Carbon farming

If you own or have rights to land currently used for sheep or beef farming or covered in scrub, you could be paid for cleaning the air with your trees. This ‘carbon farming’ will help fight climate change while increasing the sustainability of the whenua.

Carbon farming includes any land use in which landowners receive economic benefits from carbon sequestration. Sequestration involves using trees, which ‘breathe in’ carbon dioxide (CO2), to capture and store CO2, lessening the potent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

Whenua is tāonga tuku iho or a treasure that connects current generations with their ancestors and future generations. Tanira Kingi lists three cultural constructs that influence the behaviour of Māori agribusiness organisations: whakapapa (genealogy), whānaungatanga (tribal relations) and kaitiakitanga (the responsibility to nurture and care for the whenua through time and generations). The nature of the decision-making process regarding carbon farming is not an exception and is also influenced by cultural imperatives, such as a desire to look after the land for future generations, reciprocity with the land and the community (elder people and new generations), and knowing the story of the land, among others.

Decisions about the possible utilisation of land can take time, as this involves numerous steps and the consideration of potential effects on future generations.

Instead of being based on extracting resources from the whenua, carbon farming is rooted in the sustainability of the land during the process of restoration. The Waro Project focuses mainly on climate change mitigation, but carbon farming can also play a role in increasing biodiversity, decreasing nitrogen run-off, and securing erosion-prone land.

In December 2015 in Paris, Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. New Zealand’s Government signed the Paris Agreement which is designed to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, and to make finance flows consistent with a low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate-resilient pathway. 

Basically, what this means is that, if you are planting native forest or letting it regenerate, it may make sense to take advantage of the way the newly sequestered carbon becomes an economic commodity that can be sold through carbon markets. In New Zealand this carbon market is known as the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Post-1989 landowners, or those leasing this land, can apply to register as ETS participants at any time. Check out the process to get yourself set up as an ETS participant.

“[Carbon farming] is a payment for nothing. We get paid for growing forestry while the rest of the world screw-up.”

Māori landowner

“There are benefits to wildlife, there are community benefits, soil benefits, biodiversity benefits, so I think there is additional value there…. The challenge… is how you can value those co-benefits from natives.”

Large scale emitter
Manuka in flower