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Surviving the jungle of soil organic carbon certification standards: an analytic and critical review

Demenois J., Dayet A., Karsenty A.. 2022. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 27 : 17 p..

DOI: 10.1007/s11027-021-09980-3

Maintaining and enhancing soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks are options to tackle climate change and food security. However, the large-scale implementation of SOC sequestration in contrasted social and economic environments is a challenge. Giving economic value to SOC is seen as an efficient incentive for farmers to enhance SOC sequestration. There is currently an ever growing number of SOC certification standards for offsetting (OS) greenhouse gases emissions or certifying farmers' practices (SCP). It is therefore challenging for farmers to find their way in this ¿jungle¿. An analytic and critical review of these SOC standards is crucial to support them. The objectives of our study were therefore to inventory SOC standards, to elaborate a grid to analyse them, and to compare them. We inventoried 22 SOC standards: 16 OS and 6 SCP. Despite transparency for the majority of SOC standards, only 3 standards gave information on the costs and expected benefits from certification. Therefore, how SOC standards could incentivize the implementation of practices boosting SOC sequestration is still to be demonstrated. However, we do not expect OS to be an economic incentive for smallholder farmers due to their complexity and the type of costs. For OS, we highlighted the risk of decoupling SOC sequestration and food production, as no safeguard criteria are included. SCP offers a more holistic approach to SOC sequestration, but SCP will have to improve transparency and guarantee that internal certification is robust to deliver its promises to farmers.

Mots-clés : carbone organique du sol; séquestration du carbone; normes environnementales; certification; adaptation aux changements climatiques; législation de l'environnement; incitation; bonnes pratiques agricoles

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