California carbon market's latest auction results show continued resilience

Source: Wiki

May 2016 auction results show an ongoing lawsuit challenging California's cap-and-trade program’s allowance auctions is likely impacting market dynamics, but the market is proving resilient. Image Source: Wikipedia

The results of California and Quebec’s latest carbon auction show that an ongoing lawsuit challenging the cap-and-trade program’s allowance auctions is likely impacting market dynamics, but that California’s market is proving resilient, in part due to the strength of its design.

The May 18 auction, the second of 2016, offered 67,675,951 current vintage allowances (available for 2016 compliance) and sold only 7,260,000. Just under one million of the just over ten million future vintage allowances (available for use in 2019 and after) were sold. The unsold California state allowances will go back to the auction holding account and will not be available for sale until the auction clears above the floor price for two consecutive auctions, a critical regulatory feature that removes unexpected, excess supply from the market and provides further price support. Utility allowances that were consigned to auction and did not sell will be offered again for sale at the next auction.

Increased attention to the litigation brought by the California Chamber of Commerce and the Morning Star Packing Co. et al., as well as higher participation in the secondary market, caused lower demand for allowances in the May auction. Secondary market prices have traded as low as 44 cents below the floor price in the last couple of months. But the real story is the positive and stabilizing impact of the floor price itself.

Other markets without such a strong floor price have seen price drops that are much more dramatic when the market receives a disturbance. But in California, the volume of trades on the secondary market has been higher than usual, showing that some entities are taking the opportunity to buy allowances at a discount.

It's worth noting that these results in no way impact the overall performance of California's program, which will continue to incentivize carbon pollution reductions.

EDF’s take on the litigation of the cap-and-trade auction program’s legality

At this critical juncture, opponents continue to litigate and challenge carbon auctions, an integral component of the cap-and-trade program that promotes equity and a healthy carbon market.

We are confident, however, that California courts will ultimately confirm the Legislature’s broad grant of authority to the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to design effective programs to address the imminent threat of climate change, and will reject the claim that auctioning valuable, marketable emission allowance constitutes an unconstitutional “tax.”

In supplemental briefings submitted May 23 to the California court, ARB argued persuasively that, even if the intermediate appellate court were to find a legal flaw in the auction, there would be no valid legal justification for disrupting the cap-and-trade program including its auction components while the state Supreme Court considers the case or ARB develops a suitable solution. This outcome is well-grounded in legal precedent affirming courts’ obligation to avoid remedies that imperil public health and welfare or cause needless disruption to public and private interests that rely on the current status quo.

California’s ability to continue utilizing a cap-and-trade program designed to meet its needs through 2020 and beyond is essential to California and to global climate momentum.

While EDF has a high degree of confidence that the lower court decision rejecting the challengers’ claims will be upheld, even if it is not, settled judicial procedures should help to ensure that the environmentally and economically important cap-and-trade program continues with minimal disruption.

California’s ability to continue utilizing a cap-and-trade program that is designed to best meet the state’s needs through 2020 and beyond is essential not just to California itself, but also to global climate momentum.

We’re at a watershed moment for climate action, and California is at the forefront. The U.S., China, and 173 other countries signed the Paris Agreement last month, and a group of leaders convened by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund expressed a goal of moving from 12% to 50% of global carbon emissions covered by carbon pricing by 2030. All the while, California is providing one of the most successful examples of economy-wide carbon pricing that is reducing emissions and promoting equity while the state’s economy is thriving.

There is every reason for confidence both in the legality of CARB’s choice to auction allowances and in the commitment of California’s leaders to deliver on California’s climate goals. We expect that a resilient cap-and-trade program will remain at the heart of the state’s increasingly ambitious and effective climate strategy long into the future.

