Document Type



Denver Law Review




Numerous climate-related emergencies highlight the challenges and urgency posed by climate change: the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, the Global Climate Action Summit in California and international student walkouts, to name a few. While the IPCC Report sent an urgent cry to reduce total emissions and to achieve specific results—45% reduction by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050—reductions need to be combined with capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Scientific studies have shown that an annual increase of 0.4% of carbon stored in soils would make it possible to stop the present increase in atmospheric CO2.

This Article focuses on carbon farming, a Climate Smart Agriculture strategy that uses plants to capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide in soil to achieve the IPCC Report goal. This Article makes two contributions. First, recognizing the potential of private certifications to drive sales and investment (Organic-Certified food sales soared to $100 billion in 2018), this Article designs a new Carbon Farming Certification with an Organic or Regenerative Agriculture certification as a base, and an add-on module to measure carbon sequestration. Second, a carbon farming certification becomes a linchpin to accessing a greater network of resources to scale-up carbon farming: farmers leverage the Certification to gain access to immediate and long-term financing; to unlock lucrative opportunities to sell carbon credits to those who purchase carbon offsets in California’s cap-and-trade market; and to engage in forward contracting with major supply chains. State and local governments should leverage sequestered carbon metrics from Carbon Farming Certified-farms to demonstrate compliance with international law and treaty targets, as well as national and local climate policies.

Filling gaps in food law and environmental governance literature, this Article presents a multidisciplinary approach to a solving a critical global problem. It identifies barriers which hinder the scale-up of promising carbon farming strategies, including: insufficient information, lack of funding for innovation to drive down solution costs, inconsistent regulations that hinder project development and private sector commercialization, and a patchwork of quantification standards for ensuring carbon sequestration is measured consistently and fairly. The Article’s proposed solution draws from new developments in computer modeling simulation and metrics, carbon credits and global best practices. Further, this Article shares case studies highlighting novel collaborations between nations, private parties, NGOs, and international institutions.