Pressure on farmers to undertake carbon audits has slowly increased over recent years.
With governments and businesses worldwide pledging to slow global warming and to protect the environment, it’s more important than ever for UK farmers to know their carbon footprint, how to reduce it and, most importantly, understand the benefits of having a low carbon footprint.
By 2040, the UK and around 200 other countries have pledged to bring all Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions to be net-zero.
This means that carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide output must be greatly reduced in the coming years. For the UK government, the agricultural sector is a significant target – as UK farms produce around 10% of all GHG emissions in the UK.
There is good news though. While farms produce a lot of GHG, they also have the potential to mitigate and remove GHG in a way other sectors cannot.
This is why many UK farms are undergoing carbon audits to assess their current footprint and to find ways to reduce emissions while removing GHG from the atmosphere.
In this article, we address what you need to know about carbon audits and why you should be getting an audit completed sooner rather than later.
Farm Carbon Audits
Carbon audits are fast becoming a standard part of agricultural policy.
A carbon audit involves an accredited specialist visiting a farm to examine processes and provide advice on where farms could improve their carbon footprint and what steps they can take to help remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Carbon audits take place in several ways using different methods, including the Farm Carbon Calculator, Cool Farm Tool and the Agrecalc (Agricultural Resource Efficiency Calculator).
Although there are various ways to conduct a farm carbon audit, all audits are looking at the same things:
- fuel usage
- electricity and energy consumption
- crop yields
- use of chemicals
- soil erosion,
- waste disposal
- machinery efficiency
- livestock mortality and growth
- reusable materials and more
An auditor will examine every aspect of an individual farm’s operations to identify where emissions currently stand, where they can be reduced and if a reduction is not possible, how the farm can sequester or trap carbon in the soil to offset the emissions.
Carbon sequestration involves planting crops and promoting sustainable farming habits that help to trap carbon in the ground. Carbon sequestration is set to be a market worth £1.7bn in the UK alone.
Mandatory Carbon Audits
In some places such as Scotland, farm carbon audits are becoming mandatory in certain areas of farming, such as part of the Beef Efficiency Scheme.
In order for farmers to gain access to grants and government support, they must have an audit and follow some of the advice from the carbon audit report to reach low levels of GHG emissions.
The government wants to encourage carbon auditing on farms to reduce emissions and to help reach the overall net-zero target by 2040. There is every likelihood that farm carbon audits will become more and more critical.
You can already apply for a £500 grant to help fund the audit in order to start making changes in the UK.
But there are more benefits of carbon audits for farmers than just helping the environment.
Operational Benefits Of Carbon Audits For UK Farmers
Of course, the government is pushing for farmers to undertake carbon audits and reduce their carbon footprint to meet government targets.
But farmers should be interested in their carbon footprint for their own benefit.
As we have already mentioned, carbon audits and net-zero GHG emissions are the end goal. The chances are that future agricultural policy will likely dictate that farmers cannot access grants or farm funding without meeting this net-zero target.
Farmers getting a carbon footprint audit now will be one step ahead of the curve and will save themselves some hassle further down the line.
More Profitable Farms
Recent research has also found that carbon audits can help cut waste, improve operations and make farms more profitable.
Farms with low carbon footprints have improved performance from machinery – as it runs more smoothly and more efficiently, this results in lower running costs and greater profits.
Since carbon audits are looking to identify waste, reduce consumption and to find more efficient ways of running the farm, positive changes for the environment are also generally good for business.
Aside from operational improvements, consumers are becoming more aware of sustainably produced goods. Research has found that farms claiming to be carbon natural and sustainable can charge a higher price for their products.
The marketing spin on being net-zero for GHG emissions is a significant pull for customers looking to support responsible farming. Some major UK supermarkets are also looking to buy from sustainable farms and are slowly reducing how they buy from non-sustainable farms.
So even without any environmental benefits, carbon audits are saving farms money, boosting profits, opening farms up to more government grants, and enabling some farms to charge more for their produce.
It is a win-win at every step.
How To Arrange An Agriculture Carbon Audit
As more branches of agriculture start introducing mandatory carbon audits, it will likely become easier to get one.
Technically, you can measure your carbon footprint yourself. Online calculators and farm carbon audit tools are available and will provide step by step instructions on how to measure your carbon footprint.
However, more farmers are choosing to work with accredited organisations to get more accurate results. Working with a specialist will not only offer a more precise audit, but they will also be able to provide actionable advice on how to begin reducing carbon emissions immediately.
Another reason to work with a specialist company is that they will be the most informed on how the carbon footprint audit can be used to access government grant money and available funds.
A carbon audit usually means farms will need to upgrade outdated machinery or have it serviced to be more efficient.
While grants are available from the government to help farms invest in more sustainable machines, many farmers will turn to specialist farm finance brokers to fund updates and to ensure their farm is prepared for future eco policy updates.
Annual Farm Carbon Footprint Audits
Farmers should be aware that agriculture carbon footprint audits may become an annual occurrence.
As technology improves and new government schemes are rolled out, farms may need to continually update their audits. This is especially true for any farm that cannot become carbon neutral after one audit.
If you are unable to make all the necessary changes due to financial or technological reasons, you will need another audit in the future. In fact, if you change your processes, get new machinery or diversify, you may unwittingly produce additional GHG.
An annual audit may become necessary to help farmers meet ever-stricter GHG emission standards. Some farmers who are unable to reduce their carbon footprint sufficiently are already buying credits to offset their footprint.
Annual check-ups will help the UK government keep an eye on who is doing their bit, who is just buying credits and who hasn’t done anything at all.
In the same way that many farmers perform annual checks and maintenance on machinery, soil quality, air quality and herd health – annual carbon audit reports will be required to maintain standards.
Profitable Futures For Farmers
2022 will see the start of the Sustainable Farming Incentive rollout to provide farmers with better access and funding specifically to invest in environmental schemes. However, not all farmers will have access to such funding, that is why it is wise to speak with a farm finance broker now to see what options are available.
Several more strategies that will follow in the coming years, include projects to promote clean air, protect areas of natural beauty, encourage wildlife to thrive and mitigate the harm caused by flooding and drought.
With so many new schemes on the way, farmers that are carbon neutral and actively sequester carbon in the soil, will be best placed to profit in coming years.
Now, more than ever, UK farmers should be lowering GHG emissions and preparing for a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly future.
Speak to Evangate FS today if you wish to explore what options are available to you.