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How a Coalition of Carbon Markets Can Complement the Paris Agreement and Accelerate Deep Reductions in Climate Pollution

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International cooperation is essential to achieve the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal of keeping warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. While the Paris Agreement provides several market- and transparency-related tools that can help spur international cooperation, countries must now create the coalitions needed to move forward with implementation. Image Source: Jorge Royan

As countries gather here in Bonn, Germany to begin the work of translating the historic Paris Agreement into action, there is widespread recognition that individual countries’ carbon-cutting pledges must be strengthened in the coming years to deliver the ambitious long term goal agreed in Paris: keep warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and achieve global net zero emissions before 2100.

The Paris Agreement provides several market- and transparency-related tools that can help spur the international cooperation necessary to achieve its long term goal, including provisions that facilitate high-integrity, “bottom-up” linkages of domestic carbon markets to cut carbon pollution. These linkages (described in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement as “cooperative approaches”) promise to reduce costs, and unlock the finance needed to drive deeper global emissions reductions. The agreement on cooperative approaches in Paris reflects the widespread recognition among nations that carbon markets, accompanied by a clear, comprehensive transparency framework, will help drive the deep emissions reductions needed to prevent the most severe impacts of climate change.

With the urgency of climate action clear, the key challenge now becomes: how can we accelerate the international cooperation needed to solve the Paris equation?

One concrete step, drawing on the cooperative approaches provisions of the Paris Agreement, would be to establish a coalition of carbon market jurisdictions to catalyze the development and increase the ambition of domestic carbon markets.   Much as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) helped broaden participation and ambition in trade, a voluntary coalition of carbon market jurisdictions (CCM) could expand the scope and maximize the cost-effectiveness of ambitious climate action around the globe.

Why coordinate on carbon markets?

As carbon markets continue to expand, coordination among jurisdictions using or considering carbon markets – especially on the rules and standards needed to ensure environmental integrity and maximize cost-effectiveness – will give governments and the private sector the confidence to go faster and farther in reducing their climate-warming pollution.

A coalition of carbon markets can help deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement and catalyze the deep global emissions reductions that climate science demands.

Although the Paris Agreement provides a framework for international cooperation on carbon markets, it is ultimately up to countries to work together to agree the detailed rules necessary for international carbon markets to drive emissions down and investment up.

The good news is that groups of countries can make substantial, early progress, ultimately informing and complementing the longer-term UNFCCC process.

 

“Minilateral” efforts can stimulate faster, deeper emissions cuts and strengthen international cooperation

Rapid and early emissions cuts are the single most important determinant of whether the global community is likely to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). And delaying necessary action to reduce global warming pollution dramatically increases costs to the global economy.

For both the climate and our economies, not all emissions reductions are the same:  the earlier, the better.

That’s why it is so important that Article 6 of the Paris Agreement affirmed that cooperative emissions trading between countries can continue and expand while multilateral accounting guidelines are developed. Transactions will need to be “consistent with” any multilateral guidance developed by Parties to the Paris Agreement over the coming years – particularly to ensure that the same emission reductions are not claimed toward more than one mitigation pledge (“double counted”).

A “minilateral” coalition of carbon markets could complement efforts under the UNFCCC by fostering agreement on detailed standards for the accounting, transparency, and environmental integrity of internationally transferred emissions units. These “nuts and bolts” standards, which will help avoid errors in tallying up total emissions and traded units, form the bedrock of high-integrity emissions trading. Early agreement would give countries the confidence to move forward quickly in implementing their Paris pledges and a basis for increasing their ambition over time.

Practically speaking, future UNFCCC guidance on cooperative approaches will likely be influenced by working examples of international emissions trading, making the success of a carbon markets coalition an important precedent for broader cooperation on markets in the UNFCCC. This process could mirror recent progress on standards for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+), where technical advances made by countries in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility contributed to greater progress in the UNFCCC.

What’s next?

In Paris, a diverse group of 18 developed and developing countries led by New Zealand announced that they will work quickly together to develop standards and guidelines to ensure the environmental integrity of international market mechanisms.

This group – or another similar coalition – could “set the bar” for market-based climate action by developing robust accounting and transparency standards for environmental and market integrity. Coordinated leadership by forward-looking jurisdictions would help ensure that the growth of international emissions trading is accompanied by enhanced ambition and real, permanent, additional, and verifiable emissions reductions.

