What is Carbon Farming?

Every wondered where your carbon offset money goes to when you tick that green box on your flight? Every wondered if this was just ‘green washing’ or actually a good news climate story? Believe it or not it goes directly into restoring and regenerating our forests and soils, while helping to reduce rural suicide rates (I see these impacts and benefits first hand having worked in Australia within this industry).This is the industry where money does really grow on trees. But really…is this all too good to be true you ask? Money surely doesn’t grow on trees! So what is carbon farming…is it just another greenwashing con or is it actually beneficial for the environment, economy and society as some make out? Some would have heard about carbon farming as a solution to climate change. Some would have heard criticism towards it, others would have heard nothing but praise. This post will outline the pro’s and con’s of carbon farming as simply and clearly as possible.


The most simple way to describe this form of farming is to think of mining. Globally, we are currently putting 110 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every single day that causes climate change. Renewable energy and electric cars won’t essentially solve the rapidly warming climate alone…we now have a massive legacy load of carbon in the atmosphere that needs to come back down in order to keep the temperature livable. We essentially need to mine that excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it somewhere safely to reduce those global climate change impacts from the warming this causes. There are in fact scientific methodologies that allow us to do just this, which is to draw down the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into carbon for safe storage. And this can all be done using nature because the safest way to store carbon is through the regeneration of our forests, oceans and soils. Think of carbon as the building block of ALL life in earth. Carbon farming, or carbon mining is essentially putting a monetary value on carbon the same way we would gold or oil. It is, after all a natural resource like any other.


There are many benefits to carbon farming initiatives for companies and in particular large landholders such as farmers which I will outline below:* Provides an income to landholders/farmers during times of hardship such as drought, flood and bushfire (which is increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change)* Helps to regenerate land, soils and ocean for a healthy environment and climate* Reduces mental health issues in rural areas by providing financial security* Creates thousands of jobs and stimulates industry – makes commercial sense* Provides a model where the regeneration of nature is profitable, rather than degeneration (reducing deforestation etc)* Helps to reverse the impacts of climate change by storing harmful greenhouse gases in our forests, oceans and soils through different scientific methodologies*Helps better nutrient and water cycling in soils and encourages regenerative agriculture/holistic management, ultimately improving food produce to become more nutrient rich.


Yes, there are currently some challenges the carbon farming industry currently faces, in Australia and worldwide which are outlined below:* There is no global price on carbon or stable international trading scheme so the industry relies on government funds and voluntary schemes through the current commitments from the Paris Climate Agreement – however regardless of Government policy, industry and public pressure are driving the price on carbon higher and higher every year* The absence of a carbon price doesn’t allow some methodologies of carbon farming to be economically viable on a large scale – such as soil carbon (although there are some regulated soil carbon projects that are currently working in Australia)* The absence of a compulsory carbon price means that the carbon credit or financial product you gain from the carbon project on your land potentially make larger land areas more profitable than smaller landholders due to a lower set price of carbon tonnes sequestered* Carbon methodologies will vary depending on geographical locations (some areas more viable than others depending on the amount of carbon that can be generated)* Perceptions that land allocated to carbon projects is ‘locked’ up and not allowed to be managed.


There are many easy solutions to the challenges the carbon industry faces with no foreseeable major roadblocks:* The Paris Climate Agreement allows for an agreed global carbon price through a regulated international framework – international trading schemes that allow the landholder and various business to trade the carbon credit as a financial commodity are currently being developed* Significant public push for more climate action – will incentivise governments worldwide to allocate more resources* Growing awareness of carbon farming benefits to society, economy and environment* Need to implement more story telling into the selling and buying of carbon – for example Qantas and the carbon industry need to explain that if you pay to offset your carbon on your flight it will go into growing a tree on a farm – this will incentivise others to invest in the offset program* A global carbon price through better government policy will allow the industry to regulate itself – emissions would simultaneously reduce while companies become more innovative to pay less to offset while the carbon farming industry would be entirely funded through those offsets.* Land to be managed ‘holistically’, meaning people, finances and ecology are all considered throughout the life of the carbon project.


The Paris Climate Agreement sets the international framework for a global carbon price which would stimulate and help the carbon farming industry grow even more so than it currently is. Carbon dioxide is a natural resource, like anything else…like gold, like oil. If we begin to see carbon as the building block for all life, and value that block the same way we would a block of gold, the carbon industry will explode with investment and employment. There is a trillion dollar untapped gold mine in sitting up there in the atmosphere right now. Yes there are challenges in mining it, but there are challenges in everything we do. That hasn’t stopped us before as a human race, and it shouldn’t now. This industry is the future of humanity, we can turn the global capitalism model on its head by basing it on the regeneration of nature and not degeneration. And we can do that all just by placing a monetary value on nature. This is the triple bottom line winner to climate, agriculture and producing more healthy, nutrient rich foods. A commercially viable industry with a big future…the world’s next gold rush.