What is a carbon audit?

The farming press is full of new and views on the drive for agriculture to achieve Net Zero status by 2040. And there is much talk that in order to do this, farms will need to undertake a carbon audit; but what actually IS a carbon audit?

Well, put simply, it is an assessment of the emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) produced by each enterprise within a farm business and where possible looks at the sources of sequestration within the business. Currently, it is likely that many business will be net emitters of CO2e (more emissions produced than sequestration).

As a result, businesses will need to look at the areas of CO2e emitted from the business and address ways that these can be reduced, as well as looking at the sources of sequestration available and how these can be enhanced.

Where do the figures come from?

Agrecalc conforms to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agreed values. These are global standards, but are presented in different Tiers as the science evolves. Tier 1 calculations for example, will provide a lower level of accuracy than Tier 2. It also conforms to PAS 2050:11 supply chain standards for assessing greenhouse gas emissions.

Why do a carbon audit if there are gaps?

When looking at an audit, there are two considerations; what can you control NOW, and what will you need to plan for. Soil carbon sequestration will definitely be a long term strategy and starting to look now at ways to build carbon in the next 5-10 years+ will be a positive move.

There are also the immediate positives. By undertaking an audit and seeing where emissions are present within the business now, it will be possible to look at ways that these emissions can be controlled and/or reduced.

This might be through management changes or investment in new technologies, but ultimately this part of an assessment can result in immediate actions to consider, and have a positive impact right from the start.

By undertaking an audit and seeing where emissions are present within the business now, it will be possible to look at ways that these emissions can be controlled and/or reduced.

What’s in it for you?

In the short term, improved carbon management should go hand with profitability, and so looking at emissions present and addressing ways to reduce them could help to improve the profitability of enterprises at a time when farming subsidies start to reduce.

Given that the entire country will need to reach Net Zero by 2050, not just agriculture, carbon will likely play a role in future funding streams, with Greenhouse Gas Mitigation mentioned as a theme within the Environmental Land Management Scheme. Understanding your carbon footprint through an audit could open the door to funding from 2024 when ELMs opens.

But what of the long term?

Whilst Net Zero is the current goal, this simply means that the annual emissions are balanced by sequestration to leave the business in balance i.e. Net Zero. If a plan can be implemented to build more sequestration than emissions, the business would be carbon NEGATIVE. We need a verified code for soil in order to achieve this, which is currently being designed, but as building soil carbon could be a long term project, it is better to start now to be in a position to look at the carbon markets in future

Funding available for carbon audits

Funded baseline carbon assessments and carbon management plans are available through Carbon for Farming from SAC Consulting, one of 19 projects funded through the DEFRA Future Farming Resilience programme (FFR).

FFR funded projects are open to farming businesses in England with an eligible SBI number. Businesses can only take part in one of the 19 FFR projects. Once you have selected your preferred project, you will not be able to transfer to a different FFR project.

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