`A Carbon Credit Market in Italy Provides New Revenue Streams for Olive Growers - Olive Oil Times

A Carbon Credit Market in Italy Provides New Revenue Streams for Olive Growers

Feb. 7, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

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Olive trees have an extra­or­di­nary abil­ity to cap­ture car­bon diox­ide from the atmos­phere and store it in the soil.

A new project in Italy plans to reward olive grow­ers, pro­mot­ing best farm­ing prac­tices and sus­tain­abil­ity while offer­ing small and large enter­prises a viable solu­tion to off­set their car­bon foot­print.

When a com­pany sums up the vol­ume of its (car­bon) pol­lu­tion at the end of the year, it can choose to off­set it. Within our frame­work, that means fund­ing olive farm­ers’ car­bon diox­ide sav­ing qual­i­ties.- Francesco Musardo, co-founder, Alberami

The Alberami cer­ti­fied frame­work allows busi­nesses to buy car­bon cred­its from tra­di­tional olive grow­ers.

By sell­ing their pos­i­tive car­bon bal­ance, farm­ers receive a finan­cial reward for each ton of car­bon diox­ide their groves cap­ture from the atmos­phere. Each ton equals one car­bon credit and can be sold on what is known as the vol­un­tary car­bon credit mar­ket.”

See Also:Why the U.S. Lags Behind Other Western Nations on Carbon Tax Issue

Buying car­bon cred­its might be use­ful when a given activ­ity may not sub­stan­tially reduce its emis­sions or does so only par­tially,” Francesco Musardo, Alberami’s co-founder, told Olive Oil Times.

According to the European Union, car­bon credit mar­kets are boom­ing world­wide. A host of ini­tia­tives that aim to stream­line them are, too, given their sig­nif­i­cant impact on car­bon diox­ide emis­sions.

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The Ecosystem Marketplace obser­va­tory reported a 58-per­cent rise in the global value of those mar­kets in the last 12 months, with trans­ac­tions total value reach­ing €870 mil­lion.

At the COP26 cli­mate con­fer­ence in Glasgow last November, world lead­ers con­firmed their inter­est in car­bon emis­sion mar­kets and laid out plans for a stan­dard set of rules.

According to a recent study by the International Emissions Trading Association and the University of Maryland, those mar­kets could stim­u­late €870 bil­lion in invest­ments by 2050.

Any pro­duc­tive activ­ity gen­er­ates car­bon diox­ide,” Musardo said. When a com­pany sums up the vol­ume of its [car­bon] pol­lu­tion at the end of the year, it can choose to off­set it. Within our frame­work, that means fund­ing olive farm­ers’ car­bon diox­ide sav­ing qual­i­ties.”

An essen­tial piece of the car­bon diox­ide olive mar­ket is its pend­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion at the International Carbon Registry (ICR), which pro­vides ICR car­bon cred­its.

Another key of the project is a pop­u­lar blockchain tech­nol­ogy provider, which guar­an­tees the integrity, safety and pri­vacy of Alberami’s data. Once saved in the sys­tem, the infor­ma­tion can not be altered.

Born in the Apulian town of Lecce – ground-zero in Italy’s deadly Xylella fas­tidiosa epi­demic – Alberami aims to bring some finan­cial relief to a sec­tor that has gone through sig­nif­i­cant hard­ships in recent years.

The car­bon credit plat­form has just opened its sub­scrip­tions, and dozens of olive grow­ers through­out Italy are tak­ing notice.

At the moment, we have just about 500 hectares of tra­di­tional olive groves reg­is­tered in our sys­tem, but our met­rics tell us there will be more than 2,000 a month from now,” Musardo said.

As soon as those num­bers reach a min­i­mum given vol­ume of one or two mil­lion plants, the olive car­bon credit mar­ket will go live; car­bon emit­ters will be able to buy cred­its, and grow­ers will start being rewarded.

So far, the frame­work has attracted both small grow­ers, which con­sti­tute the back­bone of Italian olive pro­duc­tion, and sev­eral more promi­nent com­pa­nies.

Those who adhered so far span from small grow­ers of 1.5 hectares to 150-hectare larger farms,” Musardo said.

To enroll, grow­ers give Alberami a wide vari­ety of infor­ma­tion about the trees and meth­ods of har­vest­ing and trans­for­ma­tion.

The com­pany asks grow­ers about the loca­tion, age, vari­ety and quan­tity of olive trees. They fur­ther inquire about the far­m’s cul­ti­va­tion, har­vest, milling meth­ods and energy source. Finally, they ask for details about the goal of the olive oil pro­duc­tion oper­a­tion – com­mer­cial or domes­tic use.

All of this is fac­tored into our pro­pri­etary algo­rithm, which cal­cu­lates the val­ues related to car­bon diox­ide cap­ture and stor­age,” Musardo said.

Olive grow­ing gen­er­ates car­bon emis­sions just like any other activ­ity, but the char­ac­ter­is­tic of the tree and the way it is grown pro­duce, in the end, a car­bon pos­i­tive out­come,” he added. The olive tree veg­e­ta­tive cycle lasts many months through the year, more than most trees, and prac­tices such as prun­ing rein­force it and add to its car­bon cap­ture qual­i­ties.”

It also pro­duces olives, where the tree stores some of that car­bon diox­ide,” Musardo con­tin­ued. That will end up in olive oil, thus offer­ing a long-term stor­age cycle which far out­paces those of non-fruit­ing plants.”

According to the International Olive Council (IOC), the oppor­tu­ni­ties for olive tree car­bon sinks are grow­ing. On aver­age, wrote the IOC experts, a hectare of olive trees can­cels out one person’s annual car­bon foot­print,” and the cur­rent global pro­duc­tion of olive oil could absorb emis­sions of such a large city as Hong Kong and its seven mil­lion inhab­i­tants.

It has been cal­cu­lated that one liter of olive oil pro­duc­tion might cap­ture up to 10.64 kilo­grams of car­bon diox­ide from the atmos­phere.

Once reg­is­tered as car­bon sinks, the Alberami olive grove’s car­bon-seques­ter­ing capac­ity will change over time and be mea­sured each year.

To pro­duce pos­i­tive car­bon cred­its as the years go by, grow­ers will have to imple­ment their farm­ing activ­i­ties so that their groves main­tain and grow their car­bon cap­ture qual­i­ties,” Musardo said.

To that end, the com­pany gives farm­ers a list of good prac­tices that can enhance their groves’ emis­sion-friendly pro­file.

That list includes a ban on fer­til­iz­ers, the sug­ges­tion to allow grass to grow under the trees and avoid deep plow­ing and even sug­gests turn­ing to organic farm­ing,” Musardo said.

According to the com­pany, organic olive grow­ing is far more reward­ing in terms of car­bon credit.

When grown with con­ven­tional farm­ing, tra­di­tional olive tree place­ment of a max­i­mum six per six meters can pro­duce up to 10 or 12 car­bon cred­its,” Musardo said. The same tree grown organ­i­cally will absorb more than two or three times that quan­tity. This might give new finan­cial incen­tives to go organic to many grow­ers.”

According to data pub­lished by the Institute of Services for the Agricultural Food Market (Ismea), only 23 per­cent of olive groves in Italy are cur­rently cer­ti­fied as organic. Still, this fig­ure far exceeds other major pro­duc­ers, such as Spain or Greece.

That gives us one more hint about the oppor­tu­ni­ties that lay ahead for the olive tree car­bon credit mar­ket in Italy,” Musardo con­cluded.



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