The arrival of Spring can’t come soon enough for some, though it came early for the California offset market. Three significant events will spur the development of carbon offsets from rice cultivation. First, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) launched a rulemaking to adopt a compliance offset protocol for rice cultivation projects. The American Carbon Registry (ACR) also approved a rice protocol for the Mid-South (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas).
And at EDF we announced the listing of the first California rice offset project with ACR.
As a part of ARB’s rulemaking, they released a discussion draft of a compliance offset protocol. This protocol contained three different activities that growers can take to reduce the generation of methane associated with rice cultivation – dry seeding, early drainage, and alternate wetting and drying of fields. All of these practices have been developed using the latest science and have been shown to reduce methane generation without impacting yield. Methane is the second largest anthropogenic source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for 9% of all U.S. GHG emissions from human activities. Methane is also important because it is more than 20 times more potent a GHG than carbon dioxide. At the meeting, the ARB stated that they intend to propose the protocol for consideration at the September 2014 Board meeting.
ACR has good news of its own. They approved a voluntary rice module for use in the Mid-South and now has protocols to cover all the major rice growing regions of the U.S. The ARB used the California and Mid-South protocols developed by ACR and the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) as resources in the writing of their discussion draft. In addition, the ARB is considering rewarding innovators who developed the first offset projects under either the ACR or CAR protocols as Early Action Projects. This means these projects can transition their credits from the voluntary to the compliance market. To date, ARB has issued more than 4.7 million ARB offset credits from 25 early action projects.
This helps underscore the importance of the listing of the first rice offset project by ACR. Developed by Terra Global Capital and totaling more than 6700 tons, the Emission Reductions in California Rice Management Systems project is the first California rice offset project. We anticipate that this project will encourage other rice growers in California and the Mid-South to develop offset projects. Once independently verified, this project will generate valuable offset credits that can be transitioned to ARB offset credits just like the previous 4.7 million tons mentioned above. Furthermore, this protocol will help demonstrate how aggregated agriculture offset projects can be generated.
As the largest uncapped sector, the vast potential of agriculture holds the key for a large volume of offsets. EDF will continue to work with its partners to develop practices, protocols, and pilots to demonstrate how U.S. agriculture can provide a valuable solution in the fight against climate change.