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

Cornelia Rumpel, 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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

198 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-360
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Early online date23 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished online - 23 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
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).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Carbon sequestration
  • Climate change
  • Food security
  • Soil


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