On behalf of the International Biochar Initiative, I thank you for your support of the organization this last year. It has been a busy time for us and we appreciate the backing of our members—especially since it was the first full year of our membership program. I hope that you will decide to join or renew your IBI membership for 2011.
2010 has been an eventful year for our organization. IBI continues to grow and expand our presence and sphere of influence globally, aided by exponential growth in the number of universities and research associations with biochar programs; published, peer-reviewed data on all aspects of biochar production and utilization; new and more actors in the commercial biochar space; and growing public, media, and policymaker interest in biochar.
While IBI does not itself engage in basic or applied research, we help network and support the growing biochar research and development community and we provide regular updates to the IBI network covering progress in the research space. We have also contributed to a steady improvement in the quality of media coverage of biochar as the research advances and reporters gain knowledge about biochar and about IBI. We continue to be excited and positive about the prospects for sustainable biochar production and utilization systems to deliver beneficial climate mitigation and soil enhancement and ecosystem services globally, and while we see a far greater need for public and private sector investments in biochar, we note progress in government investments, promoted at least in part by progress in the science and growing media and policymaker interest.
Specifically, membership support enabled us to accomplish a very full agenda in 2010 including:
- Research Support: We expanded our IBI publications list to include a series of information papers and technical bulletins on critical issues in biochar use and testing. We maintained a directory of research institutions worldwide and saw our online searchable bibliography expand to include nearly 500 citations.
- Conference Support: We held our 3rd international biochar conference, IBI 2010, September 12 – 15, in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. More than 200 attendees enjoyed 85 oral and 85 poster presentations. We also supported and attended numerous regional and national biochar conferences, meetings, and seminars and are encouraged to see the number of conferences increase substantially.
- Biochar Standards: IBI’s efforts to promote globally-developed and accepted standards for biochar characterization, production and utilization accelerated in 2010. Having successfully raised funds to advance this work, we recently contracted with Keith Driver of Leading Carbon, Ltd., to lead the effort. Work groups have been officially selected and we have begun the process that will lead to a draft standard by 4th quarter 2011.
- International Policy Support: We continued to engage with UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification) on biochar issues under their convention and the sister UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), and signed a letter of agreement with the UNCCD Secretariat to work together to pursue biochar R&D to mitigate climate and enhance degraded soils. IBI held a well-attended biochar side event at the COP 16 meetings in Cancun, Mexico, in December where we also participated in Agriculture Day (4 December, 2010).
- Domestic policy support: In the US and China, IBI made important progress on bringing biochar to the attention of policy makers, resulting in new policy proposals in support of biochar research and development.
- Biochar Project Resources: The IBI Extension Service provided project assistance on both production technology and agronomic trials and utilization to projects worldwide. Our staff made presentations at national and international meetings to support this work, and we published new technical guides and bulletins on pyrolysis design, biochar application to soil, and biochar testing, in several languages.
- Biochar Project Directory: Our searchable biochar project directory lists projects by type and location—thanks to input from our members – we have more than 275 projects from 46 countries registered.
- Regional Groups and community work parties: We helped new regional groups form and now host web pages for more than 30 groups. We provided organizing tools for Biochar 10-10-10 work parties and have created a list of biochar activities suited to community groups.
- Website and Newsletter: One of the ways that we support project development is through publicity and networking. Our website includes daily updates of announcements and news items, a complete, searchable research bibliography, a calendar, a member bulletin board, and a searchable member project directory. Information resources include reports on IBI programs, short informational articles and FAQs, a list of biochar research institutions and programs, links to the latest biochar reports by governments and multilateral agencies, links to videos and biochar multimedia, and links to social networking sites that are engaging in biochar discussions. We publish project practitioner profiles on our website and in our monthly newsletter—which reaches over 3,500 electronic subscribers.
- Biochar Media Coverage: Hundreds of biochar news stories and many magazine features appeared in 2010. You can find links to all of these stories on the IBI website, and we provide summaries of many stories in the IBI monthly newsletter. We sent press releasesout for meetings and events that resulted in news coverage, and have been interviewed for many articles. We have seen a steady improvement in the quality of media coverage on biochar as reporters gain knowledge about biochar and about IBI.
- IBI Membership Program: We launched our individual membership program in July 2009 with a $60 general membership fee and special rates for students and for sustaining members. Within one year our paid membership has grown to more than 400 members from 34 countries.
- IBI Board Expansion: In November, IBI expanded the board from five members to nine, and we anticipate further expansion in the future. We are looking forward to the added expertise and support these new members will bring, and to the broader level of community engagement we thing expansion will afford us.
In the next year, IBI plans to focus our work on supporting biochar project implementation; to us, this means working to support the development and implementation of biochar systems that are commercially viable and sustainable, and that cover the entire production to utilization spectrum. We believe that strong, well designed projects will most benefit biochar implementation and acceptance worldwide by providing operational models that can be replicated. As part of this project focus, we will:
- Continue to support policy efforts which can increase support for biochar R&D, at national and international levels.
- Finalize our biochar standards work, producing a draft standard by 4th quarter 2011.
- Continue to publicize biochar news, projects, practitioners, events and research through our website, newsletter, and regional and national conferences.
- We are also adding a commercialization section to our website with the goal of adding more concrete and better data on technology, economics, business models and business plans.
- In May 2011, we will post a call for nominations and hold elections for the IBI Advisory Committee (members of the Advisory Committee must be members of IBI).
- IBI will also support and participate in biochar conferences including the September 2011 regional Asia Pacific meeting held in Japan.
I hope you will continue your support of IBI’s work to showcase biochar’s potential as one of the “wedges” that offer a solution to the climate crisis. I am writing to ask you to renew your membership in IBI as we move into 2011. Through the hard work of IBI and others, more people are recognizing that sustainable biochar is a powerfully simple tool to fight global warming. But we need your help to continually expand the services we can offer to the biochar community. Help us raise the resources we need to support greater development of sustainable biochar—please start a new membership or renew your existing membership today, and if possible, please consider contributing at a higher level.
Thank you again for your support of biochar. Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments on IBI.