New Methodology to Slash Methane Emissions from Rice Cultivation and Empower Smallholder Farmers

Following extensive consultation, Gold Standard (GS) has released a new methodology that will reduce methane emissions from rice cultivation.

Globally, around 8% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are produced by growing rice. If rice production was a country, emissions associated with it would be larger than the total footprint of Canada, Saudi Arabia, France, and the UK combined.

The grain is also the world’s most important staple food crop, helping to feed over four billion people, and as food and crop rice is central to the identities of many Asian societies, and around 140 million smallholders in Asia produce most of the world’s rice.

Most of the emissions associated with rice production are methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas. The Global Methane Pledge, launched at COP26 in November 2021 to catalyse action to reduce methane emissions, has set a commitment to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% below 2020 levels by 2030.

Methane is produced when organic matter decomposes in flooded rice fields without access to oxygen. The new methodology will reduce the emission of methane by:

  • Changing the water regime during the cultivation period from continuously to intermittently flooded conditions and/or a shortened period of flooded conditions;
  • Using the alternate wetting and drying method;
  • Adopting aerobic rice cultivation methods; and
  • Switching from transplanted to direct-seeded rice (DSR).

As with all GS methodologies, any reductions will be verified by an independent audit before any carbon credits are issued. The new methodology will open a new source of income from the sale of carbon credits.

These credits could be used towards corporate ‘beyond value chain mitigation’ targets, to take responsibility for ongoing emissions. Rice is also a commodity purchased by corporations through their value chains.

More User Friendly Than the Previous Methodology

Mitigation outcomes could therefore become reportable towards value chain targets, such as Scope 3. For companies purchasing rice from producers applying the methodology, these outcomes can be incorporated into accounting and reporting, subject to alignment with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Further work, through GSs AIM Platform, will assess the potential for market-based allocation of outcomes in the future.

The new methodology is fully IPCC aligned and includes improved monitoring guidelines. It is also applicable to a broader scope of project – large and small-scale or micro-scale projects or PoAs. Put together this means that it is more user-friendly than the previous methodology.

This methodology is adapted from the small-scale CDM methodology AMS-III.AU – Methane emission reduction by adjusted water management practice in rice, cultivation – Version 4.0. The CDM methodology is applicable for 30 days from the date of publication of the new methodology.

The methodology has been developed with inputs from the Eurecat Centre Tecnològic de Catalunya, and from the International Rice Research Institute as part of a partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Government of Australia through the Business Partnerships Platform.

Commenting on the release Margaret Kim, CEO of Gold Standard, said: “At Gold Standard, our vision is climate security and sustainable development for all. By not only delivering a quantifiable reduction in the emissions of a potent greenhouse gas but also providing a source of income to farmers this new methodology will bring us closer to that goal.”

The Gold Standard is a standard and logo certification mark program, for non-governmental emission reductions projects, in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the Voluntary Carbon Market and other climate and development interventions.

The objective of the GS is to add branding, with a quality label, to carbon credits[1] generated by projects which can then be bought and traded by countries that have a binding legal commitment according to the Kyoto Protocol, businesses, or other organizations for carbon offsetting purposes.