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Project Aims to Bring Carbon Credit Trading to Undeveloped Countries

The UN, Chicago Climate Exchange, and Ohio State University are teaming to help undeveloped nations trade carbon credits.

Ohio State University is teaming up with the United Nations and the Chicago Climate Exchange in a unique project that could boost economic opportunities for farmers in developing countries while, at the same time, improve the environment.

The collaborative effort involves implementing production techniques that support carbon sequestration -- the storing of atmospheric carbon in plants, trees and soil so that the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reduce or slow. Carbon dioxide emissions are recognized to be one of the leading causes of global warming.

At the same time, stored carbon has been found to increase soil biodiversity, control erosion, improve water quality, and reduce chemical inputs.

Farmers in developing countries seeking to adopt conservation practices are limited in their ability to do so because of the need for purchased input, special equipment, resources or other technology to accomplish such tasks. That's where this project comes into play.

"The goal is to use carbon sequestration trading as a vehicle for land restoration and improvement in countries where farmers don't have the money or the resources to implement such practices," says Rattan Lal, an Ohio State University soil scientist with the School of Environment and Natural Resources and one of the leading scientists in the project. "This project, if successful, may be the vehicle that breaks the current vicious cycle of current gradient decline present in so many developing countries."

Lal is among a group of soil scientists, foresters, economists and program policy leaders from several university colleges, including the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, The John Glenn School of Public Affairs, and the College of Social and Behavioral Science, who are working with countries in Africa, South America and Asia to encourage farmers to adopt one of four carbon sequestration and land restoration techniques: conservation tillage; soil fertility improvement; desertification control and restoration of degraded land; and afforestation.

"What we want to do is select a farming community of 25,000 acres and work to encourage farmers to adopt one of these practices," says Lal, director of the Carbon Management and SequestrationCenter at the Ohio Agricultural Research and DevelopmentCenter. "It's going to take working closely with local communities and governments and the training of graduate students and local Extension specialists to make it happen." In addition to the training courses, researchers plan to monitor carbon in the soil and study its relationship to soil and water quality, crop yield and food security.

As an incentive for farmers in those developing countries to adopt conservation practices and get the program off the ground, the Chicago Climate Exchange plans to pay growers $15 for every ton of carbon they store per year, which amounts to around $2-$3 an acre. The Chicago Climate Exchange ( is a voluntary rules-based greenhouse gas emission and trading system, and the place to go to trade carbon credits in the open market.

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