Farmers must be rewarded for all carbon their holdings sequester and payments cannot be limited to volumes of greenhouse gas captured as a result of ‘new’ actions they undertake.

Reacting to moves in Brussels that could potentially see farmers rewarded for carbon capture, John Hourigan of the Carbon Removals Action Group (CRAG) said any such initiative must be fair to farmers.

Hourigan expressed his disappointment that the current European Parliament proposals only rewarded farmers for the additional carbon their holdings could potentially sequester in the future, where landowners implemented given actions.

He claimed that payments to farmers should be based on each farm’s net figure for emissions – a holding’s entire emissions less its total removals.

He described the absence of any reference to “net emissions” in the recent EU proposals as “worrying, but not surprising”.

“The truth is the authorities in Brussels and Dublin have no intention of acknowledging the carbon we [farmers] are already removing,” Hourigan maintained.

“The carbon we have always been removing doesn’t count – although it does in Northern Ireland – because we have always been doing it. What the authorities want are new removals.

“In contrast, the emissions we have always been emitting do count; and we will be punished for them. This is the very Orwellian double-think that farmers are faced with,” he said.

New carbon farming proposals, which were passed by the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee last week, will see a framework put in place for the certification of carbon storage on farms and establish a carbon trading system.

Farmers who undertake actions such as planting hedgerows, rewetting peatlands or creating wildlife habitats, will be eligible to have these actions certified.