Previous IBI Press Releases are archived below.
Please visit the IBI Publications page for links to general fact sheets, IBI white papers, and other publications.
IBI is pleased to announce the certification of the first biochar material in our recently launched IBI Biochar Certification Program. Cool Planet Energy Systems, a California-based developer of small-scale bio-refineries for the conversion of non-food biomass into biofuels and biochar, can now utilize the IBI Certified Biochar Seal™ on its Cool Terra™ biochar product.
To achieve certification, Cool Planet submitted an application for Cool Terra™ biochar that met all of the conditions of the IBI Biochar Certification Program, including passing all of the physicochemical testing requirements specified by the IBI Biochar Standards—the foundation for IBI biochar Certification. The approval of Cool Planet’s biochar signals that leading industry organizations recognize the market value in providing assurances to biochar end-consumers through the display of the IBI Certified Biochar Seal™. ”This is a key milestone in the fledgling biochar industry, and an important step in IBI’s development of standards and certification of biochars to promote market certainty,” said IBI’s Executive Director, Debbie Reed.
IBI’s certification program—the first of its kind globally—is a voluntary, self-certifying program created and administered by IBI. It enables biochar manufacturers to certify that their product meets industry-accepted standards and is safe and effective for use as a soil amendment. The IBI Biochar Certification Program is fully automated and accessible via IBI’s website, allowing biochar manufacturers to register, apply, and submit all required documentation online.
Phase 1 of the IBI Biochar Certification Program is being implemented with biochar manufacturers in the United States and Canada. IBI is actively exploring the expansion of the IBI Biochar Certification Program to other regions in the future and we will keep our membership abreast of developments.
For further information on Cool Terra™ biochar and Cool Planet Energy Systems please click here.
IBI has been engaged for some time in efforts to produce globally-developed and accepted Guidelines for Specifications of Biochars. IBI has developed these specification guidelines for the purpose of categorizing biochars according to relevant, reliable and measurable characteristics. These Guidelines are intended to be voluntary, international guidelines for public use and adaptation to any national or local regulatory system, obligation or circumstance.
IBI has developed these Guidelines using a global, transparent, fully-documented process congruent with existing standard-setting bodies such as the ISO. The Guidelines and associated characterization tests rely on existing research and knowledge and are built from accepted methodologies, standards, regulations and tests. Throughout the process IBI has solicited public input and incorporated public comment. Biochar is a relatively new industry, and as such, IBI expects that this Guideline document will evolve over time in an iterative process with revisions as warranted.
The process formally begain at IBI's Third International Conference on Biochar in 2010. Our goal in the current phase of the work is to produce a universally developed "final product" that any of our members or member organizations can utilize as a basis for governmental and third-party certification agencies to develop guidelines for specifications of biochars, apart from any use IBI makes of these guidelines.
The final open public comment period for the guidelines will begin on October 15, 2011 and run until November 15, 2011. Reviewers can find the document online at bit.ly/biocharguidelines. Reviewers are encouraged to send comments, questions or suggestions for the Guidelines for the Specifications of Biochars to the following email address: BiocharGuidelineIBI@gmail.com
IBI is holding an informational webinar that will be repeated 4 times during the month of October for those who wish to contribute or continue contributing to IBI’s ongoing, global, transparent process of establishing guidelines for specifications of biochars. The webinar is provided free of charge and all sessions are open to the public.
This webinar will serve as an introduction to the latest version of the IBI Guidelines for Specifications of Biochars document as well as an overview of the document development process. The webinar will cover the purpose of the document, its development process, and its component parts. There will be time at the end for questions. The following four dates and times for the informational webinar were selected to allow as many people as possible across the globe to participate, and at least one of the webinars will be recorded and made available online in an archive. Participants may register by clicking on one of the links below. Questions about registration may be addressed to Alison Lennie at email@example.com.
For further information, and to see earlier drafts of the guidelines, and follow the course of development of the guidelines, please go to http://www.biochar-international.org/characterizationstandard.
At the close of the final comment period, and after all applicable changes to the guidelines are incorporated, IBI will host a balloting process to allow all paying IBI members to vote on adoption of the final guidelines. The dates and process for the balloting will be announced in the near future.
Cornell University Invites You to a Briefing on Carbon Sequestration Practices, Hope or Hype? The Science Behind Using Geologic Formations and Developing Biochar to Lock Carbon in the Earth and Out of the Atmosphere
US House of Representatives: Tuesday, July 13, 2010
10:00 - 11:00 am
2325 Rayburn HOB
US Senate: Tuesday, July 13, 2010
3:00 - 4:00 pm
SVC 201, Capitol Visitor Center
The entrance to the Capitol Visitor Center is on the east side of the U.S. Capitol Building. Please allow extra time to go through security.
