Creating the Code
1. The UK Farm Soil Carbon Code will consist of a set of formal protocols that allow farmers to quantify and verify reduced greenhouse gas emissions and/or soil carbon capture as a result of adopting regenerative farming practices.
2. The Code will be free to use and open access to all farmers. It will be straightforward, practical, affordable, accessible and achievable. It will be outcome-based, not practice-based.
3. The Code will be applicable for different ‘carbon accounting’ purposes - offset registries, carbon insetters, carbon capture incentive schemes, ecosystem services and environmental investment products - whether carbon capture will be monetised or not.
In order for the Code to be created, the Consortium has identified a number of critical knowledge gaps that need filling. These include the science underpinning sequestration practices and potential, the views of stakeholders and market players, and the lessons to be learnt from existing UK Natural Capital codes (woodland, peatland) as well as soil carbon codes already up and running around the world.
This research, as well as the critical steps needed to draft, consult on and refine the code are as follows:
- Evidence syntheses of regenerative farming practices, integrating and statistically analysing results from all known UK studies and research in comparable contexts internationally, providing the most robust evidence base possible for the interventions selected for piloting in the code.
- An evaluation of existing methods for monitoring, reporting and verification of soil carbon benefits, leading to a user guide and list of recommended tools for use by project developers and certification bodies e.g. direct measurement, models and emissions factors.
- A systematic comparative analysis of international soil carbon standards and protocols (in development in other regions) that could be adapted for use in the UK;
- An assessment of demand and supply side issues to understand the needs of investors, and ensure projects funded under the Code are attractive to the farming community.
- Evaluation and refinement of the research above through an online consultation, a series of workshops and an auditor report from OF&G, who verify projects for the Peatland Code and other standards, before publishing a pilot Code.
- Recommendations of a framework for a UK code, including governance options and alignment with future public agri-environment schemes to ensure they leverage rather than crowd out private investment in natural capital;
- Piloting the code with a range of farm scales and soil types, testing a number of soil health interventions already known to sequester carbon on the basis of evidence synthesis. The pilots are also designed to consider how carbon finance via the Code may be stacked with finance for biodiversity and water quality benefits.
- Evaluation and refinement of the development of the Code to ensure it can operate across a range of contexts in England and the UK in future, including some of the most popular and important regenerative farming practices, most likely to help farmers, growers and producers from across the plant and livestock sub-sectors contribute towards net zero targets.
- Conversion of the Code into a British Standards Institute standard with the BSI kite mark and accreditation to the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) and ISO14064, to provide international investors with confidence in the quality of the standard.
Preliminary research is already being conducted by the Global Food Security programme’s Resilient Dairy Landscapes project, and additional funding has been sought to develop the Code from Defra and the Environment Agency and via a crowdfunding site.