| Restore America’s Estuaries to Lead Effort to Introduce Coastal Wetlands Restoration onto International Carbon MarketsRAE Partners with Silvestrum and ESA PWA on Landmark Initiative and Requirements
WASHINGTON (April 6, 2011) –Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) announced today that it will lead a landmark initiative to help coastal wetlands restoration and protection projects issue carbon credits on the international voluntary carbon market for the first time.
RAE, a national advocacy organization dedicated to coastal and estuarine habitat restoration, will lead a technical working group that will develop requirements for quantifying and crediting the greenhouse gas benefits of several new types of wetlands conservation projects under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program.
“Coastal wetlands hold vast, untapped potential to trap atmospheric carbon, particularly carbon dioxide, one of the chief culprits behind global warming and climate change,” said Steve Emmett-Mattox, who will oversee the project as RAE’s Senior Director of Strategic Planning and Programs.
The VCS Program is a robust global standard and program that has been used to develop hundreds of greenhouse gas-reducing projects and millions of GHG credits validated and verified to recognized global criteria. VCS provides requirements for crediting various types of Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) projects, including those on peatlands, but has yet to develop requirements specific to crediting projects in other types of wetlands. The working group will draft requirements for crediting a range of wetlands project types, likely to include mangroves and coastal and tidal wetlands.
The working group, funded in part by New Orleans-based Entergy Corporation and KBR, will be led by RAE in partnership with ESA PWA, one of the nation’s foremost wetland restoration consulting firms headquartered in San Francisco, and Silvestrum, a Dutch-based firm that assists in the creation of carbon assets in land-use projects for compliance and voluntary markets worldwide. Leading wetlands scientists will contribute their expertise in core areas: Dr. Boone Kauffman is a mangroves expert with the USDA Forest Service; Dr. Patrick Megonigal is a wetland biogeochemist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center; and Dr. Hans Joosten is a peatlands specialist with Greifswald University, Greifswald, Germany.
“New studies indicate that wetland soils sequester carbon at rates 10 to 50 times greater than terrestrial forests,” says Emmett-Mattox. “Unfortunately, this is a good news-bad news situation. We have discovered a huge resource in the fight against global warming and sea level rise at a time when our coasts and their wetlands are at a crisis point,” he says.
While the global extent of coastal wetland systems, including mangroves, salt marsh, and freshwater tidal marsh, is not fully known, estimates are that there are 852,000 km2 and they are declining at rates four times faster than terrestrial ecosystems. Conversion and drainage of wetlands releases significant quantities of CO2 directly to the atmosphere. For converted wetlands with organic-rich soils, the ongoing emissions may persist for decades releasing carbon pools that built up over hundreds and thousands of years.
In addition to obvious environmental benefits, bringing wetlands projects on to the international carbon markets may help save or even expand their global range by making restoration projects attractive to investors and developers because of the co-benefits derived from them, notes Emmett-Mattox.
“Many industries operating in the coastal zone work diligently to be good coastal stewards,” he says. “The ability to gain carbon offsets for coastal protection and restoration projects will provide a new incentive and tool for corporate social responsibility and could ignite significant private investment in critically-needed coastal projects.”
Nationally, the potential for tidal wetlands restoration exceeds several million acres, and the primary limiting factor for additional coastal habitat restoration, including wetland projects, is funding. The coastal wetland restoration community is now beginning to seek carbon finance as a means to undertake additional projects.
Restore America’s Estuaries represents 11 regionally based “Save the Bay” organizations that collectively undertake more than 100 coastal habitat restoration projects each year. In the United States, hundreds of additional projects are carried out each year by private landowners, non-profit organizations, state and local governments, tribes, and federal agencies as well.
Recognizing the potential for coastal wetlands to sequester carbon, and the need for new investment in restoration and protection nationwide, RAE convened a blue ribbon panel to review the status of the science and policy and establish an action plan for developing a tidal wetlands GHG offset protocol. The Panel consists of experts in wetlands science and management, carbon sequestration, GHG accounting, and offsets protocols and markets. The Panel released the Findings of the National Blue Ribbon Panel on the Development of a Greenhouse Gas Offset Protocol for Tidal Wetlands Restoration and Management: Action Plan to Guide Protocol Development in August 2010. Developing the VCS wetland requirements will meet the first goal of the Action Plan, defining eligible project activities and habitat types.
Additional support for the wetlands carbon requirements project will come from Dr. Igino Emmer of Silvestrum, lead-author of the VCS Afforestation, Reforestation and Revegetation requirements and the Peatland Rewetting and Conservation requirements, who will serve as the lead technical writer. ESA PWA’s Dr. Steve Crooks, a wetland scientist with international expertise in wetlands and carbon sequestration, is the lead wetland scientist for the team.
In May, the technical working group will begin to develop draft requirements for crediting the additional wetlands project types. By September, the group aims to complete a first round of draft requirements, governing issues such as defining eligible project areas and carbon pools, establishing baseline scenarios, quantifying GHG emissions reductions in project and baseline scenarios, monitoring and measuring of carbon stocks, and addressing leakage and other non-permanence issues. The draft requirements will undergo peer review, public consultation and revision before being incorporated into the VCS Program requirements.
Founded in 1995, Restore America’s Estuaries is a national alliance of 11 regional, coastal conservation organizations with more than 250,000 volunteer-members dedicated to preserving our nation’s estuaries. RAE members include: the American Littoral Society, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Conservation Law Foundation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Galveston Bay Foundation, North Carolina Coastal Federation, People for Puget Sound, Save The Bay-Narragansett Bay, Save The Bay-San Francisco, Save The Sound-a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and Tampa Bay Watch.
For more information:
Steve Emmett-Mattox/Restore America’s Estuaries: 720-300-3139; email@example.com
Dr. Stephen Crooks/Philip Williams & Associates, Ltd.: 415-262-2358; firstname.lastname@example.org