The Biochar Factor

Biochar Side Events in Copenhagen
December 8, 2009, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Biochar Policy | Tags: , , , , ,


Presentation on Case Studies in Carbon Negative Ecovillages: Biochar Energy, Carbon Farming, and Climate-Adaptive Built Environments

Wednesday, Dec. 9th, 12:30 pm – 2:00pm
Location: Vartov World Cafe, large yurt near the NGO Klimaforum in Christiania
Description: Case Studies in Carbon Negative Ecovillages, including information on biochar. He will also have an example of a biochar stove supplied by World Stove.
Speaker: Albert Bates

Biochar – Delivering Fast Climate Benefits?

Wednesday, Dec. 9th, 4:45-5:45 pm
Location: Bellona’s Conference Room, Bella Center
Organizer: The Bellona Foundation
Description: Brief presentation of biochar and ongoing research by Bioforsk Norwegian Research Centre. This session will discuss the potential of biochar, the need for policy, regulations, monitoring, economic hurdles, carbon credit barriers/enablers, scalability and the importance of sustainability criteria. Further themes include the developing countries perspective, recognition of soils as a carbon sink and the inclusion of biochar methods in a post-2012 climate protocol.

Dr. Johannes Lehmann, University of Cornell
Debbie Reed, International Biochar Initiative
Thomas Harrtung, Green Carbon Denmark
Nathaniel Mulcahy, WorldStove

Biochar: Climate Mitigation & Adaptation with Food & Energy Security Benefits

Saturday, Dec. 12th, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Location: Victor Borg Room at Meetings
Organizer: The International Biochar Initiative
Description: IBI and UNCCD will discuss emerging issues and current science related to biochar and links to food and energy security in developing countries and drylands. Data on water retention, increased crop yields from field studies, joint work and projects underway, R&D roadmap in dryland areas.
Debbie Reed, International Biochar Initiative: Session Chair
Sergio Zelaya, UNCCD Secretariat
Dr. Johannes Lehmann, Cornell University


Too Much of a Good Thing: What Hugs & Biochar Have in Common
April 28, 2009, 5:51 am
Filed under: Biochar Policy | Tags: , , , , ,

Too Much of a Good Thing:

What Hugs and Biochar Have in Common

Hugs are great.  Who doesn’t like a good hug?  Think of the last time a friend offered a hug because they noticed you looking blue.  Or the last tight warm hug you had with a dear friend before departing.  Or how about the hug after an exciting first date, where you’re wondering, “Will we kiss?  Will we kiss?”

But….all the time?  Have you ever had a girlfriend or boyfriend who wanted to hug you every time they saw you?  After you go to the bathroom, there they are, arms wide open, ready for the 50 millionth hug today.  Or how about the shmarmy new friend you just met who wants to hug you for 10 minutes until their heart chakra oozes all over you?

Yeah.  Everything in moderation.  Even hugs.

So when some advocacy groups started saying NO to biochar, I wasn’t exactly surprised.  I got into this industry a few years ago because I, like many others, realized it was The Best Thing Ever for climate change, soil fertility, and energy.  But as with all Best Things Ever, it must be tempered with Moderation.

Biofuels Watch and other concerned individuals do have a point.  And thank you, after 2,136 protest emails (, I GET THE POINT.  But one of the things you must realize is that WE ARE ON YOUR TEAM.  We are all striving for solutions to climate change, soil fertility, and energy, and see biochar as an invaluable player in the portfolio of solutions to these problems (NOT the Silver Bullet).

But, in the event that the biochar market completely takes off (which it is poised to do), and biochar is very Economically Attractive, the same minds that created Big Oil and could care less about biochar’s carbon sequestration potential could bastardize its benefit.

The root fear of these anti-biochar organizations is that creating a market for biochar will incentivize any profiteering schmoe to use up all the arable land to grow monocrops for biochar production, and/or cut down forests.

Raise your hand if you think biochar is cool AND you’d like to see this happen.

Yeah, no one’s hands are raised.  Mine aren’t, and it’s not just because I’m typing.  And I’m part of the “evil” biochar industry.  (I’ve seen anti-biochar blogs suggest that I , and all biocharians, are evil.  You can even ask my ex-boyfriends.  I am not evil.)

But who’s to stop this from happening?  What we need–and what we will get–is policy and regulations that define market conditions.

The International Biochar Initiative is working with the UNCCD (UN Convention to Combat Desertification) to develop the standards necessary to ensure this won’t happen.  The UNCCD has taken to biochar as a solution to help the folks affected by desertification (think climate change isn’t real?  Google desertification.)

See the UNCCD’s submission on Why Biochar Rocks (paraphrased) to the UNFCCC here:

The IBI and the UNCCD will be meeting with policy leaders, technology developers, academics, NGOs, and scientists during the June climate talks in Bonn, Germany, to develop standards to ensure that biochar is sustainable from “seed-to-socket” (as in “electrical socket”).  They will be bringing the draft policy standards to the UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December for public comment and refinement.

Thanks to the thorough critique from anti-biochar advocacy groups, we have a stronger understanding of the Worst Possible Outcome, and will use that to hone our approach on how to ensure that it is not a Nightmare Come True.

The end result will be a biochar certification standard required for any biochar product sold.  If you don’t have this seal of certification that illustrates Sustainability from Seed to Socket (SSS), you can’t sell your biochar.  Period.

Does this prevent black market biochar? (no pun intended)  It doesn’t.  But does it ensure that we don’t run into the coal or biofuels debacle, where an entire industry is based on being handsomely paid to thoroughly rape our resources for profit?  Good god, I hope so.

This is officially an invitation to make your voice heard.  Have an idea of how we can prevent such shenanigans?  Leave a comment.  I will make sure it gets into the right hands.

So when you read the negative biochar press out there, please take into consideration that the people involved in biochar are not idiots.  It is a diverse group of scientists, policy-makers, and businesspeople with a shared mission and consideration for a whole-systems ecology and economy.  Please.  Can’t we all just get along?

How ’bout a hug?