Over a longer period, these same guidelines could support the establishment of a common trading framework among a coalition of carbon market jurisdictions. A framework might include mutual recognition of emission units, harmonized approaches to verifying emissions reductions and generating offset credits, and a shared trading infrastructure, which together could ensure environmental integrity and encourage more countries, states, and provinces to cap and price carbon.

Paris began a new, more ambitious chapter in the history of climate action, but much of the chapter is yet to be written. We’re in the race of our lives to finish the work of protecting future generations and building prosperous low-carbon economies. A coalition of carbon markets can help deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement and catalyze the deep global emissions reductions that climate science demands.

Posted in Emissions trading & markets, Paris| Leave a comment

Can airlines help reduce deforestation?

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The global airline industry could become an ally in combating deforestation, as countries are set to vote at the September 2016 meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on whether airlines can use REDD+ credits to offset their emissions. Image Source: Flickr, Marinelson Almeida

A window of opportunity may be opening to secure sustainable financing – from an unusual source – to support national, state, and provincial-level efforts to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).

The global airline industry is seeking international agreement on a program to cap the carbon dioxide emissions of flights between countries, and let airlines use a Market-Based Measure (MBM) to offset emissions above the cap. When the 191 governments that comprise the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) vote on the MBM at the end of September, that may decide whether airlines can use REDD+ to offset their emissions above 2020 levels.

Why does ICAO need REDD+?

In 2013, ICAO member states adopted a goal of “carbon neutral growth from 2020” – i.e., capping the net emissions of international flights at 2020 levels. International aviation’s emissions, however, are forecasted to rise dramatically, as tens of thousands of new large aircraft take to the skies in coming decades.

Even after international aviation makes improvements in operational and technological efficiency, the sector will still likely face an “emissions gap” of 7.8 billion tonnes (or 7.8 Gt CO2) over the period of 2020-2040. National and jurisdictional level REDD+ projects that meet the environmental and social safeguards agreed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are anticipated to be able to supply offsets enabling aviation to cover a significant portion of the expected gap, even while ensuring that these reductions are not also claimed against national emission reduction commitments.

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The international aviation sector will still likely face an “emissions gap” of 7.8 billion tonnes over the period of 2020-2040 between their goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and their projected emissions – even after international aviation makes improvements in operational and technological efficiency. Image source: Flightpath 1.5

Getting the right REDD+ into ICAO: REDD+ programs that meet UNFCCC requirements

The December 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted by the 197 Parties to the UNFCCC, gave special recognition to the key role that REDD+ can play in mitigating climate change.

The Paris Agreement, the UNFCCC’s 2013 Warsaw Framework on REDD+, and related UNFCCC Decisions provide that REDD+ programs must be created at national, or – temporarily – subnational (e.g. state and province) level. This is important because national and subnational REDD+ programs (collectively known as jurisdictional REDD+ or “JREDD+” programs) can create and enforce policies to address deforestation at a large scale.

For example, without jurisdictional REDD+, there’s a risk that forest protection in one project area could displace deforestation to other areas; this is avoided when REDD+ projects are “nested” in a national or jurisdictional-level program. According to guidance by the UNFCCC, JREDD+ programs’ results must be recognized by national REDD+ Focal Points and submitted to the REDD Information hub in order to ensure that emissions reductions are not claimed more than once.

ICAO’s timeline

In March and April, ICAO convened a set of regional dialogues to give governments, industry, and civil society stakeholders the opportunity to discuss MBM design options and potential sources of offsets. ICAO will convene a high-level ministerial meeting May 11-13 at ICAO headquarters in Montreal, Canada, to review a draft text. Additional meetings will be held throughout the summer and the final, and most important ICAO Assembly, where the MBM will be finalized, is to be held in Montreal from 27 September to 7 October 2016.

