At last, climate change has
the world’s attention.
Now we need credible solutions.
Atmospheric carbon is currently at its highest level in human history – and it’s still rising. Reducing emissions is important, but that will only slow down how quickly things get worse: we need to actually remove carbon from the atmosphere.
We’re taking billions of tons of carbon that’s been buried for hundreds of millions of years and is not part of the carbon cycle, taking from deep underground and adding it to the carbon cycle.
Despite all the warnings and all the campaigning, atmospheric carbon is still rising. Leading authorities put the ‘safe level’ of atmospheric carbon – the level above which the earth will face irreversible and catastrophic climate change – at 350ppm. We are currently at 421ppm. So, not only do we have to cut carbon emissions, we have to take carbon back out of the atmosphere – carbon that we put there and which is threatening our very survival.
Governments, organisations and individuals around the world have now recognised the clear and present danger of climate change and accepted the urgent need to reduce and reverse carbon emissions. And yet even now, many initiatives continue to focus on reducing carbon output rather than actually reversing it and lowering total atmospheric carbon levels.
Climate agreements and carbon reduction programmes are required to combat the devastating effects that global warming is already having. Most nations (reported to be over 190 of 195) have signed the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change committing to reducing global temperature by more than 2ºC. At the same time, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that failing to act on climate change could cause global GDP to fall by 13% and lead to a global depression.
Carbon offset sources (%)
Carbon offsetting initiatives are growing fast but less than 5% of offsets actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
Global temperature and carbon dioxide
Leading authorities put the ‘safe level’ of atmospheric carbon – the level above which the earth will face irreversible and catastrophic climate change – at 350ppm. We are currently at 421ppm.
Beyond reduction to removal
Company CSR reporting and carbon offsetting requirements are increasing pressure on corporations to become carbon neutral, with many companies publicly stating that they will be net zero by 2025.
Corporate climate action
Reaching these important but still ambitious targets demands action not merely to cut emissions but to dramatically increase carbon capture – and to develop effective processes for corporates to buy into this capture to offset their unavoidable carbon emissions. In fact, as legislation comes into force to ensure that carbon-emitting entities address carbon neutrality3, the annual voluntary carbon market is expected to grow dramatically and be worth more than $50bn by 2030 – an increase of more than 660% on its current $748m. Demand for carbon is likely to outstrip supply by 2-3 times in the coming years4 providing an incentive to create carbon credits at scale. Recognition of this imperative and opportunity is what lies behind the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon markets led by Mark Carney.
Unsurprisingly, rising demand for carbon has attracted the interest of farmers and landowners who have the capacity to change their land management techniques and to draw carbon down into their soils. They are eager to engage with the voluntary carbon market but unsure of where to start. As well as seeking a new revenue stream from selling carbon to the markets, some landowners and farmers are also aware of the potential benefits of adopting regenerative land practices that will accelerate their carbon insetting and deliver cost savings on their land management, higher yields and gain other ecological benefits downstream5.
Soil carbon sequestration is a process in which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil carbon pool. This process is primarily mediated by plants through photosynthesis, with carbon stored in the form of SOC.
Whilst artificial techniques are available, the modification of agricultural practices is a recognised method of carbon sequestration as soil can act as an effective carbon sink offsetting as much as [STAT] carbon dioxide emissions annually. Restoration of organic farming and earthworms may entirely offset CO2 annual carbon and drawdown the residual atmospheric excess.
Carbon sequestration has become a popular, eco-friendly, way to address climate change. Popular ways to sequester carbon have been through planting trees and hedgerows and from rewilding. But above ground carbon sequestration is only part of the solution. A plant’s ability to sequester carbon happens 1.5x more under the soil than above it. Soil is the largest potential carbon sink that we have, and as well as improving soils it encourages much greater biodiversity. By providing the right conditions for our soils in which to sequester carbon as well as the many ecosystem benefits we will engender greater food, water and nutrient security as well as a way to counteract the negative effects of climate change.
300 years ago soil carbon was 30%. Use of nitrates and modern farming practices (such as tilling the land through ploughing) have depleted the soils to under 3%. It is reported in farming circles that there are less than  growing seasons remaining if the soils if the issue is not addressed.
Regenerative farming, and land management practices are required, and this is supported by government, supermarkets and consumers. The urgent requirement to save the climate and our food source will, within a few growing seasons, also have the benefits of cheaper farming, higher yields and more nutrient rich food. But farmers and land managers resist the change, due to the transition costs and inertia.
The soil organic carbon is verified and certified by independent regulated labs, measuring soil biome and levels of stable soil organic carbon, making it a credible carbon credit that can be offset against carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by corporations for CO2 reduction purposes.
Soil and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Many global policy frameworks, including the United Nations Sustainable Goals (SDGs), directly and indirectly address land and soil. Many of these SDGs cannot be achieved without healthy soils and a sustainable land use. Below in an overview of the SDGs with strong links to soil.