, are bound to have an outsized impact on carbon markets globally.
What's on the Horizon?
- The Article 6.4 Supervisory Body is preparing recommendations on methodologies and removals, the rules for transitioning the Clean Development Mechanism into the Article 6.4 mechanism, the accreditation standard, and the project activity cycle for adoption by CMA5 (during COP28).
- SBSTA is preparing recommendations on including emission avoidance and conservation enhancement activities in the scope of Article 6.4 mechanism, authorisation of credits, and connection between registries for adoption at CMA5 (during COP28).
Getting the Article 6.4 mechanism up and running will take a few years.
How will it work?
The Article 6.4 Supervisory Body is responsible for establishing guidance and procedures, approving methodologies, registering projects, issuing credits, and more.
Methodologies may be developed by project participants, host countries, stakeholders, or the Supervisory Body.
The credits are called the Article 6.4 Emission Reductions (A6.4ERs). These are used for both emission reductions and carbon removal. The host country will have to authorise A6.4ERs and account for these by applying corresponding adjustments unless the A6.4 ERs contribute to the national target in the host country (mitigation contribution A6.4ERs).
Removal activities get a maximum of 15-year crediting periods, renewable twice. The mechanism credits emission reductions and removals by public and private sector actors.
2% of Article 6.4 credits are subject to cancellation (“Overall Mitigation in Global Emissions” clause), 5% of credits are dedicated to the Adaptation Fund (“Share of Proceeds for Adaptation”) and other fees for registration, inclusion, issuance, renewal, and post-registration apply as well (“Share of Proceeds for Administrative Expenses”).
Many other details are yet to be ironed out, listed in the “Open elements” section below.
How will removals be covered?
Whilst the mechanism covers emission reductions and removals, it will likely focus on emission reductions in the coming decade, with interest in removals growing as climate targets get closer to net zero and beyond.
The Supervisory Body has been tasked with preparing a general framework for including the full spectrum of carbon removal methods under Article 6.4, called “recommendations”, to be approved at CMA5 during COP28.
For the first time, novel carbon removal methods will be tackled under the Paris Agreement, and the recommendations will set a precedent by establishing broad removals-specific rules under the UN crediting mechanism.
Two separate ongoing work streams are ironing out the details of the mechanism – (1) the Supervisory Body and (2) the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) where international climate negotiations under the Paris Agreement are ongoing on the technical elements.
The Supervisory body has a busy work program for 2023 and has been tasked to prepare several deliverables for adoption for CMA5 (during COP28). This includes recommendations on methodologies (baseline, monitoring methodologies, methodology development process, review), recommendations on activities involving removals (monitoring, reporting, accounting for removals and crediting periods, addressing reversals, avoidance of leakage), transitioning the Clean Development Mechanism into the Article 6.4 mechanism, developing accreditation standard, and designing project activity cycle.
SBSTA is negotiating recommendations on including emission avoidance1 and conservation enhancement activities in the scope of Article 6.4 mechanism, authorisation of credits by host countries, and work on the registry. These discussions are very technical, have continued throughout the Bonn Climate Conference in June 2023, and will be submitted for adoption at CMA5 during COP28.
1 Emission avoidance in this context mainly refers narrowly to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+ projects), not to be confused with how the term “emission avoidance” is used in the voluntary carbon markets where some stakeholders use it as a blanket term for emission reductions and avoidance.
How can stakeholders engage with the Article 6.4 process?
Documents for stakeholder input will be published at least a week before each Supervisory Body meeting. Any organisation can provide written input before meetings, but only UNFCCC-accredited observer organisations can attend the Supervisory Body meetings. Everyone can follow the live stream and watch recordings of past sessions.
|Meeting number||Meeting dates||Deadline for registering as an observer||Deadline for submitting public comments on the meeting agenda|
|SB 006||10-13 July 2023||19 June||3 July|
|SB 007||11-14 September 2023||21 August||4 September|
|SB 008||10 October to 2 November 2023||9 October||23 October|
In June 2023, the UNFCCC launched a dedicated Article 6.4 newsletter covering the latest news, calls for inputs and other announcements from the Supervisory Body.
The negotiations under SBSTA take place in 2-week sessions twice a year during the Bonn Climate Conference and COP.
The Paris Agreement is adopted
The Paris Agreement enters into force
CMA3/COP26 Glasgow – Adoption of the rules, modalities and procedures for Article 6.4 mechanism
Adoption of guidance on Article 6.4, elaborating on key processes and principles, providing SBSTA to work on remaining elements, and mandating the Supervisory Body to operationalise the mechanism
Request for submissions by Parties and admitted observer organisations to submit their views on activities involving removals via the submission portal
Article 6.4 Supervisory Body stakeholder webinar
Public consultation on the three SBSTA working areas on Article 6.4 (inclusion of emission avoidance and conservation enhancement, registries, authorisation of credits)
Technical expert dialogue on the three SBSTA working areas on Article 6.4 (inclusion of emission avoidance and conservation enhancement, registries, authorisation of credits)
CMA5/COP28 in Dubai. The Article 6.4 Supervisory Body will prepare recommendations on removals and methodologies for approval to CMA5.
