Our team at Ksapa based in NYC attended UNGA and “Climate Week” last week. We’re not on track meeting the Global Goals. But in the dangerous climate situation we find ourselves in, it’s important not to leave any option aside. There are options worth implementing to maximize carbon sequestration and protect nature. Let’s do it.
Every year, society’s concern about the need to reduce carbon emissions and avoid a definitive breakdown in climate patterns grows. However, there is also growing certainty that we have little time to achieve this goal. Global targets for cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are discussed at climate conferences and cause a transformation in the world economy in an attempt to stabilize the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. This implies zeroing net emissions, which is not an easy challenge as the planet’s economy has been powered by fossil fuels for over two hundred years.
The Limits of REDD+ Programs to Protect Forests Sequestrating Carbon
Initially, in the climate conventions, this premise was always based on avoided deforestation. The concept has evolved to incorporate all efforts aimed at reducing emissions from forest degradation and promoting conservation and sustainable management. REDD+ was designed with this purpose in mind.
REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, plus conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. It is a global initiative aimed at mitigating climate change by addressing deforestation and forest degradation, which are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The main goals of REDD+ are to:
- Reduce Deforestation: This involves decreasing the conversion of forests to other land uses, such as agriculture, urban development, or infrastructure projects.
- Reduce Forest Degradation: This aims to prevent the decline in forest quality and health, often caused by logging, wildfires, or other human activities that damage the forest ecosystem.
- Enhance Forest Carbon Stocks: This includes activities that promote afforestation, reforestation, and restoration to increase the overall carbon content and storage in forests.
- Sustainably Manage Forests: This involves adopting sustainable forestry practices that maintain the ecological integrity of forests while allowing for economic benefits.
- Conserve Biodiversity and Sustainable Livelihoods: REDD+ aims to protect the biodiversity within forests and support the livelihoods of local communities that rely on these forests.
The mechanism of REDD+ provides financial incentives to developing countries to implement strategies that achieve these objectives. These incentives can come from various sources, including governments, international organizations, private entities, and carbon markets. The idea is to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, which can then be traded or sold as carbon credits to countries or entities seeking to offset their own greenhouse gas emissions. In private areas where, according to local regulations, it is possible to legally clear a maximum percentage of native vegetation, which varies according to the biome, remunerating the land owner can be an efficient resource for keeping the forest standing. An important instrument is carbon credits, which are often wrongly seen by some critics as an option for polluters to continue their harmful activities.
But REDD+ programs are complicated to put in place. Coverage of at risk areas is very limited. Between 2018 and 2020, there were 377 ongoing REDD+ projects across 56 countries, covering only 53 million ha (mha) compared to 2.08 billion ha of forest cover in those countries. While REDD+ are great opportunities to not only help combat climate change by reducing emissions. REDD+ projects also contribute to biodiversity conservation, poverty alleviation, and sustainable development.
That’s why we say “every effort is worth it”. REDD+ is fine but not enough. This needs to be complemented by additional programs.
The Potential of Agriculture to Sequester Carbon in Complement of Forest Protection
Neutralizing emissions or decarbonizing the world economy means, in practice, reducing what is emitted and increasing the planet’s absorption capacity, for example by expanding forest areas, which are major carbon “sinks”, as well as recovering degraded biomes and guaranteeing ecosystems which, in a planetary chain of mutual influence, make humanity’s existence possible. But also tapping into the potential of agricultural land.
Agriculture has the potential to sequester a significant amount of carbon globally through various practices and techniques that enhance soil carbon storage, reforestation, and agroforestry. The specific amount of carbon that can be sequestered through agriculture depends on several factors, including the scale and adoption of carbon sequestration practices, the types of practices implemented, and the geographical and climatic conditions.
- Soil Carbon Sequestration: Improving soil health and organic matter content through practices such as no-till farming, cover cropping, crop rotation, and the addition of organic matter (e.g., compost) can enhance carbon sequestration in soils. The potential for soil carbon sequestration is substantial and varies based on soil types, climate, and farming practices. Estimates suggest that globally, agricultural soils have the potential to sequester several gigatons of carbon dioxide annually.
- Reforestation and Agroforestry: Integrating trees and forests into agricultural landscapes through agroforestry and reforestation efforts can also significantly contribute to carbon sequestration. Trees sequester carbon as they grow, both in their biomass (aboveground and belowground) and in the soils beneath them.
- Grassland Carbon Sequestration: Improved grazing management and conservation practices in grasslands and rangelands can enhance soil carbon sequestration. Techniques like rotational grazing and maintaining grass cover can help increase carbon storage in these ecosystems.
- Wetland Restoration: Restoration and conservation of wetlands, including peatlands and mangroves, can sequester carbon due to the accumulation of organic matter in these environments.
The exact amount of carbon that can be sequestered globally through agriculture is challenging to quantify precisely, as it depends on a variety of factors including policy support, technological advancements, financial incentives, and behavioral changes within the agricultural sector. Additionally, it’s important to consider that maximizing carbon sequestration potential should be balanced with sustainable agricultural practices that also address food security, water conservation, and biodiversity preservation. Yet, efforts to promote sustainable agricultural practices that enhance carbon sequestration are crucial in mitigating climate change and achieving broader sustainability goals.
Engaging Farmers in Climate Sequestration Programs – Learning From Ksapa and its Programs
Engaging farmers in climate sequestration programs involves a multifaceted approach that includes raising awareness, providing incentives, offering technical support, ensuring policy alignment, and fostering community involvement. Here are several strategies to effectively engage farmers in climate sequestration initiatives:
- Education and Awareness: Raise awareness among farmers about the significance of climate sequestration and its positive impact on the environment and their livelihoods. Conduct workshops, training sessions, and information campaigns to educate them about sustainable farming practices that enhance carbon sequestration. Highlight success stories and tangible benefits, emphasizing improved soil health, increased crop yields, and potential financial incentives associated with participating in climate sequestration programs.
- Financial Incentives and Support: Provide financial incentives and support mechanisms to encourage farmers to adopt climate-smart practices. This could include grants, subsidies, tax breaks, or access to carbon credit markets, where farmers can receive compensation for sequestering carbon on their land. Demonstrating the potential economic gains and long-term profitability of climate-friendly farming practices will motivate farmers to actively engage in these programs.
- Technical Assistance and Capacity Building: Offer technical assistance and capacity-building initiatives to equip farmers with the necessary knowledge and skills to implement climate sequestration measures effectively. Agricultural extension services can provide guidance on implementing sustainable land management practices, utilizing precision farming techniques, and optimizing the use of resources. By enhancing farmers’ understanding and capabilities, they will be better positioned to adopt and maintain environmentally beneficial practices.
- Community Collaboration and Farmer Networks: Encourage collaboration and knowledge-sharing within the farming community by facilitating the formation of farmer networks and community groups. These platforms enable farmers to share experiences, insights, and best practices related to climate sequestration. By fostering a sense of community and collective responsibility, farmers can support each other in implementing climate-friendly practices and address common challenges associated with transitioning to sustainable agriculture.
- Policy Alignment and Advocacy: Advocate for policies that align with climate sequestration goals and provide an enabling environment for farmers to participate in such programs. Engage with policymakers to emphasize the importance of supporting sustainable agriculture through regulatory frameworks that incentivize carbon sequestration efforts. Ensuring that national and regional policies promote sustainable farming practices will motivate farmers to actively contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation, integrating environmental stewardship into their agricultural operations.
Engaging farmers in climate sequestration programs necessitates a combination of education, financial incentives, technical assistance, community collaboration, and policy advocacy. By empowering farmers with knowledge, resources, and incentives, and fostering a supportive community and regulatory environment, we can encourage widespread adoption of sustainable practices that contribute to climate resilience and a more sustainable agricultural sector.
Given the urgency of the problem, all available alternatives, including maintaining carbon sinks and reducing emissions, are absolutely important, necessary and complementary. We are racing against time, and we need to unite our efforts for the sake of our own existence. Ksapa and its Sutti Programs – already deployed engaging closely some of the most vulnerable smallholders in emerging economies – is provides a valuable option to bolster carbon sequestration across agricultural lands. Come and talk with Ksapa to learn more about our activities.
Author of several books and resources on business, sustainability and responsibility. Working with top decision makers pursuing transformational changes for their organizations, leaders and industries. Working with executives improving resilience and competitiveness of their company and products given their climate and human right business agendas. Connect with Farid Baddache on Twitter at @Fbaddache.