More ambition needed for soil carbon in Nationally Determined Contributions

There is not enough ambition in the NDCs for soil carbon. We need more transparency and specification of targets, policies and measures.

The webinar "Soil Carbon in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)" was jointly hosted by the 4 Per 1000 Initiative on Soils for Food Security and Climate, Germany's Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). The purpose of the session was to share and discuss the results of a recent study on countries’ inclusion of and ambition for carbon storage and protection in agricultural soils in existing NDCs. An Info Note with preliminary results can be found here. The working paper and journal article are forthcoming.

The webinar provided room for discussion of insights on key aspects, including:

  1. Despite many countries having high technical potential for soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration or protection, most NDCs do not mention SOC explicitly.
  2. NDCs provide an important platform and opportunity to specify SOC in view of current or future ambition or actions related to SOC, national policy alignment, access to technical support, and access to climate finance.
  3. Countries can learn from experts and other countries how to address challenges related to target setting, monitoring, enforcement of measures, and more.
  4. Countries may choose to address SOC in NDCs to show transparency in target setting and ambition, to demonstrate technical capacity and leadership, or to leverage support to achieve the Paris Agreement.

About 60 people attended the webinar on Earth Day. The attendees were a mix of researchers and national negotiators and specialists. In addition, many participants from national ministries of forestry and agriculture, soil experts and scientists, university professors and students, and NDC partners participated. Panelists included country negotiators, agriculture and policy consultants, and sector experts. Participants predominantly asked technical questions, especially in relation to measuring, reporting and verifying (MRV).

Key points:

Key points from the webinar include:

  • A clear and unambiguous “signal” from UNFCCC parties is missing on soil in the NDCs. There is currently not enough ambition and there is a need for more transparency and specification of targets, policies and measures.
  • Many country NDCs clearly specify practices linked to achieving SOC sequestration, storage or protection without explicitly mentioning SOC.
  • As NDCs are voluntary measures, countries have taken a wide range of approaches to SOC in the NDC, from implicit inclusion in economy-wide or agricultural targets to highly specified SOC target. Some countries quantified targets, others did not or only mentioned practices. Some included SOC as conditional and others as unconditional.
  • NDCs are not a good indicator of country action on SOC, as some countries have strong programs for SOC but have not specified SOC targets, policies or measures.
  • There is an increased need for sharing and collaboration between experienced countries and those that need support with challenges. This should include technology transfer, knowledge sharing and open access research, among others.

Agenda

Presentation

Presenter

Introduction to the Soil carbon sequestration in the Nationally Determined Contributions webinar

Lini Wollenberg, Flagship Leader for CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change Agriculture Food Security, Low Emissions Development

Soil carbon in the NDCs: Analysis results

Liesl Wiese-Rozanova, International agricultural science and policy consultant, South Africa

Q & A session

Facilitated by Viridiana Alcántara Cervantes, Federal Office for Agriculture and Food, Germany & Member of the Executive Secretariat of 4P1000

MRV of soil organic carbon: Where are we and what is missing?

Martial Bernoux, Natural Resources Officer, Climate and Environment Division of the FAO, Rome

Q & A session

Facilitated by Viridiana Alcántara Cervantes

Soil carbon sequestration in the NDCs: Contributions from Japan

Akiko Nagano, Deputy Director for Climate Change Negotiations, Environment Policy Office, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Japan

Soil carbon sequestration in the NDCs: Contributions from Brazil

Katia Marzall, Coordinator for Climate Change and Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply in Brazil

Discussion and questions

Facilitated by Viridiana Alcántara Cervantes

Read more: