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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Carbon Trading: Should Carbon Sequestration In The Terrestrial Biosphere Be Credited?


Carbon trading is one of the mechanisms of Kyoto Protocol in order to reduce the emission of carbon and concentration of carbon concentration in the atmosphere. Under the program of carbon trading, there is another program which is carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration can be divided into two, which is geographic sequestration and terrestrial sequestration. Terrestrial carbon sequestration is the process of terrestrial carbon sequestration is the net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by plants and microorganisms in the soil and the prevention of CO2 net emissions from terrestrial ecosystems into the atmosphere. This program area is focused on integrating measures for improving the full life-cycle carbon uptake of terrestrial ecosystems, including farmland and forests, with fossil fuel production and use. The following ecosystems offer significant opportunity for carbon sequestration:
  • Forest lands. The focus includes below-ground carbon and long-term management and utilization of standing stocks, understory, ground cover, and litter.
  • Agricultural lands. The focus includes crop lands, grasslands, and range lands, with emphasis on increasing long-lived soil carbon.
  • Biomass croplands. As a complement to ongoing efforts related to biofuels, the focus is on long-term increases in soil carbon and value-added organic products.
  • Deserts and degraded lands. Restoration of degraded lands offers significant benefits and carbon sequestration potential in both below-and above-ground systems.
  • Boreal wetlands and peat lands. The focus includes management of soil carbon pools and perhaps limited conversion to forest or grassland vegetation where ecologically acceptable.
About Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at COP 7 in Marrakesh in 2001, and are called the “Marrakesh Accords.”
The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions .These amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.

The major distinction between the Protocol and the Convention is that while the Convention encouraged industrialized countries to stabilize GHG emissions, the Protocol commits them to do so.
Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

The Kyoto Mechanisms
Under the Treaty, countries must meet their targets primarily through national measures. However, the Kyoto Protocol offers them an additional means of meeting their targets by way of three market-based mechanisms.
The Kyoto mechanisms are:

• Emissions trading – known as “the carbon market"
• Clean development mechanism (CDM)
• Joint implementation (JI).

The mechanisms help stimulate green investment and help Parties meet their emission targets in a cost-effective way.

Emissions Trading
Greenhouse gas emissions
Emissions trading, as set out in Article 17 of the Kyoto Protocol, allows countries that have emission units to spare - emissions permitted them but not "used" - to sell this excess capacity to countries that are over their targets.
Thus, a new commodity was created in the form of emission reductions or removals. Since carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas, people speak simply of trading in carbon. Carbon is now tracked and traded like any other commodity. This is known as the "carbon market". More than actual emissions units can be traded and sold under the Kyoto Protocol’s emissions trading scheme. The other units which may be transferred under the scheme, each equal to one tonne of CO2, may be in the form of:

  • A removal unit (RMU) on the basis of Land use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF); activities such as reforestation.
  • An emission reduction unit (ERU) generated by a joint implementation project.
  • A certified emission reduction (CER) generated from a clean development mechanism project activity.

Transfers and acquisitions of these units are tracked and recorded through the registry systems under the Kyoto Protocol.
An international transaction log ensures secure transfer of emission reduction units between countries.
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), defined in Article 12 of the Protocol, allows a country with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries.
Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets. The mechanism is seen by many as a trailblazer. It is the first global, environmental investment and credit scheme of its kind, providing a standardized emission offset instrument, CERs.
A CDM project activity might involve, for example, a rural electrification project using solar panels or the installation of more energy-efficient boilers. The mechanism stimulates sustainable development and emission reductions, while giving industrialized countries some flexibility in how they meet their emission reduction or limitation targets.


Carbon trading refers to a system to control the emission of carbon dioxide whereby governments or international bodies set an overall limit on the amount of carbon that can be emitted. Allowances are then granted (or auctioned) to large emitters of carbon, such as electric utilities, paper mills, and chemical plants, which are then freely tradable. Companies who will be emitting more carbon than they have permits to emit must therefore buy additional credits on the open market, while those who will emit less can sell their credits.

This system is attractive to governments for several reasons. First, it easily enables sliding reductions in carbon emissions over a number of years. Every year, the number of credits granted can just be decreased by the government. Second, it creates a flexible and efficient market for carbon reduction, encouraging reduction of carbon emissions by those companies who can do so at the least cost. After all, a company for whom reducing carbon emissions is expensive will buy excess credits from a company that can reduce carbon emissions cheaply. On the hand, in the words of economist Jeffrey Sachs, carbon trading is "hard to implement, it's hard to monitor, it's non-transparent, it's highly political, highly manipulative, which is why the banks love it, the banks all want to trade, this is an investment banking dream."

