September 28, 2014 by Rahul Rana
CalifoniaCarbon.info, September 28, 2014: At an Air Resources Board (ARB) meeting held last week, staff indicated that the offset project protocol for rice cultivation will only be brought before the board this December, instead of in September as had earlier been expected. Rice cultivation would be the first agricultural offset project type accepted into the California cap-and-trade program.
The Rice Cultivation Project Protocol will open the door for carbon offsets arising from the mitigation of methane emissions that occur in flooded paddy fields. Methane is emitted due to the anaerobic digestion of organic matter which occurs in flooded fields, and the volume emitted is affected by the duration of flooding, the rice type, and the presence of crop residues and/or other organic matter.
This protocol includes three rice cultivation project activities designed to reduce GHG emissions that result from rice cultivation on fields in the California and Mid-South rice growing regions. The following methodologies are under consideration: in California, the replacement of wet seeding with dry seeding; in the Mid-South, alternate wet and dry (AWD) practices during the growing season; in both, early drainage at the end of the growing season.
ARB hopes that putting a compliance price signal on emission reduction techniques will encourage farmers in both regions to switch away from traditional agricultural practices. If adoption is widespread, some 500,000 to 3,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent could be saved from hitting the atmosphere by 2020. In other words this project type could supply as many as 500,000 offset credits a year, on average, between 2015 and 2020.
The fact that the hearing has been put back three months, however, will not be encouraging to an offset market that has been beset by delays in issuances, adoption of project types, and conduct of invalidation reviews. Market participants had hoped that rice cultivation would be the sixth formal project type from January 2015, but it now remains to be seen how this delay affects that particular timeline.
It is believed that several issues continue to dog the process of getting the project type approved. While ARB has indicated that projects may combine activities from multiple sites in the interests of making projects financially viable for potential participants, it has arguably proven less willing to include a ‘limited invalidation liability’ provision, under which if an invalidation were to occur, it would only affect the credits from the particular farm implicated in the invalidation event, rather than an entire project. Furthermore, ARB’s intention to exclude baling from the project protocol has been said to reduce potential offset credit generation by up to a third at some projects, and continues to be discussed by various stakeholders.
Other updates to Offset Protocols
The ARB staff has also updated the quantification methods for Livestock, Ozone Depleting Substances and US Forests protocols. “The updates are technical modifications and do not change handling and quantification of existing projects, rather the modifications will apply to new offset projects listed under the updated offset protocol”, said an ARB staff member. The anticipated date of implementation for the updated protocols is 1 January, 2015. However, on request by forest project offset developers, ARB has suspended the updates to US Forestry Projects protocol relating to common practice levels (some common practices which were previously considered as low-level have now been established as high-level), which would lead to projects under the updated protocol receiving fewer offset credits.
Furthermore, ARB staff have also that they are working on including Alaskan forest projects under the US Forestry Project Protocol, and will make a presentation to the board in December.
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