French government launches the “4 per 1000” research initiative on soil carbon sequestration at COP21
Agriculture was not as such part of the official negotiations at COP21 in Paris, but given that it represents a significant part of human emissions (estimations range between 10% to 1/3 of all emissions depending on whether deforestation and indirect impacts are also taken into account), it was much discussed at numerous side events.
In particular, the “4/1000” initiative launched by the French government as part of the Lima to Paris Action Plan(link is external) attracted much attention. This research initiative on “soils for food security and climate” is intended to increase the level of organic matter in the soil (at a rate of 4 parts per thousand per year) and to encourage carbon sequestration through agricultural practices that are suited to local conditions. It has the huge merit to draw attention to the importance of soils, which have been neglected for too long in all political processes, and as such it is supported by IFOAM – Organics International(link is external). But Coordination Sud(link is external), the French platform of international solidarity NGOs, have warned that they will remain vigilant about the initiative, whose concrete direction remains largely undefined for now. In particular, more carbon storage in the soil should not be understood as a license to emit as much or more in other sectors of human activity, and it should not divert attention from the need to reduce agriculture emissions in the first place, which are mostly due to nitrous oxide (production and use of fertilisers) and methane emissions (livestock). IFOAM – Organics International together with other NGOs will contribute to steer this important initiative towards agroecology, keeping in mind that some key principles have to be considered when talking about soil carbon sequestration.