Fiona Conroy, a farmer who raises Angus beef and merino wool, wants to double her stock levels while remaining carbon-neutral. However, she remains skeptical of carbon credits. Carbon credits are a system of exchanging carbon dioxide emissions to reduce global carbon emissions. If a company, individual or government can’t reduce their carbon dioxide emissions or reach zero net emissions, then they may buy carbon credits from carbon offset companies. The companies, in turn, use the money to fund green energy projects or reforestation. In theory, it’s a good idea. The problem is the lack of transparency, supervision and difficulty of monitoring the use of carbon offset money. These issues have led to controversies of carbon credits.
Conroy’s mixed farming operation in Gunning, New South Wales, Australia, double-stocks her farm since switching to rotational grazing in 2019. For example, by changing the way they manage their grazing system, they can reduce methane emissions generated by the soil in which they graze. Her sheep and cattle graze alternately in the same paddocks. Instead of grazing in the paddock continuously, they move it to a new place after a couple of days. By continuously shifting their stock to new grazing areas, it allows the grass to regrow instead of being overgrazed. This has the added benefit of keeping soil healthy and preventing methane emissions. Conroy wants to increase the size of her farm to 2,500 hectares from 640 hectares to double its current stock levels.
Carbon credits to offset emissions can be a business strategy for farmers seeking opportunities to capitalize on environmental practices that reduce emissions. These practices can include planting trees, adopting rotational grazing, installing renewable energy, and manure management. However, some farmers are not convinced about the effectiveness of carbon credits and think it is an additional administrative burden that undermines their role in producing food sustainably.
Conroy’s skepticism is not unique to farmers. Environmental organizations and watchdogs have criticized carbon credits’ accountability, verifying offsets, and reporting. Maybe a certification system that undergoes audits and is subject to reporting and monitoring would reassure farmers like Conroy.