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The 4p1000 initiative: Opportunities, limitations and challenges for implementing soil organic carbon sequestration as a sustainable development strategy

  • Cornelia RumpelEmail author
  • Farshad Amiraslani
  • Claire Chenu
  • Magaly Garcia Cardenas
  • Martin Kaonga
  • Lydie-Stella Koutika
  • Jagdish Ladha
  • Beata Madari
  • Yasuhito Shirato
  • Pete Smith
  • Brahim Soudi
  • Jean-François Soussana
  • David Whitehead
  • Eva Wollenberg


Climate change adaptation, mitigation and food security may be addressed at the same time by enhancing soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration through environmentally sound land management practices. This is promoted by the “4 per 1000” Initiative, a multi-stakeholder platform aiming at increasing SOC storage through sustainable practices. The scientific and technical committee of the Initiative is working to identify indicators, research priorities and region-specific practices needed for their implementation. The Initiative received its name due to the global importance of soils for climate change, which can be illustrated by a thought experiment showing that an annual growth rate of only 0.4% of the standing global SOC stocks would have the potential to counterbalance the current increase in atmospheric CO2. However, there are numerous barriers to the rise in SOC stocks and while SOC sequestration can contribute to partly offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, its main benefits are related to increased soil quality and climate change adaptation. The Initiative provides a collaborative platform for policy makers, practitioners, scientists and stakeholders to engage in finding solutions. Criticism of the Initiative has been related to the poor definition of its numerical target, which was not understood as an aspirational goal. The objective of this paper is to present the aims of the initiative, to discuss critical issues and to present challenges for its implementation. We identify barriers, risks and trade-offs and advocate for collaboration between multiple parties in order to stimulate innovation and to initiate the transition of agricultural systems toward sustainability.


Carbon sequestration Climate change Food security Soil 



Authors would like to acknowledge the executive secretariat of the 4p1000 initiative, Charlotte Verger and Claire Weill for their valuable contributions during the preparation of this manuscript. The input of PS contributes to the UK NERC-funded Soils-R-GGREAT project (NE/P019455/1).


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS, Institute for Ecology and Environmental SciencesThiverval-GrignonFrance
  2. 2.Department of RS/GIS, Faculty of GeographyUniversity of TehranTehranIran
  3. 3.AgroParisTech, UMR Ecosys INRA, AgroParisTech, Université Paris-SaclayThiverval-GrignonFrance
  4. 4.Faculty of EngineeringUniversidad Mayor de San AndrésLa PazBolivia
  5. 5.Cambridge Center for EnvironmentCambridgeUK
  6. 6.CRDPIPointe-NoireRepublic of the Congo
  7. 7.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  8. 8.Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, National Rice and Bean Research Center (Embrapa Arroz e Feijão)Santo Antônio de GoiásBrazil
  9. 9.National Agriculture and Food Research OrganizationTsukubaJapan
  10. 10.Institute of Biological & Environmental SciencesUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK
  11. 11.Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan IIRabatMorocco
  12. 12.INRA, Institut National de la Recherche AgronomiqueParisFrance
  13. 13.Manaaki Whenua − Landcare ResearchLincolnNew Zealand
  14. 14.Gund Institute for EnvironmentUniversity of Vermont and CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food SecurityBurlingtonUSA

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