5 Ways to Use Climate-Smart Agriculture to Tackle the Climate Crisis
Currently, over 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions are related to the food and agriculture industry. This makes the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) uniquely positioned to address climate change and incentivize climate-smart agriculture. On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. As part of this process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) set out to get input from the public for input on climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategy.
Below is a summary of our open letter to the USDA on how they can best support farm, ranch, and forestland managers in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing carbon sequestration, and becoming part of the solution to the climate crisis. As a member of the USDA funded Open Team (Open Technology Ecosystem for Agricultural Management) we help provide open source tools to farmers around the world to help them improve their soil health. Given our stake on the issue, we thought it to be even more important to respond to this call to action.
Alright, soil science nerds, ready to get into the weeds?
1. Identify and support carbon credits and payments for ecosystem services.
These registries should serve the needs of individual, small-scale land stewards, and be designed to ensure that they can financially thrive. These registries must have processes that are affordable and accessible for land stewards, and programs that are transparent, digital, streamlined, and efficient, both in terms of cost and implementation time, and easy to understand.
Additionally, the USDA should identify or fund the research and development of scientifically rigorous, automated, open-source remote sensing monitoring technologies to monitor soil organic carbon, nutrient runoff, water quality, and other outcomes in a cost-effective way. This should enable financial incentives for land stewards via climate-smart carbon credits. These methodologies should provide transparency, be flexible and customizable to meet the needs of different land stewards, be open source, and peer-reviewed.
2. Guarantee a floor price for carbon credits to ensure the economic viability of carbon credit.
The price, at a minimum, should cover the total cost of participation in these programs, including administrative, monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) costs over the length of the program, and ideally the cost of practice implementation.
3. Methodologies must represent a wide range of land use/ land cover classes (LULCs).
Monitoring methodologies should be customized for agriculture and forestry. Methodologies must represent a wide range of LULCs, including everything from major agricultural to conservation and forestry practices. Ecological outcome protocols that should be included could range from afforestation, reforestation, forest protection, agroforestry grazing, and ranching, no-till/low till, etc.
4. Go beyond carbon, acknowledging ecosystem services.
Few economic models currently account for natural capital, the inherent value present in clean air and water, healthy forests, and biodiverse ecosystems. Ensuring that other ecosystem functions (ie. nutrient cycling, water regulation, etc.) beyond carbon sequestration, are monitored and verified, shifts the global climate economy towards re-wholing ecosystems, instead of reductionist carbon accounting standards.
5. Transition from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0.
Web 3.0 is emerging globally and promotes open, trustless, and permissionless networks. For example, in the case of Regen Network, the Regen Ledger is a custom-designed native blockchain for publicly verifiable international carbon accounting. The technology was designed to address Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, specifically regarding international transfer of outcomes, avoidance of double counting, and verification of voluntary actions and outcomes. This also enables opportunities for coordination across instruments and institutionals.
Regen Ledger provides the project three key elements, without which Regen Network’s promise to create a network dedicated to monitoring, verifying and contracting or paying for ecological health outcomes would be impossible.
- Data Verification — data provenance, and quality can be tracked and verified
- Payments — using a blockchain allows Regen Network to facilitate direct payment for ecosystem services, as well as issuing trading & retiring of a whole new class of financial assets tied to ecological health, Ecosystem Service Credits
- Smart Contracts allow for automation of the issuing of ecosystem service credits, or payment for ecosystem services, based on verifiable changes in ecological health.
That’s a wrap on the 5 ways we’d like to see climate-smart agriculture be put to work to mitigate climate change and move towards planetary regeneration. To see read about our CarbonPlus Grasslands Credits scientific methodology, check out the additional resources below!
- Read about our CarbonPlus Grasslands Methodology you can find it here.
- Check out the USDA’s Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy: 90-Day Progress Report
Regen Network is the open marketplace for climate solutions. Regen Network’s platform aligns economics with ecology to drive regenerative land management. Regen’s Registry allows land stewards to sell their ecosystem services to buyers around the world, functioning to reverse climate change, and improve their soils, through incentivized carbon removal.