20 Jan 2021, 13:29
Kerstine Appunn

German agriculture ministry wants EU carbon border tax for farming imports

Clean Energy Wire

Germany’s agriculture ministry is pushing for a carbon adjustment mechanism at EU borders to ensure that climate action in the bloc’s farming sector doesn’t endanger farmers’ livelihoods and cause carbon leakage. Germany can only achieve so much in trying to decarbonise its agriculture sector because its farmers are facing international competition, state secretary in the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BMEL) Beate Kasch said at an event on Tuesday during the agricultural trade fair International Green Week, held digitally in Berlin. The agriculture ministry was investing billions of euros to run pilot schemes on CO2 storage in humus layers and by re-wetting moorlands – “but this has to go hand in hand with a carbon border adjustment”, she added. It’s not a good development if the EU has a healthy and climate friendly agriculture sector but consumer habits remain the same and are met by cheap imports, she said.

Patrick Graichen, Director of think tank Agora Energiewende* said at the same event that for Europe and Germany to reach climate neutrality by 2050, the farming sector had to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as it can, even if a reduction to zero was not possible. “For these unavoidable emissions we have carbon capture and storage (CCS) but people will only accept its use if the sector can say ‘we have done everything else possible’,” he said. Graichen said reducing emissions from animal husbandry was “certainly the biggest lever” and could be achieved by introducing more animal welfare to begin with. The BMEL’s Beate Kasch said there had to be a reward for farmers for more animal friendly husbandry as long as there isn’t a carbon border adjustment mechanism for animal products in place. Graichen agreed that the EU should introduce such an instrument.

He said after introducing a price on carbon in the heating and transport sectors, the next step was to add the remaining sectors including agriculture. While pricing carbon in the forestry sector was relatively easy to achieve, including soils whose greenhouse gas content is hard to measure, was more difficult, he explained. Christian Holzleitner, Head of Unit Land Use and Finance for Innovation at the EU Commission Directorate-General for Climate Action, said the EU was currently running pilot projects to see if and how the farming sector could be included in a CO2 pricing scheme as of 2030.

Emissions from animal husbandry, manure and land-use (soils) in the German farming sector have not been significantly reduced over the past decade, as farmers struggle with low prices for their products and consumers in Germany have been slow to embrace a less meat-heavy diet. By 2030, the sector has to achieve a 35.6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (by 2019 it had made a 24.4% cut) over 1990.

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