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Don't ignore carbon stored in soil in climate change fight - Fiji President

"We cannot afford to neglect a resource that could be our serious and viable ally against climate change" - George Konrote, Fiji president

The Earth's soils contain more carbon than the planet's atmosphere and vegetation combined, but are dangerously neglected in the fight against climate change, Fiji's president told a U.N. conference on Tuesday.

George Konrote, whose small Pacific nation is threatened by rising sea levels, warned commitments under the Paris climate change agreement to limit global temperature rises would be "in vain" if carbon trapped in the soil was to be released.

"The negative impact on our environment and life as we know it could be colossal," Konrote told the meeting, held by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome.

"We cannot afford to neglect a resource that could be our serious and viable ally against climate change."

Small island developing states are already suffering the impacts of climate change, including rising seas and more extreme weather, and have pushed hard for more ambitious international efforts to reduce planet-warming emissions.

Fiji was the first country to ratify the Paris treaty last year and will preside over the next major U.N. climate change meeting, known as COP23, in Bonn , Germany in November.

Soil naturally absorbs carbon from the atmosphere through a process known as sequestration. Besides helping reduce harmful greenhouse gases, carbon sequestration is a boon for farming.

"Soils with high organic carbon content are likely to be more fertile and productive, better able to purify water, and help to increase the resilience of livelihoods to the impacts of climate change," said the FAO's director general Jose Graziano da Silva.

But when land is overexploited or degraded, trapped carbon is released back into the atmosphere, resulting in planet warming emissions.

About a third of the world's soils are degraded because of soil erosion - the loss of the topsoil by wind, rain or use of machinery - contamination and the sprawl of cities.

Reverting the trend is key both to tackling global warming and to feeding the world's growing population, according to the FAO.

Konrote called on global governments to support sustainable soil management practices through policy and investment.

"Let's put back carbon where it belongs, in the soil," he said.


  • United States
  • Umberto Bacchi