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Introduction toNature Markets Assessing landopportunities Working withother farmers Baselining,planning andmeasuring Workingwith buyers Farm businessplanning Liability & riskmanagement Using repayablefinance Signing legalcontracts Public sectorfunding & policy Tenancy &ownership
  1. Groundwork
  2. Market Engagement
Introduction toNature Markets Assessing landopportunities Working withother farmers Baselining,planning andmeasuring Workingwith buyers Farm businessplanning Liability & riskmanagement Using repayablefinance Signing legalcontracts Public sectorfunding & policy Tenancy &ownership
  1. Groundwork
  2. Market Engagement

Summary of the Bwlch Y Groes Peatland Restoration Project

The Roberts family have been farming at Pennant Farm in Wales for several generations and focus predominantly on beef and sheep farming. In 2020, they started to explore the restoration of one of their peatlands, a 66-hectare degraded blanket bog in Bwlch Y Groes, using a mixture of carbon finance and public funding from the Welsh government. They sold 2,335 carbon units via the IUCN UK Peatland Code to a brewery company in Cheltenham, making this first carbon-funded peatland restoration project in Wales.

 

Farm Profile:

  • Location: Gwynedd, Wales
  • Size of Land: 66 hectares
  • Land Ownership: Owner occupiers
  • Nature Market Primary Focus: Peatland Carbon
  • Interventions: Peatland restoration (rough grazing, revegetating, blocking gullies)
  • Project Partners: Snowdonia National Park Authority, Forest Carbon

 

 

What do I need to know about nature markets to begin with?

 

This section of the Toolkit provides a brief overview of nature markets in England and how they relate to farmers. It is designed to answer some of the early questions that farmers may have around nature markets. All Toolkit content, including this Introductory section, will be updated regularly.

 

What market opportunities are available to me based on my land and goals?

 

This milestone will guide you through an initial assessment of your land as you determine what your broad vision is in relation to nature and help you to identify what opportunities might be available to you to attract private sector finance.

The actions taken at this stage can be taken before you’ve made the firm decision to engage in nature markets. The considerations presented in this milestone will help you determine whether nature market participation makes sense for your goals, the condition of your natural capital and your farming business.

You can also apply many of these considerations to develop a broader vision around your natural capital and other potential funding sources – such as government grant schemes or philanthropic funding.

 

Will I need to partner with other farmers, and if so, how?

 

Once you have a vision for your farm, the environmental enhancements or changes you want to make and a sense of the related income opportunities, you may want to consider joining up with other farmers in your area to implement your outcomes at scale to attract buyers.

Aggregation models, often started among  farmer clusters or as farmer cooperatives, bring together multiple farmers or landowners to collectively participate in nature markets. These models aim to harness the combined efforts and resources of farmers to maximise environmental benefits and economic opportunities. This section will introduce the factors that may influence your decision to join up with other farmers and some of the key considerations to keep in mind when setting up and participating in such a group.

 

How do I measure the environmental outcomes that I can produce in a robust way?

 

At this stage you will have developed an overarching vision for your land and a rough plan for what you want to improve. You will now want to make robust baseline measurements of the condition of your land and develop a detailed plan for interventions and intended outcomes. Plans will also include how you intend to maintain your interventions, measure the impact you are having and verify your outcomes in order to sell them.

 

How should I identify and approach buyers for my outcomes?

 

During your initial project scoping, you may have identified potential buyers of the environmental outcomes you are planning to deliver. Now that you have a project plan and a robust baseline, you will be ready to approach and engage buyers more formally.

Buyers will vary in their expectations and requirements. This milestone will help you prepare for initial conversations with potential buyers to ensure you are empowered to ask the right questions and present a project that will attract a fair price. Your buyers may be within your own supply chain such as retailers and businesses, or organisations who benefit directly from your ecosystem services such as water companies or firms who seek to offset their own environmental impacts.

 

How would this project fit in with my current farming business model?

 

Nature market projects are often just one part of a farmer’s wider business. Some people compare building nature market projects to developing ‘micro businesses’ for the farm. As such, much of the content you see here will be familiar to you.

However, these projects also have key features that separate them from the businesses that farmers usually engage in. For example, the longer timeframes associated and the current uncertainties relating to how nature market projects (and the deals that result) can be blended with government schemes.

