From mid-February onwards, the Coronavirus and its consequences have been in the center of global attention. This sad story surprised us all as the number of cases and victims is still growing globally. Wherever possible, people shifted to digital meetings, trainings, and other professional interactions l, pushing the development towards urgently required digital tools.
Nonetheless, climate change is still ongoing resulting in present and more future victims, and the related risks do not disappear. Desperately needed solutions are being developed, also more and more in a digital format in order to achieve impact at scale, for example Solidaridad and Soil & More.
The Biofach fair still took place right before the pandemic reached critical levels in Europe, showing some interesting developments. In our last blog, we suggested that carbon farming and regenerative agriculture could be part of the solution to the climate crisis. During this year’s Biofach, these solutions were highly requested. Biodiversity, True Cost Accounting (TCA) and hands-on on-site consulting were hot topics as well.
Thanks to the growing public awareness, business clients seem to pay a lot more attention to carbon footprinting and climate neutrality. This often includes interest in compensating emissions via carbon farming. Additionally, more and more initiatives on carbon farming are forming, as was noticeable during the North Sea region carbon farming workshop on March 5th in Hamburg.
But how does carbon farming work?
Carbon farming is the generation of carbon credits by sequestering carbon in soil and woody perennial biomass through sustainable agriculture and agroforestry. It can also include the reduction of emissions through sustainable farming. The co-benefits are often a better soil structure, erosion control, more resilience and less dependency on agrochemicals.
There are two principal elements in carbon farming. On the one hand it is the principle of additionality. For generating carbon credits, the chosen activities must not have occurred anyway (e.g. by law, by economic reasoning or by wide adoption). This might be partly contradictory to the above-mentioned co-benefits. However, given that most farmers know about these co-benefits but cannot afford to implement them or lack knowledge about how to do, it does not present a severe conflict.
The second aspect is permanence. Carbon farming should preferably have a long-term focus, i.e. continuing the sustainable activities as long as possible. In established carbon standard projects as A/R (afforestation/reforestation), permanence means at least 30-50 years. In carbon farming, however, there are no standards yet and the concept is new to both farmers and buyers of carbon credits. Therefore, currently projects focus on a time scale of 5 to 25 years. Farmers may hesitate to commit themselves to very long periods due to lacking planning security with leased land or changing agricultural policies. But perhaps, in the future the permanence of such projects could increase, once carbon farming is more established globally while embedded in favorable policy environments.
Carbon farming can be a viable method to mitigate the risks of climate change. However, there are risks associated with underperformance and permanence as well, such as the risk of failing to sequester carbon at the projected level due to economic issues or catastrophic incidents. Also, carbon may be released back into the atmosphere from the soil and biomass if the practices put in place as part of the project are discontinued in the future. Therefore, credit buffers exist to cover such risks. Several elements of carbon farming projects have to be developed further, especially for industrialized countries. Nowadays, more carbon farming methodologies are being developed carefully. For example, Soil & More Impacts is working with partners like MyClimate to develop a sound methodology monitored by digital solutions which can be applied at scale. Talk to us to find out more.