Report Synopsis

Communicating carbon reduction schemes to farmers; busting preconceptions, driving efficiency and profit

Becky Willson

Climate change will adversely affect some of the most fundamental determinants to life, including food, air and water.

Global scientific and political consensus is that climate change is happening due to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released by human activity. Farmers and growers can produce quality food, enhance biodiversity and sequester carbon by making management changes to their business, usually with improvements in efficiency and profitability as a result. However, the dilemma exists that for the majority of farmers, reducing GHG emissions is not a business priority. So how do we talk to farmers about climate change in a way that engages them, and develop policies and projects that enable effective behavioural change?

The aim of my study was to understand how to effectively communicate the benefits to the farm business of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and get farmers interested and engaged in changing management to reduce emissions. This involved visiting policy makers, projects, researchers and farmers to gain a deeper understanding of what worked well, how policy could be used to drive action, where the knowledge gaps were in research and what the drivers were that had encouraged farmers to change management to be more sustainable.

I concluded that although the issue is complex, emissions associated with agriculture must be reduced. This is intrinsically linked with driving efficiency and realising economic savings. This requires consistent use of metrics that link the emission reduction potential with economic savings and make sense for farmers.

The potential around improving soil health and sequestering carbon within farm soils should not be hampered by lack of replicated science. Agriculture is unique in its ability to achieve this, and there is an urgent need to connect research with the farmer innovators to develop the baseline data that is required to shape policy. Action is required on emissions reductions and soil carbon to achieve targets.

There is a need to stand up and communicate the positive activities that are taking place within the industry, including the rising soil health movement and those farmers who are managing landscapes, producing food and reducing emissions. By encouraging positive stories there is an opportunity to inspire other farmers and celebrate achievements with policy makers and consumers.

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