Terrestrial Carbon Sequestration

Carbon sequestration is the placement of CO2 into a repository in such a way that it will remain permanently sequestered. Efforts are focused on two categories of repositories: geologic formations and terrestrial ecosystems. Carbon sequestration can be divided into two categories:-

  1. Terrestrial sequestration.
  2. Geoengineering sequestration.

Terrestrial sequestration is the placement of CO2 into a repository in such a way that it will remain permanently sequestered. Efforts are focused on two categories of repositories: geologic formations and terrestrial ecosystems. Terrestrial carbon sequestration is the net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by plants and microorganisms in the soil and the prevention of CO2 net emissions from terrestrial ecosystems into the atmosphere.

There is significant opportunity to use terrestrial sequestration both to reduce CO2 emissions and to secure additional benefits, such as habitat and water quality improvements that often result from such projects. In principle, terrestrial sequestration is the enhancement of the CO2 uptake by plants that grow on land and in freshwater and, importantly, the enhancement of carbon storage in soils where it may remain more permanently stored.

Terrestrial sequestration provides an opportunity for low-cost CO2 emissions offsets. Early efforts include tree plantings, no-till farming, and forest preservation. More-advanced research includes the development of fast-growing trees and grasses and deciphering the genomes of carbon-storing soil microbes.
Soil carbon is both organic and inorganic carbon contained in soil. During photosynthesis, plants convert CO2 into organic carbon, which then is deposited in the soil through their roots and as plant residue. Organic carbon is found in the top layer of soil, the A horizon. Inorganic soil carbon comprises carbonates that form through non-biological interactions. They are a minor amount compared with organic carbon, but are considered more permanent. Large plant roots, such as those of trees, are considered biomass and not part of the soil, but the organic matter, includes many fine root hairs, where much of the CO2 "exchange" from the plant to the soil occurs.

Terrestrial carbon sequestration is not only of interest in those countries which have an obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emission under the Kyoto Protocol. Contemporary rational for its policy making includes that it;
  1. Offers cost effective solutions for limiting Greenhouse Gases concentration in the atmosphere for countries while enhancing their natural capital;
  2. Enhances cooperation for knowledge and technology transfer amongst states;
  3. Provides opportunities in developing countries; and
  4. Has potential for rural poverty reduction.

Methods of Terrestrial Carbon Trading

Forested land and agricultural land are the land types most commonly associated with carbon sequestration. Within forested lands, the primary methods for promoting carbon sequestration are:

  • Afforestation is the conversion of previously non-forested land into forested land. This method is more commonly associated with the conversion of poor to marginal cropland into forested land. Afforestation can result in a large amount of carbon sequestered over a long period of time.
  • Reforestation Reforestation is the restoration of previously forested land.
  • Sustainable forest management techniques include forest preservation, adoption of low-impact harvesting methods, lengthening of forest rotation cycles, agroforestry, and the adoption of other methods aimed at increasing carbon uptake. Forest preservation is the protection of current forestland from conversion into other land types. Doing so prevents the release of carbon from current carbon stocks. Low-impact harvesting methods suggest the use of selective cutting to avoid unnecessary removal of biomass from forestlands. By increasing the rotation period between harvesting timber, a larger amount of wood is permitted to grow and greater carbon uptake is seen. Agroforestry is essentially the combination of forestry and agriculture, whereby trees are grown alongside traditional crops. Other forest management methods that can increase the sequestration rates of carbon included the thinning of forests, and the planting of tree species that produce a larger carbon uptake (Richards et al. 2005).
Methods for increasing carbon sequestration on agricultural land are:
  • Soil erosion management
Soil erosion management employs vegetative buffers, and residue management to reduce erosion on highly erodible land. Vegetative buffers, or riparian buffers, are plants and trees that are planted on the borders of agricultural land, or along the bank of streams and waterways. These plants reduce the impact of wind and water, which thereby reduces the amount of soil erosion, and consequently the water quality of adjoining waterways. Residue management is essentially the introduction of manure or animal by-products into the soil. Doing so reduces the tendency of soil to be eroded, and increases the tendency for soil to uptake carbon.
  • Conservation tillage
Tilling has many purposes, but it is primarily employed to prevent soil compaction and remove unwanted vegetation. In removing unwanted vegetation, tilling reduces the carbon content of the top layer of the soil, and prevents the long-term storage of carbon deeper in the soil. Conservation tillage employs a variety of techniques to reduce the amount of tillage required to maintain productive cropland. Soil that undergoes conservation tillage as opposed to traditional tillage can contain 30–50% more carbon. Implementation of conservation tillage is often combined with the use of crop rotation.

