This report considers whether biochar — a charcoal-like substance made by burning biomass in oxygen-deprived conditions — is a silver bullet for meeting the global challenges of climate change mitigation, soil fertility and sustainable energy production. Biochar buried in soil can capture and store atmospheric carbon.

The report assesses the prospects of biochar becoming part of sustainability measures, and whether it can meet the livelihood priorities of small-scale farmers in rural Africa, for example.

It provides an overview of current arguments and interested parties in the polarised debate about whether biochar could contribute significantly to climate change mitigation. The authors argue that there is a "politics of promise" around its potential, and although this is driving research and investment, biochar has yet to make significant impact on the ground.