Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rewarding eco-friendly farmers can help combat climate change

Date:
December 2, 2010
Source:
University of Maryland
Summary:
Financially rewarding farmers for using the best fertilizer management practices can benefit water quality and help combat climate change, finds a new study. The researchers conclude that setting up a "trading market," where farmers earn financial incentives for investing in eco-friendly techniques, would result in a double environmental benefit -- reducing fertilizer run-off destined for the Chesapeake Bay, and capture carbon dioxide headed for the atmosphere.

Conservation buffers cut fertilizer run-off to nearby streams and capture CO2.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Maryland

Financially rewarding farmers for using the best fertilizer management practices can simultaneously benefit water quality and help combat climate change, finds a new study by the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Environmental Research (CIER).

The researchers conclude that setting up a "trading market," where farmers earn financial incentives for investing in eco-friendly techniques, would result in a double environmental benefit -- reducing fertilizer run-off destined for the Chesapeake Bay, while at the same time capturing carbon dioxide headed for the atmosphere.

The study, Multiple Ecosystem Markets in Maryland, advises the state's Department of the Environment how to set up a "nutrient trading market," as proposed in the 2008 state climate action plan. This nutrient trading would operate alongside markets that sell carbon dioxide credits. The CIER study examines the effects of operating both markets simultaneously.

In these markets, farmers who reduce pollutants below a set level would earn credits. They would sell these credits to other operators, such as sewage and water treatment facilities or power plants that have difficulty meeting environmental targets. No direct government subsidies would be involved.

In these markets, farmers who reduce pollutants below a set level would earn credits. They would sell these credits to other operators, such as sewage and water treatment facilities or power plants that have difficulty meeting environmental targets. No direct government subsidies would be involved.

"Everybody can and should win from these markets," says principal investigator Matthias Ruth, who directs the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Environmental Research. "This could represent an extra revenue stream for farmers, as well as an incentive to use the best nutrient practices that can help clean up the Bay and fight climate change. Taking these conservation steps costs the farmers money, and at the very least a reimbursement for their investment is well-deserved."

Maryland is one of a handful of states considering whether to create these multiple markets. One key question for policy-makers is whether farmers who achieve reductions in watershed pollution while also capturing CO2 should be able to sell credits in both markets and, in effect, get dual payments for single action.

The study does not recommend a particular answer to this question, but offers policy-makers a series of scenarios -- estimates of how the systems will work if farmers can participate in only one or both markets, and whether there should be thresholds before they can take part.

Another key question is whether sufficient carbon dioxide will be captured and traded to justify creation of the market. To determine this, CIER and the World Resources Institute developed a dynamic systems model and projected the likely volumes of carbon dioxide involved.

Findings

  • A "nutrient trading market" would lead to the capture of between one and two million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year by 2030, depending on how the market is set up;
  • In total, captured carbon would range from 12.5 to 21.6 million metric tons by 2030;
  • Only a portion of captured carbon would be traded in markets, depending on the stringency of the market rules; most likely, between seven and 23 percent of captured carbon would be sold;
  • Nutrient markets would generate more revenue for farmers than carbon dioxide markets. If rules limited participation to only one of these, carbon prices would have to be five to eight times higher than nutrient prices for farmers to forgo trading in nutrients and opt instead for carbon.

"As a practical matter, the carbon market will usually offer less financial reward than nutrient trading, because there isn't that much CO2 captured in this way," explains report co-author Rebecca Gasper, a CIER researcher. "To earn one water credit, a farmer must eliminate one pound of run-off pollutant. To earn one carbon credit, involves a reduction of one metric ton of CO2. It's a lot easier for a power plant operator to achieve that than a farmer."

Dual benefits

As an example of a best management practice providing the dual environmental benefit, the report points to conservation buffers -- putting a green swath of trees or other plants between farm and stream to absorb run-off and filter out pollutants. But, this green buffer can also help capture carbon dioxide, and so help the state meet its CO2 reduction goals. Other practices likely to generate dual environmental benefits include conservation tillage, cover crops and wetland restoration.

Dual markets?

The nutrient trading market would work similarly to the one set-up to reduce carbon emissions under RGGI, the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that Maryland has joined.

The fulcrum of the nutrient market is a target level called the Total Maximum Daily Load. It's the maximum amount of phosphorus and nitrogen that Maryland farmers can allow to run into streams. The U.S. EPA is expected to finalize this target in December.

If a farmer uses more eco-friendly methods and produces lower levels of pollutants that fall below this target, these can be sold as credits to someone else who is running above the target level. The trade would take place in the nutrient market.

"Setting up this system will require a delicate hand," says Ruth. "Farmers taking part will face a steep learning curve, and if the system's too complicated or burdensome, they'll likely not take advantage of it."

"In carefully thinking through the options for how to operate and potentially combine nutrient and carbon markets, Maryland is moving out in front as a national leader," Gasper says. "Linking multiple markets is appealing because of its potential for preserving and restoring ecosystems -- particularly if other Bay states decided to participate or set up their own programs."

A copy of the full report is available online: http://www.cier.umd.edu/documents/Multiple_Ecosystem_Markets_MD.pdf


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Maryland. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Maryland. "Rewarding eco-friendly farmers can help combat climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101202124606.htm>.
University of Maryland. (2010, December 2). Rewarding eco-friendly farmers can help combat climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101202124606.htm
University of Maryland. "Rewarding eco-friendly farmers can help combat climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101202124606.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

AP (Aug. 29, 2014) Several communities were evacuated and some international flights were diverted on Friday after one of the most active volcanos in the region erupts. (Aug. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) The mystery of the moving rocks in Death Valley, California, has finally been solved. Scientists are pointing to a combo of water, ice and wind. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) Thundering surf spawned by Hurricane Marie pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town. High surf warnings were posted for Los Angeles County south through Orange County. (Aug. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins