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Final Congress of the Carbon Credits for Sustainable Land Use Systems (CaLas) project

Soil carbon sequestration and nitrous oxide emissions from farmland are two important indicators of the climate impact of agricultural systems. How do organic systems fare compared to non-organic systems in this respect? FiBL presented the results of a meta-analysis of global data at the final congress of the CaLas project (Carbon Credits from Sustainable Land Use Systems).

Organic farming can make a significant contribution to climate protection. Earlier comparative studies have shown that in most cases organic farming has a positive climate impact compared to non-organic agriculture. However, the conclusions derived from such individual studies are of limited value. The potential of organic farming could thus not yet be considered in the international climate negotiations.

FiBL therefore brought together all available studies in a meta-analysis. More than 70 international comparative studies on soil carbon sequestration and 20 comparative studies on nitrous oxide emissions were evaluated. “On average, organically managed soils sequester more carbon dioxide and emit less nitrous oxide than soils under non-organic management,” FiBL expert Andreas Gattinger summarized the results.

Methodologies are needed which can account for the climate benefit of a change in management in order for agricultural climate projects to be registered and be allocated carbon credits. FiBL team member Adrian Müller has developed such a methodology using the example of sugar cane production. In contrast to many of their non-organic colleagues, organic sugar cane growers do not engage in pre-harvest burning of the leaves but they use these to mulch the soil. Dr. Müller, together with the South Pole Carbon Asset Management Ltd. company, has developed this latter measure into a methodology for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and submitted it to the relevant UN body, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC in short.

In the concluding panel discussion the conference participants discussed the possibilities and limits of the farming sector in the carbon markets. One of the concerns for example is that non-organic farming enterprises might be able to sell mere cosmetic measures as climate services. Moreover, it was said that agricultural systems are too complex and their climate impact is difficult to ascertain. The participants agreed that as a result of the CaLas project, the organic farming sector was now well armed with facts and figures for the ongoing debate and put it in a better position to ensure that only truly climate-friendly land use practices would be supported.

An English language video about the conference is available online, containing statements by Pete Smith, University of Aberdeen, Ulrich Hofmann, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Nina Buchmann, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, and others.

The CaLas project is funded by the Mercator Foundation Switzerland.

Further information


FiBL contact persons: Andreas Gattinger and Adrian Müller


Program Final Congress

Thursday, December 15, 2011, 09.30 – 17.30

09.00Welcome coffee
09.30Welcome and opening address (1,021.2 KB)Urs Niggli
09.40The CaLas project and the vision of sustainable agriculture (1.6 MB)Albert Kesseli
Mercator Foundation Switzerland
10.00Enhancing eco-functional intensification of agriculture for dealing with climate hotspots (1.1 MB)Ulrich Hoffmann
10.30Coffee break
Session I
Scientific background on agricultural land use and climate change
Andreas Fliessbach
FiBL (Moderation)
10.45Keynote lecture: Carbon sequestration in agricultural soils – a global perspective (1.0 MB)Pete Smith
University of Aberdeen
11.30Keynote lecture: Greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural soils – a global perspective (6.3 MB)Werner Eugster
ETH Zürich
12.15Carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions in organically managed soils – results from the CaLas project (2.4 MB)Andreas Gattinger
13.00LunchFiBL Restaurant
Session II
Quantification, mitigation certificates and methodology development
Matthias Stolze
FiBL (Moderation)
14.00The Swiss inventory of agricultural greenhouse gases (2.2 MB)Daniel Bretscher
Agroscope ART Zürich
14.45Agriculture and the carbon market (3.2 MB)Patrick Horka
South Pole Carbon
15.15Development of carbon-offset methodologies based on sustainable land use practices – results from the CaLas project (476.9 KB)Adrian Müller
16.00Coffee break
Session III
Synthesis of the CaLas project
Jacqueline Forster
FiBL (Moderation)
16.30Panel discussion with the speakers
17.15Concluding remarks and future perspectivesUrs Niggli
17.30End of the meeting: Apéro/Get together (optional)