Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems

Milestone in Regenerative Agriculture and Paris Agreement Soil Carbon Credits

by Sheryl Karas, RAI staff

Imagine what would happen if people could make money combating climate change by taking excess carbon out of the atmosphere, where it causes global warming, and storing it in the soil where it could help grow our food. That’s the idea behind carbon farming, and what makes that profitable (in addition to the obvious value of the food crops themselves) is that it may be possible for farmers to be paid specifically for doing just that.

Environmentalist and climate change activist Paul Hawken(opens in new window) thinks carbon farming is so potentially powerful that he calls it “the foundation of the future of civilization.” He also believes that when done right this type of farming could “surpass the productivity of industrial agriculture,” which makes it all the more attractive.

If it was possible.

Well, this is not pie in the overly carbon-rich sky any longer! Just last week (March 14, 2019), Australia issued the first soil carbon credits eligible under the Paris Climate Agreement to Corporate Carbon, a company that helps businesses derive commercial value from greenhouse gas abatement projects, and their Grounds Keeping Carbon Project.

Carbon credits are a medium of exchange used to “offset” carbon dioxide emissions under the Cap and Trade guidelines set by the Paris Agreement. The idea is that companies responsible for contributing to CO2 emissions need to reduce their emissions (cap) or pay for the efforts of farmers and others who can prove they are successfully doing the work of removing CO2 from the atmosphere (trade). A single carbon credit represents the right to emit approximately one metric ton of carbon dioxide or the equivalent mass of another greenhouse gas. Of course, the need to reduce carbon emissions in the first place is of utmost importance so companies are encouraged to make more profit by reducing their emissions and selling their carbon credits to other companies.

Obviously, the temptation to cheat the system is a potential issue so this is intended to be a highly regulated process. The Grounds Keeping Carbon Project successfully showed that their approach works for carbon sequestration.

At the ceremony where the soil credits were issued, Australia’s Chair of the Clean Energy Regulator David Parker said, “Soil carbon capture and sequestration is an innovative emissions reduction measure. There is a triple win in aiding international efforts to address climate resilience, improving soil health and food productivity, and the bottom line for farmers.”

Issuing these credits was a world milestone for the use of soil carbon credits. Because the project utilizes a number of regenerative farming practices such as minimal till, mulching, multi-species cover crops and seed drilling, it is a great milestone for Regenerative Agriculture as well.