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What Next -- Climate Watch

Soil carbon and carbon trading -- controversy heating up!

One of the major controversies in Durban will be the issue of soil sequestration in relation to carbon markets. The World Bank is heavily promoting the idea of linking agricultural soil sequestration to off-set carbon markets under the banner of 'climate smart agriculture'. It sees the Durban negotiations as an opportunity to open up for such a development by getting agriculture back in the texts.

An increasing number of organizations are however mobilizing against this, on the grounds of environmental integrity and climate justice. They argue that off-sets effectively opens up for increased emissions, as permanence (what happens with the carbon stored in the soils over time?), additionally (how can one know the carbon would't have been stored in the soils in any case due to e.g .government action or civil society and community efforts?), and inherent difficulties in measuring soil carbon makes the whole set-up extremely risky.

In addition, the economics is shaky, with farmers projected to only earn one or a few dollars a year, while private interests in the north gets cheap carbon credits to avoid and delay own actions to cut emissions.

At the spotlight is the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project, run by the Swedish NGO Swedish Cooperative Centre (SCC)/Kooperation utan gränser.

The project is generally seen as a good project that strengthens resilience, yields and adaptation capacity. However, through it's links and business contract with the World Bank, SCC and the project have moved into a hugely problematic situation, where it de facto legitimizes the World Bank's efforts to open up soil sequestration for international carbon markets. The project is used as a showcase example by the Bank, with the result that an increasing number of organizations see SCC as a pawn of the Bank, and are directing their advocacy efforts towards SCC, suggesting they withdraw from the off-set arrangements with the bank.

Rather, they argue, the project on the ground should be funded by public finance -- in addition to mitigation efforts in the rich countries -- not as a substitute for rich country emissions under carbon markets.

SCC are currently reconsidering its engagement with the Bank, and may in the end change its positions. Civil society organizations are watching carefully.
Below some of the reports and media on this hot issue (with links to pdf files).
See also this
website with a sign-on letter against soil carbon markets.

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Soil Carbon Sequestration for Carbon Markets: The Wrong Approach to Agriculture (IATP, ABN, Gaia Foundation)

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Fiddling with Soil Carbon Markets while Africa Burns (ActionAid)

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Say no to soil carbon markets (ActionAid)

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Elusive Promises of the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (IATP)

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Clear as Mud (Gaia Foundation)

And here also a link to a Guardian article about the issue as well as one in AlJazeera.
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