Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


SMARTLAW Report Summary

Project ID: 655565
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SMARTLAW (Towards a regulatory framework for climate smart agriculture)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project


Between now and 2050, there will be a sharp increase in the demand of agricultural products due to an increase of the world’s population, the rise in global calorie intake due to greater affluence, and the production of bio-fuels. The increase in agricultural production will be accompanied by an increase in the emission of greenhouse gasses. Climate change negatively affects food production. Policy documents have endorsed climate smart agriculture (CSA) as a means to achieve production growth, while at the same reducing greenhouse gasses emissions and adapting the agricultural sector to the changing climate. However, it is as yet unclear through what legal mechanism CSA can be achieved. The key objective of this project is to identify the main elements of a regulatory framework that enables, facilitates and stimulates the transition of conventional farm practices toward climate friendly practices in the EU. Various methodologies will be used, such as an evaluation of the Australian Carbon Farming Initiative Act, to date the world’s only comprehensive regulatory instrument aimed at facilitating CSA.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

"The adoption of the Paris Agreement just weeks before the start of the project led me to focus on the impacts of the PA on agriculture first. I was invited to be a keynote speaker at ACCEL's conference "The Legal Implications of the Paris Agreement" (Sydney, Feb 2016). An article based on my paper "The Paris Climate Agreement: agriculture and food security" was published as in the European Journal on Risk Regulation.

The next step was to study the Australian Carbon Farming Initiative Act. I found that the CFI Act provides an elaborate legal framework that seems well suited to assess project applications and issue credits to participating farmers who, through these projects, generated real and additional emission reductions. The amendments leading to the creation of the Emission Reductions Fund were an important step forward in reducing uncertainty about the revenue that will be generated through the projects. Other barriers to engaging in CFI projects still exist. In the empirical phase of the project, individual farmers and farmers organisations, government bodies, carbon agents, financial and accountant firms were interviewed and case studies conducted with a view to finding good regulatory practices that facilitate the conversion to CSA. A wealth of information was found. Generally, the data found are conclusive. All 6 reviewers of my article concluded that this is a very important topic and were happy to see the empirical work done. Reviewers wrote: "The subject is compelling, current and engaging", and: "This is a very interesting and topical article, which presents original empirical research findings in relation to an important yet relatively under-explored dimension of climate change governance". Another said: "This will undoubtedly be a 'go to' article for people the world over (especially in Europe) just on the basis of all the information and data contained in it". Climate Law published the article in January 2017.

In June, I presented my findings to stakeholders with around 100 individual farmers, people from agricultural business organisations and financial institutions, non-legal scholars, journalists and a range of people from various businesses in Sydney. There was much enthusiasm about my presentation, and people generally acknowledged my findings and found that here is a imminent need to roll out climate smart agriculture on a much wider scale across Australia and in the rest of the world. Academic seminars took place as well, at University of Tasmania (July), the University of Technology Sydney's Institute for Sustainable Futures (Oct), the University of Sydney (Oct), and the University of New South Wales (Oct), the latter two in connection to Global Climate Change Week. I used these seminars to verify the validity of my findings and to disseminate my findings.

As of August, I looked into possible trade law constraints on domestic policies aimed at stimulating climate smart agriculture. Since the food and fiber market is a competitive global market, instruments aimed at stimulating climate smart agriculture will impact on international trade. I worked on an article that reviews the boundaries international trade law imposes on domestic and regional instruments aimed at stimulating climate smart agriculture, such as subsidies and tradeable offsets under a carbon pricing mechanism. This article was accepted by Carbon and Climate Law Review in November."

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The experiences in Australia form a reliable basis for recommendations to policymakers and regulators from around the world, including the EU, who wish to develop a regulatory framework aimed at stimulating farmers to convert to farming practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or even to broader climate smart practices. Following lessons can be drawn:

1. A policy aimed at stimulating CSA has to be reliable and provide certainty for at least 10-20 years. The policy environment, as well as the agribusiness’ financial environment, have to accommodate such long term impacts. This, for instance, requires that carbon credits will earn an acceptable minimum price.
2. A policy that has a wider focus on adaptation, food security, resilient and sustainable farm businesses and securing and creating jobs in the agribusiness sector, is likely to be more successful than one that only focuses on reducing emissions from agriculture.
3. Developing climate smart methodologies that not only deliver real, additional, measurable and verifiable emission reductions but also foster long term innovation and create economic, social and environmental co-benefits is essential for the success of any policy aimed at stimulating CSA. International collaboration in method development is important for efficiency reasons. When developing methods, special attention has to be paid to small farms.
4. Regulation has to focus on projects and cannot set uniform rules or simply require farmers to hand in allowances under an ETS. Given the fact that potentially large numbers of farmers should be able to participate, much attention has to be focused on developing automated systems for all phases of the process: from project application to monitoring, reporting and verification. Project development according to accepted methods needs to be guided by experts.
5. Having a robust and reliable MRV system in place is essential. Other than in most industries, in agriculture, MRV is very site specific and can be labour intensive. Research is needed to develop reliable and less labour intensive methods to assess the amount emission reductions achieved or of carbon sequestered.

The review of the international frameworks for domestic climate smart agriculture policies finds that UNFCCC unfortunately does not provide a powerful stimulus to adopt and implement climate smart agriculture policies. The Paris Agreement offers the opportunity to unilaterally adopt climate smart agriculture policies and laws. International trade law sets boundaries for the most common domestic and regional instruments aimed at stimulating climate smart agriculture: subsidies, and offset schemes under a carbon pricing mechanism, especially the Agreement on Agriculture and the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.More room for manoeuvre for domestic policymakers is needed.

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