home    about    browse    search    latest    help 
Login | Create Account

Suitability of soil carbon certificates for climate change mitigation

Paul, Carsten; Don, Axel; Bartkowski, Bartosz; Wiesmeier, Martin; Weigl, Sebastian; Mayer, Steffi; Steffens, Markus; Wolf, Cenk and Helming, Katharina (2022) Suitability of soil carbon certificates for climate change mitigation. Paper at: EGU22, Austria Center Vienna (ACV) in Vienna, Austria, 23.05.2022 - 27.05.2022. [Completed]

[thumbnail of Paul-etal-2022-EGU2022.pdf] PDF - Published Version - English


There is growing awareness of the role that agricultural soils can play for climate change mitigation. Agricultural management that increases soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks constitutes a nature-based solution for carbon dioxide removal. As soils store about twice the amount of carbon found in the atmosphere, even small relative increases could significantly reduce global warming.
However, increasing SOC requires management changes that come with costs to the farmers. In this regard, soil carbon certificates could provide a much-needed financial incentive: Farmers register their fields with commercial providers who certify any SOC increase achieved during a set period of time. The certificates are then sold on the voluntary carbon-offset market. We analysed the suitability of soil carbon certificates for climate change mitigation from the perspectives of soil sciences, agricultural management, and governance. In particular, we addressed questions of quantification, additionality, permanence, changes in emissions, leakage effects, transparency, legitimacy and accountability, as well as synergies and trade-offs with other societal targets.
Soil properties and the mechanisms by which carbon is stored in soils have strong implications for the assessment. Soils have a limited storage capacity, and SOC is not sequestered but its SOC stocks are the dynamic result of plant derived inputs and losses mainly in the form of microbial respiration. The higher the SOC stock, the higher the annual carbon inputs that is needed to maintain it. If carbon friendly management is discontinued, elevated SOC levels will therefore revert to their original level.
We found that while changes in agricultural management that increase SOC are highly desirable and offer multiple-co benefits with climate change adaptation, soil carbon certificates are unsuitable as a tool. They are unlikely to deliver the climate change mitigation they promise as certificate providers cannot guarantee permanence and additionality of SOC storage over climate relevant time-frames. Where the certified carbon storage is non-permanent or fails to meet criteria of additionality, the use of such certificates to advertise products as “carbon-neutral” may be construed as false advertising.

EPrint Type:Conference paper, poster, etc.
Type of presentation:Paper
Keywords:Soil carbon certificates, climate change, soil, Abacus, FiBL10171, ClieNFarms
Agrovoc keywords:
climate change
Subjects: Soil
Environmental aspects > Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Soil > Soil fertility
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Sustainability > Climate
Germany > University of Applied Science Eberswalde
Germany > University of Munich - TUM
Germany > Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research - ZALF
Germany > Other organizations
Deposited By: Caminada, Lena
ID Code:44922
Deposited On:22 Dec 2022 19:10
Last Modified:01 Mar 2023 08:47
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

Repository Staff Only: item control page