Industry update - April 2021 - Agrii - Connecting Agri-science with farming

Green Horizons Blog

April 29, 2021

Industry update – April 2021

With the announcement of the Government’s climate target this month of a 78% reduction in emissions by 2035, carbon talk is going to start gaining even more traction across all industries in the UK. The fact that aviation and shipping are included in this is something farmers will be looking at with their eyes wide open for opportunities, as there is only so much reduction to emissions aviation will be able to see by 2035. The short-term option for these sectors is to pay to offset their miles. This poses a huge opportunity for land-owners, with the ability to store and actively sequester this carbon in soils, agroforestry and peatland restoration.

Currently, a UK carbon market seems in the distant future, particularly when we hear of farmers in Australia being paid by Microsoft to offset their emissions. Unfortunately, until we understand how to measure and monetise soil organic carbon (SOC), such a market may not be fully invested in. It goes without saying that companies will only pay for a reliable source of offsets, and farmers will be reluctant to enter a high-risk scheme if the reward isn’t there. One proposal set out in the EU’s technical guidance to their new carbon farming initiative is to reward farmers partly by results (i.e. from carbon audit tools and data), but also partly through actions, to reduce the risk and encourage wider uptake. This is a promising statement set out in these early stages – where considerations are clearly being made of the variability in different carbon tools and loss of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Alongside policy statements, numerous projects are also being launched to develop a validated methodology for accurately measuring carbon sources and sinks. All in all, there seems to be some form of direction under development, and we can expect to see a lot more discussion from industry leaders on this over the next 3 years.

A few of the projects I have come across recently:

  • Agricapture CO2 – Launched in January this year, Agricapture is a 3-year EU Horizon 2020 project across several European countries.
  • The Soil Carbon Project – funded by Agri-tech Cornwall and the Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust, the Farm Carbon Toolkit are working with a number of academic institutions to develop protocols for measuring and valuing soil health.
  • Soil Carbon Capture project – a partner project between First Milk, Nestle and Agricarbon to quantify soil carbon sequestration.

Others which are also looking into achieving net zero include LEAF and Corteva’s resilient and ready programme, and FCCT’s lottery funded net zero project.