Knowledge for better food systems

A global agenda for collective action on soil carbon

This commentary in Nature Sustainability discusses governance and initiatives for conserving and increasing soil organic carbon. Through a multi-stakeholder discussion group, the authors developed a global agenda for action on soil organic carbon.

The top three priorities identified by the group are:

  1. An overarching case and vision for action, led by countries that already have strong national policies on soil.
  2. A stronger business case and track-record of success among public and private investors, for example through seed funding of commercial soil carbon initiatives.
  3. A more compelling value proposition for farmers and land managers, which may involve benefits beyond any financial compensation for building carbon. For example, co-benefits to managing soil organic carbon on farms could include higher productivity, greater resilience to drought, and (where applicable) government support.

The figure below shows a schematic of the global agenda developed in the paper.

Image: Figure 2, Vermeulen et al. A global agenda for action on soil organic carbon.



Vermeulen, S., Bossio, D., Lehmann, J., Luu, P., Paustian, K., Webb, C., Augé, F., Bacudo, I., Baedeker, T., Havemann, T. and Jones, C., 2019. A global agenda for collective action on soil carbon. Nature Sustainability, 2(1), p.2.

Read the full paper here. See also the Foodsource resource How do food systems affect land-use and biodiversity? and the FCRN report Grazed and Confused?

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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