Farms are unique in their ability to transition from a ‘carbon emitter’, through ‘net-zero’, to creating a positive impact on CO2 emissions and the climate emergency.
No other sector has the same potential to do this, and it offers farmers new income opportunities, through carbon offsets, nutrient trading, flood protection and biodiversity credits.
However, up until now, it has been incredibly hard for farmers to access reliable information and funding in this new market to implement these ‘natural capital’ approaches and realise the new revenue and environmental benefits.
The Natural Capital Marketplace (NCM), launched this month across Devon, seeks to change that and make it easy for farmers and landowners to plan, implement and benefit from these opportunities, like tree planting, peatland restoration, habitat improvement, in exchange for new revenue from the sale of resultant benefits.
The launch has been marked by a large carbon offset order from Devon County Council.
The NCM has been developed over the last two years by the Biosphere Foundation (the non-profit trading arm of the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere), in partnership with Passmore & Passmore, the Environment Agency & Siemens.
The NCM platform is built on Siemen’s technology and has been designed to scale nationally and internationally.
For example, delivery partners could implement the creation of culm grassland areas, herb-rich meadows, wetlands, woodlands and river-bank habitats.
These improvements improve the environment for wildlife and local people and help address climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reducing flood risk
The farmer is rewarded for these benefits through new income streams and the creation of tradeable environment services such as carbon and biodiversity credits.
Further, the NCM provides landowners with a route to market for the sale of these credits to environmentally responsible customers who have demonstrated their commitment to carbon reduction and align with the UN’s (United Nations) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).
Dr. Lawrence Couldrick, CEO of Westcountry Rivers Trust, added: “The NCM is a great way to pair the buyers and sellers of ecosystem services together, and delivery groups like Westcountry Rivers Trust can work in the middle to ensure that the benefits are met.
“These private-on-private transactions will be an important part of our landscape and need careful planning to articulate with other public schemes whilst still supporting farmers to grow high-quality food.”
The Foundation has welcomed Devon County Council (DCC) as the 1st purchaser of carbon credits through the NCM platform.
By placing an order for nearly 2,500 tonnes of carbon credits from the Natural Capital Marketplace towards offsetting its carbon footprint, Devon County Council has affirmed its commitment to ensuring its carbon reduction strategies also contribute to the local economy.
DCC’s Environment & Sustainability Officer Doug Eltham said: “We have been tracking the development of the Natural Capital Marketplace for some time, and its ability to provide carbon credits from projects right here in Devon, which then keep the associated benefits for nature and communities local, is exactly how DCC wishes to deliver its net-zero commitments.
“It can be difficult to be certain that carbon storage is happening if the project is occurring elsewhere in the UK or overseas.”
David Collier, NCM Operations Manager, added: “We are delighted that Westcountry Rivers Trust and Devon County Council have recognised the potential of the platform, and we are now urging Devon farmers and landowners to get in touch for free advice on how they can benefit from natural capital projects on their land holdings.”