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Agriculture climate market collaborative unveils principles

Principles set bar of transparency for program developers, growers interested in entering ag climate markets.

A collaborative of agriculture companies and non-governmental organizations recently released a series of principles to set a bar of transparency for program developers and growers interested in entering agriculture climate markets. The principles aim to promote industry credibility and ensure growers and buyers are given the ability to make informed decisions regarding their participation in market-based climate solutions.  

“The release of these transparency principles is the first step in a larger journey to establish a more transparent and robust functioning market for ecosystem services. By improving trust and understanding in the marketplace, we hope to drive more participation from both growers and buyers with the ultimate goal of creating value for them both,” said Monica McBride, director of environmental partnerships at Bayer.

Adam Kiel, managing director for the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, said global demand for climate action has increasingly focused on the potential of agriculture to be a part of the solution.

“Many actors have emerged in the space to realize this value for growers who implement practices that increase soil carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other ecosystem services. The variety of such offerings has resulted in a need for transparency in order for growers to make informed choices,” he said. “These principles for transparency are a step towards this much-needed clarity, a step that the industry has taken together to speed climate action on farms.”

The Agricultural Climate Markets Collaborative, a voluntary group facilitated by Keystone Policy Center, developed and released the principles. Keystone convened the Collaborative to identify collective, precompetitive actions that could create more transparency and build trust in the marketplace; provide more coordinated and consistent feedback to protocol bodies, USDA, and others; and ultimately contribute to a clearer marketplace that scales towards meaningful impact. 

“The Climate Markets Collaborative has spent the past year building shared value for the ecosystem services marketplace,” said Jonathan Geurts, senior project manager at the Keystone Policy Center. “Some have remarked that the proliferation of program developers entering this new space had made it a 'Wild West' of unfettered opportunity, potentially leaving the door open for unscrupulous actors. In response, the Collaborative developed these joint principles of transparency to begin to build credibility through mutual accountability.”

“AFT protects farmland, promotes environmentally-sound farming practices, and keeps farmers on the land. Emerging carbon and other ecosystem services markets will help farmers afford the upfront costs of practices that reduce greenhouse gases, build soil health and more,” said Bianca Moebius-Clune, climate initiative director for American Farmland Trust. “Given the importance of the work and the growth in market potential, it is especially important for farmers to trust environmental markets. Transparency enables trust to be built, and these principles are a step in that direction.” 

Agricultural soils are a large land-based sink for atmospheric carbon with additional potential to contribute to the sequestration of atmospheric carbon. This potential has spurred a desire to connect growers with carbon markets to realize the environmental and economic value of agricultural practices that increase the carbon in soils. The competition in this space has led to a diverse set of offerings, and the newness of the industry means that approaches are largely unstandardized. The Collaborative hopes the principles unveiled today helps scale market-based climate solutions for agriculture by keeping both growers and buyers informed on each of the following:

  1. Farm and entity eligibility for programs
  2. Contract obligations for program participants
  3. Asset types generated by a program
  4. Standards used by the program developer
  5. Data required from program participants
  6. Models used to generate credits
  7. Ownership and transferability of the credits generated
  8. Program participant financial obligations and payments
  9. Data ownership and privacy
  10. Contractual implications of noncompliance and acts of God
  11. Required relationship between program developer and participant

“Continued improvement of environmental outcomes in agriculture requires a diverse range of approaches and incentives, and climate market programs aim to return value directly to the farmers who put in the work,” said Scott Herndon, president of Field to Market. “Transparency is key to the mission of Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, so we are happy to see the developers of these programs endorsing principles that will make market participation clearer to understand for everyone involved.”

These principles are only the first set of best practices identified by the Collaborative, and they will continue to evolve along with the marketplace.  


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