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					 Small scale biochar
- Details we can’t ignore -

  Centre for AlternativeTechnology
         8 September 2009

                                     Deepak Rughani
Antagony or Synergy?

                                                      Losses on combustion
                                                      IEA 12-35%                                Erosion losses (water & wind)
                                                  on conventionally tilled field
         Up to 30% losses                                                             

                                                                                                                 Loss to carbon pool


                            Microbial breakdown of SOC
                                         Labile Fraction
                   Combustion GHG emissions

•   IEA 12% to 35% conversion rate

•   Wood up to 50% carbon
    1 tonne biochar requires approx 8 tonnes dry wood
•   UK study 10 – 20 tonnes charcoal / Ha = 80 – 160 tonnes dry wood
     Corn stover 2.83t/Ha : Sugar Cane 20t/Ha wet

•   Biochar stoves promoted as only alternative to open fire cooking
•   Efficient biomass stoves?
•   Solar stoves?

Slide 3
             Transportation, Loading, Application

•   Canadian study – 30%

•   Black carbon = 25% of radiative forcing by holding heat + loss of albedo
    (500-680 x CO2)

•   Surface spreading promoted as non-till

Slide 3
                          CO2 linked to tillage

Integration into soils:

•   Japan – surface soil
•   Deep tillage
•   CO2 emissions linked to soil disturbance
•   (Deep tillage damages soil structure)
•   Tillage also speeds up the breakdown of biochar (confirmed CSIRO)

•   Slide 3
      SOC losses due to enhanced microbial activity.

•   Charcoal addition linked to increased microbial breakdown of SOC
    (Boreal study)

•   Some microbial breakdown of charcoal also exists

Slide 3
                             Labile Fraction

•  Johannes Lehmann et al: Labile carbon fraction
  = 1 to 20%
• Evidence it could be >20%

•   Masiello looked at „global black carbon budget‟
•   Boreal forest fires study
•   Nguyen et al: West Kenyan study
•   Lorenz et al: Unpublished study in Costa Rica

•   Some evidence that nitrogen addition (either organic or synthetic) reduces
    stability of charcoal
•   Glazer 50-100 yrs

Slide 3
                               Soil erosion

•   Loss of agricultural residue exposes soils to more severe dehydration, water
    and wind erosion

- SOC losses
- Black carbon losses

•   David Pimentel and Rattan Lal: Crop residue removal - 100 fold increase in

Slide 3
          Incorporated biochar may not be ‘additional’

•   IPCC - crop residue removal > reduction of SOC

•    Derived from previous reductions
    in carbon stocks/pool

•   Deprived of organic carbon necessary for
    metabolism by soil organisms, soils would
    deplete very quickly.

•   W ith CC, respiration of organic matter will increase
    so more harvest residue required

Slide 3
                   Synthetic fertiliser requirement

•   Biochar does not contain nutrients except fresh biochar in ash
•   Even if biochar shown to make uptake of nutrients from organic and
    synthetic fertilisers more efficient…
•   In fact need for synthetic fertilisers will now be much greater – the reverse

•    10 to 100Kg N fertiliser required / Ha
    and reduces stability of biochar (CSIRO)
•   Ammonium bicarbonate, N2O + reinforces fossil fuel ind ustry

Slide 3
                             Indirect Impacts
                   - small farmers carrying the cost -

  Accelerated land use change
•  25-30% more residue removal > soil erosion
•  Impoverishment of local hydrological cycle
•  Extended grazing requirement

 Dependence on synthetic fertilisers

•  PAHs
•  Charcoal dust / particulates: Pneomococoniosis

  Subsidies / Financial Viability
•  CDMs and ETS exclude small farmers
•  Patents favour industry

  No real choice
•  Biomass stoves or solar cookers

Slide 3
           Biochar production in Drylands

Reclaiming dryland or accelerating desertification?

      “Renewable” energy
  1                                            Ongoing residue removal >
      + biochar from
      biomass > initial                        reduced humidity & micro-climate
      habitat loss                             > further habitat loss
                                               > erosion of (drying and depleting)

                  2   Reduced soil organic
                      carbon even with short
                      term biochar benefit
                      > soil depletion

      Antagony is being mistaken for synergy?
              UNFCCC: Emissions or Economics?

    Very limited NGO awareness, no conclusive field trials,
    unsubstantiated claims to UN bodies…

•   Proposal to include biochar in CDM: selling ‘rights to
    pollute’, includes bc from destructive ind. tree plant.

•   A call for double credits by Carbon Gold not limited to residues. Cf Malaysia

•   A call to lift limit on CER on carbon sink projects:
    reinforces bau

•   A call to reform Additionality: claim that seq-
    uestration can be accurately measured (UNCCD),
                                                              Plantar's eucalyptus
    urgency now an excuse for invalid accounting              plantations for charcoal
                                                              as fuel for pig iron in
                                                              Minais Gerais, Brazil:
                         Calls for Caution

• UNEP "Biochar is a new and poorly understood technology… The
  impacts of large-scale biochar production on biodiversity and long-
  term agricultural sustainability (e.g. nutrient depletion) are

• Royal Society “Biochar (CDR technique) the report identified
  significant doubts relating to the potential scope, effectiveness and
  safety of this technique and recommended that substantial research
  would be required before it could be considered for eligibility for UN
  carbon credits.”

• Biochar Declaration

• Precautionary Principle
                Gathering momentum
    …in absence of conclusions from field trials
    Lobbyists                                Confirmed backing

•   International Biochar Initiative     •   UNCCD secretariat submission to
•   US (Inc Renew the Earth)                 UNFCCC. Inclusion of biochar into
•   Biochar Europe calling for inclusion     draft 2009 agenda for “dialogue for
                                             the post 2012 climate regime”
•   of biochar in EU ETS (Inc Shell, JP
    Morgan and Centre for Rural
    Innovations)                         •   Backed by Micronesia
•   UK Biochar Research Centre
•   Australia: Turnbull‟s opposition     •   11 calls for "Concrete action for the
    Liberal party                            inclusion of soil organic carbon
                                             restoration as a significant mitigation
•   NZ: Forestry Ministry                    and adaptation tool to climate
•   Brazil: Embrapa                          change"
•   Biochar lobby forums in Canada and
    Mongolia                                 By: Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho,
•   Biochar Fund                             Mozambique, Niger, Senegal,
                                             Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda,
                                             Zambia and Zimbabwe.

                                         •   Similar submission by Belize