Climatic Change

, Volume 80, Issue 1, pp 127-143

First online:

Economic consequences of consideration of permanence, leakage and additionality for soil carbon sequestration projects

  • Brian C. MurrayAffiliated withNicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University Email author 
  • , Brent SohngenAffiliated withThe Ohio State UniversityRTI International
  • , Martin T. RossAffiliated withRTI International

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This paper introduces, explains, and describes methods for addressing the issues of permanence, leakage, and additionality (PLA) of agricultural soil carbon sequestration (ASCS) activities at the project level. It is important to cast these as project-level issues, because they relate to the integrity and consistency of using location-specific ASCS projects as an offset against GHG emissions generated in other sectors (e.g., energy). The underlying objective is to understand and quantify what the net carbon benefits of an ASCS project are once we account for the fact that (1) the sequestered carbon may be stored impermanently, (2) the project may displace emissions outside the project boundaries (leakage), and (3) the project’s carbon sequestration may not be entirely additional to what would have occurred anyway under business-as-usual (no project) conditions. This article evaluates methods for identifying and estimating PLA and gauges the potential magnitude of these effects on the economic returns to a project.