As the effects of climate breakdown take hold, policy-makers, companies & corporations across the globe are ramping up their efforts to reach their climate pledges. Increasingly, this has taken the shape of participation in the carbon trading market. But with demand for high-quality credits outstripping the supply, we need to refocus our attention on new solutions – particularly nature-based ones.
Interest in high-quality carbon credits from regenerative agriculture is growing exponentially. But with little transparency, little reward for land stewards & a wild west market, some questions remain unanswered.
FRoSTA AG is one of Europe’s largest frozen food manufacturers. Their mission is straightforward: utilise the power of innovation to produce high quality agricultural products.
As a food producing company, the future of FRoSTA AG lies in the hands of our soils. Without sustainable soils, there’s no durable food production.
To ensure the company can continue producing food for years to come, FRoSTA AG is pioneering cutting-edge techniques that limit their impact on our planet. From sustainable packaging, CO2 product calculations, participation in BioVal – a research project incorporating biodiversity into management tools, & an emission-reduction fleet strategy, the company is actively integrating sustainability through every aspect of their production chain – and indeed, their employees.
“Sustainability isn’t a new trend at FRoSTA AG – it’s in the DNA of our employees and carried continuously through the company’s strategy.”
Despite FRoSTA AG making massive strides towards a sustainable future, challenges remain. They operate using the motto measure, reduce, then compensate. Reduction targets have priority, but as is the case with many companies, unavoidable emissions remain entangled in their value web. Hence, carbon credits are utilised to offset what cannot (yet) be reduced.
“We carry responsibility for our own conduct in the ‘polluter pays’ principle. That’s why, for us,
the voluntary carbon market can play a fundamental role in shifting to a carbon-neutral economy.”
Current challenges associated with climate breakdown, rapidly deteriorating soils & our continued use of fossil fuels have culminated in a perfect storm of factors having a not-so-perfect impact on food production.
According to Helene, we need to increase global food production by around 50% without using more land while rapidly reducing our emissions.
REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE AS A SOLUTION
As the global demand for agricultural commodities increases, we need to increase production while simultaneously reducing our emissions. For Helene, regenerative agriculture offers one of the promising solutions to this seemingly dichotomous situation.
Land management is amongst the largest contributors to climate breakdown, yet agriculture is one of the few sectors that can transform from a net-emitter of CO2 to a net sequester. Through regenerative management, the EU reports soil organic carbon sequestration in European croplands could store between 9 – 70 megatons CO2/eq per year.
Its carbon sequestration capacity is equally extensive as it is impressive – but the benefits of regenerative agriculture
go far beyond carbon. From flood and drought prevention, ecosystem regeneration and biodiversity restoration, its wider environmental transformations are manifold. For Helene, these co-benefits attest to regenerative agriculture’s phenomenal potential.
“As opposed to regular offsets, ecosystem co-benefits showcase vast climate leadership — there’s a lot of potential in that area.”
Regenerative management not only provides a viable course of action in our pursuit of net-zero, but also a crucial solution in mitigating wider effects of climate breakdown.
If we deployed all the big-tech carbon removal solutions at the speed & scale that’s required to combat climate change, we would still be left with floods, droughts, soil erosion and desertification — to name a few. Through regenerative agriculture, we can bridge this gap & restore ecosystems from the ground up.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED?
Despite the exponential potential of regenerative agriculture in the mighty realm of carbon offsetting, the market’s not quite where it needs to be. With a lack of trust, transparency & rigour, changes are needed to make regenerative carbon credits a viable force of transformation.
We need top-quality credits rather than a market fixed on racing to the bottom – so what needs to be addressed to make this a widespread reality?
Methodology, measurability & long-term viability
To ensure carbon credits from regenerative agriculture are of the highest quality, Helene asserts we need rigorous methodologies, careful measuring & long-term viability.
There’s a lot of momentum behind carbon farming – but currently, the method for measuring, reporting and verifying credits is diverse and unregulated. As a result, there’s no level playing field for farmers or protocols to follow.
On account of this, Helene believes there remains a need to develop grounded, corroborated & objective methodologies that warrant the highest accuracy. From there, evidence of sequestration is pivotal – models to compare, quantify, validate and verify, not just for a few years, but in the best-case scenario, forever.
“What we’re looking for in carbon credits is the sustainable aspect – that it’s not just implemented for a few years, but it’s long term – forever – with a backed up, corroborated, well-founded, and comparable methodology.”
Education & permanence
What needs to be addressed, then, is the social element. One of the issues addressed by Helene was the permanence of carbon vis-à-vis regenerative management. The human stakeholder is a fundamental component ensuring carbon is stored for an extensive period.
We can’t force land stewards to implement regenerative agriculture for 100 years, but we can transform the social system, so farmers are aware of the myriad of co-benefits beyond carbon. For Helene, this is where education plays a key role.
“It’s crucial we raise awareness through education for farmers – but also society. We should be encouraging adaptability, innovation & entrepreneurship so farmers are aware of how to implement practices effectively & ideally leading to long-term commitment beyond any carbon credit payments.”
On the company level, Helene believes it’s imperative we adhere to the highest level of scientific rigour to avoid
double-counting, phantom credits & greenwashing.
“Carbon sequestration shouldn’t lead to any increased greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere. I see some gaps for greenwashing via companies trying to grab quick results, but this does nothing for climate protection.”
You can’t buy poor quality carbon credits in exchange for a clear conscience.
Companies actively involved in the carbon market should corroborate claims with evidence, environmental reporting, statistics & sustainability agendas. Transparency is vital throughout the entire process to ensure investment doesn’t do more harm than good for our planet.
A lot still needs to change in the realm of regenerative carbon credits – but the challenges addressed by Helene are within reach of transformation. When we start addressing these limitations, we can incentivise the large-scale uptake of regenerative agriculture & make genuine progress in the right direction.