By Andy Howard, CEO of Climate Solutions Exchange (CSX) - the affordable technology based solution to democratise a new carbon and natural capital marketplace, providing an audit trail for corporate ESG delivery. CSX is backed by Maughan Capital.
Working Group III, the third part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPC) landmark assessment on climate change will cover the policies, technologies and finances needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This is an essential report, and one sorely needed if we are to stand a chance of meeting the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, as set out by the Paris Agreement of 2015.
In order to prevent the catastrophic impacts of climate change, we need to be working to reduce our emissions globally. However, we must also prioritise the removal of carbon which has already been released into the atmosphere.
Research has shown that nature-based solutions can be a powerful tool in doing this – indeed, in the ‘Land of Plenty’ report released by WWF earlier this year, the importance of restoring and expanding natural landscapes across the UK was highlighted as one of the methods we must utilise to decarbonise and reach net zero in the UK.
In short, nature-based solutions comprise management, conservation and restoration interventions undertaken with the aim of delivering positive climate adaption or mitigation results and restoring the natural environment through, for example, improvements in biodiversity. Examples of this include restoring peatlands or expanding and protecting our forests, which can successfully sequester carbon from the atmosphere and provide wider Natural Capital benefits such as water quality improvement and potential flooding reduction.
However, UK farmers and landowners are currently being let down. At present, corporate carbon off-setters are able to off-shore their carbon mitigation to cheaper and less stringently monitored projects in parts of the world that are harder to assess delivery success in. This means that UK farmers and landowners do not always benefit from off-setting initiatives.
If farmers and landowners wish to calculate and verify the carbon sequestered from their new woodland planting, they could choose to use the Woodland Carbon Code, which provides verification for woodland carbon sequestration projects in the UK, an array of ‘International Standards’ or enter into a bespoke agreement with a carbon buyer that may not need a monitoring mechanism.
Yet there are challenges with this. The current method of calculating the carbon sequestering ability of a piece of woodland using the Woodland Carbon Code involves using a spreadsheet which relies on a formula from the 1950s and data which has been recognised as being skewed towards smaller trees, as they have been historically easier to measure.
The outcome of this? Gross miscalculations and inaccurate estimations of how much carbon exists within the trees across our landscape - and that is amongst those who even attempt to navigate the methods to work it out in the first place.
However, a simpler way of doing things does exist. At CSX Carbon, we use cutting-edge technology to provide a verified and transparent system of assessing the carbon sequestration and mitigation in trees and soon peatlands, offering integrity to the current carbon offset market by providing accurate information regarding the carbon balances from Nature Based Solutions.
Recent research using our technology in an area of woodland in Oxford revealed that there was more than double the amount of biomass (and thus carbon) than previously estimated using the standardised Woodland Carbon Code guidance. Reasons as to why this was the case include 150km of branching structure in a veteran oak tree that the half century old forestry mensuration practices can’t recognise.
We achieve these more accurate results by using Terrestrial Laser Scanning (a non-destructive, ground based imaging method), drone optical imaging and Lidar Imaging, a light detecting and ranging technology that captures terrains, tree locations and heights to create a basis for estimating above ground biomass.
In short, the technology we use at CSX is not only more reliable, but also much easier for farmers and landowners to access and understand. This will help them to become suppliers to the carbon market and derive greater benefit from it as a result.
When it comes to climate change, accurate information has value in and of itself to ensure that our progress is being tracked. But, in the future, the restoration and management of nature-based solutions may become a potential source of income for farmers and landowners. For example, the creation of a global ‘carbon market’ has returned to the forefront of environmental discourse following a deal struck at COP26 to create one that is centralised, global and regulated.
A carbon market trades ‘carbon credits’, which would be bought by an organisation or country to ‘offset’ the emissions they are producing, thus mitigating the overall environmental impact. Across Britain, there are farmers and landowners who could become suppliers to this carbon market, and they deserve access to the technology that will provide accurate assessments of the carbon and Natural Capital value deriving from the land they own and manage.
Other nations are waking up to the immense opportunity in this area – just last week, the US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a $1 billion grant scheme entitled ‘The Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities’. The programme will support the development of agricultural and forestry projects that use climate smart practises, as well facilitating opportunities for farmer and landowners to participate in private market carbon activities. Importantly, the projects must include innovative methods of measuring their mitigation benefits, with Vilsack highlighting the importance of verifying the impacts in his speech announcing the project.
In contrast, our government’s outdated methods are nothing more than advanced guesswork. They won’t stand up as the challenge of climate change continues to dominate the decisions we take as a society, nor do they do justice to the farmers and individuals whose land is playing an important part in the globe’s climate mitigation efforts – in fact, without change, they will find themselves left behind as the rest of the world takes the necessary steps needed.
We owe our farmers and landowners the information they need. They hold the key to making a real difference to our climate mitigation efforts, and access to the right technology will become essential if they are to be able to compete in a future where nature-based solutions become increasingly recognised as a valid solution to our global carbon crisis.