Private companies are paying farmers directly for environmental improvements based on carbon offset credits from practice improvements in farming operations.
“Amounts of credits that can be generated by a particular practice change are standardized in Government of Alberta approved protocols,” says Sheilah Nolan, climate change specialist with Agriculture and Rural Development. “Since 2007, use of the Tillage Management System Protocol has generated over $61 million in new income for agriculture producers. This has removed 5.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) from the atmosphere, equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the road.”
Although agriculture emits only seven per cent of Alberta’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on an annual basis, agricultural practice improvements have already helped industry meet 20 per cent of the legislated emission reductions required under Alberta’s Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (2007). Opportunities to create offset credits from single practice improvements are not large on an acre or animal basis, but values add up when large numbers of areas or animals are involved, or when a number of practice improvements are combined. New opportunities for offsets from improved management of nitrogen fertilizer are now available in a Nitrous Oxide Emission Reduction Protocol (NERP), from improved feeding and manure management in a Dairy Protocol, and from continuous conservation cropping of summerfallowed land from a new flexibility mechanism within the Tillage Protocol. Interpretive guides have also been completed to support the use of Beef Protocols about management to reduce days on feed, use edible oils or reduce days to harvest.
“Not all farm practice improvements are eligible for offset credits” says Nolan. “There has to be a sound scientific basis for linking a practice change with GHG emission reductions, an improvement that is above and beyond business as usual, and proof that the practice change actually occurred”.
“Farm records are needed to document management improvements. On January 1, 2012, the Alberta Offset System will be increasing verification standards from a limited to a reasonable level of assurance. This will require the same types of third party verification and auditing needed to track other types of income. Electronic records reduce errors and can lower costs. Under the new verification standards, only offset credits created from practice improvements that happen after January 1, 2012 will be eligible for credit after that date. However, current rules will apply until January 1, 2012 and any credit serialized and registered on the Alberta Emissions Offset Registry may be retired after January 1, 2012.”
Many of the farm record and data management systems currently being used to create offset credits with the Tillage Protocol provide an excellent basis for meeting the new verification requirements. “Although it takes effort to create and track records, they have value beyond carbon markets. Good records increase efficiency and build knowledge needed to access other emerging environmental market opportunities,” Nolan adds. “In real estate, the three most important words are: location, location, location. For offset credits, the three most important words are: records, records, records.”
For more information about practice improvements that qualify as carbon offset credits visit www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/cl11618
Decisive Farming has partnered with Terra Verde Emissions Inc. to buy carbon credits. For more information please call 1-800-941-4811.