The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
These 17 Goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.
Biochar is a highly carbonaceous solid residue which is produced when biomass is thermally decomposed at temperatures ranging from 200oC-500oC in zero or limited oxygen conditions and used as soil enhancers. Biochar can be described as charred biomass, which can be for application to soils and other environmental benefits. Biochar addresses soil productivity, climate change, carbon dioxide emissions and enhances both energy production and waste management.
Large scale production and use of biochar could impact on the attainment of at least 12 sustainable development goals and I briefly discuss them below:
Goal 1 – No Poverty: Biochar has been proven to boost crop yields, hence the production of biochar from agricultural waste which can be blended with compost or manure will decrease the need for farmers to buy expensive fertilizers to boost their crop yields.
Goal 2 – Zero Hunger: Biochar can help cultivate and harvest more food especially in poor soils thereby reducing hunger.
Goal 3 – Good health & well-being – Biochar in soils can help immobilize heavy metals, pollutants and toxins and reduce the use of chemical fertilizers in soils thus reducing the harmful effects of pollutants.
Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation: Biochar can act as a water filtration medium thus reducing the harmful effects of unfiltered effluents. This can be done through the carbonization of sewage sludge which helps immobilize toxins.
Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy: Technologies behind biochar production can also be used in the production of heat, syngas and electricity or a combination of all of them.
Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth: Biomass carbonization to produce biochar can create economic opportunities for farmers, rural dwellers, industries and scientists.
Goal 9 – Industry Innovation and Infrastructure: Biochar can be used to produce building materials such as asphalt, concrete and other composites. Biochar adds unique properties to these products thereby improving the lifespan of the products.
Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities: Biochar can be used for the remediation of brown fields and can be beneficial in urban tree planting, green roofs and storm water management, green roofs and urban tree planting. It could also be used to remediate urban brownfields.
Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production: Biochar produced from the conversion of waste can be used to replace non-renewable materials and reduce carbon footprints which will lead us to a more circular economy.
Goal 13 – Climate Action: Biochar can indirectly help in climate change mitigation by reducing landfill methane emissions, decrease the use of industrial energy and emissions due to waste reduction and recycling, energy recovery from waste, reduction of energy used in the transportation of waste and improving carbon sequestration in forests because of the reduction in virgin paper demand
Goal 14 – Life below Water: Biochar addition to soils can lead to the reduction of nutrient leaching which causes eutrophication (excessive richness of nutrients in water).
Goal 15 – Life on land: Biochar can improve life on land through land remediation, reclamation and restoration.