Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Soil Carbon Manifesto

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Carbon Coalition is a group of concerned Australians who believe the globe is facing a crisis of CO2 overload leading to Global Warming and that one of the most effective strategies for locking up carbon in our atmosphere is to be found in fostering deep-rooted plant species on land used for agriculture.

We urge governments and the business community to acknowledge the role that agricultural soils can play in addressing the Global Warming crisis. Farmers can play a central role in sequestering carbon in their soils by fostering deep-rooted perennial plant species that have significant biomass in their root systems.

Soil biomass is a natural carbon sink and should be used to create carbon credits which can be traded alongside those currently traded for forests.


We stand by the following facts:

• The terrestrial biosphere currently sequesters 2 billion metric tons of carbon annually. (US Department of Agriculture)

• Soils contain 82% of terrestrial carbon.

• "Enhancing the natural processes that remove CO2 from the atmosphere is thought to be the most cost-effective means of reducing atmospheric levels of CO2." (US Department of Energy)

• "Soil organic carbon is the largest reservoir in interaction with the atmosphere." (United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation) - Vegetation 650 gigatons, atmosphere 750 gigatons, soil 1500 gigatons

• The carbon sink capacity of the world's agricultural and degraded soils is 50% to 66% of the historic carbon loss of 42 to 78 gigatons of carbon.

• Grazing land comprises more than half the total land surface

• An acre of pasture can sequester more carbon than an acre of forest.

• “Soil represents the largest carbon sink over which we have control. Improvements in soil carbon levels could be made in all rural areas, whereas the regions suited to carbon sequestration in plantation timber are limited.” Dr Christine Jones


The benefits of rewarding farmers for contributing to carbon sequestration include the following:

• Improved soil health, protecting our most precious national resource

• Increased soil fertility, boosting productivity and competitiveness

• Better usage of water, reducing erosion, silting, and salination

• Reduced danger of rising salt levels, lowering the water table

• Reduced loss of topsoil to wind and runoff with 100% ground cover

• Increased farm incomes, increasing viability in volatile industries

• Increased farm values, giving farm families financial flexibility

• Foster growth in farm communities, providing employment opportunities and protecting social infrastructure


There are four ways people can get involved in the Carbon Coalition:

1. Advocacy - helping to get the message to the right people, the decision makers who can make this happen.

2. Learning Centres - a network of farms which can demonstrate to farmers how to increase carbon levels in their soils and qualify for 'carbon credited' status

3. Registered Growers - primary producers who have their soils baaseline tested for carbon so they may be elegible for backdated carbon sequestration credits when the trading system begins.

4. Consumers - a "This Product is Carbon Credited" logo could be attached to consumer goods made from produce grown on Carbo0n Credited soils, giving growers the prospect of a premium market price and enabling consumers to shop knowing they are having the least effect on the environment.


The Carbon Coalition Action Plan includes the following:

1. Recruit advocates and influencers from within industry, government, and agriculture.
2. Form partnerships with companies and organizations dedicated to the same ends.
3. Identify and validate a soil carbon testing methodology that is commercially reliable and seek official recognition of its reliability.
4. Establish a register of agricultural operators wishing to record their base line soil carbon.
5. Establish a market for soil carbon credits by engaging governments and commercial operators.
6. Act as an "aggregator" of individual farms for commercial quantities of soil carbon.
7. Seek to establish a 'carbon futures' market to bring certainty to farmers' carbon sequestration incomes.


The following issues must be addressed immediately to achieve a valid trading system:

1. Standardisation of a soil carbon measurement methodology.
2. Perceived risks associated with security of sequestration in soil.
3. Implication of sequestration for farm management.
4. Implication of sequestration for lan ownership and transfer.


We need your help.
Please nominate other issues or provide comments on the issues identified.


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Thank you for your support.

Michael Kiely

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