Chevrolet to buy carbon credits on 11K acres of North Dakota grassland
November 20, 2014
An Agriculture Department innovation grant to Ducks Unlimited has resulted in Chevrolet, a division of General Motors, purchasing carbon credits that will allow 11,000 acres of North Dakota Prairie Pothole grasslands to stay in agriculture permanently.
USDA and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., made the announcement today at a news conference at the Agriculture Department headquarters
Stabenow said the project represents the kind of "creativity" that is needed so that land can remain in agriculture and farmers can turn carbon sequestration into a new cash product.
"This is a win for all of us," Stabenow said, referring to both agriculture and the auto industry that is so important in her home state.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was traveling today and did not attend the event, but issued a news release.
"This announcement is the first of its kind," Vilsack said. "The amount of carbon dioxide removed from our atmosphere by Chevrolet's purchase of carbon credits equals the amount that would be reduced by taking more than 5,000 cars off the road. This public-private partnership demonstrates how much can be achieved with a modest federal investment and a strong commitment to cut carbon pollution."
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USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie noted that the project began with a $161,000 conservation innovation grant from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to Ducks Unlimited to develop methodology to quantify the carbon stored in the soil by avoiding grassland conversions, resulting in the generation of carbon credits.
According to a USDA news release, this is how the credit system works:
▪ Landowners voluntarily place lands under a perpetual easement but retain rights to work the land, such as raising livestock and growing hay.
▪ The carbon storage benefits of this avoided conversion of grasslands are quantified, verified, and formally registered resulting in carbon credits.
▪ The carbon credits are made available to entities interested in purchasing carbon offsets.
▪ The landowners receive compensation for the carbon credits generated on their lands.
"Ranchers benefit from new revenue streams, while thriving grasslands provide nesting habitat for wildlife, are more resilient to extreme weather, and help mitigate the impact of climate change," said Vilsack.
In this case, Greg Martin, executive director for global public policy at GM, said the company has made a commitment to reduce 8 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted. USDA this is comparable to the annual carbon reduction benefit of a mature forest the size of Yellowstone National Park.
Ducks Unlimited, which is dedicated to preserving waterfowl habitat that is disappearing, developed the methodology, got it verified by the American Carbon Registry, convinced North Dakota farmers to grant perpetual easements that their land will stay in grass, and finally worked with the U.S. Fish & Wildife Service, a division of the Interior Department.
Sean Penrith of the Climate Trust, an Oregon group, said the development of the carbon credits market is particularly important for the Prairie Pothole region because it is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the country.
Martin declined to say how much the North Dakota landowners would be paid for the carbon credits, but noted that GM's total commitment to the effort is $40 million.
Paul Schmidt, a Ducks Unlimited official, said the organization would not reveal the names of the landowners, but said the 11,000 acres are in the Missouri Coteau area of North Dakota in six counties: Emmons, McIntosh, McHenry, Sheridan, Burleigh and Kidder.
Schmidt said that the group is not engaged in any other carbon efforts at the present time, but that landowners can get more information from local Ducks Unlimited offices and from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
–The Hagstrom Report