Spring Update 2023
The Canadian Forage and Grassland Association is finishing their pilot implementing the Canada Grassland Protocol as of March 31, 2023.
Modeled and adapted from the US-based Climate Action Reserve’s protocol, this protocol represents an approach where the baseline is the grassland, and the management change is the grassland’s conversion to cropland. The offset is based on the emissions that would have happened on the parcel’s conversion.
USDA NEW AUTHORITIES
In the large spending bill, passed on December 29, 2022 by Congress, the USDA received $4 million over four years to execute a Growing Climate Solutions Act. $4 million is a drop compared to the $1.7 billion spending bill.
What is key is the US voluntary carbon market now have a ‘regulator’. Borrowing from the National Law Review, the USDA will be:
- The Growing Climate Solutions Act (the “Act”) is the first congressional effort to help farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners to participate in voluntary carbon offset markets.
- To assist these groups, the Secretary of Agriculture must publish a list of widely accepted industry protocols to support the calculation and verification of GHG reductions used to generate meaningful and marketable credits.
- USDA also may establish a voluntary program to expand access to information, technical assistance, and direct services related to developing and marketing carbon credits.
- A list of voluntarily registered “covered entities,” administered by USDA, would be deployed to improve access to information and increase transparency, consistency, and service reliability across U.S. carbon markets.
- The Act creates an Advisory Council, broadly representative of the agricultural and private forest sectors, to administer the program and conduct periodic assessments of the credit markets.
What are the implications? The voluntary market south of the border will scale faster than Canada.
At a recent Soil Science Workshop in Alberta, several researchers commented on the voluntary reduction in nitrogen emissions.
Here are the highlights:
- The 4R system needs to add a fifth R, the Right Test. Soil tests should be both Total N and BNA.
- Soil testing should include post-harvest tests to examine nitrogen left in the field.
- Re-evaluate soil recommendations when using N-efficient fertilizers.
- Evaluate and parcel map soil pH. Farms with long-term ammonia-based fertilizers use can slowly lower soil pH.
What are the implications? Soil fertility management can always be improved.
CARBON FRAUD IN THE NEWS
BCC continues to lobby on the need for a national carbon regulator. Why?
February 2023: A London based brokerage lost its appeal and must pay compensation in an EU carbon trading fraud case.
February 2023: A B.C. seaweed company, Synergraze Inc, is reported by Trans Mountain that their offsets may be in question with the factory being rejected for a permit. 
January 2023: The Guardian reported 90% of the rainforest credits are likely phantom. 
August 2022: A Taiwan company, and their owners, were convicted of fraud in a carbon credit trading scam.
NEW ALBERTA PROTOCOL
The Government of Alberta recently published a revised and updated protocol based on the application of the 4R principles of fertilizer management.
What was amended? Here is the list of changes.
- Updated quantification methodology and Eco District related emission and leaching factors as per the approach used in Canada’s National Inventory Report 2022 quantification method.
- Added that a project developer may apply a flexibility mechanism to exclude fields inside the farm where 4R was not practiced, or applied, or an ineligible fertilizer was used.
- Reviewed protocol records requirements and protocol applicability. Requesting stakeholder feedback on ownership requirements for implementation of this protocol and meeting Alberta emission offset system requirements.
- Added protocol flexibility mechanism for mass determination.
- Clarified project and subproject tracking requirements for aggregated projects.
- Removed Appendix B: Accredited Professional Advisor Qualification Requirements – these are included in the protocol section 1.4. Removed Appendix C: Sample Form for Sign Off by the Accredited Professional Advisor – these will be drafted by the APAs. Removed Appendix F: Sample Calculations. Removed Appendix I: Acceptable Crop Mass Determination Methods – these are included in the protocol section 5.2.3, table 12.
What are the implications? BCC expects it to be approved later in 2023. This will mean it is available to transact for the 2024 crop year.
OFFSET INTEGRITY AND A HIGHER BAR
There was a recent announcement that Verra will “scrap” its old methodology and introduce a new approach for measuring and selling REDD-related rainforest deforestation reduction emission credits.
BCC reiterates the need for market-grade integrity of any carbon, and now bio-based, market instruments. Market grade means the following.
Mitigation activity information. A credit program must provide information on all mitigation activities.
Program governance. A credit program shall have effective program governance to ensure transparency, accountability, and the overall quality of carbon credits.
The Registry. A credit program shall operate or make use of a registry to uniquely identify, record and track mitigation activities and carbon credits issued to ensure credits can be identified securely and unambiguously.
No double counting. In any credit program, the GHG emission reductions or removals from the mitigation activity shall only be counted once towards achieving mitigation targets or goals.
Robust independent third-party verification. A credit program shall have robust independent third-party verification of mitigation activities.
Sustainable development impacts and safeguards. A credit program shall have clear guidance, tools, and compliance procedures to ensure that mitigation activities conform with or go beyond widely established best industry best practices on social and environmental safeguards while delivering on net positive sustainable development impacts.
Additionality. A credit program shall demonstrate the GHG emission reductions or removals from the mitigation activity would not have occurred in the absence of the incentive created by the carbon credit revenues.
Permanence. A credit program must be demonstrated that GHG emission reductions or removals from the mitigation activity are permanent. If they are not, any reversals shall be fully compensated.
A transition towards net-zero emissions. A credit program shall avoid locking in levels of GHG emissions, technologies, or carbon-intensive practices that are incompatible with achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century.
Robust quantification of emission reductions and removals. A credit program requires that GHG emission reductions or removals are robustly quantified, based on conservative approaches, completeness, and sound scientific methods.