FUW President discusses carbon calculators
The UK government is currently carrying out consultations on the new UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), seeking feedback on the role of agricultural carbon calculators and how a national tool could be implemented, writes FUW President Glyn Roberts
The consultation will be discussed at our departmental executive meetings before the June 17 deadline.
FUW has always called for carbon calculators to be standardized, both to create a level playing field within the industry and to reduce the variability of results resulting from the use of different calculators.
So how could they be used as a “carrot” to benefit farmers?
First, thanks to public funding.
We expect to see the first draft of the Welsh Government’s new ‘Sustainable Agriculture Scheme’ in June.
The funding available will be tied to on-farm actions to decarbonize, increase carbon sequestration and provide agricultural data from carbon calculators.
Second, the supply chain is looking for low-carbon producers who could give farms a competitive advantage.
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Third, data from carbon calculators also gives us the opportunity to show off our credentials, giving us a positive narrative about agriculture, whether it’s removing CO2 from the atmosphere through soils and forests, or showing how we have reduced emissions.
Fourth, agricultural input efficiency and carbon efficiency go hand in hand, which means that calculators could help us identify cost savings and improve productive efficiency.
“Feed, fuel and fertilizer” are key parts of a calculator, and with the prices we are experiencing, most farmers will be looking to improve the efficiency of these inputs.
Finally, while should be approached with caution, calculators could also identify potential revenue areas from carbon sequestration, such as the sale of carbon credits through the Woodland Carbon Code or through soil carbon programs.
But let’s not forget that the Welsh Government already collects a great deal of information from farmers that can be used to provide proxies for many measurements of agricultural carbon emissions and sequestration.
As this is already done through a single portal – RPW online – we have the opportunity to improve this in a way that maximizes uniformity or standardisation, and rewards farmers for providing this data – such as the Welsh Farmers Unions have always supported him.
So what if agriculture ends up being brought into the ETS in the future, alongside industries such as aviation and electricity?
An ETS essentially puts a limit and price on emissions, or a “carbon tax” if legally binding targets are not met – which is a very precise stick, as opposed to carrot.
We can also expect downward pressure from the supply chain as they will have to report to the government on the carbon footprint of their suppliers.
These audits often do not include sequestration figures.
Free trade agreements could also allow imported products with much lower standards and much higher carbon emissions to enter the UK, while expecting Welsh producers to compete with the said products.
There are also fears that the UK ETS has the ability to increase offsetting by encouraging other industries to invest in carbon removal through woodlands or peatlands.
FUW argued that Welsh farmland must not become a dumping ground for other industries seeking to offset their emissions – reducing emissions must be the priority.
Few other industries embrace carbon auditing like agriculture, or manage huge existing carbon stores like soils under permanent pasture.
However, we must not allow tunnel vision of the carbon eclipse of agriculture’s other roles in managing the countryside, enhancing biodiversity, contributing to the rural economy and our beloved rural communities. .
Oh and feed everyone of course. This little job.