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Offset Market Alive and Well in California

September 24, 2013 By Robert Parkhurst

Robert Parkhurst

Offset Issuance

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.

As I said before, this is the first of many offset milestones we expect this year.  The CARB has listed 62 Early Action offset projects and 66% of them are in the forest and agriculture sectors – 15 forest projects and 26 livestock manure management projects.  This is important because, as the largest uncapped sector under the cap-and-trade program, agriculture represents a major potential to reduce near-term greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. has more than 442 million acres of cropland.  EDF is working to identify opportunities for producers to generate revenue from their environmental stewardship on these lands.  This is why we support the CARB’s development of protocols like the Rice Cultivation Protocol.

These Early Action projects have generated approximately 12 million metric tons of offsets, most of which is anticipated to be approved for use in the cap-and-trade market.  These Early Action projects are expected to generate Registry Offset Credits (ROCs) later this year and, as required in the regulations, these ROCs will then be reviewed by CARB and converted into ARBOCs within 45 days of issuance.

Anaerobic Digestion, Compost, and Rangeland Opportunities

In addition to issuing offsets, the CARB, in coordination with CalRecycle, held a public workshop this afternoon to discuss updates to the draft Waste Management Sector Plan.”  This plan is an integral part of the Scoping Plan update which will be completed by the end of this year.  Two opportunities of the Waste Sector Plan are of particular interest.  Both relate to further developing Composting and Anaerobic Digestion programs to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from organic waste streams. The Plan estimates that 4.54 to 5.62 million metric tons (MMT) of GHG reductions can be generated by diversion of organic waste from landfills. About half of these reductions (2.06 MMT) can be handled by anaerobic digesters which can convert farm and food waste into both offsets and energy.  California is one of the few states in the country that have incentives in place to generate both these benefits.

The other half of the reductions are forecasted to come from the composting of organic waste.  The Plan states that composting infrastructure has not grown over the past ten years and one of the reasons is a lack of demand for compost.  As a part of a USDA grant, EDF is developing a protocol for the application of compost to rangeland.  Our research has shown that applying one-half inch of compost (made from diverted landfill waste) to grazed rangelands can generate GHG emission reductions of 1.3 to 3.2 MT CO2e per hectare per year.  With approximately 23 million hectares of rangeland in California, there is an enormous potential market to purchase the increase in compost generated.

California policymakers are continuing to create markets for farmers and ranchers to generate revenue from their environmental stewardship.  I look forward to seeing this market continue to develop and expand.

Robert Parkhurst leads EDF’s protocol, policy, and pilot development of greenhouse gas mitigation projects for working landowners which can be used in voluntary and compliance markets, including AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act. He is responsible for helping farmers, ranchers and forestland owners generate quantifiable climate benefits so that they are financially rewarded in the marketplace. This article was republished with permission from EDF.



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