Tierra Resources

Photo by R. Simpson

Why is wetland restoration important?

The State of Louisiana has some of the fastest rates of wetland loss in the world. The LA coast is losing wetlands at a rate of one football field every hour, which amounts to about 24 square miles being lost each year. Not only is the future of one of the world’s most unique and important ecosystems at stake, but the economic health of much of the United States depends on sustaining the navigation, flood control, energy production, and seafood production functions of the Mississippi Delta and river system. Each of those functions is currently at severe risk due to coastal wetland loss.

Benefits of wetland restoration expand beyond carbon sequestration. Wetlands provide:

  • A buffer for coastal communities from storm surge
  • Commercial and recreational fishing opportunities
  • Filtration of pollutants
  • Habitat for numerous species of fish and wildlife
  • Wetland restoration provides more than twice as many jobs as the oil and gas and road construction industries combined.

What is wetland carbon sequestration?

Wetland plants capture atmospheric CO2 through photosynthesis. As the plants die and decay, their root mats and other decayed material build up the soil, which results in permanent storage of carbon, or carbon sequestration. When wetlands degrade and turn into open water, the carbon stored in the soil can be released back into the atmosphere. Wetland restoration is a critical tool to combat wetland loss, as well as an effective climate change mitigation strategy as it enhances carbon sequestration and prevents carbon release resulting from wetland degradation and wetland loss. Therefore, wetland management and restoration projects can be measured as GHG offsets.

What is a carbon offset or a carbon credit?

A carbon credit represents a reduction, avoidance, or removal of one metric ton of equivalent carbon dioxide emissions resulting from a specific project activity that is used to compensate for an equivalent emission occurring elsewhere. One carbon credit represents one metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent (mtCO2e).

What is carbon finance?

Carbon finance is a branch of environmental finance, and explores the financial implications of living in a carbon-constrained world, where carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) carry a price. The general term is applied to investments in GHG emission reduction projects and the creation (origination) of financial instruments that are tradable on the carbon market.

What is ‘blue carbon’?

Blue carbon is the carbon stored in mangroves, seagrass, and coastal wetlands.

What is blue carbon finance?

Blue carbon finance can help the preservation and restoration of high-value coastal ecosystems providing multiple environmental services by providing carbon mitigation payments. Blue carbon finance can expedite wetland conservation and restoration through developing wetland carbon offsets that create funding, streamline wetland restoration project implementation and provide co-benefits to communities, including jobs and flood protection.

What is emissions trading?

Emissions trading (also known as cap and trade) is a market-based approach used to control pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants.

When did emissions trading begin?

Emissions trading began in response to acid rain when the United States used cap and trade to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by 43% between 1990 and 2007 at a cost that was 75% lower than estimates when the cap was set. This cap and trade system has been successful in achieving its goals.

What is a “cap and trade” system?

A cap and trade system is a market-based solution designed to mitigate global climate change. Economy-wide carbon dioxide emissions are capped and a target is set to reduce CO2 to a specified level by a certain date in the future. CO2 pollution permits, known as emission allowances, are then created by the government and are sold or given to industries, such as power plants and oil refineries, that are regulated by the cap. Since current carbon dioxide emissions generally exceed the cap, industries must reduce annual emissions to meet the target.

Who buys carbon offsets?

Many financial companies and industrial emitters are currently purchasing carbon offsets for future compliance in existing regional cap and trade systems and in anticipation of a federal cap and trade program. In addition, many corporations in the United States are also purchasing carbon offsets as part of their corporate social responsibility (aka “CSR”) programs and “green” marketing.

How large is the market for carbon offsets?

The current voluntary carbon offset market, including pre-compliance buyers, is already worth more than $300 million per year and is expected to experience significant growth during the next several decades. The California Air Resources Board is expected to need 230 million carbon offsets between 2012 and 2020. Bloomberg, Barclays and Reuters all estimate that the value of a California Carbon Offset (CCO) will average approximately $30/CCO during this same period.

What is the process to qualify a carbon offset project?

  • Complete a carbon inventory of the wetland
  • Select appropriate carbon registry/protocol (e.g., ARB, CAR, VCS, or ACR)
  • Translate inventory into carbon model and management plan
  • Prepare and submit carbon offset project plan to chosen carbon registry
  • Once plan is accepted and registered, hire third-party project verifier
  • Submit project verification to carbon registry and receive allocation of carbon offsets
  • Market and sell carbon offsets in carbon markets

To continue receiving carbon offsets, the wetland restoration project requires ongoing monitoring and verification, as well as periodic re-inventory of the wetland.

How does a landowner enroll in a wetland restoration carbon offset project?

Please contact Tierra Resources to discuss your property and determine if a wetland restoration carbon offset project is right for you.

What determines if a property will qualify as a carbon offset project?

Among the criteria are number of acres, geographic location, management approach, growth rates, wetland type, wetland restoration technique, ownership structure, and carbon stocks.

Is a conservation easement required to participate in a carbon offset project?

No, a conservation easement is not required to participate in a wetland restoration carbon offset project.

What happens if the wetland is destroyed because of an unforeseen issue, such as a hurricane or fire?

As carbon credits are issued to a landowner, a percentage is placed into a mandatory buffer pool. If a wetland restoration project is subject to a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or fire, carbon credits previously sold are replaced by the carbon credits withheld in the buffer pool. In this way, landowners are insured against loss and, thus, not responsible for replacing these carbon credits.

What happens if the landowner wants to voluntarily terminate the wetland restoration project?

The landowner may terminate the wetland restoration project at any time, but would be required to replace the carbon credits that were already sold.

From the New York Times’ Article  A Price Tag on Carbon as a Climate Rescue Plan

As the Climate Changes, So Does the Language

Climate change has created its own vocabulary of concepts and institutions. Here are a few of the terms that often come up in discussions of the problem and its proposed solutions.

Carbon market:

A financial market where government-issued permits that regulate greenhouse-gas emissions are traded as a commodity.

Cap and trade:

A government-created system to restrict emissions by imposing a limit, or cap, on the amount of pollution that can be spewed into the atmosphere by certain industries. The government issues permits or carbon allowances to industries for the amount of greenhouse gases they are allowed to emit, then gradually reduces the cap and the number of permits, providing a financial incentive for those companies to pollute less. Companies that need fewer permits can trade with those that need more permits on a financial commodities market, with the price driven by supply and demand. The higher the price of the permits, the greater the incentive to reduce emissions.

Greenhouse gas:

A type of pollutant that scientists say contributes to global warming. The primary pollutant is carbon dioxide, but there is also methane, nitrous oxide and many refrigerants.

Carbon allowances:

Government-issued permits to industries that allow them to pollute up to a certain limit.

Carbon offsets:

Projects that lower carbon emissions in nonregulated industries, such as forestry or farming. These projects produce “offset credits” that can be traded on the carbon market and used by polluters to comply with emissions limits. Governments usually set limits on how many of these types of credits polluters can use.

Carbon price:

The cost to industries or companies for each ton of greenhouse gas that is emitted in a given period. The cost can be established directly by the government, in the form of a tax or a set price for permits, or indirectly through carbon markets, where permits are traded freely and supply and demand sets the price.

Carbon pricing:

A system that requires polluters to pay for their carbon emissions.

Pollution rights:

Permission given by a government to an industry or company to pollute up to a certain controlled level. Such a system leaves it up to the company or industry to figure out the best way to stay within the limit.

Emissions Trading System:

A financial market created by the European Union to trade the carbon allowances issued to industries to control carbon emissions. The system has been in effect since 2005 and covers about 11,000 power plants, industrial facilities and airlines in 31 countries.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

A body of scientists and other experts appointed by the United Nations to periodically assess and issue reports about the status and impact of climate change on the planet.

National Climate Assessment:

A report issued periodically by the federal government and prepared by a panel of scientists and other experts, including representatives of fossil-fuel companies, to assess the status and impact of climate change on the United States.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative:

A cap-and-trade system limiting emissions in nine states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. The system has raised $1.7 billion for the governments, which have mostly put the money back into clean-energy projects.