Europe’s topsoils contain about 75 billion tons of carbon, which corresponds to 275 bil-lion tons of CO2 worldwide. By comparison, Europe’s annual CO2 emissions, which contribute significantly to climate change, appear low at 4 billion tons of CO2. But the comparison of such figures also shows the dangers posed by climate-damaging land use and the possible opportunities for climate protection. If only 0.1 % carbon were ad-ditionally released from the soil each year, this would correspond to the emission of 100 million passenger cars.
In agricultural soils, the carbon content has often been reduced by 40% or more since ploughing began. For example, heavily degraded soils often only have an organic car-bon content of 1.5 %, while well conserved soils can reach 2.5 % and meadows even 3 %. There are estimates, for example, that 90 – 120 million tons of CO2 per year in West-ern Europe could be additionally bound in the soil by optimised carbon accumulation if all potentials are exploited. This would correspond to about 3% of Europe’s total CO2 emissions. Increased organic fertilisation, reforestation, set-aside (e.g. for protected ar-eas), climate-effective bioenergy production, organic farming, rewetting of moorland and conservation tillage can contribute to this ambitious goal.
Of course, other harmful greenhouse gases must also be taken into account in the overall balance as CO2 equivalent = CO2eq, but this does not lead to contradictions. Us-ing advanced agricultural practice, the FIBL research institute in Switzerland, for exam-ple, was able to demonstrate that over a crop rotation period of several years, instead of emitting 4 t CO2eq per hectare and year, fields with increasing yields are able to store 8 t CO2eq in addition with bio-organic management and reduced tillage.
CO2 can of course only be accumulated to a limited extent in the soil, but the available potentials for this can make a considerable contribution to reducing the CO2 content in the atmosphere, especially in the coming years, which are critical for the climate. Every ton of additional CO2 stored in the soil delays the exhaustion of the remaining budget