Millions of people around the world rely on grasslands to feed their livestock, and ultimately put food on their tables. Yet, poor land management can badly degrade these lands and jeopardize future farming operations. To address these concerns, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Chinese Academy of Agriculture Science, the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and the Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology developed a new VCS methodology that will give farmers the tools to manage their animals and grasslands more sustainably for years to come. The methodology can be applied worldwide, although it is expected it to be particularly useful in China, as the country works to sustainably feed an ever growing population, while lowering its carbon footprint with the aid of its emerging carbon markets.
“Although China has made tremendous strides in improving food security for its population, in some areas this has come at the expense of the environment,” said VCS Chief Executive Officer David Antonioli. “This methodology enables Chinese farmers to reverse some of that environmental degradation by giving them the tools to embrace sustainable land management practices.”
“This is an exciting opportunity to bring international carbon finance to the Three Rivers region where results-based climate financing is considered a critical source of support to the region’s ecological maintenance and progress,” said Xu Xiaoxiao, Executive President from Qinghai Environmental and Energy Exchange Center. “Moving forward, we will be working closely with local farmers to help them implement sustainable grassland management projects through VCS as a way to help China reach its goals under the Promotion of Ecological Progress Program. We also think this kind of effort should be recognized by the China Certified Emissions Reduction (CCER) program as it provides tremendous benefits for local farmers.”
Yet, these challenges extend far beyond China. Livestock grazing covers 26 percent of the earth’s ice-free land surface, as such, carbon sequestration activities in the sector have the potential to account for substantial emission reductions. Considering the varied drivers of grassland degradation, this new methodology quantifies emission reductions from a range of activities including improving the rotation of grazing animals between summer and winter pastures, limiting the timing and number of grazing animals on degraded pastures, and restoration of severely degraded grasslands. It also includes a comprehensive module for quantifying any displacement of emissions from livestock leaving the project area. This could bring enormous benefits to farmers around the world, particularly in China.
“Until now, carbon sequestration projects in grasslands have been hampered by high measurement and monitoring costs,” said Henning Steinfeld, Chief, Livestock Information, Sector Analysis and Policy Branch for the FAO. “By focusing on the monitoring of practices, this methodology overcomes this major hurdle, allowing farmers in China and elsewhere to access new sources of finance to restore grasslands, produce more, raise household incomes and contribute to food security.”
Founded in 2005 by the Climate Group, the International Emissions Trading Association, the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the VCS has become one of the world’s most widely used carbon accounting standards. VCS has revolutionized the voluntary carbon market by developing trusted tools, such as standardized methods that streamline the project approval process, reduce transaction costs and enhance transparency. As the international market continues to evolve, VCS has also brought new programmatic innovations that allow for emission reductions achieved by government programs addressing deforestation to be accounted for on a larger scale. Across the world, projects and programs using the VCS Standard have issued more than 145 million Verified Carbon Units (VCUs).