Earthworm in the soil | turn to zero

Fertile soil as a natural CO₂ sink

Project facts

Project type: Agriculture and forestry

Project location: Switzerland, Germany, Austria & Liechtenstein 

Project standard: VER

Annual emission reduction: 1.000 t

Project start: May 2017

This pioneering climate protection programme stores carbon in agricultural soil. Soil erosion and humus loss are a major problem worldwide, but also in Switzerland and neighbouring countries. The programme enables organic farmers to implement measures, which positively affect soil fertility. It thus contributes to a climate-​friendly agriculture and to food security.

Offset emissions

Project overview


The project

Agricultural land is constantly losing humus through intensive cultivation, which reduces its fertility. Even the nutrient content of organically farmed soil is decreasing overall because the time-​consuming measures for humus conservation and long-​term humus accumulation are financially not feasible.

It is a vicious circle: Due to the price pressure caused by cheap imports, farmers have to farm more intensively and are forced to neglect ecological measures. As a result, agriculture is increasingly contributing to climate change. The latest IPCC special report (2019) estimates that agriculture and forestry are responsible for over 20 per cent of human-​made greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, however, farmers are directly affected by climate change, for example through prolonged droughts or heavy rainfall.

Fertile soil is a natural CO₂ sink
Agricultural soils offer great potential as a carbon sink. Soil stores three times more carbon than the atmosphere. The international 4 per 1000 initiative understands soil as a relevant CO₂ sink. It assumes that an annual, 0.4-per cent worldwide increase in soil carbon stock in the topsoil – i.e. the top 30 centimetres – can offset the global greenhouse gases caused by humans.
The carbon in soil comes, in part, from atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO₂), which plants extract through photosynthesis and store in the soil through plant roots and microorganisms. The more humus soil contains, the more carbon it can store. Soil-​preserving and humus-​accumulating measures increase soil organic carbon, making fertile agricultural soil a CO₂ sink. Humus-​rich soils store more water and are therefore more resistant to extreme weather conditions such as droughts and heavy rainfall. This makes the soil more resilient to climate change, meaning it contributes to food security and the negative emissions urgently needed in order to achieve the 1.5 degree target. 

The programme: Measures for more fertile soil
For this programme, myclimate is collaborating with Bio-​Stiftung Schweiz. Selected organic or bio-​dynamically producing farms in the Lake Constance region are committed to develop location-​optimised activities in order to increase soil fertility. Measures include for example: the development and introduction of compost, modified crop rotation, no tillage, mixed crops or green manure. The Bio-​Stiftung Schweiz supports farmers with guidance from local soil experts and an exchange platform.

Climate justice
In sol­i­dar­ity with farm­ers in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and due to the "Fam­ily Farm­ing" decade pro­claimed by the UNO and FAO, my­cli­mate is re­duc­ing the same num­ber of CO₂ emis­sion in an in­ter­na­tional cer­ti­fied car­bon off­set project with small farm­ers in Nicaragua, who also con­tribute to soil or­ganic car­bon ac­cu­mu­la­tion through re­for­esta­tion mea­sures.

This project contributes to the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
Zero hunger
By building up the humus content, the water storage capacity is improved, thus increasing resilience to weather extremes (heat waves, floods).
Responsible consumption and production
Around 1,000 hectares of arable land are farmed sustainably.
Climate action
1,000 t CO2 are saved annually.
Partnerships for the goals
Additional financing of reforestation measures in Nicaragua.
Erklärgraphik fruchtbare Böden

Photosynthesis, decomposition. Fertile agricultural soils store atmospheric carbon dioxide as carbon. © myclimate Schweiz

Acker mit Feldfrüchten

Mixed cropping and mulch promote humus accumulation at SlowGrow in Mönchaltorf. © Matthias Hollenstein, Bio-Stiftung Schweiz


© Mathias Forster, Bio-Stiftung Schweiz

Fruchtbare Böden

Anno Lutke Schipholt from the "Hof am Stei" talks about the advantages of no tillage. © Mathias Forster, Bio-Stiftung Schweiz