Article 6.4 Mechanism
- Achieving Overall Mitigation of Global Emissions under the Paris Article 6.4 Mechanism (2019), by Wuppertal Institute
- Designing the Article 6.4 mechanism: assessing selected baseline approaches and their implications (2019), by OECD and IEA
- Best available technology and benchmark baseline setting under the Article 6.4 mechanism (2021), by Perspective Climate Group
- Private sector engagement in Article 6- A post-COP27 analysis (December 2022) by Philip Lee LLP
- Cooperative approaches or Article 6.4 mechanism: which of the Article 6 market mechanism will win the race to engage the private sector? (February 2023) by Holman Fenwick Willan LLP
- UN standard-setters turn their attention to carbon removal (Oct 2022), by Eve Tamme and Paul Zakkour
- COP27: Paving the way for the “removals COP” (Nov 2022), by Eve Tamme and Paul Zakkour
- EU and UN Kickstart Their Work on Carbon Removal for 2023 (March 2023), by Eve Tamme
- Challenges for Carbon Removal under the UN Standard (May 2023), by Eve Tamme
Mechanism established by Article 6, paragraph 4, of the Paris Agreement
Key Institutional Stakeholders
Additional StakeholdersThe Article 6.4 Supervisory Body Parties to the Paris Agreement The UNFCCC Secretariat, Mitigation Division Observer organisations in the UNFCCC
In a Nutshell
The EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) is a market-based approach for setting a price for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. It works on a ‘cap and trade’ basis whereby a ‘cap’ or limit is set on the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions allowed from specific sectors of the economy each year, with the aim of achieving emissions reductions over time. This cap is converted into tradable emission allowances, which are then allocated to market participants through free allocation or auctions. One allowance gives the holder the right to emit one tonne of CO2 (or its equivalent) during a specified period. Companies covered by the EU ETS must monitor and report their emissions each year and purchase or trade allowances as needed to cover their annual emissions.
Participants who are likely to emit more than their allocation have a choice between taking measures to reduce their emissions or buying additional allowances; either from the secondary market, for example companies who hold allowances they do not need, or from Member State-held auctions. When participants reduce their emissions, they can either sell their allowances or keep them for the future.
The ETS is the EU’s main tool for addressing emissions reductions, covering the following sector, representing about 40% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions: power, heat generation, energy intensive industrial sectors, aviation, and, since the latest revision, the maritime sector. It is now in its fourth trading phase (2021-2030). In December 2022, the European Parliament and Council reached a political agreement on the reform of the ETS. The overall target of the revised ETS was increased to a 62% reduction in carbon emissions from the sectors covered by the scheme by 2030, up from 42.8% since its introduction in 2005.
Carbon removal is not included under the EU ETS, but the Commission is set to report, by 2026, on how negative emissions could be accounted for and covered by emissions trading.
The Innovation Fund, a key source of EU support for nascent carbon removal projects amongst other clean technologies, is funded by the auctioning of ETS allowances. At 75 euro/tCO2, the ETS is set to provide around EUR 38 billion from 2020 to 2030 to the Fund.
What's on the Horizon?
The provisional political agreement reached between the European Parliament and Council in late 2022 needs to be formally adopted before the Regulation can enter into force:
- 18/04/2023: Formal adoption by the European Parliament
- 25/04/2023: Formal adoption by the Council of the European Union
- 16/05/2023: Publication in the Official Journal of the European Union
- 05/06/2023: Entry into force
By 31 July 2026, the European Commission is required to submit a report to the Parliament and the Council on the possibility of integrating negative emissions technologies (NETs) into the EU ETS. This should explore how emissions removed from the atmosphere through methods such as direct air capture can be safely and permanently stored, and how these negative emissions can be accounted for and covered by emissions trading without compromising necessary progress in reducing emissions.
By 31 July 2026, the Commission will have to assess and report on the possibility of including the municipal waste incineration sector in the ETS with a view to including it from 2028.
Update to the ETS
The ETS was revised as part of the Commission’s ‘Fit for 55’ package, which aims to introduce new or improve existing legislative tools for achieving the EU’s target of reducing net GHG emissions by at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030. The proposed changes to the ETS include:
- Increased ambition to reduce emissions by 62% in the sectors covered by the ETS by 2030 and reduction of the cap by 4.3% per year in 2024-2027, and by 4.4% in 2028-2030.
- End of free allowances for sectors covered by the Carbon Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) in 2026-2034.
- Phase-out of free emission allowances for aviation (25% in 2024, 50% in 2025 and 100% from 2026).
