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For the first time, we have credible private market mechanisms that have the potential to offer farmers around the world reliable, durable revenue streams for the ecosystem services that they provide. In agriculture, this has started with payments for emission reductions within the agri-food value chain, as well as for removals (by capturing and storing carbon in farmland soils) paid for by companies beyond the chain looking to offset their unavoidable emissions.
As these voluntary programs start to mature, we need to look at the factors which will determine if and whether they can be scaled both domestically and internationally. Robust standards, underpinned by high-quality science, are an essential part of building a credible market. Global registries, such as Verra, will have a leading role to play in developing and upholding these standards in ways that command the trust and confidence of both buyers and sellers and, in this case, the farmers, as well as society at large. In some jurisdictions, such as the European Union, the voluntary approach may also be overlaid with regulation designed to provide an additional layer of confidence in the system. But, as with all regulatory interventions, this will need to be carefully balanced to ensure that market mechanisms are not unnecessarily stifled or constrained.
As important as the need for robust standards is, engaging farmers and land managers will be absolutely central to the effort to abate emissions and capture and store carbon in farmland soils. Indeed, without them, there is no pathway to achieve the goal of unlocking agriculture’s role in mastering the climate crisis. But for farmers and land managers to engage in these programs—and adopt the necessary farm practice changes—they must have confidence in the sustainability of the system, be supported through the transition, and, above all else, be sure that it makes long-term agronomic and economic sense. This is as true for a small-holder farmer in Tanzania as it is for a large landowner in East Anglia in the United Kingdom.
In this episode, we discuss with the European Landowners Organization’s Jurgen Tack and Verra’s Candace Vinke exactly what they believe it will take to develop the voluntary market for emission reductions and carbon removals in agriculture, why they are excited by the opportunity, and hear their thoughts on how fast we are and will need to move to succeed.