Image via Carbon Gold
Today the world's first biochar methodology has been published for public consultation by the Voluntary Carbon Standard. This ground breaking paper has been submitted by the UK based biochar project developers Carbon Gold. They are confident that their methodology will help create an ethical and sustainable structure for a potential biochar offsetting industry. This method of turning waste biomass into charcoal has been lauded as a miracle solution to rising CO2 emissions, but skeptics have also warned that there is plenty of room for error and exploitation. Organic Farming + Carbon Offsets = Carbon Gold
Carbon Gold may not ring any bells for you, but the big names behind this new company certainly will. Two very successful UK eco-entrepreneurs are now selling the biochar dream, one being Craig Sams, founder of Green + Blacks chocolate and the other being Dan Morrel founder of Future Forests, now The Carbon Neutral Company. Together they are uniting their experience and skills, in organic farming and carbon offsetting respectively, to commercialise the use of biochar as a Clean Development Mechanism.
Both Sams and Morrell, whilst evangelical about the benefits of biochar as a way to sequester carbon and enrich soil fertility, are well aware of the potential pitfalls an unregulated market could fall into. George Monbiot's polemical article on biochar in The Guardian a few months ago painted an alarming image of biochar enthusiasts turning 1.4 billion hectares of the planet's surface into charcoal, taking over valuable crop fields and exploiting indigenous people's land .
Sustainable + Ethical Methodology
Naturally Monbiot is deeply skeptical of any silver bullet solution to climate change and so should we be, but Carbon Gold is stepping into the ring on the right foot with a methodology and a statement of principles which aims to create a "sustainable, social and environmental policy under which any biochar project should be developed." If the Voluntary Carbon Standard approves the Methodology then all future biochar projects can be independently verified and certified.
Assessing Carbon Emissions
Carbon Gold's Biochar Methodology has been developed in collaboration with greenhouse house gas emissions assessors Ecometrica and claims to "set out the carbon accounting methods and detailed instructions on how to calculate the reduced or avoided emissions from a biochar project." The accompanying Statement of Principles adds that all projects will only use "biomass feedstocks derived from surplus biomass that is a by-product of agricultural or forestry activities and which would otherwise be burned or left to decay."
Respecting Indigenous Land Rights
We are also impressed by the stated social principles which guarantee local employment and training, health and safety, and land rights, paying "due regard to the principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Indigenous People." We look forward to hearing more from Carbon Gold about the potentials uses of appropriate technologies and community supported implementation of biochar projects. It looks like Carbon Gold are setting off in the right direction, but will this methodology be enough to allay Monbiot's fears of ending up being surrounded by a famine struck blackened charcoal landscape?
More on Biochar
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Biochar is No Climate Change Miracle Cure: George Monbiot
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New Biochar Test Shows up to 17% Crop Yield Increase, Lower Soil Nutrient Depletion
Biochar Fund Project Gets Big Financial Boost from Congo Basin Forest Fund