21 July 2021
Environment Agency grant kickstarts Soil Carbon Code Creation
A CONSORTIUM of farmers, academics, technology businesses and NGOs led by Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South-West (FWAG) has been awarded a grant under the Environment Agency’s Investment Readiness Fund to develop and pilot a UK Farm Soil Carbon Code.
The project will fill critical knowledge gaps needed to enable the responsible scaling of agricultural carbon investments. It is estimated that this could unlock up to £500m annual revenues by 2030 for farmers and other landowners for adopting regenerative practices that lock up carbon from the atmosphere in agricultural soils. The project has four elements:
• Systematic review research into the soil carbon benefits of regenerative agriculture techniques
• An evaluation of existing soil carbon market protocols, to see how suitable they are for use in UK farms
• The creation and piloting of a framework UK Farm Soil Carbon Code to make sure projects have robust protocols to measure, report and verify carbon removals, ensure farmers receive a stable and secure income from carbon markets, even when projects go wrong, and protect investor against double counting or reversal of benefits
• A demonstration of the commercialisation of soil carbon sequestration through a pilot application of the Code to herbal leys over 100s of hectares of land in a Gloucestershire pilot
In response to the grant announcement, FWAG Glos Team Leader, FWAG, Jenny Phelps MBE said: “Farmers are keen to be part of developing the integrity around the standards and verification of a Soil Farm Carbon Code, and as a farmer led charity, FWAG is proud to represent farmers that care about the environment. Many are confused by multiple funding streams and daily offers for carbon and other trading from farmed land through transition, but keen to help and act on climate emergencies.
“We are delighted to receive this support from the Environment Agency to develop the UK Soil Farm Carbon Code’ and we aim to put farmers at the heart of developing the integrity of the code so that this opportunity can be realised and de-risked for farmers so that they can have confidence in the developing carbon markets. We also welcome all partners in this important piece of work.”
Matthew Orman, Director of the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA) said: “The last year has seen an explosion of interest among farmers and investors in a market-place for soil carbon, and a number of schemes paying farmers to sequester carbon are already up and running.
“A soil carbon code designed specifically for the UK, is needed for this market-place to grow and thrive – balancing the need for credible, robust carbon storage and sequestration calculation with a flexible approach to reflect rapidly evolving innovation and government policy and subsidy schemes, and the successful alignment of public and private investment in soil health.”
Annie Leeson, Co-Founder & Director, Agricarbon said: "The code will set a common standard for ‘what good looks like’ for sustainable farming and land management businesses aiming to monetise carbon reductions and soil carbon capture and storage. Combined with high integrity measurement of soil carbon, the code will ensure a solid, evidence-based foundation underpins agricultural participation in emerging carbon markets and incentive schemes."
An expert consortium will draft the code, including Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the University of Leeds. Mark Reed, Professor of Rural Entrepreneurship at SRUC, said:
"There is evidence that a number of regenerative farming practices can lock up carbon from the atmosphere in soil, helping tackle climate change. While a number of companies are already offering carbon contracts to farmers, there is currently no standard against which claims can be verified and investors cannot make carbon offsetting or insetting claims based on the certificates that are generated. Although standards exist in the international voluntary carbon market, they are not well adapted to the size of farms in the UK and are prohibitively expensive. The UK Farm Soil Carbon Code will be the third national carbon market in the UK, joining ranks with the Woodland Carbon Code and the Peatland Code."
A range of industry stakeholder groups will be engaged in a consultation process to secure feedback and advocacy, and a central access point for sharing this project’s findings and allow contributions from outside the organisations will be hosted by the SSA.