The ability of coastal wetlands to absorb, and retain, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could be a means to help restore parts of Louisiana’s disappearing coastline, according to a new report released Thursday.
The amount of carbon credits that could be generated by some coastal restoration techniques could produce between $400 million and $1 billion in revenue that could go toward coastal restoration in the state. An additional $140 million up to $630 million could be generated by preventing wetlands loss, which would stop carbon stored in these wetlands from being released.
“I don’t see carbon fully funding a coastal restoration project, but I see it could help fund projects,” said Sarah Mack, one of the report’s authors and president and CEO of Tierra Resources.
The report helps quantify the amount of greenhouse gases certain coastal restoration techniques could provide and then considers the current carbon credit markets to determine a rough value that could be paid for those credits.
Greenhouse gases get their names because they have led to the gradual warming of global temperatures over time. Efforts to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere include the development of carbon credit markets.
Wetlands, Mack explained, are unique because they store carbon dioxide in the plant and in the soil, which means retaining wetlands also can help reduce carbon output.
Carbon credits, derived from the additional absorption of greenhouse gases from the air, can be put up for sale in two markets.
The first market is in California, where industrial facilities are required to make up for the amount of greenhouse gas they release by either finding ways to reduce those emissions or by buying carbon credits for reductions elsewhere. The second market is a voluntary market where companies look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint by purchasing carbon credits to offset greenhouse gases they release during the course of business.
The regulatory market usually results in a higher price for the credits, but both could provide a market for Louisiana wetlands building, as imagined over the next 50 years in the state coastal master plan.
“California is the biggest market and where the most value is,” said Dick Kempka, vice president of business development at The Climate Trust, a nonprofit involved in carbon credit projects and investments. “I think there will always be a voluntary market as well.”
“I believe it’s growing because I think there’s awareness about (company) shareholders that addressing climate change is important to them,” Kempka said.
The report issued Friday from Tierra Resources, The Climate Trust and sponsored by Entergy is the next step in a process that started with a five-year effort to develop a methodology of how carbon credits for Louisiana wetlands could be valued.
After the methodology received national certification in 2012, Tierra Resources, with support from Entergy and work by John Day, distinguished professor emeritus and Robert Lane, wetland ecosystem scientist, of the School of the Coast and Environment at LSU, started a pilot project in Luling using the methodology to prove marketability of the credits. The hope is that credits from the project could be ready to put on the market this fall, Mack said.
So far, Entergy Corp. has spent from $500,000 to $600,000 on the project from the development of the methodology, the report and an ongoing pilot project in Luling.
It’s a continuation of work starting in 2001 when the company announced it would voluntarily work toward capping the amount of greenhouse gases Entergy would release, said Dorsey, director of corporate environmental programs with Entergy Corp. The work with Tierra Resources is just one of many projects Entergy Corp. has done to meet that goal.
The investment on finding a way to make carbon credits help pay for coastal restoration also makes sense for the company because it’s the wetlands that helps protect communities from tropical storm surges, added Steve Tullos, manager of corporate environmental initiative with Entergy Corp.
“In our outlook, if our service area does well, we do well,” Dorsey said.
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