Cornell Professors Johannes Lehmann and Teresa Jordan will discuss state-of-the-art carbon sequestration practices in climate mitigation strategies. One of the world's authorities on biological carbon sequestration with biochar, Professor Lehmann will discuss how heating biomass creates renewable energy and a charcoal co-product, biochar, which when applied to soils, captures carbon and improves crop performance. Biochar has the potential to mitigate climate change impacts and enhance soil quality.
Professor Jordan's groundbreaking team in the Northeast focuses on geologic sequestration, a process injecting carbon dioxide underground for long-term storage. She will address practices, risks, costs and uncertainties associated with sequestration in saline aquifers and emptied oil and gas reservoirs.
For more information, contact (202) 434-8035.
IBI is pleased to announce that the American Power Act, a plan to secure America’s energy future, contains several important provisions to support deployment of biochar as a climate mitigation and adaptation tool. Senators Kerry and Lieberman released a discussion draft of the legislative plan on Wednesday.
For the last several years, IBI has been working with members of Congress to incorporate appropriate language on biochar within climate and energy legislation. IBI members and others have helped to educate policymakers about biochar, and why it should be included in US cap-and-trade legislation to help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and as a way to sequester carbon in soil. Soil carbon sequestration through biochar also promises to enhance the US soil resource upon which our food, renewable fuel and fiber supply depend.
The APA contains three specific provisions related to biochar. The first provision is under the domestic offset program, under Title II, Subtitle A – Global Warming Pollution Reduction. Section 734, Eligible Projects, under Part D – Offset Credit Program for Domestic Emission Reductions, includes “projects for biochar production and use”.
The second and third biochar provisions fall under Title II, Subtitle C – Achieving Fast Mitigation, Part II – Black Carbon.
Section 2211, Report On Black Carbon Sources, Impacts, And Reduction Opportunities instructs the EPA produce a report that includes a section on “research and development activities needed to better characterize the feasibility of biochar techniques to decrease emissions, increase carbon soil sequestration, and improve agricultural production, and if appropriate, encourage broader application of those techniques”.
Section 2214 under the same Part II, titled Enhanced Soil Sequestration, authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a grant program to “conduct research, develop, demonstrate, and deploy biochar production technology for the purpose of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.” The program can fund up to 60 facilities and states that the Secretary “shall ensure that facilities receiving grants under this section represent a variety of technologies and feedstocks and are geographically dispersed.”
For more information including a section by section summary see the US Policy Page.
A newly introduced bill in the US Senate provides additional congressional support for biochar projects to qualify for carbon offsets, as well as R&D funding for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for biochar production and utilization projects.
The Clean Energy Partnerships Act of 2009 was introduced November 4 2009 by Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, along with five cosponsors--Senators Max Baucus (MT), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Sherrod Brown (OH), Mark Begich (AK), and Tom Harkin (IA). The bill is designed to ensure that any US domestic cap-and-trade bill provides maximum incentives and opportunities for the US agricultural and forestry sectors to provide high-quality offsets and GHG emissions reductions for credit or financial incentives. Carbon offsets play a critical role in keeping the costs of a cap-and-trade low for society as well as for capped sectors and entities, while providing valuable emissions reductions and income generation opportunities for the agricultural sector. The bill specifically identifies biochar production and use as eligible for offset credits, and identifies biochar as a high priority for USDA R&D, with funding authorized by the bill.
Importantly, the Clean Energy Partnerships of 2009 assigns jurisdictional authorities to the Secretary of Agriculture for offsets and emissions reductions opportunities in the agricultural and forestry sectors, with the EPA Administrator in charge of other offset and emissions reductions opportunities. Within 1 year of enactment, the USDA Secretary is authorized by the bill to establish an initial list of project types eligible for inclusion in the domestic offsets program; biochar production and use projects are identified on the initial project list specified by the Congress.
The bill establishes an advisory committee to jointly advise EPA and USDA on scientific and technical advice for offset projects, including agricultural and forestry offset projects. Besides creating offset opportunities for the agricultural sector, the bill establishes a program that utilizes the proceeds from 2% of the allowance allocations to incentivize additional emissions reductions and increased sequestration from the agricultural and forestry sectors. Projects identified for support under this program include projects that are not otherwise economically viable, or projects types not yet mature enough to qualify for offset credits.
One of the bill's subtitles also amends a bioenergy program from the 2002 Farm bill to provide additional opportunities for bioenergy projects to enhance rural economic development and national energy security. The title would utilize .7% of allowance allocation proceeds to fund projects that qualify as biorefineries under this provision; some biochar production facilities might qualify for this program, depending on the bioenergy characteristics of the system.
An R&D title would fund additional research and demonstration projects for agricultural mitigation and adaptation activities relative to climate change programs, using the proceeds from 1.1% of allowance allocations. Biochar production and use as a soil conditioner are specifically identified as high-priority R&D programs for the Secretary to pursue. Along with 6 farm groups, IBI endorses this bill.
The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has invited Dr. Johannes Lehmann to testify at a hearing which will discuss how agriculture and forestry in the United States have and will be impacted by the effects of global warming. Dr. Lehmann's testimony will provide scientific information about biochar carbon sequestration for sustainable climate change mitigation and global soil enhancement.
The hearing, entitled "Global Warming's Growing Concerns: Impacts on Agriculture and Forestry" will take place Thursday June 18, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. in room 2175 Rayburn House Office Building. Click here to read the Select Committee's invitation as well as Dr. Lehmann's full written testimony.
Dr. Lehmann has been asked to cover the following questions:
Dr. Lehmann's testimony represents the first official testimony on biochar before either House of the US Congress, and comes at a critical time during development of legislation to combat climate change. IBI is seeking carbon credits for measurable, reportable, and verifiable greenhouse gas emissions reductions achieved by biochar systems.
Biochar projects have been moving forward in many US States including Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, South Dakota, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Virginia, Missouri, Hawaii, Georgia, and the Northeast.
In preparation for the upcoming UNFCCC meeting in Copenhagen (December 2009), this week negotiators are meeting in Bonn Germany to discuss negotiating texts and come to consensus before the December international meeting. The Bonn climate talks are the second in a series of five major negotiating sessions ramping up to Copenhagen. One of the texts under discussion in Bonn is the Negotiating Text for the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action Under the Convention (AWG-LCA) which is the first draft text for the Copenhagen agenda to be released for negotiation (see item on biochar on page 36, paragraph 134, under Agriculture). With the support of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) working with IBI and UNCCD countries, biochar was included in the text and brought to the attention of the UNFCCC.
Prior to the Bonn Conference, nearly 20 countries and Parties to the UNFCCC, as well as the UNCCD Secretariat, made submissions to the UNFCCC seeking the inclusion of biochar as a high-potential climate mitigation and adaptation tool. They included Belize, Micronesia, and a Consortium of African governments, including Swaziland, Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Since the current Bonn negotiations began, an additional two countries, Australia and Costa Rica, have made written submissions in reference to the draft negotiations text and indicated support for biochar. Australia, the first developed/Annex 1 country to support biochar in this manner, submitted the following:
"...A comprehensive and ambitious global outcome of this nature would realistically and necessarily involve:
1. comprehensive coverage of gases, sources and sectors, with inclusion of forests (e.g. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation - REDD) and the land sector (including soil carbon initiatives (e.g. biochar) if scientifically demonstrated) in the agreement;"
Costa Rica made a submission which includes the biochar text as presented in the draft AWG-LCA text, adding another developing country supporter to the group in favor of biochar inclusion (full text).
IBI Policy Director Debbie Reed is attending the sessions in Bonn, and on June 9 participated in a side event entitled: Targeting Non-CO2 Climate Forcers for Fast Mitigation to Complement CO2 Cuts, presented by Sweden and Micronesia. Ms. Reed discussed biochar and the important role that biochar can play in combating climate change and enhancing the world's soils, with many positive co-benefits. For more information on the side event, please see: http://www.iisd.ca/climate/sb30/enbots/09.html and http://www.iisd.ca/climate/sb30/enbots/pdf/enbots1268e.pdf.
In the first release of draft negotiating text for the upcoming Copenhagen meetings in December, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has included biochar in a section entitled: "Enhanced Action on Mitigation". The just-released text will serve as the basis for negotiations during the pre-Copenhagen meetings in Bonn from June 1 – 12, 2009, and ultimately, for the 1 – 12, 2009 December meeting in Copenhagen.
IBI credits its cooperative work with the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention on Desertification (UNCCD) for inclusion of the draft text, which reads:
The text is included in the Negotiating Text for the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action Under the Convention.
