In response to the negotiations at the climate conference in Paris in early December, the French government launched an important initiative that should be supported and promoted – the 4‰ Initiative.
“The 4‰ Initiative aims to improve the organic matter content and promote carbon sequestration in soils through the application of agricultural practices adapted to local situations both economically, environmentally and socially, such as agro-ecology, agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and landscape management. The 4‰ Initiative aims to develop practical measures on the ground that benefit crop and livestock farmers, the first victims of land degradation, and more broadly for the whole world population,” according to the French Ministry of Agriculture, Agrifood and Forestry.
Twenty four percent of global soils are degraded at various levels, including 50 percent of agricultural soils. Soil degradation poses a threat to more than 40 percent of the Earth’s land surfaces and climate change is accelerating this rate of soil degradation. The loss of soil fertility is causing hunger and malnutrition and decrease the capacity to adapt to climate change. The industrial forms of agriculture with monocultures, deforestation, massive use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides are responsible for most of this damage, but also other forms of unsustainable agriculture practices contributes negatively.
To restore the soil by increasing the organic matter through agroecology and other forms of sustainable agriculture gives at least tipple benefits; the food production will increase, it will make it easier for farmers to adapt to climate change, and it can be a main factor to stop climate change.
Fifteen hundred billion tons of carbon are stocked in soil organic matter, which is twice more carbon than atmospheric CO2 according to IPCC (2013). 1.2 billion tons of carbon could be stocked every year in agricultural soils with an annual rate of four percent increase of the soil organic matter on agricultural land. This would be about 20 percent of the total annually CO2-emission globally.
Not Instead of Emission-Reductions
It’s important that the great potential for increased carbon storage in soil is not misused to go on with “business as usual” with the use of coal, gas, oil, and other activities causing greenhouse gas emission and climate change. There are strong economic interests in the industry to keep on going without major changes and also political initiatives like “net zero emission” which basically say that we can keep on releasing greenhouse gasses because geoengineering and storage of carbon in forest and soil in the future will solve the problem and stop climate change. The pressure for drastically reductions on greenhouse gas emissions must increase AND the soil initiative put into action at the same time.