Sunday, May 22, 2011

Biochar Community Pledges Sustainability

The US Biochar Initiative, in association with Pacific Northwest Biochar, has begun work on a set of "Biochar Sustainability Protocols" designed to ensure that the fledgling biochar industry develops along a sustainable environmental and social trajectory. The first product of this effort is a draft "Declaration of Sustainability for Biochar Production," which sets out a number of guiding principles and accompanying sustainable "baseline practices." These principles are wide-ranging, encompassing issues as varied as intergenerational justice and long-term soil quality, and this heterogeneity is manifested in a long, expansive list of recommended practices. This particular protocol is focused on biochar production, and the US Biochar Initiative plans to develop additional codes to govern biochar energy, carbon sequestration, and biochar soil amendments.

This project can be read, at least in part, as a reaction to accusations made by NGOs last year that biochar represents an unjust and unsustainable carbon reduction option (see Attack on Biochar, 9/1/10). It is ironic that proponents of a technology widely regarded as epitomizing sustainability feel pressed to shore up their green credentials. Past experience, unfortunately, suggests that no amount of effort will be adequate to meet the concerns of those most vocal in their opposition to biochar and geoengineering more generally.

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