Carbon Sequestration

Most of the carbon market trade involves emission reduction credits but there is also growing interest in the use of trees and land management for absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol and some voluntary carbon markets, such as the Chicago Climate Exchange in the U.S., allow countries and companies to offset their carbon emissions by supporting tree planting projects. The removal of carbon from the global atmosphere, its storage in more productive agricultural soils, grasslands and woody perennials, and the ability to trade carbon credits through market structures define a number of win-win opportunities. Among the alternatives, tree planting and forest protection offer perhaps the greatest potential. Trees grow in all but the most extreme conditions (e.g., deserts and Arctic). Their physiology enables them to tolerate intra-annual climatic fluctuations of greater magnitude and duration than annual species, thus allowing them to mitigate risks to which annual crops are most vulnerable, and which with increased climatic change will become increasingly common. Many tree species also yield additional high-value products (e.g., edible fruits and leaves, fodder for livestock, gums, and oil-bearing nuts for human and industrial uses, including feedstock used in the manufacture of biofuels) that offer the opportunity for creating synergistic benefits by removing carbon from the atmosphere and providing new sources of income for farmers worldwide. In fact, the co-development of market value chains for sequestered carbon and secondary products will be pivotal to enlisting the managerial skills and lands of tens of millions of farmers around the world in the struggle to slow and abate climate change.

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