Category Archives: Offsets

Spreading Good News About the Compost Protocol

robertThere’s a growing excitement around spreading compost on rangelands to help fight climate change. Over the past four years we have learned that grazed rangelands are really good at pulling carbon out of the air and sequestering it in the soil below. And if you add compost just one time, you can capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for more than seven years. Plus, you’ll  increase  both the quality of the grasses and the ability of the soils to hold water. If we scaled this to just 5 % of California’s rangelands, we could capture approximately 28 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is about the same as the annual emissions from all the homes in California.

To measure the capture of CO2, we collaborated with Terra Global Capital to create a protocol to calculate the amount of CO2 and enable ranchers to generate carbon offsets which they can sell on the voluntary carbon market. Right now we’re  in the middle of a public comment period for this protocol –  Emissions Reductions from Compost Additions to Grazed Grasslands. After public comment is over the protocol will go through a peer review period, and then be approved and published by the American Carbon Registry.  A copy of the protocol and instructions for providing comments is available here.

This protocol quantifies the emission reductions from diverting organic materials from landfills and spreading it on rangeland to spur carbon capturing grass growth. Recent waste studies estimate that approximately 72% of the waste stream going to landfills is organic (6% wood, 7% textiles/leather, 13% yard debris, 12% food scraps, 34% paper). By accurately measuring how much we divert and sequester, we can also correctly reward landowners for their good work. With our partners, University of California at Berkeley and the Marin Carbon Project, we’ve already seen the beneficial impacts through pilot projects on rangeland in Marin, Sonoma, and Yuba counties. Read More »

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Spring Cultivates Rice Offsets

rp_robert-200x300.jpgThe 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. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Sustainable Agriculture | Tagged , , | Comments closed

A Sustainable Urban Forest Takes Root in Santa Monica

ca_innov_series_icon_283x204EDF’s Innovators series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goal of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technology and ideas.

Across the globe, trees in urban centers provide more than just curb appeal – they improve the quality of life and provide critical services like better air quality, reduced climate pollution, decreased urban heat and lengthened roadway life. These benefits amount to significant economic value– the USDA estimates that the 3.8 billion trees in U.S. urban forests represent a green infrastructure investment valued at $2.4 trillion.

According to Tree City USA and the Arbor Day Foundation, there are more than 3,400 communities, home to over 135 million Americans, which have community forest programs. Chances are, if you live in a major city, there is an urban forest program caring for the trees in your community.

Who: Public Landscape Division, Public Works Department, City of Santa Monica, California.

What: Santa Monica has planted over 1,000 trees and is piloting an advanced urban forest tree inventory and maintenance work order enterprise system. Their new software covers tree selection, planting and monitoring and enables Santa Monica to account for carbon sequestered in public trees.

Where: Santa Monica, California

Why: Santa Monica can improve its overall Urban Forest management while contributing to a healthier, climate smart city.

Unfortunately, maintaining the quality and cost-effectiveness of urban forest programs has remained a challenge for many towns and cities, as budgets and personnel are often stretched thin.  As a result, according to a 2013 report by the USDA, many of California’s municipal forest programs need improvement, and in fact, some are failing.

Enter Santa Monica, California, a modest-sized city of 8 square miles and home to approximately 90,000 residents. Located just west of Los Angeles on the Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica is home to surfing, celebrity hide-aways, and perhaps some of the more forward-thinking environmental policies in the state. Read More »

Also posted in California Innovators Series, Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 | 1 Response, comments now closed

How an Innovative Partnership is Cutting Refrigerant Pollution and Creating Profits

ca_innov_series_icon_283x204EDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32.  Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.

Refrigerants are modern day inventions that allow us to keep our ice cream cold and our homes comfortable. These gases are used everywhere from kitchen refrigerators to cooling systems in grocery stores and food warehouses to air conditioning in homes, office buildings, data centers, and cars. While refrigerants have become essential to modern society, most are very harmful to the environment when released into the atmosphere. Refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), also known as F-gases, are greenhouse gases thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Who: EOS Climate was founded in 2008 and has more than 20 full-time employees. JACO Environmental is a leading appliance recycler in the U.S., with a network of over 30 collection facilities around the country, including two in California that employ 60 people.

What: EOS creates economic incentive for companies to responsibly manage refrigerants across their lifecycle. In partnership with JACO and other global sustainability leaders, EOS is preventing emissions of millions of tons of greenhouse gases.

Where: EOS is headquartered in San Francisco. JACO has facilities in Hayward and Fullerton.

Why: EOS aims to transform business as usual by treating refrigerants as financial assets rather than consumables. AB 32 has given EOS a foundation for this business innovation and economic opportunity.

Over the past 50 years, global population and economic growth has resulted in a dramatic increase in demand for refrigeration and air conditioning worldwide. As a result, a significant amount of leaked refrigerants have reached the atmosphere. Further, the common practice of sending retired equipment to recycling centers and landfills, many of which are not equipped to properly dispose of refrigerants, has meant that most refrigerants are released during end-of -life practices. EOS Climate  and JACO Environmental are aiming to solve this problem.

Based in San Francisco, EOS Climate was founded in 2008 by Presidio Graduate School classmates Jeff Cohen, Todd English, and Joe Madden, as an outgrowth of their MBA program in Sustainability Management. Their idea was to create economic value for organizations that properly manage refrigerants and other F-gases. EOS’s solution was to develop a scalable system to recover and destroy CFC refrigerants from older equipment, which could be financed through the generation and sale of Verified Emission Reductions in California's cap-and-trade program under the Ozone Depleting Substances offset protocol.

By working through AB 32, EOS has avoided millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, bolstered California’s recycling industry, and helped accelerate a transition toward more climate-friendly technologies. With venture backing from Firelake Capital and partnerships with companies like JACO Environmental, CleanHarbors, and Hudson Technologies, EOS is proving that AB 32 gives companies the tools to make fighting climate change a winning business model.

Photo credit: EOS Climate

Photo credit: EOS Climate

"We figured out a way to help cut climate pollution while making a profitable company. Without AB 32, CFC refrigerants would continue to be released from aging equipment and the climate benefits would not have been possible" says Todd English, VP of Operations at EOS. "The rise in refrigerant emissions threatens the progress the world is making to cut other greenhouse gas emissions. We wanted to make a company that could move the needle by showing that alternatives are out there – helping cut emissions while growing jobs. I think we've demonstrated that it can be done… and we are just getting started. We recently launched the Refrigerant Asset System (RAS) which expands our initial approach of using markets to drive economic and environmental outcomes to address the entire refrigerant lifecycle across multiple industries and sectors."

One sector that EOS has seized upon is appliance recycling. By working with JACO Environmental, they are changing the way refrigerators are collected, handled, and recycled. In the partnership, JACO collects fridges and sends them to specialized facilities like the ones in Hayward and Fullerton. There, the fridges are taken apart and the refrigeration gases inside are sucked out, collected, cleaned, and measured. The gases are then further processed and transported to a certified destruction plant. According to JACO, the removal of a single aging refrigerator or freezer can prevent up to 10 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent gases from entering the atmosphere. EOS and JACO estimate that together they have prevented greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 800,000 cars off the road annually.

Photo credit: JACO Environmental

Photo credit: JACO Environmental

“Recycling refrigerators and freezers in an environmentally friendly way is something my company is very good at. The partnership with EOS is good business, and has given us more opportunities for growth.” says Michael Dunham, Director of Energy & Environmental Programs at JACO. “We aren't doing all this just to stop climate change. We are doing it because it's good business, and the fact that AB 32 says the state has to cut greenhouse gases has helped us expand year after year. Our experience in California, in conjunction with our partnership with EOS, means we are poised to transform the way we approach refrigerator lifecycles across the United States.”

With their rising ‘Refrigerant Revolution’ Refrigerant Asset System, and a growing list of customers and partners, EOS Climate has created a business model that drives economic and environmental outcomes while helping the Golden State reach its aggressive climate goals and bolster its position as the global hub of innovation.

Please note that EDF has a standing corporate donation policy and we accept no funding from companies or organizations featured in this series. Furthermore, the EDF California Innovators Series is in no way an official endorsement of the people or organizations featured, or their business models and practices. 

 

Read more on our California Innovators Series:

Also posted in California Innovators Series, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 | 1 Response, comments now closed

First Scoping Plan Update Lays Groundwork for a Low-Carbon Future

Erica Morehouse photoThe Proposed First Update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan (Proposed Update), released today by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), is a more focused and ambitious version of the document first released last fall that is part of a larger California climate strategy. Importantly, the Proposed Update continues to build a framework for significant post-2020 carbon pollution reductions needed for the state.

California is on the cutting edge of climate action but is not alone on the international stage when it comes to planning for the future. On January 22nd, the European Commission released a climate and energy plan proposing the EU reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.  Last November, Mexico announced plans for a carbon tax that will include offsets.  And last summer, President Obama released a Climate Action Plan that builds on much of California's success especially in the areas of reducing emissions from cars and trucks and controlling emissions from new and existing power plants.

CARB’s Proposed First Scoping Plan Update:

Recommends smart 2030 targets

This Proposed Update recognizes that not only do we need to dramatically reduce carbon pollution in the first half of the 21st century, but with commitment and planning it is an attainable goal. Achieving an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050 will mean California must slash emissions across the board and CARB is recommending that every sector explored – transportation, energy, waste, water, agriculture, and natural and working lands – should have a sector-specific target.  It's appropriate that California first focused on big emitting sectors like energy and transportation, but sectors like agriculture and working lands which are harder to regulate can't be ignored as we consider long-term reduction goals. These sector targets will serve as guides for cutting pollution, driving innovation, and spurring investment in California.

Positions California as an international leader and collaborator

The Proposed Update recognizes that in order to remain at the forefront of international leadership, California must continue to lead by planning for reductions after 2020 and by continuing collaborations with other states, provinces, and countries that are taking action on climate change.

The Proposed Update identifies international sectoral offsets, such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), as a potential key opportunity for California to help curb deforestation, the cause of roughly 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, while efficiently meeting the state’s domestic emission reduction targets.  The state’s engagement on REDD, along with the ongoing collaborations with China, Mexico, and other U.S. states, is a building block of meaningful global climate leadership

Provides economic opportunity

The Proposed Update articulates how economic opportunity goes hand in hand with innovative environmental solutions. California has enjoyed a strong economic recovery during the first year of cap and trade, but the state isn’t turning a blind eye to the challenges that lie ahead. California needs significant innovation before we can reach our target of 80% reductions below 1990 levels by 2050. CARB’s plan will encourage new economic opportunities and ways to cost-effectively reduce carbon pollution such as: carbon capture and sequestration, expanding the electrification of our personal car fleet, and developing reliable electricity storage. We can expect to see growth in low-carbon sectors, new clean energy jobs, and auction proceeds investments that will further strengthen local communities and businesses.

Prioritizes emission reductions in uncapped sectors 

This plan brings needed attention to emission reductions in sectors not regulated by cap and trade such as agriculture, working lands, water, and waste, and recommends setting sector-specific targets. CARB identifies pragmatic policies for these uncapped sectors such as incentivizing the efficient use of fertilizers and reuse of organic materials. CARB should continue to promote these opportunities, and recognize that pragmatic working and natural lands policies will also provide co-benefits such as more efficient water use.

As the saying goes, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” CARB’s Proposed Update not only lays the groundwork for a low-carbon and clean-energy future, but points us towards strategic, and quantifiable, short and long-term goals – potential opportunities that will spark a much-needed conversation about what is possible as we approach 2030 and beyond.

Also posted in Cap and trade, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs | Comments closed

California’s Carbon Market Could Help Stop Amazon Deforestation

(This post first appeared in Point Carbon North America)

By Juan Carlos Jintiach, Shuar indigenous leader from the Amazon basin, and Derek Walker, Associate Vice President for the US Climate and Energy Program at Environmental Defense Fund

From left to right: Juan Carlos Jintiach, Megaron Txucarramae (a leader of Brazil’s indigenous Kayapo tribe), Lubenay.

A recent article in the Journal of Climate predicts that destroying the Amazon rainforest would cause disastrous drought across California and the western United States. Californians are already no strangers to drought – the state is suffering one of its worst on record. But the research adds an interesting dimension to what we already know from numerous studies about deforestation: that greenhouse gas pollution in California and around the world makes forests, including the Amazon, drier and more susceptible to widespread fires. California may be thousands of miles away from “the Earth’s lungs,” but how we treat our diverse ecosystems directly affects the one atmosphere we all share.

It is good news for everyone that California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) – which includes the world’s most comprehensive carbon market – is already helping reduce the state’s greenhouse gas pollution. Amazon states and nations have also greatly reduced their greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, which collectively accounts for as much greenhouse gas pollution as all the cars, trucks, and buses in the world. California now has a terrific opportunity to show global environmental leadership by helping Amazon states keep deforestation rates headed for zero while helping save money for companies and consumers in the Golden State.

The current world leader in greenhouse gas reductions is Brazil, which has brought Amazon deforestation down about 75% since 2005 and kept almost 3 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere. Indigenous peoples and forest communities have played an essential role in this accomplishment. Decades of indigenous peoples’ struggles against corporate miners, loggers, ranchers, and land grabbers and advocacy in defense of their land rights have resulted in the legal protection of 45% of the Amazon basin as indigenous territory and forest reserves – an area more than eight times the size of California.

Credit: Dylan Murray

Credit: Dylan Murray

These dedicated indigenous and forest lands hold about half of the forest carbon of the Amazon, and have proven to be effective barriers against frontier expansion and deforestation. In a real sense, indigenous and forest peoples are providing a huge global environmental service, but that service is almost entirely unrecognized, let alone compensated. And in Brazil, where agribusiness is pushing back hard against law enforcement and reserve creation, deforestation is back on the upswing – increasing nearly 30% last year.

California has a role to play in keeping Amazon deforestation on the decline and giving indigenous and forest communities the recognition and support they need. A program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) gives countries or states that commit to reducing deforestation below historic levels “credits” they can sell in carbon cap-and-trade markets. Getting these programs recognized by California’s carbon market would send a powerful signal that forests in the Amazon and around the world are worth more alive than dead, and would also provide real incentives for further reductions.

A few weeks ago, indigenous leaders from Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico are in California engaging state leaders and policymakers on the issues of deforestation, indigenous and local peoples’ rights, and potential partnership with California’s carbon market. California should insist that only jurisdictions that respect indigenous and local peoples’ rights, territory and knowledge, and ensure that they benefit from REDD+ programs get access to its market.

The successful adoption and implementation of AB 32 is proof that California is leading the nation on effective, market-based climate change policies. But it’s time to take that another step forward. By allowing credits from REDD+ to play a role in the AB 32 program, the Golden State can be a world leader on one of the most significant causes of climate change and take action to protect the health and prosperity of a threatened land and its people.

 

Learn more about REDD+ and California:

Also posted in General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 | Comments closed

Does the future of the Amazon rainforest lie in California?

(This post first appeared on EDF Voices)

By Derek Walker and Steve Schwartzman.

Over the past year, California’s new carbon market has held five auctions, generating $530 million for projects that reduce climate pollution in the state. This is just the start, however, as we believe the program has potential to achieve substantial environmental benefits half a world away in the Amazon rainforest.

We are working with community partners, scientific and business leaders, and California policy makers to craft a rule that permits credits from REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) to be used in California’s carbon market, rewarding indigenous and forest-dwelling communities with incentives for ecosystem protection.

From left to right: Lubenay, Juan Carlos Jintiach, Derek Walker and Megaron Txucarramae (a leader of Brazil’s indigenous Kayapo tribe).

Using California’s new carbon market to reward rainforest protection would be a powerful signal to Brazil, Mexico, and other tropical countries—and to the world—that leaving forests standing is more profitable than cutting them down.

With the right rules in place, California could create an international gold standard for REDD credits that could be adopted by emerging carbon markets in China, Mexico and beyond.

The right technology

There’s a misperception about how hard it is to measure whether forests are being destroyed or protected. Current technology makes it possible, right now. Satellite and airplane-based sensors are already capable of recording what’s going on with high accuracy. This technology enables us to measure emissions reductions across whole states or countries, the best way to ensure that the reductions are real.

The right partners

We need to help pull together the best policy experts, scientists, and environmental organizations to help California government officials write model rules for REDD that can create a race-to-the-top for forest protection around the world. We need to show that trailblazing states – like Acre in Brazil and Chiapas in Mexico – are ready to be partners with California and can deliver the rigorous level of enforcement and program implementation that California requires.

The right time

There’s real urgency to linking California’s carbon market with REDD. Even though Brazil, home to the world’s largest tracts of tropical forests, has cut deforestation by about 75% from its 1996-2005 levels and consequently become the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that progress is fragile. Over the past year, agribusiness has been pushing back hard against law enforcement and the creation of protected reserves, and deforestation increased nearly 30%. If we want Brazil to continue reducing its deforestation towards zero, we must provide economic incentives to protect the Amazon, and California can be an important catalyst in doing that.

Also posted in Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 | 1 Response, comments now closed

13 for 13: The Stories that Defined California Environmental Leadership

There is never a dull moment on the California environmental policy scene, and 2013 was particularly action-packed.  Everywhere you turn there seems to be a new innovative solution or a fresh example of a company, city, organization, or individual making a profound difference in putting the Golden State on the path to a clean energy future.  Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has the privilege of being in the middle of many of these groundbreaking developments, and in the past 12 months, California has taken a number of exciting steps forward.

What follows is our “13 for (20)13” recap of the most consequential stories in the California climate change and energy policy world, in our own words.  From celebrating the one-year anniversary of a successful carbon market to forging partnerships with other states and countries to marking continued innovations and opportunities in clean energy and fuels, it has been quite a year.  Here’s to an even better 2014.

 

1. California’s Carbon Market Caps off Successful First Year of Auctions:

The results of California's fifth carbon auction were released today, marking an important environmental milestone for the state – one year since the debut of its cap-and-trade system.

2. California’s LCFS Ruling is a Win for Consumers and Alternative Fuels Companies:

Last week, we saw a big win for California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) – a regulation to diversify the state’s fuel mix with lower carbon sources of energy.  After almost a year of deliberation, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals filed a decision in the case Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, et al. v. Corey, in favor of California.

3. LASER: Turning the climate threat into a story of opportunity for Los Angeles:

I’m an L.A. guy, so I like to think about things in epic story lines. And with today's launch of EDF and UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation new "LASER" maps (Los Angeles Solar & Efficiency Report), I think we’ve got a real blockbuster on our hands.

4. A Blueprint for Advancing California’s Strong Leadership on Global Climate Change:

A key reason California has become a global leader on climate change is its ability to successfully adopt the Global Warming Solutions Act, the state’s climate law that uses market-based tools to significantly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emission levels. A group of tropical forest experts has now presented a blueprint for how California can secure significantly more reductions in global warming pollution than the law requires, while keeping pollution control costs down and helping stop the catastrophe of tropical deforestation.

5. Scoping Plan 2.0: Taking Action Today for a Clean Energy Future:

Today, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its draft 2013 Scoping Plan, the blueprint outlining how the State will address climate change over the next five years, reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and create a path for even deeper reductions beyond 2020.

6. Seeing Green: Emission Reducing Fuel Policies Help Lower Gas Prices:

Californians struggling with high gas prices should feel optimistic about the future.  A new memo [PDF] by economists from EDF and Chuck Mason, a prominent economist at the University of Wyoming, demonstrates that policies established to reduce emissions and help the state reach its climate change goals also help to arm consumers at the pump

7. At a Key Moment for Energy, California Should Seize Demand Response:

Traditionally, if an area’s population grows — or it loses a power plant — it needs more energy. But California and some other states can approach it differently and reduce the use of fossil fuels. Instead of asking, How can we add more energy?” the real question becomes “How can we reduce demand?”

8. Offset Market Alive and Well in California:

Congratulations to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as they announced plans to issue the first CARB Offset Credits or ARBOCs.  These 600,000 metric tons of offsets helps the state move closer towards our emissions reductions goals.  Compliance entities, such as utility and oil and gas companies, can use these offsets to meet up to 8% of their compliance obligation

9. Environment: California didn't do so badly this year:

Despite some particularly unexplainable losses if you care about protecting the environment, the California Legislature made progress in 2013. The range of bills on the governor's desk awaiting his signature confirms that California remains the stalwart energy and climate leader in the country.

10. Historic Agreement Demonstrates Broad Commitment to Build Clean Energy Economy:

With the stroke of a pen, North American efforts to combat climate change and promote clean energy reached a new level today.

11. Hopeful signs for U.S. and Chinese Cooperation on Climate Change:

The past week has offered a thrilling glimpse into the future for the millions of people around the U.S. and across the world who are yearning for real solutions to climate change.  On June 18, Shenzhen, an economically-vibrant city of 15 million on the South China Sea, launched the first of seven Chinese regional pilot carbon market systems slated to begin by the end of 2014.

12. Major California Refineries Logging Big Pollution Reductions Under AB 32:

It is well-documented that petroleum refineries release large amount of pollutants that are harmful to the environment and make people sick.  In California, these refineries are among the largest sources of carbon dioxide, accounting for 7 of the top 10 sources for climate pollution. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, refineries can also emit large amount of toxic compounds, including carcinogens and respiratory irritants.

13. Ruling gives bright green light for investment in pollution reduction projects in California:

California’s landmark clean energy bill AB 32 received a big boost today from the San Francisco California Superior Court in the case Citizen’s Climate Lobby et. al., v. California Air Resources Board.

Also posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Engaging Latinos, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Linkage, Low Carbon Fuel Standard | 1 Response, comments now closed

From the ozone to your refrigerator, putting the chill on climate change

oconnor_tim_287x377(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices)

Back in the 1980s, an international alarm was sounded when a growing hole in the Earth’s ozone layer was discovered over the Antarctic. This phenomenon was caused, scientists said, by the presence of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) like the gases used in air conditioners, refrigerators and elsewhere.