Seizing the opportunity

REDD+ countries interested in sustainable financing for their national and jurisdictional REDD+ programs should be aware of the potential for a new ICAO market based mechanism to provide such financing. In order to seize this opportunity, REDD+ policy makers and aviation counterparts need to collaborate to ensure an ICAO market based mechanism inclusive of REDD+ and with environmental integrity.

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7 reasons the Paris Agreement signing actually matters

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United States and more than 160 other countries set to formally sign the Paris Agreement on Earth Day 2016. Photo: Secretary Kerry Sits With UN Secretary-General Ban Before a Bilateral Meeting at COP21 in Paris.
Image Source: U.S. Department of State

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has invited countries to sign the Paris Agreement at the UN headquarters in New York on April 22, the first day the Agreement is open for signature. Here are seven reasons why the Earth Day ceremony is important.

1) The April 22 signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement is expected to shatter the record for the most countries to formally sign an international agreement in a single day.

Representatives from more than 160 countries (and counting – see the latest at the UN site), including sixty heads of state, will be in New York to signal their commitment to the Agreement struck in Paris last December. This would surpass the previous record of 119 signatures, set by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982.

The Paris Agreement aims to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. This record-breaking signing ceremony demonstrates the political momentum behind the Agreement’s global plan to tackle climate change.

2) Signing is the next step for countries to join the agreement, but is not the end of the story.

Signing the Agreement in New York sends a strong and early signal of a country’s intention to launch its domestic processes necessary to join the Agreement. Once those processes are concluded, Governments will formally deposit with the United Nations Secretary-General, who is the depositary of the Paris Agreement, their “instrument of ratification, approval, acceptance or accession,” by which they formally join – and consent to be bound by – the Agreement.

Some nations will sign and join the Agreement on the same day, since they have already completed the necessary domestic procedures back home. States that don’t sign on April 22 still retain the ability to join the Agreement later.

3) The content and structure of the Paris Agreement means the U.S. can join quickly.

Like the vast majority of international agreements that the U.S. joins, the Paris Agreement does not require Senate action. Presidents from Washington onward — including Ronald Reagan, who did it 14 times in his second term — concluded agreements like this as “executive agreements,” based on existing executive authorities.

These executive agreements have the same binding force domestically as any other international treaty or agreement the U.S. joins. As long as the U.S. president has authority under existing U.S. law to implement the Paris Agreement’s provisions, the pathway to U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement is open, and does not need to include a stop in the Senate.

As it did with the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the U.S. can join the Agreement by simply depositing a brief formal document (called an “instrument of acceptance”) with the UN.

4) Early implementation of the Paris Agreement is now more likely.

Language in the draft agreement preventing it from taking effect until 2020 was dropped during the final stages of negotiations in Paris, so the Agreement will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of global emissions join.

Together with important statements from the U.S. and China (which together represent almost 38% of the world’s emissions) indicating they will sign the Agreement on April 22, and formally join the Agreement this year, the record-breaking signing ceremony means that many countries are on the path to joining the Agreement soon.

The Paris Agreement is likely to enter into force well before 2020, and possibly by 2017, making the provisions of the Agreement legally binding on those countries that have joined. Early entry into force offers the opportunity to accelerate a global transition to the prosperous, carbon-neutral economies of the future, and better address the needs of those communities in the U.S. and abroad that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

5) Momentum is building for markets to play a central role in meeting the ambitious climate goals agreed in Paris, and called for by science.

The groundswell of international support for the Paris Agreement contributes to confidence that countries can achieve the Paris Agreement’s vision of international cooperation on carbon markets to reduce emissions. Only by harnessing the ingenuity and creativity of business, entrepreneurs, and innovators will we be able to drive down emissions fast enough and far enough to achieve the reductions that the science demands. An April 14 report by EDF and the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) found countries can surpass their Paris pledges by pricing carbon through carbon markets.

By affirming a role for carbon markets, the Paris Agreement recognizes the realities already on the ground, where emission trading systems are at work in over 50 jurisdictions home to nearly 1 billion people. When China adopts a national carbon trading system, beginning in 2017, that number will rise to 2 billion – almost a third of the world’s population.

