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Support and promote the 4 per 1000 initiative!

The 1st December 2015, in the framework of the climate change conference in Paris, the French government launched an important initiative, which deserves support and promotion:
the 4 per 1000 initiative.

In the words of the French Ministry of Agriculture, Agrifood and Forestry: “The 4 per 1000 Initiative aims to improve the organic matter content and promote carbon sequestration in  soils through the application of agricultural practices adapted to local situations both economically, environmentally and socially, such as agro-ecology, agroforestry, conservation agriculture and landscape management. [… ] The 4 per 1000 Initiative aims to develop practical measures on the ground that benefit crop and livestock farmers, the first victims of land degradation, and more broadly for the whole world population.”

A dramatic situation

The 24% of global soils are degraded at various levels, including 50% of agricultural soils. Soil degradation poses a big threat to more than 40% of the earth’s land surfaces and climate change is accelerating this rate of soil degradation. The loss of soil fertility is not only causing hunger and malnutrition but also a decreased capacity of adaptation to climate change. The industrial models of agriculture, with monocultures, deforestation, massive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are responsible for most of this damage, nonetheless also other unsustainable agriculture practices contributes negatively.


Restoring soil by increasing the organic matter through agroecology and other forms of sustainable agriculture provides us at least a triple benefit: the increase of food production, an easier path for farmers to adapt to climate change, and a key to stop climate change.
1500 billion tons of carbon are stocked in soil organic matter, this is twice more carbon than atmospheric CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2013).   
1.2 billion tons of carbon could be stocked in the agricultural soils every year, with an annual rate of 4‰ increase of the organic matter on agricultural land. This would be about 20% of the total annually CO2-emission globally.

Not instead of emissions reduction!
It’s important that the great potential for an increased carbon storage in soil is not misused to go on with “business as usual” using coal, gas, oil and putting into practice other activities that cause greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. There are strong economic interests in the industry to keep on going without major changes, and also political initiatives, like “net zero emission”, which basically say that we can keep on releasing greenhouse gasses since geoengineering and carbon storage in forest and soil will solve the problem and stop climate change in the future.  It is imperative to reinforce the pressure for a drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions AND to put into action the soil initiative at the same time.

Read more on the 4 per 1000 initiative: