Taking a stand to secure the benefits of greenhouse gas offsets in California

Yesterday, EDF filed a legal brief to help defend a core component of California’s landmark cap-and-trade program. Similar briefs were also filed by other environmental, non-profit, and business groups. These briefs, filed to the San Francisco Superior Court – (Case number 519554), support the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB’s) decision to allow pollution reductions achieved by verified, voluntary projects — known as offsets to count under the program. The suit, first filed in March, seeks to prevent California’s program from harnessing these projects.


Here’s our perspective:


Offsets present an important opportunity to support environmentally beneficial projects throughout California’s economy. Offsets help to incentivize projects that reduce pollution in sectors – such as agriculture – that are not covered by the state’s cap-and-trade program. Under current rules, a variety of projects – including projects to grow and maintain urban forests in the metropolitan LA area, to capture greenhouse gas pollution from animal waste lagoons in the Central Valley, and to manage forests in Northern California – may be eligible to receive tradable carbon permits. Those permits can then be sold to power plants and other companies that are required to reduce pollution under the state’s cap-and-trade program.


CARB has adopted a stringent, category-specific approach to ensure measurable pollution reductions. Not just any old offset project can qualify for carbon credits under the program. Only projects that are developed according to pre-approved protocols adopted by CARB and that meet stringent accounting, verification and longevity standards can earn credits. These stringent requirements ensure that only verified projects representing real emissions reductions in specific project areas can receive credits that can be sold into the cap-and-trade program.


Over the past two years, EDF, along with other groups, has been working to introduce new types of projects that can sell credits into the program, as long as they meet CARB’s stringent criteria. Three such types of projects include: projects to reduce pollution from agricultural operations in California’s rice farming industry; projects to upgrade equipment in oil fields; and projects that ensure efficient use of fertilizers throughout the agricultural sector. All of these projects can lead to significant greenhouse gas reductions across the state.


California has a long way to go before meeting its ambitious climate change targets. Offsets present one important opportunity to realize that goal because of the incentive for new projects and ideas to be developed throughout the state. Our brief in the California Superior Court filed yesterday is but one part – albeit an important part – of the effort to ensure innovative project developers can participate in California’s long-term transition to a lower carbon economy.

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