As the global leaders, private jets and smog of aviation fuel disappear into the sky above Glasgow we reflect on COP26. Was it a cop out, a fair cop, or a copulate up?

There was much to applaud, but muddled messaging of “phasing down” made it difficult to decide which villain of the Amazon was the target of reduction.

Was it extreme capitalist behaviour, such as Jeff Bezos flying into space, or “catch-up capitalism”, like Brazil’s president Jair Bolsanaro destroying “his” rainforest?

As a proponent of conservation agriculture, COP26 left “my” arable sector largely alone.

About the author

Ian Pigott

Farmers Weekly Opinion writer

Ian Pigott farms 700ha in Hertfordshire. The farm is a Linking Environment and Farming demonstration unit. Ian is also the founder of Open Farm Sunday.

Not so for those who farm beef and lamb. You have every reason to be hugely upset and feel misrepresented by attendees, journalists and the media at large.

Basically, COP26 threw Brazilian feedlot-reared beef and British pasture-fed livestock into the same “blah, blah, blah” basket.

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But for all the talk, promises to reduce global temperature start with us all doing our bit. I won’t be changing my Land Cruiser for a Tesla just yet, but we are looking to reduce fertiliser use by 20%.

So, what of our production methods? Will a carbon audit encourage change?

It is a lot easier for me on Grade 3 clay with flints to move to a conservation ag approach of no till, livestock grazing and cover crops, and be rewarded with carbon credits, than it would be for a Fenland farmer growing root vegetables or leeks.

I was led to believe the carbon market was full of snake oil salesmen, and establishing standards was “like trying to nail something to jelly”.

But, for all my scepticism, I have found the audit process straightforward and credits not too arduous to claim.

However, all my research into the pitfalls, get-out clauses and disclaimers made me reflect on how the outcomes of COP26 and carbon may influence the future of much of Britain’s farmland, but perhaps not in the way you may think.

While Brewdog may be turning the Scottish Highlands into a carbon offset forest, tree planting isn’t the only solution.

Arable land and grassland are at long last being recognised as a future carbon credit klondike. For owner occupiers it is straightforward, but for tenant farmers like myself there is added complexity

Arable land and grassland are at long last being recognised as a future carbon credit klondike.

For owner occupiers it is straightforward, but for tenant farmers like myself there is added complexity.

To enter land into a scheme to create a high-quality carbon credit may require the landlord’s permission.

But what if the landlord decides that, for the tenant to comply with their estate’s carbon offsetting values, they must farm in a way that captures credits?

No soil inversion and a requirement for cover crops might be imposed.

The value of the credit could be split, but it is conceivable that the way we farm becomes a landlord’s choice.  

On a more positive note, carbon credits could be the death knell of short-term farm business tenancies, with the landlord demanding longer-term tenancies to benefit from 10-year carbon schemes.  

With the disappearance of the Basic Payment Scheme, a potential income of two or three credits to a hectare at a value of $29-33 per credit cannot be overlooked.

Indeed, software tycoon Bill Gates says carbon’s true value is nearer $200/t. I may be able to afford the Tesla after all.