Questions farmers need to ask about carbon credits

Farmers have been warned not to sell the family silver – in the form of carbon credits – for a quick buck.

While the Scottish Government would be unable to deliver on climate change targets without bringing the farming sector on board, the industry was warned that it needs to engage more with the emerging science, regulations and trading landscape surrounding the growing markets for carbon monitoring and trading.

Speaking at an NFU Scotland webinar on Monday, union president, Martin Kennedy told the 150 farmers who had tuned in that the current UK Government consultation on the issue was of key importance.

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“The three key questions we have to answer in the consultation are – do we need a standardised carbon calculator to validate emissions and sequestration of greenhouse gases; should carbon trading be available to provide and income for farms and crofts; and should the carbon trading market be regulated?”

But he admitted that while the topic was of great importance not only in future policy decisions but also as part of commercial contracts, many in the farming sector had yet to waken up to the issue – despite recent market distortions caused by outside speculation in the market which had resulted in the price of tree plantable land soaring beyond farmers’ pockets

Both Kennedy and the union’s climate change specialist, Kate Hopper, stressed that it was crucial for the industry – and individual businesses – to balance their own credits first before considering selling them to other industries looking to buy their way out of trouble.

Producers were warned that if they did decide to sell credits, this was a long term commitment which could place considerable restraints on how a business could operate in the future and which brought a whole new suite of risks to be managed, such as the effects of storms and fires.

It was admitted that other parts of the supply chain should have an interest in farming reducing it’s carbon footprint rather than simply hi-jacking the efforts which farmers had put into reducing emissions.

And Hopper suggested that in many cases the best way forward would be for producers to work in partnership with others in that chain and to gain additional investment for the use of technologies which would reduce emissions.

While there were also repeated calls for consistency between the many different carbon calculator tools currently available – which could draw widely varying conclusions from the same data-set – Hopper warned that the industry should beware of completely tying itself down as the science was continually developing:

“And we’ve seen this in the speed with which organisations make use of the latest science – and while Government have been slow to change and develop their ideas, the commercial sector has moved much faster.

“Basically we need both standardisation and innovation to ensure that both the way in which we measure carbon emissions and sequestrations reflect the latest science.”

Hopper also called for training and education to be made available to farmers to help them understand some of the complexities underlying the issue

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