An extraordinary opportunity emerges in the form of natural capital markets, but five main challenges must be overcome before responsible trade programs can be launched, according to a sustainability expert.
Speaking at the East England Agriculture Conference Thursday, November 18, Ben Gummer urged farmers to engage in the development of natural capital exchange programs, so that the industry keep control of such an asset and be rewarded for its understanding of soils, carbon and biodiversity.
See also: What does the natural capital farm market look like?
“Think carefully and fight hard to make your voice heard,” he urged. “It’s a huge opportunity, but it comes with multiple challenges and significant risks. If this goes badly at first, a reputation problem will develop around natural capital assets. “
Mr Gummer, co-founder of natural capital firm Sward, said the shape of the opportunity cannot be determined until five challenges have been addressed:
- Data accuracy The best way to determine and measure soil carbon remains to be agreed, as well as a consistent price for carbon. Without these, there is no way to know how much is in the ground and what it is worth.
- The measure Knowing whether the process or production is being measured will be necessary for future programs, so that any reward reflects that something has been produced, rather than just for doing something different.
- Operational carbon versus sequestered carbon Understanding the differences between these is essential for agricultural programs, so that they can show what is delivered rather than how much carbon is saved.
- Private / public funding Until the intersection of private / public funding has been agreed, agriculture may not be allowed to take advantage of both sources and the government may kill all emerging markets.
- Regulation It remains to be determined whether the regulation surrounding natural capital markets is national or global, with the preferred option being a global soil standard with reference to the local environment.
Considering the speed of development, all farmers should start measuring soil carbon, Gummer advised.
“Get a correct baseline by doing a proper, in-depth analysis of the soil and taking into account its stone content. You cannot do this from space.
Responsible business systems, when ready, will be recognizable by the quality of the accuracy of the data and the fact that the farmer remains in control of his assets, he added.
“Farmers, not supermarkets, have to own this. So ask yourself: will this allow you to trade in the market for the best price? “
Ben Gummer was speaking at the Eastern England Agriculture Conference in Peterborough. In addition to farming in Suffolk, he is chairman and co-founder of Sward, which helps farmers and landowners understand, manage and market their natural capital. Previously, he served in government as Cabinet Minister and in the departments of health, education and international development, and headed a sustainable development consultancy advising multinational companies around the world.