Below is a list of questions that will help you think through how to incorporate these projects into your current farm business plan. This includes considerations on building a cashflow or partial budget, but also the less quantifiable factors, such as the potential drawbacks and opportunities to your wider farm that sales of present.

 

What kind of risks should I be aware of and how can I manage them?

 

Like with any aspect of a farm business, risk management is critical – especially for nature market projects that can run over several years. As the landholder, you may be leading the development of the project, be part of a wider group of farmers, or be working with a third-party project developer that is taking the majority of the risk.

In any case, it’s advisable to have a clear understanding of the likelihood of the risks involved, what will happen if the risk materialises, what you as the landholder might be liable for, and how the risk is being managed to prevent this liability.

This Milestone sets out the different types of risks that nature market projects (and the deals that result from them) often carry. The last section covers the types of legal entities that farmers might form, as these can help to manage certain risks and benefit the overall operations of the project.

 

Is it possible to use repayable finance upfront to meet any of the costs?

 

Repayable finance from investors – typically debt or equity – is not always necessary in nature markets if upfront costs can be met by the buyer or through grants.

It’s also important to note that, even when repayable finance is needed, farmers do not necessarily have to secure this themselves.

In the UK, there are very few examples of individual farmers taking out loans and no examples of farmers issuing shares to use specifically to finance a nature market project. Typically, the upfront capital required is organised by a third party – for example, a third-party project developer, a broker etc.

However, as nature markets develop further, and in the case of larger farms, there is potential for farmers to secure repayable finance and meet up-front costs, as with other parts of their business.

The below therefore sets out some questions that farmers (and, more likely, third party project developers) could ask themselves to secure repayable finance from lenders and investors, whether that’s taking on finance independently, or as part of a larger group or partnership.

 

What do I need to be aware of when signing contracts?

 

This Milestone is about the legal contracts you will use and sign to officially commit to the project and transition it to a fully fledged deal. As business owners, farmers are familiar with contracts and understand the need to carefully review the details before signing any such agreements.

Any nature market deal is likely to involve legal agreements that will be tailored to each set of circumstances. However, for ease this Milestone sets out what contract set-ups are used in this space, common contract types, and other key considerations to ask yourself at this stage.

Disclaimer: The information in this Milestone does not constitute any form of legal advice but instead serves as practical advice that has been written by speaking with lawyers, farmers and other practitioners. We recommend that appropriate legal advice should be taken from a qualified solicitor before taking or refraining from any action relating to your contracts and projects.

 

Can I participate on tenanted land?

 

The tenancy and ownership structure of land can have significant implications for farmers engaging in nature markets in the UK. The rights of tenants in relation to nature markets is still not entirely clear in the UK and may differ on a case by case basis. Below are some key considerations which can help both tenants and landlords in asking the right questions when considering engaging in nature markets as policy and legal frameworks develop. Further guidance prepared by the Tenant Farmers Association and the Country, Land and Business Association can be found here. 

 

How do public sector funding and policy align with nature markets?

 

In England, the role of public funding and support to farmers is undergoing change on a scale not seen in decades. The government hopes to strengthen the link between environmental and farming practices to meet its climate and nature restoration targets, while maintaining food security and the viability of farm businesses across the country.

This section offers a summary of how government is working with farmers to access nature markets, and provides guidance on:

 

  • How nature markets might work with public subsidy schemes,
  • What development funding is available for farmers to explore their opportunities,
  • What ‘market infrastructure’ the government is supporting – including Standards and Codes.

Groundwork

 

We have separated out these Milestones into ‘Groundwork’ and ‘Market Engagement’ to indicate which Milestones you will want to read as you consider and/or prepare for nature markets (Groundwork) and those you will move through if and when you decide to become a seller of environmental outcomes (Market Engagement).  

We recommend all farmers read through the Groundwork Milestones in addition to the Introduction to Nature Markets in order to understand better whether nature markets are for them, and how they can, at the very least, explore and baseline their farms so they are ready for any opportunities that may arise later.  

Market Engagement

 

We have separated out these Milestones into ‘Groundwork’ and ‘Market Engagement’ to indicate which Milestones you will want to read as you consider and/or prepare for nature markets (Groundwork) and those you will move through if and when you decide to become a seller of environmental outcomes (Market Engagement).  

