Carbon Markets and Agriculture

What are the business opportunities, threats and challenges for the agricultural and rural sectors in terms of carbon management? What do the realisation of carbon markets mean for them and are they a risk or opportunity?

  • Funding type: UIF
  • Team: Food & Footprint
  • Topic: Food & enterprise, Carbon markets

Carbon is a keyword for future business sustainability in all sectors and interest is booming around agriculture as a route for carbon sequestration, offsetting and carbon credits. However, agricultural industry is still catching up on what carbon looks like in farming and the challenge of sectoral carbon mitigation, let alone how it might be able to best harness potential carbon and financial benefits. What are the business opportunities, threats and challenges for the sector in terms of carbon management?; What do the realisation of carbon markets mean for the agricultural and rural sectors, and are they a risk or opportunity?

Various surveys, conducted by SAC Consulting and at national agricultural events, show that general knowledge and confidence in discussing carbon is relatively low in the sector. Agriculture and associated rural sectors need to fully understand what carbon means for them now and into the future, and this need is increasingly urgent and more private investment is channelled towards offsetting or green CSR. This project aims to improve understanding of carbon services across the sector, to increase the knowledge, confidence and engagement of industry in carbon issues, enabling stakeholders to represent their interests and concerns within national and international debates and ensure future sustainability of the sector into a new era of carbon-based business.


Project Activities

This project, running throughout 2022, has drawn together consultants, researchers, academic staff, students, farmers, policymakers, and NGOs in a series of interlinked knowledge transfer activities, to collate knowledge and develop a series of concise and accessible materials for industry more general on agricultural carbon markets.

Discussions and engagement:

  • A workshop was held with agricultural and rural consultants working across Scotland to discuss opportunities, risks and barriers to agricultural carbon markets. A summary of findings can be found here.

  • Following the consultant workshop, it was felt that an online consultation to ascertain farmers’ perspectives on opportunities, risks and barriers might be more productive than an online workshop; results and commentary of the consultation is published here.

  • The project team also engaged with financial experts in one-to-one meetings and various conferences and events through the project. Findings from this fed into the briefings below on creating carbon credits through natural capital project and a checklist for farmers considering selling carbon credits.

  • Representatives of public bodies and policymakers were present at various events attended by the project team and the consultant workshop. A briefing was also produced for RESAS summarising the potential impacts and unintended consequences of carbon markets in agriculture, highlighting areas of concern and future potential research. While this briefing was funded under Scottish Government funding, it would not have been possible without the knowledge built through the UIF project. The briefing was well-received by Scottish Government, and a follow-up discussion is to be planned to discuss further, with potential outcomes beyond the end of the project.

Articles & Briefings:

Expert interviews:


Stakeholders involved in this project

  • SAC Consultants
  • SRUC Researchers
  • Farmers and land managers
  • Scottish Nature Finance Pioneers Basecamp network
  • Other rural and agricultural consultancies
  • Public bodies
  • Policymakers
  • Farming bodies and organisations
  • Financial experts
  • Nature & conservation experts

Next steps for work

This project has provided crucial initial funding to better understand the state of play for carbon markets in agriculture, and increase the baseline level of knowledge across those involved and reached by its activities and outputs.

It is clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and much more work is needed to continue helping agricultural industry engage constructively in emerging carbon markets and green finance. In the process of concluding the project under this funding, experts within SAC and SRUC working on this project met to discuss next steps for the industry in addressing challenges in scaling up carbon markets and areas for further research. We hope that this helps in providing clear direction and focus for those interested and working in this space, and who are keen to continue advancing the conversation.

This project is a collaborative effort between colleagues in SAC Consulting and Scotland's Rural College (SRUC). The project team includes Anna Sellars, Brady Stevens, and Luisa Riascos Caipe


Carbon Markets and Agriculture