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Agriculture has the potential to help stabilise our climate

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

Agriculture is critical to sustaining the world’s population; it is essential to feed, clothe and employ people. By incentivising and supporting agriculture to leverage soils as a carbon sink, the agricultural industry could play a significant role in stabilising our planet’s changing climate. Corporates in industries other than agriculture can help to accelerate this movement by including voluntary carbon credits from carbon farming projects as part of their sustainability strategies.

Image source: Our World Data.

Leveraging agricultural land as a carbon sink

Carbon sinks are natural or artificial systems that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The most common carbon sinks include oceans, forests and soil. Carbon sinks are important because they slow down the rate of climate change by removing greenhouse gases from the air; thereby helping to reduce the amount of CO₂ in our atmosphere. Given the high percentage of land used for agriculture globally, there is significant potential for the industry to become part of the solution to our climate crisis. This is why we’re passionate about agricultural soil and think you should be too.

Image: Carbon cycle diagrammatic representation.

The role of carbon farming

Carbon farming refers to land management techniques that encourage the capture, sequestration, and storage of carbon in soil. The adoption of carbon farming practices has been shown to increase the amount of carbon that is sequestered, amplifying the ability of soil to serve as a carbon sink and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our atmosphere. In addition to this wide-scale environmental benefit, carbon farming can be used as a climate change adaptation strategy by agricultural landholders because soils with higher carbon density are healthier. Healthy soil is resilient soil and building farm resilience is critical in helping farms to better withstand drought, flooding, and other extreme weather events caused by climate change. Additionally, carbon farming practices can also lead to increased crop productivity and reduce reliance on expensive farm inputs such as fertiliser and irrigated water.

Why aren’t all landholders applying carbon farming methodologies?

Many are and we give credit where it's due to the agricultural landholders who have already embraced carbon farming and related regenerative and sustainable land management practices. Unfortunately, not all landholders are aware, have the financial means, or are inclined to embrace the changes required to implement carbon farming practices on their land without being supported and encouraged to do so. This is inhibiting the potential of the farms and grazing lands that help sustain us to also play a role in addressing the climate crisis.

How your company can support farmers to take climate action

Carbon farming is emerging as a distinct industry and there has been growing public and private investment in research and development. However, awareness is still low, and investment is well below where it needs to be to achieve critical mass adoption.

To achieve scale fast, the industry needs the support of corporates from outside the industry to drive the adoption of these methodologies by agricultural landholders and to help eliminate the barriers that prohibit them from doing so.

One-way companies can do this is by incorporating high integrity voluntary carbon credits issued for carbon farming projects into their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) strategy.

Let’s be clear, we are not advocating for corporates to ‘pass the buck’ on their environmental responsibilities. We applaud and encourage companies and all organisations who are taking action to reduce and mitigate carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions from their own operations and their supply chain.

However, as pragmatists with extensive experience in sustainability and carbon accounting, we also acknowledge that the journey towards achieving genuine net zero is more challenging for some industries and organisations than others.

For this reason, we believe in the role of voluntary carbon credits as a mutually beneficial mechanism to simultaneously enable organisations to offset the emissions they haven’t been able to eradicate (yet) and drive investment in carbon projects which make a measurable impact on climate change, now.

Whatsmore, we’d like to challenge organisations to consider utilising voluntary carbon credits to move beyond compensational pledges (e.g., ‘net zero’ and ‘climate neutral’) and make contributional (i.e. ‘beyond net zero’) pledges to help drive climate action outside of their immediate organisational footprint.

Integrity matters – not all carbon credits and carbon projects are equal

No doubt you’ve seen disparaging articles and commentary about carbon projects and carbon credits. We’ve seen them too and acknowledge that there is room for improvement in carbon markets and methodologies used to measure carbon credits.

Being accused of greenwashing is a reputational nightmare for companies and soon – thanks to incoming obligations associated with the recently established International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) – companies will face financial penalties for misrepresenting their environmental credentials irrespective of whether it was intentional or not. The penalties around this are serious but so is climate change so it’s a development we are pleased to see.

It does mean however that it is now more important than ever for companies to be confident that the investment they’re directing toward carbon projects is driving real, measurable, and verifiable climate action.

As climate action methodology developers, restoring confidence and trust in the role of voluntary carbon credits is important to us and we invite you to read up on our high integrity, evidence-based Climate Action Digital Receipts (CADRs) which are aligned to these emerging standards. CADRs are a new type of proprietary voluntary carbon credit issued for CarbonPump’s Carbon Farming projects which are issued to agricultural landholders retrospectively for verified and completed climate action i.e., only after the farmer has made changes to their land management practices and we’ve been able to measure and verify the amount of carbon that has been sequestered.

We all know that embracing change can be difficult and in the case of carbon farming, it can also be expensive. Through the attribution of value to soil carbon as a farm asset in the form of CADRs, agricultural landholders can have their climate action efforts recognised and rewarded.

And in addition to confidence of judicial compliance, when companies like yours buy high integrity voluntary carbon credits (such as CADRs), you can feel good knowing that your company’s investment is directly supporting farmers to maximise the potential of their land to serve as a carbon sink which benefits us all.

If you’d like to learn more

Here are a few recommended reads if you’re keen to learn more about the potential of the agricultural industry to play a significant part in the solution to our climate crisis:

And last but not least, this speech by ASIC’s Deputy Chair Karen Chester (25 Oct 2022) provides insight into the changing ESG landscape


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