The largest international carbon registry, Verra, plans to release a new methodology that will allow biochar projects to quantify their climate benefits and generate nature-based carbon removal credits, the registry said June 10.
Receive daily email alerts, subscriber notes & personalize your experience.Register Now
Biochar, a solid material made from heating up organic materials in the absence of air, contains high levels of carbon. When placed in the ground in agricultural applications, biochar can enhance soil nutrients to improve crop yield. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Report, soil carbon management in agriculture can contribute 1.8-4.1 gt/year of CO2 reduction.
In July, Verra will release its biochar greenhouse gas accounting methodology through which biochar project developers can generate carbon credits to attract financing. The registry first began developing the methodology in 2020, saying that "biochar can contribute significantly to climate change mitigation when deployed at a massive global scale."
But while the agricultural benefits of biochar are important on their own, there hasn't been enough market incentive to scale the biochar industry to the levels needed to address climate change, said Liz Guinessey, manager of food and blue carbon innovations at Verra.
"Generally, the process of going through and producing biochar doesn't really provide enough incentive," Guinessey said during a June 10 press briefing. "However, the carbon sequestration potential certainly does incentivize that."
Carbon credits generated by biochar projects fall within the nature-based removal category and are reflected by Platts Nature-Based Removal price assessments along with a basket of other nature-based projects, such as afforestation, reforestation and mangrove projects. The price nature-based credits was assessed June 10 at $10.25/mtCO2e.
Verra's biochar methodology comes after scientific consensus recently coalesced around biochar and its ability to stably sequester carbon for long periods of time, Guinessey said. In 2020, Verra was spurred into creating the methodology after receiving continual requests from developers interested in launching biochar projects.
"I get about two to three emails a day from potential project developers asking when the methodology will be prepared for use," Guinessey said. "We do expect to have a pretty robust pipeline of projects as soon as the methodology is approved."
Verra's approval process is rigorous, with several stages that involve working groups, public input, stakeholder consultations and external auditing. Once released, the methodology will be enable both soil biochar projects and non-soil projects – such as cement or asphalt applications – to generate nature-based credits. It will also allow for a diverse range of biomass products to be used as feedstock, so long as projects can demonstrate that the utilized biomass would otherwise be wasted.
Its accounting framework will capture carbon impacts up and down the biochar value chain, from feedstock sourcing to production stage and final application stage. Other monitoring mechanisms are embedded to protect against risks of sequestration reversal.