Knowledge for better food systems

Soil carbon workshop report from Sydney, Australia

The Australia-based environmental consultancy E3 International have published a report of and presentations from a workshop they held recently on soil carbon sequestration. The presentations and discussions covered the following issues: Potential of soil carbon and factors impacting on soil carbon The extent of our understanding of the potential to increase soil carbon under different practices, and sequestration rates; consideration of the role of other nutrients and water as well as the role of innovation and new technologies
The Australia-based environmental consultancy E3 International have published a report of and presentations from a workshop they held recently on soil carbon sequestration. The presentations and discussions covered the following issues: Potential of soil carbon and factors impacting on soil carbon The extent of our understanding of the potential to increase soil carbon under different practices, and sequestration rates; consideration of the role of other nutrients and water as well as the role of innovation and new technologies Measurement & modelling The ability to measure soil carbon effectively, given uncertainty. The options for measuring soil carbon directly, or to model it, or to pursue a hybrid approach. Industry issues The importance of taking a systems approach to soil carbon in holistic farm management; leveraging wins to date; acknowledging the danger of farm businesses being locked into inflexible systems but recognising that a boutique market could be of value; applying geosequestration-like ambition levels. Policy issues Recognising the multiple dimensions of soil carbon (consideration of productivity/food security/ profitability, environmental sustainability and social resilience) and tradeoffs in optimising soil carbon; the need for robust economic analysis; balancing market mechanisms with complementary measures including consideration of direct investment in soil carbon. Framework for trading The need for a low cost yet credible Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) regime; treatment of boundaries, additionality, leakage and permanence; accommodating sequestration vs a reduction in GHG emissions; and which soil carbon pools should be included. Investor and market perceptions The ability of the voluntary market to support investor participation. Customer preferences and level of confidence in the product (including product integrity) Legal and institutional issues National harmonisation of property rights for soil carbon; exclusion of natural variability through force majeure provisions; understanding the costs, and risks of contracting in soil carbon; the role of any regulator, and market education You can download the paper and the presentations here. NB In 2010 the FCRN held a small workshop, "Soil carbon sequestration: opportunities and limitations", that also explored the possibilities and limitations afforded by soil carbon sequestration measures. The discussion spanned a range of issues including crop productivity and land use, the relationship between the carbon and nitrogen cycles, biodiversity and water aspects and research needs. The workshop was supported by Defra and the Committee on Climate Change. The FCRN Summary of the workshop is attached below.

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