We recommend all farmers read through the Groundwork Milestones in addition to the Introduction to Nature Markets in order to understand better whether nature markets are for them, and how they can, at the very least, explore and baseline their farms so they are ready for any opportunities that may arise later.  

 
Acknowledgements 

 

With thanks for giving their time and insight to this case study:

Lisa Roberts, Farmer, Pennant Farm

Ben Woodliffe, Taproom Supervisor and Sustainability Lead, DEYA Brewing Co

Rachel Harvey, Peatland Officer, Snowdonia National Park Authority

Date Published: 20/10/2023

Next Milestone

Key Takeaways

  • The Roberts family decided to use a broker to sell their carbon units via the Peatland Code.
  • As the family were unsure about future prices, they wanted to sell all of their units upfront, but with a clear idea of their break-even price across the 30-year agreement.
  • They also wanted to sell to a company that was clearly trying to track and reduce its own carbon footprint.
  • Going forward, the Roberts family are interested in verifying more of their peatland restoration using the Peatland Code, but may retain further units for their own offsetting.

 

 

How did the Roberts family approach potential buyers?

The Roberts family, with the help of the Snowdonia National Park Authority, calculated that they had 2,335 carbon units to sell via the IUCN UK Peatland Code (the Peatland Code). More detail can be found on this process in Milestone 3.

With no prior experience of voluntary carbon markets, the Roberts family were unsure as to how to approach buyers. They engaged a broker, Forest Carbon, which was one of the first Peatland Code brokers in the UK. Forest Carbon had a track record and offered to lend a portion of the unit sales up front, with the balance paid once a buyer was found. This provided assurance to the Roberts against their uncertainty about market demand. They also agreed to the percentage commission that Forest Carbon would take once sales were completed.

Forest Carbon distributed a brief overview of the Bwlch Y Groes project amongst its network of potential buyers and received expressions of interest from four separate organisations. It hosted virtual meetings between them and the Roberts family over the course of a month in 2020. The Roberts Family accepted a final offer from DEYA Brewing Co, a brewery based in Cheltenham, England, for all 2,335 units.

Ben Woodliffe, Taproom Supervisor and Sustainability Lead at DEYA, said that peatland restoration appealed to DEYA. “I really liked the fact that peatland restoration delivers more than one benefit that is relevant to our business. As a brewery, clean water is one of our major inputs, and peatlands have great water filtration properties [and] on the project itself, the idea of purchasing from a single project that we could fully support was appealing,” says Woodliffe.

The Roberts family approved of DEYA’s long-term approach to sustainability and also its existing efforts to limit the carbon and environmental impacts of its business model. “It was important for us to sell carbon credits to a company that is trying to do things sustainably anyway, instead of the offsets being a standalone activity,” says Lisa Roberts.

 

How did they set the price of the carbon units?

Roberts stresses the importance for farmers to be clear on their minimum price across the lifetime of the project, and to have a rationale for how much to sell and by when: “We were early movers in this space and we didn’t have too many units to offer, so we were keen to sell as many as we could to mitigate the price risk,” she says.

The minimum price needed for the Bwlch Y Groes project was clarified by the financial additionality calculator that the Peatland Code requires as part of the project’s design. To meet the Peatland Code’s financial additionality test, the carbon financing element must be a minimum of 15% of the project’s funding stack.

The Roberts family, SNPA and Forest Carbon mapped the lifetime costs of the project against its public funding source – the Welsh Peatlands Sustainable Management Scheme. This identified the funding shortfall of the project to be met by carbon financing. Knowing the shortfall, the 15% financial additionality requirement, and the number of units it had to sell, the team established a minimum unit price that it needed. The Roberts family then set a unit price in discussions with DEYA, which was comfortable with the offered price.

 

What is next for the Roberts family?

Pennant Farm has more degraded peatland that is eligible through the Peatland Code, which Roberts says they may use again. “We’ve learned a lot since selling. The government and the market will focus more on farmers’ ability to decarbonise and manage land sustainably. We would be happy to use the Peatland Code process to prove that our restoration plans are credible but may need to retain units for our own offsetting. If we decide to sell units, we would like to keep our units within Wales and ideally within the agriculture industry,” comments Roberts.

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