  • Crop rotation
Crop Rotation is the alternation between summer and winter crops on the same plot of land. A common example of this is the rotation between wheat and peas. Maintaining a crop cover during the winter reduces soil compaction (decreasing the need for tillage), decreases the occurrence of erosion, and increases the organic content of the soil. Within the United States, 50 million hectares of cropland are suitable for crop rotation practices.
  • Grazing land management
To maximize the carbon uptake of grazing land livestock is rotated in a more efficient and scheduled manner. The absence of livestock from grazing land for longer periods of time increases the presence of biomass and increases the soil uptake of carbon.
  • Wetland restoration
Wetlands are frequently drained to produce dry, fertile soil for agricultural use. Wetland soil contains a very concentrated amount of carbon; 14.5% of the world’s soil carbon is found in wetlands, while only 6% of the world’s land is composed of wetlands (FAO, 1999). The need to protect wetlands is particularly relevant in the United States, where over half of the nations wetlands have been drained (FAO, 1999). Wetland restoration calls for agricultural producers to protest and/or restore the wetlands found on their property.
  • Biofuel substitution
Biofuel Substitution is the use of agricultural land for the production of biomass that can be converted to biofuel. This fuel can be used onsite to offset the energy used for agricultural production or the biofuel can be transported offsite for large-scale energy production.

Advantages of Carbon Sequestration

As a result of increased concern over global warming because of greater carbon emissions in the air, governments and other organizations have been searching for effective solutions to the issue of pollution. Among many other strategies for dealing with this issue, carbon trading and carbon offset have been highly successful. Carbon trading involves organizations buying carbon credits from the market. The credits restrict the level of greenhouse gases that companies can discharge in to the air without being penalized for it.

Nature reduces the carbon in the atmosphere by absorption of plant by photosynthesis process to produce stanch. Carbon sequestration introduces affrorestration and reforestation to reduce the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere in nature way. Afforestration is the process of turning the abandon land into forest and reforestation is the process of replants the destroyed forest. Afforestration and reforestation restore the lost forest due to urbanization and development. Unused vegetation land such as abandon crops will be turned into forest to reduce the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. This could reduce the concentration of carbon into the atmosphere and at the same time giving side benefit of restoring degraded ecosystems worldwide. Restoring wetlands to sequester larger quantities of carbon in sediment will also preserve wildlife and protect estuaries. This could minimize the destruction of endangered species and restore their habitat. The process of restoring wetland is said to be great opportunity to cultivate endangered species (IUNC, 2008).

Soils in which high levels of carbon are present as soil organic matter exhibit improved nutrient absorption, water retention, texture, and resistance to erosion, making them particularly useful for both plant productivity and sequestration. Storage of carbon in below ground systems is the best long-term option for carbon storage in terrestrial systems because most soil organic matter has a longer residence time than most plant biomass. Soil organic matter is a complex mixture of compounds with different residence times. The more stable compounds are the most important for carbon sequestration because they have turnover times of hundreds to thousands of years. This could create conditions for higher plant productivity and accumulation of soil carbon to increase carbon sequestration since the process actually neutralizes the soil. So, the process could increase the crops production if carbon sequestration done in crops area.

Carbon emitted by the human activities is captured and then sequestrated into the soil into the selected area. High levels of soil organic matter exhibit capable of prevent soil erosion. Prevention of erosion can be a major contributor to carbon sequestration. By increasing the vegetation of land, the soil will be more stable since the vegetation capable of holding the soil together. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO 1992) estimates that 25 billion tons of soils are lost through erosion each year.

Increases in soil carbon sequestration alone can provide significant benefits by delaying the need for more technically complex solutions. FAO, 2010 estimated that, for agricultural soil carbon only, 35 years of time might be “bought” (potentially saving at least $100 million) before major adjustments in the world’s energy production system would be required to meet a goal of 550 ppmv atmospheric CO2. As a result, over the next quarter century, other carbon management options could be evaluated and implemented.

Disadvantages of Carbon Sequestration

Carbon sequestration created to reduce the carbon emission into the atmosphere, carbon sequestration need high technologies to sequestration into layer of soil and to monitor the process. Those complicated technologies require many expert and money. It is something high profit Nation could involve. But since it is under carbon trading, company from annex country could pay non-annex nation with those technologies to pay the non–annex exchange to carbon emission certification (CER). Since the existence of solution for global warming, this gives the companies reasons to pollute more.

Carbon emission reduction methods in agriculture can be grouped into two categories: reducing and/or displacing emissions and enhancing carbon removal. Some of these reductions involve increasing the efficiency of farm operations (i.e. more fuel-efficient equipment) while some involve interruptions in the natural carbon cycle. Also, some effective techniques (such as the elimination of stubble burning) can negatively impact other environmental concerns (increased herbicide use to control weeds not destroyed by burning).

Replacing more energy intensive farming operations can also reduce emissions. Reduced or no-till farming requires less machine use and burns correspondingly less fuel per acre. However, no-till usually increases use of weed-control chemicals and the residue now left on the soil surface is more likely to release its CO2 to the atmosphere as it decays, reducing the net carbon reduction.