IBI Policy Director Debbie Reed hails the support of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) for working with IBI and UNCCD countries to bring biochar to the attention of the UNFCCC. "The UNCCD Secretariat understands the dual role of biochar in combating climate change and land degradation and desertification, and we commend their efforts in working with us to raise the profile of this issue in such a significant manner. We will continue to work together to ensure that biochar is recognized within the Copenhagen Framework and beyond."
To date, at least 13 countries and Parties to the UNFCCC, as well as the UNCCD Secretariat, have made submissions to the UNFCCC seeking the inclusion of biochar as a high-potential climate mitigation and adaptation tool, including in drylands and developing countries with degraded soils and deserts. They include Belize and a Consortium of African governments, including Swaziland, Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Additionally, several countries, including Argentina, Senegal, and the UNCCD Secretariat, all spoke favorably of the role of biochar in combating climate change and aiding in adaptation efforts at a 4 April, 2009 UNFCCC Agricultural Workshop held in Bonn, Germany.
"The significance of this victory is that it will continue to drive recognition of the role of biochar in combating and adapting to climate change, and result in policies to further support additional research and development of biochar production and utilization systems in the developing and developed country context," said Reed. "We know enough about biochar to know that we must strive to produce sustainable, global biochar systems that enhance the earth's soils while removing carbon from the atmosphere in stable sinks that sequester carbon for thousands of years."
IBI has taken note of an article by George Monbiot in the UK Guardian on March 24, 2009 that questioned the validity of biochar as a climate mitigation tool and the scientists and others who support the development of biochar.
The Guardian has published responses from several of those biochar supporters mentioned by Mr. Monbiot, including James Hansen, Chris Goodall, and James Lovelock. IBI sent The Guardian the response below written by IBI staff members Stephen Brick and Debbie Reed.
George Monbiot is right on the mark about our seemingly irresistible tendency for embracing miracle cures. And it is refreshing to have the press remind us that the laws of thermodynamics will continue to apply in our quest to reduce global carbon emissions. But his diatribe against biochar-like most such screeds-would have us throw the baby out with the bathwater.
This has been said often, but it needs to be said again: there is no magical pathway for cutting global carbon emissions. There is only a collection of steps-complex, costly, and, politically challenging. Put another way, there is no single remedy for the whole problem; but there are, very likely, one hundred different actions that can each bear one percent of the burden. Serious people have understood this for some time, and this would include, we believe, a large fraction of the general public that Mr. Monbiot presumably wishes to warn.
Biochar, produced and used appropriately, should be considered amongst the hundred. Done right, biochar produces four value streams: waste reduction, energy production, soil fertilization and carbon sequestration. Biochar can be made from animal manures and food processing wastes. These residuals are costly to those who produce them, and create greenhouse gas emissions if left untreated. Bio-gas and oil can be used for heating, generating electricity and transportation. Biochar can reduce the need for conventional, fossil-fuel based fertilizers. Finally, biochar can lock up carbon in the soils for extended time periods.
We don't have all the answers on biochar production and utilization; indeed, the mission of the International Biochar Initiative is to seek these answers, objectively and quickly. We know that there are bad ways to make biochar, that crop monoculture for producing feedstock is not a good idea, and that biochar does not affect all soils equally. None of this should rule biochar out of court, however, as we also are assembling a body of knowledge on how to produce and use biochars that are beneficial. In this way, biochar resembles many other carbon-cutting technologies that face uncertainties. In our case, all we seek is an opportunity to be heard fairly as we move towards Copenhagen.
We have no doubt that exaggerating the benefits of biochar is not helpful. On the other hand, the potential of biochar deserves serious consideration. Mr Monbiot's glib dismissal of this potential is unwarranted.
Stephen Brick is the Executive Director of the International Biochar Initiative
Debbie Reed is the Policy Director of the International Biochar Initiative
San Francisco, California – IBI Board Chairman Johannes Lehmann, IBI Science Advisory Committee member James Amonette and other researchers will present important scientific information on biochar at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting taking place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, December 15 -19, 2008.
Biochar is a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water. The carbon in biochar resists degradation and can sequester carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years, providing a potentially powerful tool for mitigating anthropogenic climate change.
Dr. Johannes Lehmann has recently returned from the UNFCCC climate meeting in Poznan, Poland, where the IBI reached out to delegates and observers to inform them of the benefits of biochar. As a result of this outreach effort, The Federated States of Micronesia has filed a submission to introduce biochar as a technology for consideration as a “fast-start” strategy to “mitigate climate change in the immediate near-term.” The submission places biochar on the draft agenda to be considered during UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009.
Micronesia's proposal follows the filing of a submission by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) endorsing biochar. The UNCCD, a sister convention to the UNFCCC, identified biochar as a unique opportunity to address soils as a carbon sink, in line with its 10 year strategic program that calls for the promotion of low-carbon footprint sustainable practices and technologies that assist affected countries in the implementation of their National Actions Programs to Combat Desertification and Drought.
IBI Policy Director Debbie Reed said, "This is an incredibly important achievement, since Micronesia, as a UNFCCC country party, has officially positioned biochar as a mitigation technology for adoption even prior to the post-2012 framework. The UNCCD submission was an excellent start to what we sought here in Poznan, but the Micronesia submission offers a chance to jump-start efforts to adopt biochar as a climate change mitigation technology."
On the AGU meeting agenda are two oral sessions and two related poster sessions that will include presentations on biochar research by a number of different scientists. The schedule for these sessions is as follows:
Dr. Lehmann will be available for press interviews immediately after the Tuesday morning session, during the Tuesday afternoon poster session, and during the first half of the Wednesday morning poster session.
Johannes Lehmann, Ph.D., is associate professor of soil fertility management and soil biogeochemistry at Cornell University. Prior to joining the Cornell faculty in 2001, he coordinated an interdisciplinary research project on nutrient and carbon management in the central Amazon for the Federal Research Institution of Forestry, and the University of Bayreuth, Germany. He is Chairman of the Board for the International Biochar Initiative.
James E. Amonette, Ph.D., is a soil chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA, where he has worked on a number of environmental issues over the past 22 years. A large part of his current work is focused on the mechanisms and environmental implications of biochar amendment to soils as a carbon sequestration method. He serves as a member of the scientific advisory committee for the International Biochar Initiative.
POZNAN, Poland – The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) announces that Micronesia has filed a submission at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) proceedings underway in Poznan to introduce biochar as a technology for consideration as a “fast-start” strategy to “mitigate climate change in the immediate near-term.” The submission places biochar on the draft agenda to be considered during UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009.
Micronesia’s proposal follows the filing of a submission by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) endorsing biochar earlier this week. The UNCCD, a sister convention to the UNFCCC, identified biochar as a unique opportunity to address soils as a carbon sink, in line with its 10 year strategic program that calls for the promotion of low-carbon footprint sustainable practices and technologies that assist affected countries in the implementation of their National Actions Programs to Combat Desertification and Drought.
IBI Policy Director Debbie Reed said, “This is an incredibly important achievement, since Micronesia, as a UNFCCC country party, has officially positioned biochar as a mitigation technology for adoption even prior to the post-2012 framework. The UNCCD submission was an excellent start to what we sought here in Poznan, but the Micronesia submission offers a chance to jump-start efforts to adopt biochar as a climate change mitigation technology.”
Biochar is a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water, resulting in increased soil fertility for agriculture. The carbon in biochar resists degradation and can sequester carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years, providing a potentially powerful tool for mitigating anthropogenic climate change.
For Micronesia, an island state, early and rapid action on climate change is of utmost importance. Micronesia has identified biochar as one of a few “action commencing now” technologies that make up an essential “fast start strategy.” Micronesia’s submission states: “A focus on fast-action strategies offers great advantages particularly to LDCs, small island states and other states vulnerable to extreme weather events and flooding.”
Micronesia endorses “Promoting biochar carbon sequestration as a near-term carbon mitigation and storage strategy, which removes carbon from the carbon cycle by drawing down atmospheric concentrations of CO2 in a carbon-negative process and provides near permanent carbon storage while also improving soil productivity and reducing the need for fossil fuel-based fertilizer.”
Micronesia also emphasizes the “strong co-benefits” of proposed near-term strategies, including “soil enhancement from biochar.”
Underscoring both the co-benefits and the early and rapid action potential of biochar, the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) hosted a side event on Thursday titled: “New stoves for rural households to capture carbon, reduce deforestation, and improve soil fertility.” The event introduced the concept of mobilizing rural households to adopt new high-efficiency cookstoves that reduce emissions and also produce charcoal that can be incorporated into soils for both carbon sequestration and soil improvement.
The side event was chaired by Gregoire de Kalbermatten, UNCCD Deputy Executive Secretary, and speakers included: Sergio Zelaya, UNCCD; Barney Dickson, Head of Climate Change and Biodiversity, UN Environmental Program, World Conservation Monitoring Center; Debbie Reed, Executive Director of IBI; and Robert Flanagan, President of S.A.F.F.E (Sustainable Agricultural Food and Fuel Enterprises) Ltd.
Speaker Barney Dickson emphasized the considerable potential of dryland soils to sequester carbon to combat climate change and enhance soil quality. Dickson said that drylands cover about 40% of the Earth's land surface (excluding Antarctica and Greenland) and that total dryland soil organic carbon reserves comprise 27% of global soil carbon reserves. He said that the fact that many of the dryland soils have been degraded means that they are currently far from saturated with carbon and their potential to sequester carbon may be very high.
Delegates from both developed and developing countries attended the standing room only event. Following the talks, many delegates expressed interest in including biochar in their development strategies and in working with the IBI on IBI’s Developing Country Initiative to introduce and evaluate biochar production technologies at the household and village/neighborhood level.
POZNAN, Poland, December 10, 2008 – The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) announces that the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has submitted a proposal to include biochar as a mitigation and adaptation technology to be considered in the post-2012-Copenhagen agenda of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). A copy of the proposal is posted at the IBI website on the press information page.
Biochar is a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water. The carbon in biochar resists degradation and can sequester carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years.
IBI Policy Director Debbie Reed said, “The UNCCD submission is a great success, and is paralleled by a lot of very positive discussions and interest in biochar amongst country delegates as well as observers of the process.”
The UNCCD, a sister convention to the UNFCCC, has identified biochar as a unique opportunity to address soils as a carbon sink. According to the submission document: “The world's soils hold more organic carbon than that held by the atmosphere as CO2 and vegetation, yet the role of the soil in capturing and storing carbon dioxide is often one missing information layer in taking into consideration the importance of the land in mitigating climate change.”
UNCCD proposes that biochar must be considered as a vital tool for rehabilitation of dryland soils: “The fact that many of the drylands soils have been degraded means that they are currently far from saturated with carbon and their potential to sequester carbon may be very high … making the consideration of Biochar, as a strategy for enhancing soils carbon sequestration, imperative.”
UNCCD also cites the ability of biochar to address multiple climate and development concerns while avoiding the disadvantages of other bioenergy technologies that deplete soil organic matter (SOM). IBI Executive Director Debbie Reed said, “Pyrolysis systems that produce biochar can provide many advantages. Biochar restores soil organic carbon and soil fertility, reduces emissions from agriculture, and can provide clean, renewable energy. Conventional biomass energy competes with soil building needs for crop residue feedstocks, but biochar accommodates both uses.”
Reduced deforestation is another biochar advantage cited by the UNCCD in their submitted proposal for including biochar in carbon trading mechanisms: “The carbon trade could provide an incentive to cease further deforestation; instead reforestation and recuperation of degraded land for fuel and food crops would gain magnitude.”
Craig Sams, founder of Green & Black's Organic Chocolate, is in Poznan to help educate delegates about biochar. Sams believes that the climate and ancillary benefits of biochar are so great that biochar systems should be eligible for double credits. Sams said, “Adding the rewards for abandoning carbon emitting practices such as slash and burn cultivation, deforestation and wood fire cooking, to the rewards for adopting biochar practices in agriculture, forestry and cooking, ought to qualify for double credits.”
UNCCD proposes to include biochar in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and to revise the rules to account for biochar as a permanent means of carbon capture. UNCCD also proposes adjusting the carbon offset rules to allow greater financial flows to help developing countries increase soil organic matter with biochar.
Biochar has one important additional advantage over other land use carbon sequestration projects – carbon sequestration through biochar is easy to quantify. It is also relatively permanent. The UNCCD says: “Potential drawbacks such as difficulty in estimating greenhouse gas removals and emissions resulting from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), or destruction of sinks through forest fire or disease do not apply to biochar soil amendments.”
Overall, the potential magnitude of biochar as a climate mitigation tool is great. IBI Board Chair Dr. Johannes Lehmann said, "We are pleased that the UNCCD has recognized the potential of biochar. Results from IBI's preliminary model to estimate the potential of biochar carbon sequestration show that biochar production from agriculture and forestry residues can potentially sequester one gigaton of carbon in the world's soils annually by 2040. Using the biochar energy co-product to displace fossil fuel energy can approximately double the carbon impact of biochar alone."
IBI’s objective for the remainder of the UN meeting at Poznan is to interest more countries in proposing biochar for consideration as a mitigation and adaptation technology in the post-2012 Copenhagen process of the UNFCCC.
UNCCD Communications Officer
Awareness Raising, Communications and Education Unit