Carbon credits, commonly termed as carbon offsets, have become a (pun intended) hot topic in the global movement against climate change. In theory, each represents a tangible reduction or removal of greenhouse gas emissions, equating to one ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent. Beyond their ecological implications, these credits also emerge as tradable financial assets, as enterprises, financial institutions, and individuals can pay to support these greenhouse gas emissions reductions or removals in order to compensate for their own emissions.
The Certification Process
Before entering the market, each carbon credit needs to undergo a stringent validation process. This certification confirms the authenticity of emission reductions - that each reduction is additional, permanent, robustly quantified and measured, and not double-counted (see details on guidelines here). Such a process involves thorough evaluations, third-party endorsements, and adherence to global standards. Bodies like the Gold Standard and Verra's Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) are seen as industry standard for carbon credit verification. With recently disputed revelations suggesting that over 90% of Verra’s rainforest carbon offsets were ineffective “phantom credits,” the need for a verifiable, detailed program of record on emissions reductions and removals has never been more important.
What's in Store for Farmers?
With significant certifiers under scrutiny and corporations far removed from genuine emission reductions claiming benefits through carbon offsets, where do farmers stand? An emerging solution is carbon insetting. This entails financing climate projects within one's value chain, fostering tangible emission cuts. In carbon insetting, brands need to coordinate efforts and support the farmers within their supply chain, instead of outside of their supply chain. Because these farms are within their supplier base and ecosystem, carbon insetting streamlines monitoring and verification to ensure the integrity of claimed credits.
The Farmer's Lens
Agriculture, notably cattle farming, bears a notable carbon burden. One cow emits approximately 220 pounds of methane annually. In perspective, a dairy farm with 100 cows generates emissions equivalent to 280 tonnes of CO2 each year. Yet, there's a silver lining. Cattle farms can capitalize on innovative emission-reduction opportunities, such as those discussed in this general technology overview or in these Silvopasture and Solar Energy deep dives. By cutting methane emissions by 20%, the farm mentioned could claim 56 Carbon Credits annually.
Governed by a plethora of factors from global accords to technological strides, these credits exhibit dynamic pricing. Some credits in the agricultural realm in the U.S. command prices exceeding $40. To our farm, that would mean an annual profit of US$2,240 (56 credits x $40 per credit). Because prices can be dynamic and different actors have varying willingness to pay, understand your range of options with a 3rd party to ensure you’re getting the best deal and terms for your work.
Farmer Considerations and Tactical Steps
For farmers, maximizing benefits means selecting the most suitable project, identifying reliable certification partners, and understanding the true value of your credits. Brands face the challenge of encouraging their farmer network toward emission reductions, picking trustworthy certification partners, and ensuring that credit claims remain within the supply chain, rather than claimed by companies in other industries (e.g., airlines). If you need help navigating these decisions connect with us. We're here to guide you towards the most beneficial on-farm emission reduction ventures tailored to your needs.
Situated at the crossroads of environmental responsibility and commerce, carbon credits present significant potential in amplifying sustainability when proven to be high quality with the needed, detailed data. By affixing a monetary worth to green initiatives, these credits offer dual incentives: financial prosperity and the health of our planet. Within the food industry, there’s a win-win opportunity: when a brand announces commitments to reduce their emissions, they can actually achieve those reductions or removals within their value chain, rather than neutralizing them by paying for it elsewhere. In turn, farmers can be compensated with a new revenue stream for their work that improves their operations and reduces their emissions simultaneously. Both producers and food brands stand to reap these rewards.
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