- Inclusion of maritime shipping in the ETS.
- Creation of a separate ETS for the building and road transport sectors, applying to the distributors that supply fuels for combustion. A new Social Climate Fund will direct part of the revenue from the auctioning to support vulnerable households and micro-enterprises.
- Increase in the Modernisation Fund and Innovation Fund.
- Strengthening the market stability reserve (MSR), the mechanism to help prevent excessive carbon price fluctuations.
Support for CDR through the Innovation Fund
Although the EU ETS is designed to incentivise emissions reductions as opposed to carbon removals, money raised through auctions of emission allowances under the ETS are reinvested into the EU’s Innovation Fund, which provides a source of funding support for technology-based CDR methods among other low-carbon technologies.
For more information on the link between CDR and the Innovation Fund, see here.
Should carbon removal be integrated into the EU ETS?
The inclusion of carbon removal (with permanent storage of captured carbon) in the EU ETS is subject to a nascent and growing debate in the EU policy ecosystem, in anticipation of the announced Commission report. Integrating negative emissions into the ETS would allow participants to offset a portion of their emissions by purchasing carbon removal credits. This, in turn, could create a potential long-term market for CDR.
Including removals in the EU ETS could have a number of benefits. As the ETS allowance cap is steadily reduced over time, integrating negative emissions would create additional market liquidity and decarbonisation options for hard-to-abate sectors. It would therefore help to satisfy demand for removal credits or allowances from hard-to-decarbonise sectors like aviation and would allow for carbon removal credits to be easily integrated into existing market infrastructure and trading platforms.
Carbon removal project developers and investors would gain greater confidence that there will be sustainable long-term demand for carbon removal credits. It would also allow removal projects to benefit from the carbon price. However, the price differential between the cost of CDR and the EU ETS carbon price will be a key consideration. The EU ETS would only incentivise CDR solutions within a certain range of the ETS price. This could be sufficient for some approaches such as BECCS (cost at scale USD 15 – 400/tCO2) and waste-to-energy with CCS, but additional incentives would be needed for direct air capture given its higher price point (cost at scale USD 100 – 300/tCO2) – although this is expected to change as technologies improve and costs of different methods decrease. Complementary incentive mechanisms such as Carbon Contracts for Difference (CCfDs) could bridge the gap between the actual cost of certain CDR methods and the EU ETS carbon price to drive the investment needed. The Commission is considering CCfDs as part of the overall agreement on the revision of the ETS Directive.
However, it is imperative that the potential inclusion of carbon removal credits in the EU ETS does not undermine the incentive for emitters covered by the ETS to decarbonise, or the urgency with which they should do so. One option to address this risk would be to limit access or quantities of removals to specific sectors that are harder to decarbonise and more likely to have residual emissions.
Another important consideration is the impact that any inclusion of CDR in the EU ETS would have on the integrity of the market. Developing robust monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) standards would safeguard the integrity of the ETS. The introduction of these standards is underway under the EU’s CRCF legislation.
An alternative approach might be establishing a separate, regulated negative emissions market. This separate market could later be linked with the EU ETS after the differential between CDR and ETS prices has been reduced and CDR technologies have a demonstrated track record at scale.
The EU ETS & other markets
The EU ETS was the world’s first international emissions trading system when it was set up in 2005. It has since inspired the development of emissions trading in other countries and regions, including most recently the UK and China. The potential role of the UK ETS as a market for CDR has been explored through a call for evidence published by the UK ETS Authority in 2022, the outcome of which is expected in 2023. In 2017, the EU and Switzerland signed an agreement to link their emissions trading systems. The agreement entered into force on 1 January 2020, and the link became operational in September 2020.
Entry into force of Directive 2004/101/EC establishing a scheme for GHG emission allowance trading
The cap is set based on estimates. The majority of allowances are given for free, and ETS covers CO2 emissions from power generators and energy-intensive industries.
The cap is lowered around 6.5% in comparison to 2005, based on actual emissions. Around 90% of the allocations are given for free, and auctions are held. N₂O emissions are included by certain countries. The aviation sector is included in 2012.
National caps are traded with a EU-wide cap. Default auctioning method replaces the free allocation system, and the scope is expanded to include more sectors and gases.
Current trading phase
Proposal for a revision of the EU ETS released as a part of the Fit for 55 package
Provisional agreement between co-legislators on the revision of the EU ETS
Commission’s report on the inclusion of negative emissions in the ETS expected
- Should negative emissions be included in the EU ETS? by Eve Tamme
- Review of the EU ETS, European Parliament briefing, 2023
Directive (EU) 2023/959 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 May 2023 amending Directive 2003/87/EC establishing a system for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Union and Decision (EU) 2015/1814 concerning the establishment and operation of a market stability reserve for the Union greenhouse gas emission trading system (Text with EEA relevance)