The interviews undertaken for this guide highlighted a range of ways in which collaboration between landholders could enhance the benefits of carbon farming and reduce barriers, as shown below:
Benefits that may be enhanced by collaboration
- Social benefits (peer support, sense of community)
- Bargaining power in carbon markets
- Co-benefits for biodiversity, erosion control, flood mitigation
- Marketing opportunity from telling a good provenance story
Barriers that may be reduced by collaboration
- Lack of knowledge and complexity of carbon farming rules/processes
- Amount of paperwork involved in setting up a project
- Lack of viable scale on a single property
- Costs of measuring soil carbon and auditing & reporting on projects
The increase in scale that comes with collaboration could help to reduce the costs that each landholder bears and increase bargaining power in carbon markets. Knowledge-sharing may reduce information barriers and increase social support for landholders entering this new industry. Certain co-benefits could be maximised if they are planned strategically across properties. Purchasers of carbon credits have shown a willingness to pay more for credits that have a strong provenance story.
While collaboration may reduce some barriers, it can also bring with it a new set of challenges. These include regulatory barriers to setting up joint projects, decisions on how the costs and benefits will be divided, exposure to risks related to land management on other properties and the need for entry and exit processes for the group. The good news is that collaboration doesn’t need to follow a one-size-fits-all model. Landholders collectively can choose how to work together and the level of integration around risk, sharing and interaction.
The social research and consultation that was undertaken in developing this guide identified three main stages of the carbon farming process in which interested groups may consider working together:
- Knowledge-sharing and project establishment: Includes gaining an understanding of methods, processes and markets, undertaking soil baseline measurements, deciding whether to engage with a carbon service provider and registering a project. By working together, landholders could reduce the costs, time and effort involved in obtaining information. Landholders may also obtain information they would not have found on their own and benefit from the social support of other landholders who are also exploring this uncertain space.
- Joint marketing of credits: While this may seem like the final step in the carbon farming process, decisions about how credits will be marketed often need to made early on (e.g. deciding whether to sell credits into the Emissions Reduction Fund, sell them as offsets privately, retain them for future use etc.). Collaborative approaches could increase bargaining power and allow landholders to capitalise on any co-benefits that they jointly deliver, but these opportunities will need to be considered before landholders sign over their credits to buyer or broker.
- Shared management of carbon projects across properties: This relates to the ongoing management of carbon projects, including implementing practice change (e.g. cell grazing, stubble retention) and administration of projects (e.g. jointly employing a project manager to manage project registration, auditing and reporting across multiple properties). It could offer benefits for landholders who want to work together closely and share both the risk and reward of carbon farming, but will also require landholders to give up some of their independence and take on the added complexity of managing projects.
Across our interviews and workshops, the first option (knowledge-sharing and supporting one another with project establishment) emerged as the most promising starting point for most landholder groups. However, the degree of collaboration involved can vary, from fairly informal coordination activities (e.g. informal group sharing knowledge and experiences) through to more formal collaboration models (e.g. contractual arrangements, co-operative, company etc.).
- See the following section on Case Studies provides some real-world examples of how landholders may choose to work together across the different stages of carbon farming outlined above.
- See the Pathways and Enabling Factors section for ways in which landholder groups might integrate different models for collaboration or move between them over time.