The Paris Agreement provides a framework for cooperation among jurisdictions, but nations still must step up with effective and transparent domestic carbon markets. Almost half of all countries have already either stated their intention to use international carbon markets to cut their carbon pollution, or are already employing them domestically, at the national or subnational level.

6) Accelerated action on forest protection is a key to global and national efforts to reduce emissions.

Many of the countries participating in the New York signing ceremony are taking important steps to protect their forests, under an agreed international framework for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). Forests are the only sector specifically mentioned in the Paris Agreement, signaling political recognition of the urgent need for better protections as well as financial incentives that confirm that forests are more valuable alive than dead. Outside of the climate negotiations, Germany, Norway and the UK confirmed their support by pledging $5 billion in REDD+ funding between 2015-2020, while developing countries presented their progress on creating and implementing REDD+ programs.

7) Clear and growing momentum to implement the Paris Agreement shines a spotlight on the next big climate win the world needs: adoption of a global market-based measure in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

International aviation wasn’t covered in the Paris Agreement, due in part to these emissions falling outside national emissions accounts. However, the UN’s aviation arm is working on a deal this fall that would limit emissions from this rapidly growing sector. ICAO is developing a proposal for airlines to offset all emissions above 2020 levels through high-quality, rigorously verified emissions reductions in other sectors – such as through reductions in emissions from deforestation, achieved under the UNFCCC's "REDD+ Framework". A cap on aviation at 2020 levels could achieve 8 billion tons of emissions reductions in the next two decades – reductions that would otherwise not be obtained under the Paris Agreement.

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Who should pay for pollution?

Recent study by American Lung Association finds that 80% of Californians are still at risk from unhealthy air. Opponents to clean air claim the "right" to pollute in ongoing litigation.
Image Source: Flickr, San Bernardino Valley, 2009

It’s pretty clear we have to limit pollution. This week the American Lung Association released their “State of the Air Report” finding that 80% of Californians are still at risk from unhealthy air, despite decades of effort and significant progress. Climate-destabilizing air pollution is harming our state in countless ways, from the Sierra to the Central Valley to the coastline. Given the high cost of pollution, who should pay and take responsibility when it occurs? Should the responsibility primarily be with polluting companies, or should the costs be borne by society at large?

California has been regulating conventional air pollutants for decades, but has only recently started regulating climate pollutants that not only warm our planet but also worsen and are otherwise directly linked to sources of local air pollution.

Many businesses in California are good corporate citizens on this issue. They accept that pollution imposes a cost on society. They even appreciate the flexible, cost-effective approach California regulators have adopted of capping carbon pollution and allowing regulated businesses to trade “allowances,” so pollution can be reduced in the least expensive way possible.

This support is most often demonstrated quietly, through actions like consistently meeting obligations under the cap-and-trade program, engaging constructively at workshops to strengthen the program, and most importantly by not obstructing progress in the courts and the halls of government.

Groups seeking free allowances or to avoid regulation altogether have spent millions on campaigns and lobbying.

But others, like those represented by the California Chamber of Commerce and the Pacific Legal Foundation, are delaying efforts to clean up our air — seemingly arguing that they have a right to pollute for free. They are challenging California’s practice of auctioning some carbon allowances and using the revenue to further reduce carbon pollution.

This litigation has been dragging on for years, ever since the CalChamber filed its suit on the eve of the first cap-and-trade auction in 2012. The Pacific Legal Foundation didn’t file until the next spring. Both lawsuits were filed too late to stop the auctions from taking place, but were just in time to insert doubt and opponent’s views about their right to pollute for free into California’s historic effort to regulate carbon pollution. Back in 2013, a trial court rejected claims that auctions were illegal. But these challengers were not dissuaded, they appealed and the case is still pending.

Failing so far in court, those seeking to pollute for free are attempting to take their case to the court of public opinion after the appellate court asked for supplemental briefing in the case. The appellate court has asked both parties to answer several questions. While the court is giving careful attention to this important issue, opponents are cynically using op-eds and other media stories to plead their case for why polluting should be free.

