Carbon market incentives to conserve, restore and enhance soil carbon.

Published online
19 Dec 2018
Content type

Unger, M. von & Emmer, I.

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This report focuses on carbon finance opportunities for enhancing soil organic carbon stocks across the globe and moving towards low-carbon, sustainable, agriculture practices which deliver both on food security and the global warming trajectory of no more than 1.5°C. More precisely, the study was done to assess the state of and prospects of carbon finance for soil carbon project development and its ability to make a meaningful contribution to climate change mitigation. In this study, existing methods, standards, and projects were portrayed in the area of soil carbon development and agricultural soil management. Carbon sequestration activities are also covered as well as efforts to reduce carbon stock losses (through peatland degradation, in particular), always retaining a narrow focus on (below-ground) carbon in soils. The paper also explores several non-CO2 emissions, in particular methane released from certain land-use practices (e.g., rice paddy fields) and nitrous oxide released through the use of fertilizers. The paper addresses soil cover interventions and, more concretely, forest-related activities - afforestation and reforestation (A/R), forest management, as well as activities to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) - are outside the focus of this study. Obviously, soil carbon interventions share many characteristics with forest carbon interventions, and often can be a reference to the 'land-use' sector as a whole. Yet, while forest carbon policies and related activities, including carbon project development, has drawn a lot of attention over the past decade, soil carbon has not or much less so. Also, the paper do not cover in any detail carbon stocks in coastal wetlands (often referred to as 'blue carbon'). While these provide vast additional potential for reducing emissions and sequestering carbon, the emerging blue carbon methodological approaches (1) (beyond mangrove conservation and restoration, which would simultaneously qualify as A/R or REDD+) as too novel for the kind of 'lessons learnt' exercise this study seeks to undertake. (2) The main purpose of this study is, therefore, to extrapolate the specific situation of soil carbon - its position in climate policymaking, and the specific challenges, as well as the opportunities for intervention - and to explore to what extent carbon project finance tools can help its advancement.

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