Ocean iron fertilization is an example of such a geoengineering technique of carbon sequestration. Iron fertilization attempts to encourage phytoplankton growth, which removes carbon from the atmosphere for at least a period of time. This technique is controversial due to limited understanding its complete effects on the marine ecosystem, including side effects and possibly large deviations from expected behavior. Such effects potentially include release of nitrogen oxides, and disruption of the ocean's nutrient balance.

Encouraging various ocean layers to mix can move nutrients and dissolved gases around, offering avenues for carbon sequestration. Mixing may be achieved by placing large vertical pipes in the oceans to pump nutrient rich water to the surface, triggering blooms of algae, which store carbon when they die. This produces results somewhat similar to iron fertilization. One side-effect is a short-term rise in CO2, which limits its attractiveness.

Study Case

According to Greenpeace, Indonesia have the fastest rate of the deforestation in the world between the years 2000-2005. This rampant destruction-both legal and illegal-is fueled by the worldwide demand for palm oil, paper and tropical wood. Deforestation of Indonesia’s rainforest and peat lands contributes to rising greenhouse gases in multiple ways, including eliminating carbon sinks, releasing carbon dioxide trapped in peat and from slash and burn methods of agriculture.
Indonesia is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, trailing only China and United States, which unlike Indonesia are industrial superpowers. Indonesia’s emissions are almost entirely from its agricultural and forestry sector, which generate a small proportion of the country’s total economic activity (a 2007 estimated the benefit to Indonesia of the sector a $0.34 cents per ton carbon dioxide, or a fraction of the value seen in Europe’s carbon market). Furthermore, forests provide food, water, and livelihoods for tens of millions of Indonesians. Destruction of the forests put these resources and opportunities at risk, but payment for forest conservation could help ensure sustainable use and provide economic incentives for shifting plantation development to the millions of hectares of abandoned and degraded non-forest land that lie across the Indonesia archipelago.

Now, help maybe arriving in the shape of carbon trading program that would effectively pay Indonesia and other forest-rich countries not to chop down their trees. Carbon trading is the part of the Kyoto Protocol allowing developing countries, including Indonesia to reduce emissions. Behind the initiative is the potential monetary value – as yet unrealized – of tropical forest as vast stocks of carbon that the industrialized world can offset against greenhouse gases emission. Indonesian Sumur Batu’s forest will be first trial of terrestrial carbon sequestration program to undergo experiment on the country. Any further result will be informed to PBB.
World Bank and PT Gikoko Kogyo Indonesia have signed an agreement to develop an eco-friendly project that will trap climate pollutants released from the Sumur Batu sanitary landfill in Bekasi. Under the agreement, the World Bank, acting as trustee of the Netherland’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Facility, will purchase 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year for 15 years. Then, Indonesia has received certified emission reduction (CER) credits issued by the United Nations executive board. The credits are traded in 38 developed nations that have the obligation to cut emissions between 2008 and 2012 by 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels. One CER credits is equal to one ton of carbon dioxide priced between $5 and $10.


Carbon sequestration is of the program from the carbon trading mechanism that involves the participation of all Nations around the world. Even though US are not joining the Kyoto Protocol, US also participate on carbon sequestration program. Carbon sequestration by terrestrial ecosystems is the net removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere or the avoidance of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from terrestrial ecosystems into the atmosphere. The removal process includes CO2 uptake from the atmosphere by all chlorophyllous plants, through photosynthesis. This C is stored as plant biomass (in the trunks, branches, leaves and roots of the plants) and organic matter in the soil. The terrestrial carbon sequestrations depend on land use practices and different ecosystem conditions that sustain established vegetation over longer periods. This program still in under observation, but however the response from Asian countries encouraging. The program is expected to be developed more on Asian’s forests since it have spacious untouched forest.
Afforestation and reforestation could reduce the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere and at the same time provide new habitat to the endangered species. Since carbons are sequestrated into the soil, this could neutralize the soil and provide nourishment into the plant and crops. Beside, the encouragements of vegetative growth also evade the soil erosion.

Even though this program is aimed to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, but however its ability still be question. The program is said will cause destruction of nature ecosystem and habitat. The geologic sequestration is said will change the soil profile and disturb the hydrology circle and than easily polluted the groundwater. Beside, the terrestrial carbon sequestration also is said capable of polluted the nearest surface water with nutrient. Further effect is algae bloom and invasion species. Other effect of the terrestrial carbon sequestration is still in research.

Carbon sequestration is under monitoring and further research is still under construction. However, the program is believed to have the pros and cons. Since terrestrial carbon sequestration is still under observation, it is too early to determine either it should be credited or not. Any further research should be conducted to gain more knowledge about this program.



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