Soil management protocols and projects for greenhouse gas offsets in Canada
Agricultural activities contribute to sources, sinks, and reductions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in Canada. There is considerable producer interest in generating and selling carbon or offset credits through GHG sinks and reductions. During the development of a potential Canadian offset system by Environment Canada from 2003 to 2006, a number of technical working groups were established to generate standardized protocols. These protocols were intended to streamline project development by providing specific guidance for quantification, monitoring, and verification of GHG reductions or removals for specific activities. In 2005/06 the Soil Management Technical Working Group (SMTWG) developed protocols and guidelines involving no tillage, nitrogen fertilizer reduction, and other soil carbon and nutrient management related practices. Considerable effort was required to develop scientifically based solutions for policy driven challenges such as baselines and maintenance of soil carbon through a liability period. Other important aspects of protocol development included assessing quantification methodologies (eg. coefficients versus soil carbon measurements), developing appropriate activity definitions and regional stratification for coefficient based approaches, and evaluating various options for monitoring and verification of specific soil management practices to ensure GHG assertions at reasonable cost. While the applicability of these protocols may be uncertain during the current policy vacuum (2006/07), they should prove valuable as a base from which to refine or develop new protocols at a time when GHG offset program and policy issues are resolved.
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