Last month, The Climate Action Reserve’s Board of Directors approved the adoption of the Soil Enrichment Protocol. The development of the protocol aligns with growing attention to the potential climate impact of increasing soil organic carbon through the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices. Carbon offsets are viewed as a way to drive the increase in adoption of regenerative agricultural practices through financial payments. The protocol is one of many new soil carbon based methodologies recently released that aim to increase soil carbon and reduce carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane emissions. An outcome of the new protocol is to address barriers that may have precluded agricultural based carbon offset projects in the past.
The protocol’s working group identified many methods to reduce implementation barriers. Of note are three changes. These changes aim to adjust additionality standards, promote aggregation, and provide 100-year permanence flexibility. Under the new protocol, a single agricultural practice will be considered additional if county rates of adoption are less than 50%. If this practice such a no-tillage is not considered eligible, it can become an eligible practice if new practices are stacked on within 3 years. To overcome financial barriers of agricultural carbon offsets the protocol promoted aggregation to reduce costs. This allow multiple fields to grouped together with no size limits to be considered a single carbon offset project. The aggregation is managed by the Project Owner who has rights to the carbon offsets. The last flexibility mechanism was to allow tonne-year accounting. It is difficult for farmers to make decisions on a long term basis which is typically required by 100 year permanence. By allowing tonne-year accounting, farmers can agree to shorter commitment periods and receive a proportion of offsets they would have received under a 100-year commitment.
Groups have already shown interest and began developing carbon offset projects based on the new methodology. Indigo Ag has announced prospective buyers for these offsets that will be certified under CAR’s methodology. The announcement of these commitments demonstrates the high interest from companies in offsets that provide payments to farmers. Once demonstrated that the reduction in barriers have resulted in economically viable agricultural carbon offset projects- increased adoption can be expected.