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

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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.

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Correspondence to Brian C. Murray.

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This work reflects ongoing collaborative efforts of the authors and Bruce McCarl (Texas A&M University), Allan Sommer, Jui-Chen Yang, and Laurel Clayton (RTI International), Sandra Brown (Winrock International), Ken Andrasko and Ben DeAngelo (US EPA), and various participants in the World Resources Institute/World Business Council workgroup to develop GHG project reporting protocols. All opinions, errors and omissions are those of the authors only.

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Murray, B.C., Sohngen, B. & Ross, M.T. Economic consequences of consideration of permanence, leakage and additionality for soil carbon sequestration projects. Climatic Change 80, 127–143 (2007).

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