Private Carbon Credit Initiatives in the Agricultural Sector: Investigating Motivations and Understanding Their Effects
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This thesis project examines the emergence of privately led soil carbon sequestration (SCS) credit programs, specifically for traditional cropping systems, in the agriculture sector in North America. Carbon credits have received renewed attention and legitimacy as a policy response to climate change in the wake of corporate net-zero and sustainability goals, as well as the Paris Climate Agreement’s establishment of a new carbon trading system. The climate-food nexus has become the focus of many international organizations and climate change mitigation initiatives. One proposed mitigation solution is the creation of carbon credit programs in the agricultural sector, particularly for the implementation of new cropping practices for soil carbon sequestration. While some of these carbon credit programs are government-run, most agricultural carbon credit programs are run by private agri-business firms in voluntary carbon markets. Employing a critical political economic theoretical framework, this study examines some of the motivating factors for agribusinesses to engage with private SCS credit initiatives, as well as the consequences that these initiatives have for agricultural practices, the economics of agriculture, and farmers in North America. Utilizing scholarly literature, document analysis, and interviews, this study demonstrates that agribusinesses have three main motivations for engaging with SCS credit initiatives: pre-emptive action and reactive responses to changing regulations; bolstering corporate reputations; and avenues for new profit through SCS initiatives, especially the use of farmer data collected through new digital monitoring technologies. These motivations demonstrate the desire of agribusinesses to shape responses to climate change in their favour, sustaining “business as usual” business practices, thereby maintaining and expanding opportunities for profit. The thesis also shows that private SCS credit initiatives encourage a lock-in of agriculture into industrial farming methods while precluding discussion on substantive change in the agriculture sector. SCS credit initiatives also continue the trend of the economization process that have been prevalent under neoliberal capitalism. By taking a market-based instrument approach to climate change, agribusinesses create new spaces for profit and control of agriculture supply chains. These initiatives also pose justice issues, with farmers likely bearing the cost of pursuing these private carbon credit programs. Lock-in of ecologically harmful farming practices, economization, and subsequent justice issues generated through private SCS credit initiatives create adverse effects for both farmers and the environment.
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James A.L. Hannay (2023). Private Carbon Credit Initiatives in the Agricultural Sector: Investigating Motivations and Understanding Their Effects. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/20169