Carbon insetting encourages farmers to address their own emissions first

WRITING on the Agrecalc website, Dr Rachael Ramsey says that she believes carbon insetting “holds immense potential, particularly in the context of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.”

Carbon offsetting allows farmers to sell fungible units linked to reduced or avoided emissions. These carbon credits are usually sold to companies outside of their value chain that wish to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Carbon insetting, on the other hand,” says Dr Ramsey, “is an alternative method that entails directly addressing emissions within the industry or supply chain responsible.

“In the case of agriculture, this means acknowledging and reducing the carbon emissions associated with farming practices, food production, and related activities within your own business and value chain.”

Dr Ramsey, who is Head of Science at Agrecalc, reminds us that agriculture is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Although the way that GHGs are measured can vary, it can be argued that the agricultural sector is responsible for about a quarter of GHG emissions.

While carbon offsets and carbon credits are commonly discussed and increasingly commonly traded, a carbon insetting approach allows an individual farmer or company to make changes that avoid or remove carbon emissions within their own business e.g. by planting trees on their own farm (operational change).

Dr Ramsey says that “A key advantage of carbon insetting is its ability to create localised impact and benefits, beyond carbon reduction. By investing in sustainable farming methods that are aligned with carbon-insetting, including precision agriculture and regenerative practices, agricultural businesses can effectively reduce their carbon footprint whilst creating multiple co-benefits such as increased resilience, improved yields and long-term profitability.

“Furthermore, carbon insetting initiatives can strengthen local communities by creating new job opportunities and supporting rural economies.”

There are several ways to implement carbon insetting in a farming business such as implementing regenerative agricultural management practices such as no-till, conservation tillage, diversity in rotations, cover cropping, multi-species swards, managed grazing and agroforestry. Other practices can include increased use of renewable energy, reforestation and precision agriculture – all of which can contribute to a lowered carbon footprint.

Dr Ramsey says that “In the implementation of these measures, it is important to remember to monitor and manage your GHG emissions footprint and the impact that these practices may create.

“These changes in agricultural practice can also yield multiple co-benefits beyond GHG emission reduction. These can include better soil water storage and infiltration, enhanced soil structure, increased soil carbon sequestration and soil health, increased biodiversity, better animal and crop performance and greater farm ecosystem security. In summary, increased adaption and resilience to both climate change and other external system “shocks”, such as changes in market conditions.”

Dr Ramsey concludes that “While carbon offsetting has its merits, to reach net-zero, a joint emissions removal and emission reduction strategy is crucial. By utilising a carbon insetting approach, and concentrating on reducing emissions directly within the agricultural sector, we can create a more sustainable and resilient farming industry. Additionally, by investing in sustainable agricultural practices, not only do we reduce carbon emissions, but also drive positive environmental and social change.”

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