Soil organic carbon commitments under three Rio Conventions: Opportunities for integration

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https://doi.org/10.1016/j.soisec.2022.100052

Feb 2022

Agricultural land-based measures to protect and sequester soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks are increasingly recognized and advocated for their benefits to address climate change, tackle food security, support ecosystem restoration, and maintain biodiversity. In the climate change context, countries’ SOC-related agricultural commitments in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted under the Paris Agreement have been well assessed. The NDCs do not necessarily reflect existing national level interest, policies, or commitments to SOC protection and sequestration. Moreover, many countries prioritize SOC protection and sequestration in efforts to minimize land degradation, offset degradation through rehabilitation and restoration actions, and protect biodiversity. Recognizing these diverse country priorities and the potential to integrate SOC-related commitments across Conventions, this paper reviews countries’ agricultural (including cropland, grassland, wetland) SOC and wetland commitments in Land Degradation Neutrality (102 countries) and biodiversity targets (175 countries). Results are compared with SOC and wetland commitments in the latest NDCs and discussed in the context of outcomes from the 26th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties held in Glasgow (November 2021). At least 62 countries, mostly from the global south, included SOC or wetland commitments in Land Degradation Neutrality and biodiversity targets that are not reflected in the latest NDCs. These countries have the potential to include SOC and wetland commitments in updated, new, or revisited NDCs. Priorities under the Glasgow Climate Pact and the Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh work programme for adaption provide opportunities to integrate SOC-related commitments across Conventions and within national planning processes.

Key policy insights

  • At least 62 countries have explicit agricultural SOC (39 countries) or wetland (37 countries) commitments exclusively in LDN or biodiversity targets. These SOC-related commitments could be incorporated into revisited, new, or updated NDCs to improve NDC transparency and leverage support for climate finance, technical support, and capacity development.
  • Despite the importance of SOC to support soil biodiversity, SOC was not reflected in countries’ 2020 biodiversity targets. Existing SOC protection and sequestration commitments in LDN and NDC targets are important to consider in the CBD’s post-2020 global biodiversity framework targets related to climate change (Target 8) and sustainable agriculture (Target 10).
  • The analysis of LDN and biodiversity targets can be expanded to assess SOC-related agricultural measures associated with SOC sequestration such as agroforestry, grassland management, and erosion control (whether SOC was explicitly mentioned or not) for potential integration into future NDCs.
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February 11, 2022