Groups seeking free allowances or to avoid regulation altogether have spent millions on campaigns and lobbying. The California Legislature is likely the ultimate audience for this effort. Bills to provide free allowances or exempt some polluters have been proposed before but have never gotten any traction.

California has been successfully regulating harmful climate pollutants for over three years now. And holding polluters accountable for some of the cost that society bears is an integral part of the state’s strategy. Hopefully legislators will continue to see this current round of rhetoric for the self-serving ploy that it is.

Posted in California, Emissions trading & markets| Leave a comment

How sustainable rice farming in Vietnam is increasing revenue while reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Co-authored by Joe Rudek, Lead Senior Scientist and Trần Thu Hà, VLCRP Director

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Example of Vietnam Low Carbon Rice Project (VLCRP) sampling site. Greenhouse gas was sampled using a static chamber placed in the rice paddy. Note water depth sampling tube in foreground, left of center, and square quadrat marker, just above center, where rice plant characteristics were measured over the course of the crop season. Image Source: Environmental Defense Fund, Joe Rudek

Rice production in Vietnam has increased significantly over the last few decades such that enough rice is produced there not only to supply Vietnam’s needs but also to support a major export industry.

About half the rice in Vietnam is grown in the Mekong Delta, at the southern end of the country; The water-rich Mekong Delta with its tropical climate is well suited to rice production in flooded paddies. However, flooded rice paddies also result in substantial emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Rice grown in the Mekong Delta alone is responsible for about 8 to 9% of the Vietnam’s total GHG emissions, according to the Vietnam 2014 Biennial Report to the UNFCCC and this is a conservative estimate.

For the past several years, EDF has been working with agricultural experts from Can Tho University, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Extension System officials, and farmers in two provinces (Ag Giang and Kien Giang) to pilot a sustainable low carbon rice farming system known as 1 Must, 6 Reductions (1M6R) which is a modification and advancement of a Vietnamese government recommendation. The 1 Must factor in this system is the use of certified rice seed. The 6 Reduction factors are water use, fertilizer, pesticides, seed density, harvest loss and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Vietnam Low Carbon Rice Project (VLCRP) partners developed the specifics for the 1M6R package of practices and piloted them over a two-year period in the two provinces. The pilots showed that 1M6R reduced input costs, increased yield, increased plant vitality (important to survival during late season storms) and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Net revenue was increased by as much as 60% as a result. Not surprisingly, farmers are readily adopting the new set of practices.

The sustainable farming system reduced input costs, increased yield, increased plant vitality, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

An important part of VLCRP was interaction with farmers, organization of farmer groups and efforts to improve opportunities for women. Adult learning techniques were employed and agricultural experts in the partnership met with farmers, organized into groups, throughout the crop seasons to train them in the 1M6R techniques and in record keeping via daily diaries.  Farmer leaders were trained so they could teach their peers. This approach has allowed the proliferation of the 1M6R techniques beyond the project boundaries.

One of the most challenging scientific aspects of VLCRP was the measurement of GHG emissions. Gas samples were drawn from static chambers placed in the rice paddies and transported to a lab at Can Tho University for analysis. Most important to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is the use of alternative wetting and drying (AWD) of the soils and reductions in nitrogen fertilizer. The interruption of flooding to allow the soil to dry and become re-oxygenated is key to the reduction of methane emissions. However, this practice can increase nitrous oxide emissions, an even more potent greenhouse gas than methane. The reduction in nitrogen fertilizer (among other factors) is key to minimizing nitrous oxide emissions.

The completion of the 1M6R pilot research which was funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (formerly known as Australian AID), has been documented in a project summary and a set of project proceedings, which are being prepared for submission to peer reviewed journals. The findings offer Vietnamese farmers a means to increase revenue while greatly reducing the environmental footprint and GHG emissions of their rice production.

Posted in Agriculture, Vietnam| Leave a comment
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