The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has changed the definition of carbon credit, with its new finding of green grass as the potential area.
Until now, carbon credit was allowed to be claimed from industrial units reducing emission of major polluting gases — SO2, CO2, CO and Nox — into the environment. Now, the reduction of obnoxious gases through green grass will also be entitled to claim carbon credit.
Each tonne of reduction in the release of obnoxious gases is entitled for one carbon credit. Green grass, which not only spread greenery all around, also absorbs obnoxious gases from the environment and reduce the quantum of such gases directly into the environment.
The vast potential of grasslands to support sustainable livelihoods while trapping atmospheric carbon and helping slow global warming is one step closer to being realised, thanks to a new methodology developed by FAO in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the World Agroforestry Centre.
Large swathes of the world’s grasslands are moderately to severely degraded. Restoring these to a healthy state could remove gigatonnes of carbon from the atmosphere and improve resilience to climate change. So far, however, carbon crediting schemes that pay projects for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and sequestering carbon have largely ignored agriculture, including grazing-based livelihood systems.
One key challenge has been finding reliable and affordable ways to measure how much carbon is being trapped in agricultural mitigation projects.
“We think we have cracked the problem and come up with a reliable way for herders who are investing in restoring grasslands to prove they are sequestering measurable amounts of carbon, and fund their activities by accessing mitigation finance,” said Pierre Gerber, an FAO livestock policy specialist who is working on the project.
The breakthrough of FAO’s new methodology is that it provides an affordable way to reliably estimate the amount of GHG emissions removed from the atmosphere through improved management of grasslands.
“Our approach allows not only for direct measurement of carbon sequestration through soil sampling but also computer modelling of sequestration based on soil types and activities undertaken,” said Leslie Lipper, an FAO economist involved in the project. “Being able to demonstrate reliable monitoring is a must for projects wishing to participate in carbon markets, and modelling reduces monitoring costs, making it possible for small-scale herders and livestock raisers to participate.”
The methodology is being applied to a pilot project in Qinghai Province, China, which will eventually be able to deliver significant carbon offsets for a period of 10 years. FAO has sent its methodology for approval to the non-profit Verified Carbon Standard (VSC), a greenhouse gas accounting programme used by projects around the world to verify and issue carbon credits in emissions markets.