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Canada-U.S. climate group to study ag offsets

A new work plan for the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) — a group of four provinces and seven states looking to reduce greenhouse gases — includes studying whether farming will fit into its plans for a cap-and-trade offset system.

The WCI, whose member provinces include Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia, along with Saskatchewan as an “observer,” on Friday released its 2009 work plan for the “detailed design” of a regional cap-and-trade program.

A cap-and-trade system requires greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters to cut their pollution by setting a limit or “cap” on emissions — then to allow the market to identify the least-cost ways to achieve the limit.

“As a way of combating climate change, cap-and-trade is gaining profile, especially in light of recent commitments by President Barack Obama in the U.S. and (by) the government of Canada,” the B.C. government said in its release Friday.

“As co-chair of the WCI, British Columbia has taken an early leadership role in designing a cap-and-trade system,” from which Environment Minister Barry Penner said B.C. will benefit in the future, the province said.

The recommended start date for the WCI cap-and-trade program is Jan. 1, 2012, the province said.

During 2009, the WCI’s workplan calls for its offsets committee to evaluate protocols for possible GHG-reduction projects in agriculture, as well as in waste management and forestry.

Agricultural projects that could possibly be included in a cap-and-trade system and are up for evaluation include soil sequestration, manure management, anaerobic digestion and rangeland management, the WCI said.

The WCI said in its work plan that its partner jurisdictions have chosen to start evaluating the project types listed “because they are interested in understanding if they are suitable for the offset system, if they will meet the criteria for environmental integrity, and if adequate protocols/methodologies for their quantification and monitoring exist or can be adapted or developed.”

Project types that appear on the list are “not guaranteed to be in an offset system,” the WCI wrote — nor are project types that aren’t on the near-term list ruled out for future evaluation by the offsets committee.

The offsets committee’s timeline for this work includes reviewing the agencies that could handle protocol review for these types of projects, and identifying ways to choose and develop offset protocols, during the first quarter of this year.

Protocol task groups would be formed, existing protocols would be evaluated and adapted to the WCI system where possible, and both draft and final WCI protocol language would be released, all during 2009, the WCI said.

Tim Lesiuk, the B.C. government’s executive director for climate change policy in Victoria, is the chair of the offsets committee and is also co-chair of the WCI, along with Janice Adair of the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Other U.S. member states in the WCI include Utah, Oregon, New Mexico, Montana, California and Arizona.

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