How ‘carbon trading’ can unlock opportunities for the rural economy

Woodland planting and "carbon trading" are becoming increasingly important aspects of land managemen

Woodland planting and "carbon trading" are becoming increasingly important aspects of land management, says rural agent Simon Evans. Picture: Chris Hill. - Credit: Chris Hill

Woodland planting and 'carbon trading' schemes are becoming an increasingly valuable aspect of landscape management, says SIMON EVANS agricultural partner at Arnolds Keys – Irelands Agricultural.

Simon Evans, agricultural partner at Arnolds Keys. Picture: Arnolds Keys

Simon Evans, agricultural partner at Arnolds Keys. Picture: Arnolds Keys - Credit: Arnolds Keys

At the start of November, Defra announced a new £500m Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme aimed at boosting tree-planting rates and helping to tackle climate change.

The scheme promises long-term financial income in return for carbon sequestration. Farmers will be able to "sell" carbon credits to the government for a guaranteed price every five or ten years up to 2055/56.

The price will be set at a level required to make the investment worthwhile, taking into account the market price for domestic forests when compared to other land uses. Land managers will be able to apply for grant support to establish the woodland through existing woodland creation grant schemes.

The Woodland Carbon Guarantee is just the start, with a stirring sense that UK agriculture has a positive role to play in finding solutions to help mitigate climate change.

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A recent poll at the CLA's rural business conference indicated that more than 50pc of farmers and landowners think carbon trading and environmental goods are key opportunities for the rural economy.

There are reasonable steps that all farmers can be taking to reduce their carbon footprint and earn the rewards. Take the time to consider whether the use of renewable energy on your farm is viable - what are your energy demands and could they be met "in-house"?

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The Feed in Tariff (FIT) scheme ended on March 31 this year, but has been replaced by the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) which provides a "route to the market" for small-scale low-carbon electricity generators (up to 5MW). Payments can be generated for any surplus energy exported back to the grid. Energy-intensive businesses, such as those with refrigerated stores or diversification projects, are likely to gain the most from renewable energy investment.

Replacing inorganic fertilisers with organic manure is something else to consider. For arable-only farmers across the region a "straw for muck" agreement may be available in your area, and asking a livestock farmer to consider teaming up could lead to improved soil structure, reduced soil erosion, increased fertility, and higher yields. If "straw for muck" is something you might consider, take the appropriate advice to prevent risk of blackgrass contamination.

As ever, 2020 will continue to see enormous changes to the rural economy, and an ability is spot and maximise opportunities will remain vital to farming business. Watch this space for developments in carbon trading and renewable energy incentives.

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