There were predictions, if the ozone hole were to spread, of massive crop failures, an explosion in skin cancer rates, and mass extinction of species. Concern over the problem became so widespread that it even became the subject of a skit on “Saturday Night Live.”

Ultimately, however, the world community acted: In 1987 theMontreal Protocol was signed  by 46 nations, mandating a global phase out of ODS. Since then, scientists have shown that the production phase out of ODS has helped to shrink the hole in the ozone layer, while at the same time helping slow climate change.

Replacing chemicals that are 10,000 times more potent than CO2 as accelerants of climate change with ones that are a few thousand times stronger is no solution. ODS substitutes still make their way into the atmosphere when refrigerators are recycled and air conditioners leak. Furthermore, as globalization and economic growth makes refrigeration increasingly available in the developing world, the climate change problem associated with growing use of ODS substitutes is getting worse.

Studies have revealed that cooling systems in places like grocery stores and office buildings in Southern California regularly leak 15% to 30% of their refrigerant per year. That means that, worldwide, millions of tons of climate change pollution is being released every year.

NASA Goddard Photo and Video/flickr

There are simple fixes to this leakage problem. In California, for example, equipment inspection and leakage standards have been adopted as part of the state’s global warming law (AB 32). This has resulted in reduced ODS substitute losses into the air and savings for businesses that otherwise would have to buy recharge chemicals. In addition,companies are popping up to help manage refrigeration use, and some equipment operators are demonstrably leaking less.

In June 2013,President Obama and President Xi of China agreed to work together to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a key ODS substitute gas. This a pact that has the potential to reduce about 90 gigatons of CO2equivalent by 2050 (that’s equal to roughly two years’ worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions).

The U.S.-China pact could point the way toward a national and international policy on ODS substitutes. In the face of the growing urgency over climate change, we need a comprehensive solution to this problem.

Also posted in Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 | Comments closed

Plow, or Preserve and Profit?

Konza Prairie Biological Station

This weekend, long-time Minneapolis Star Tribune outdoors columnist and reporter Dennis Anderson wrote a revelatory call to arms about the dire state of conservation in Minnesota:

"This ain’t working, and we need to try something different. Radically different."

Directly to the West of Minnesota in the Prairie Pothole Region of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, annual losses of native grasslands have averaged approximately 50,000 acres per year since 2007, leading to a significant loss of soil carbon. High prices for commodity crops make it much more attractive to plow grasslands than to keep them intact.

What if a market-based initiative paid farmers and ranchers for keeping grasslands grass? A new carbon offset protocol announced yesterday may just do that.

The protocol officially titled the “Avoided Conversion of Grasslands and Shrublands to Crop Production” was developed through a partnership effort including Environmental Defense Fund, Duck’s Unlimited, The Climate Trust, The Nature Conservancy and Terra Global Capital and was funded in part by the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Innovation Grant.

Just approved by the American Carbon Registry, this first of its kind voluntary protocol will be best applied to grasslands in the Midwest. Producers of these offsets can sell them to any willing buyer in America. Ranchers in the Midwest already recognize the value of their land lies in the soil health below ground where the soil translates to healthy food for their cattle. Now these same producers can quantify this value and sell it through new environmental markets.

“This project provides Northern Great Plains producers with new ways to earn income from conservation activities, expanded opportunity for outdoor recreation and an opportunity to create jobs in their communities,” said Robert Bonnie, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment. “The American Carbon Registry’s approval of this innovative ACoGS protocol enables vital projects like our partnership with Ducks Unlimited to preserve a treasured national landscape, while also preventing the release of greenhouse gas emissions.”

This first project the Under Secretary mentions, is estimated to perpetually conserve 5,000 – 6,000 acres of native mixed-grass prairie. The protection of grasslands will also indirectly protect 500-600 acres of seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands situated in the protected grasslands.

And these lands are protected not through onerous regulations or hollowed out federal conservation programs but through innovative new revenue streams for the agriculture sector from emerging environmental markets such as California’s carbon market.  Between now and 2020, companies in California can purchase more than 200 million metric tons of offsets.  This protocol has the opportunity to help supply that demand.

This is an exciting step forward for Midwest producers. By making ecosystems a part of the economy ranchers and their families will benefit from diverse opportunities to make more money off their land.

 

Also posted in Climate, Ecosystem Restoration, Ecosystem Services, Sustainable Agriculture | Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed