How Best to Implement Soil Carbon Sequestration Options

Soil carbon sequestration is a process under the control of human management and, as such, the social dimension needs to be considered when implementing these practices. Since there will be increasing competition for limited land resources in the next century, soil carbon sequestration cannot be isolated from other environmental and social needs. The IPCC (2GG1) has noted that global, regional and local environmental issues such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, desertification, stratospheric ozone depletion, regional acid deposition and local air quality are inextricably linked. Soil carbon sequestration measures clearly belong to this list. The importance of integrated approaches to sustainable environmental management is becoming clearer.

In any scenario, there will be winners and losers. The key to increasing soil carbon sequestration, as part of wider programmes to enhance sustainability, is to maximize the number of winners and minimize the number of losers. One possibility for improving the social and/or cultural acceptability of soil carbon sequestration measures would be to include compensation costs for losers when costing implementation strategies. However, the best option is to identify win-win measures that increase carbon stocks whilst improving other aspects of the environment (e.g. improved soil fertility, decreased erosion) or enhancing profitability (e.g. improved yield of agricultural or forestry products). A number of management practices are available that can be implemented to protect and enhance existing carbon sinks now and in the future (i.e. a no-regrets policy). Smith and Powlson (2003) developed these arguments for soil sustainability, but the no-regrets policy option is equally applicable to soil carbon sequestration. Since such practices are consistent with, and may even be encouraged by, many current international agreements and conventions, their rapid adoption should be encouraged.

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