In 2006, the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) directed the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop mechanisms for limiting the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. CARB determined that implementation of a cap-and-trade system was one tool to achieve approximately 20 percent of these reductions.
Under cap-and-trade, farmers and ranchers from throughout North America will have opportunities to create and trade carbon offsets (also known as offset credits) in the California carbon market. Farmers and ranchers wishing to participate in the carbon market will have to carry out eligible GHG emissions reduction projects that meet the criteria described in offset protocols approved by CARB.
The only crop-based carbon market protocol that is currently approved for the California program is for the rice industry. Under the new protocol, California growers can receive credits for practices such as dry seeding and early drainage of fields. These practices lead to avoided methane emissions by reducing the amount of rice straw left to decompose in flooded fields.
At CalCAN, we have many questions and concerns about the implications of the carbon market for organic, sustainable and small to mid-size growers. We produced a Policy Brief on this subject, available to download here:
A Sustainable Agriculture Perspective on the Carbon Market
There are alternatives for incentivizing agricultural climate solutions using California’s cap-and-trade program, that in addition to creating a carbon market also generate a revenue source under public control — the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). CalCAN actively engages in the implementation and budget process for the GGRF, seeing it as a critical source of financial support for farmers and ranchers interested in implementing voluntary changes in on-farm practices to reduce GHG emissions or sequester carbon.
For more information about our work on GGRF funding, please see: http://calclimateag.org/overview-of-climate-smart-agriculture/