Business Clinic: Carbon calculators – where to start?
Whether it’s a legal, tax, insurance, management or land issue, weekly farmersThe experts at can help you.
Sam Hagon, Rural Surveyor at Carter Jonas, suggests how to get started on the carbon count trail.
Q. There is a lot of talk about so-called “carbon calculators”. Should I calculate my carbon and, if so, how should I choose the right calculator?
See also: How do the three main agricultural carbon calculators compare?
A. The government has set targets to achieve net zero carbon by 2050, and the NFU target for net zero agriculture is 2040, so no matter what, we will all have to tackle our carbon emissions greenhouse gases (not just carbon) in the near future.
Farmers and rural landowners are well placed to be able to achieve carbon sequestration (removing carbon from the atmosphere) and, therefore, are in a rather unique position to be able to offset their own carbon.
However, currently there are not many real ways for farmers to earn an income from providing this service, but emerging agricultural policy, together with increased societal awareness of the need to protect the environment, point to a growing market.
This provides an opportunity for business owners (whether that business is focused on food production or diversified revenue streams) to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
It may even become a requirement for certain consumer standards.
Calculation of emissions
On farms, however, it is often emissions of methane and nitrogen oxides that are more important than carbon dioxide, which, combined with the fact that land can act as a sink or source of greenhouse, explains why it is so difficult to calculate the basic information and why there is currently no single calculator.
This is a big problem for farmers because even market leading calculators such as Agrecalc, Cool Farm Tool and Farm Carbon Toolkit will provide different answers for the same farm.
Some companies, such as Carbon Metrics, will suggest the two most relevant tools for your farm and run your farm through both to produce an overall result.
There is talk in the industry of standardizing carbon calculation, but there are few details on what form this will take or, indeed, how likely it will be.
Whether it’s a government-backed tool or just a standard way to measure so that different tools work off the same basic information, we think it would be invaluable.
But what should a farmer do now?
Our suggestion is first to keep all your records as carefully as possible because whatever calculator you use will require a lot of detailed information on fuel and electricity consumption, head of cattle, use of fertilizer, manure, etc.
Therefore, record keeping will be important to help answer questions as easily as possible. Over time, everyone may need to calculate their baseline greenhouse gas emissions.
Indeed, there may be benefits to being able to use your historical information so that you can capture the benefits of any changes you have recently implemented. So keeping good records now can be helpful in the future.
Carbon reduction/sequestration potential
Although farmers have an advantage in being able to sequester carbon on-site, there may be a cost (or in some cases a saving) to the business – but so will other types of business buying compensation elsewhere.
Therefore, it will be very important to have a clear understanding of your baseline position and potential carbon sequestration opportunities for you to reach net zero, in order to identify how many reserve carbon credits it can be on your land.
In this context, you may find that keeping carbon ‘on the farm’ will be the most profitable option in the long run. So, before entering into an agreement with a third-party company, think carefully about the carbon reduction/capture potential you should retain.
By the way, calculating your carbon potential can reveal other environmental opportunities.
Therefore, the sooner you can get an understanding of the basic information the better, but it highlights the need for an industry standard method.
Otherwise, everyone will be comparing ‘carbon calculator apples’ with ‘carbon calculator oranges’, which won’t help anyone achieve the goals needed to fight climate change, nor the credibility of anything we’re told. ask to do.