Running a carbon neutral farming business means that there is net zero greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, the amount of carbon sequestered cancels out the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. This is achieved by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide produced and offsetting any outstanding emissions by sequestering carbon in the landscape.
to see where you stand in terms of carbon neutrality you can run a carbon audit of your property.
Carbon neutral = net zero = total carbon emissions less sinks and offsets
Climate neutral = zero temperature change caused by greenhouse gas emissions
Whether you want to be a carbon neutral farm or sell carbon credits, or both, you must have a history of measured emissions and soil test data. With ambitious net zero targets being set for the agriculture sector, and the likely possibility of carbon tariffs for global trade, it is becoming increasingly important to calculate the carbon emissions on farm.
Banks, and other parties that service agriculture are preparing for managing the risks of climate change and establishing programs to reduce emissions. Farm businesses that have a good understanding of their farm emissions will be better placed to respond to these external challenges and find new opportunities.
Carbon neutral certifications
There are a number of different private companies offering carbon neutral certifications and there are emerging branding opportunities for the labelling of carbon neutral food and fibre products which may in turn offer better prices.
Climate Active is an ongoing partnership between the Australian Government and Australian businesses to drive voluntary climate action. A carbon neutral certification through Climate Active can be achieved by farms via either:
- an organisation certification - which covers all the emissions arising as a result of business operations
- through product certification (e.g. beef or eggs) - which encompasses the emissions generated from all the processes that make up the product over its life cycle.
This latter certification can be from a farm to plate or farm to gate basis.
To achieve certification, a farm would need to meet the requirements set out in the relevant Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard, such as:
- Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard for Organisations
- Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard for Products and Service.
This process broadly involves the following steps:
- filling out an application form, and entering into and maintaining a license agreement
- calculating the emissions within your emissions boundary
- developing and implementing an emissions reduction strategy
- purchasing eligible carbon offsets to compensate for any remaining emissions
- arranging independent validation of your carbon neutral claim
- publishing a public disclosure statement of this claim.
The carbon accounting calculations can be undertaken by farmers if they have the relevant expertise, or through a consultant. There is no requirement for farmers to sequester carbon on-site.
Climate Active is currently piloting an approach that allows farmers to include the sequestration from existing tree plantings, such as shelterbelts, within their carbon account. This would be separate to the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), as ERF projects require plantings to be new.
More information can be found on the Agriculture Victoria website.
Agriculture can be climate neutral by 2030
In the video below we hear from Professor Richard Eckard, who teaches in the Bachelor of Agriculture and Master of Agricultural Sciences and leads the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre, where scientists work to understand climate impacts and how farmers can mitigate against them.
Agriculture is not just a source of greenhouse gas emissions – by working with technology and land management, farmers can also contribute “sinks” against emissions. These are natural features that store emissions by absorbing greenhouse gasses, such as trees and soils on farms. This video explains how we can reach zero emissions through land management decisions such as:
- planting more trees
- using technology - new animal feeds that reduce emissions from animals.
Case study - carbon neutral beef and lamb, Jigsaw Farms
Jigsaw Farms is the 3,378 hectare family property of Mark Wootton and Eve Kantor and is located fifteen kilometres north of Hamilton in Western Victoria. The farm integrates forestry, carbon and indigenous plantings with high-productivity grazing on a large scale.
Average annual rainfall of the Hamilton region (680 mm) is comparable to that of the Limestone Coast region, with the lower Limestone Coast having slightly more (750 mm) and the upper Limestone Coast having slightly less (580 mm).
Jigsaw Farms has been carbon neutral since 2011. They have participated in several carbon offsetting projects which offset third party carbon footprints. In addition to this, their carbon storage, contained within new forests on their properties outweigh all of their on-farm agricultural activities. Jigsaw Farms is currently undergoing a new round of auditing through the University of Melbourne for carbon neutral status.
Jigsaw Farms has also sold wool for carbon-neutral Italian Quatha fashions, through The Merino Company. They provided offsets through tree planting: 84 bales of 19 micron wool equated to 830 tonnes of carbon equivalents needing to be offset.
Source: Australian Good Meat