Our team in Ksapa, based in New York, attended UNGA and “Climate Week” last week. We are not on track to achieve the Global Goals. But in the dangerous climate situation we find ourselves in, it is important not to ignore any option. There are options worth implementing to maximize carbon sequestration and protect nature. Let’s do it.
Every year, society’s concern grows about the need to reduce CO2 emissions and prevent a final collapse of climate patterns. However, there is also increasing certainty that we have little time to achieve this goal. Global targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are being discussed at climate conferences and are causing a transformation in the global economy in an effort to stabilize the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. This means bringing net emissions to zero, which is no easy challenge given that the planet’s economy has been powered by fossil fuels for more than two hundred years.
The limits of REDD+ programs to protect carbon-capturing forests
Initially, this principle in the climate conventions was always based on avoided deforestation. The concept has evolved to encompass all efforts aimed at reducing emissions from forest degradation and promoting nature conservation and sustainable management. REDD+ was designed with this goal in mind.
REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, plus conservation, sustainable management of forests and improvement of forest carbon stocks. It is a global initiative aimed at mitigating climate change by tackling deforestation and forest degradation, which are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The main objectives of REDD+ are:
- Reduce deforestation: This includes reducing 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, forest fires or other human activities that damage the forest ecosystem.
- Improve forest carbon stocks: This includes activities that promote afforestation, reforestation and restoration to increase overall carbon content and storage in forests.
- Manage forests sustainably: This includes adopting sustainable forestry practices that maintain the ecological integrity of forests while enabling economic benefits.
- Conserve biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods: REDD+ aims to protect forest biodiversity and support the livelihoods of local communities that depend on these forests.
The REDD+ mechanism provides financial incentives to developing countries to implement strategies that achieve these objectives. These incentives can come from a variety of 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 looking to offset their own greenhouse gas emissions. In private areas where local regulations allow legal cutting of a maximum percentage of native vegetation, which varies depending on the biome, compensating the landowner can be an efficient means of preserving the forest. One important tool 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 set up. The coverage of risk areas is very limited. Between In 2018 and 2020, there were 377 ongoing REDD+ projects in 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 fight climate change by reducing emissions. REDD+ projects also contribute to biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction and sustainable development.
That’s why we say: “Every effort is worth it”. REDD+ is fine, but not enough. This must be supplemented with additional programs.
Agriculture’s potential to sequester carbon to complement forest protection
Neutralizing emissions or decarbonizing the global economy means in practice reducing emissions and increasing the planet’s absorptive capacity, for example by expanding forest areas, which are major carbon sinks, and restoring degraded biomes and guaranteeing ecosystems that, in a planetary chain of mutual influence, makes the existence of humanity possible. But also utilizing the potential of agricultural land.
Agriculture has the potential to sequester a significant amount of carbon globally through various practices and techniques that promote 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 application of carbon sequestration practices, the types of practices employed, and geographic and climatic conditions.
- Carbon sequestration in the soil: Improving soil health and organic matter content through practices such as no-till agriculture, cover crops, crop rotation, and the addition of organic matter (e.g., compost) can improve soil carbon sequestration. The potential for carbon sequestration in soils is significant and varies depending on soil types, climate and agricultural practices. Estimates suggest that agricultural soils worldwide have the potential to store several gigatons of carbon dioxide annually.
- Reforestation and agroforestry: Integrating trees and forests into agricultural landscapes through agroforestry and reforestation can also contribute significantly to carbon storage. Trees store carbon as they grow, both in their biomass (above and below ground) and in the soil below.
- Carbon storage in grassland: Improved grazing management and conservation practices in grasslands and rangelands can improve soil carbon storage. Techniques such as 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 precisely quantify as it depends on a variety of factors, including policy support, technological advances, financial incentives and behavioral changes within the agricultural sector. Furthermore, it is important to consider that maximizing carbon sequestration potential must be balanced with sustainable agricultural practices that also address food security, water conservation and biodiversity conservation. Still, efforts to promote sustainable agricultural practices that promote carbon sequestration are crucial to 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, including raising awareness, providing incentives, providing technical support, ensuring policy alignment, and promoting community involvement. Here are several strategies to effectively engage farmers in climate sequestration initiatives:
- Education and awareness: Raise awareness among farmers about the importance of climate sequestration and its positive impact on the environment and their livelihoods. Provide workshops, training sessions and information campaigns to educate them on sustainable agricultural practices that promote carbon sequestration. Highlight success stories and tangible benefits, emphasizing improved soil health, higher crop yields, and potential financial incentives associated with participation in climate sequestration programs.
- Financial incentives and support: Provide financial incentives and support mechanisms to encourage farmers to adopt climate-friendly 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 benefits and long-term profitability of climate-smart agricultural practices will motivate farmers to actively participate in these programs.
- Technical assistance and capacity building: Provide technical assistance and capacity building initiatives to equip farmers with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively implement climate sequestration measures. Agricultural extension services can provide guidance on implementing sustainable land management practices, using precision agriculture techniques and optimizing resource use. By increasing farmers’ understanding and capabilities, they will be better able to adopt and maintain environmentally friendly practices.
- Community collaboration and farmer networks: Encourage collaboration and knowledge exchange within the farming community by facilitating the formation of farmer networks and community groups. These platforms allow 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 addressing common challenges associated with the transition to sustainable agriculture.
- Policy coordination and advocacy: Advocate for policies that align with climate sequestration objectives and provide an enabling environment for farmers to participate in such programs. Work with policymakers to emphasize the importance of supporting sustainable agriculture through regulatory frameworks that incentivize carbon sequestration efforts. By ensuring that national and regional policies promote sustainable agricultural practices, farmers will be motivated to actively contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, integrating environmental management into their agricultural activities.
Engaging farmers in climate sequestration programs requires a combination of education, financial incentives, technical assistance, community collaboration and policy advocacy. By providing farmers with knowledge, resources and incentives, and by promoting a supportive community and regulatory environment, we can encourage the 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 must combine our efforts for the sake of our own existence. Ksapa and its Sutti programs – already in place and deeply involving some of the most vulnerable smallholder farmers in emerging economies – offer a valuable option to strengthen carbon sequestration in agricultural lands. Come and talk to Ksapa to find out more about our activities.