Carbon trading is turning into a lucrative business, with more projects claiming credits. Case in point, a seagrass project off the coast of Virginia that has helped restore over 9,000 acres of an ecosystem that had been destroyed by disease in the 1930s. The project has helped restore eelgrass, a plant that supports various species of fish and absorbs tons of carbon. According to a publication in Nature, this type of grass can absorb 0.5 metric tons of CO2 per hectare per year. 

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This project like many others across the world is seeking to cash in on its work through carbon credits. The Virginia Nature Conservancy has already applied to Verra for credit consideration. Verra, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, is the largest carbon credit overseer in the world.

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The project was realized through the collaborative work of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and the Virginia Nature Conservancy. It is the first seagrass project in the world to apply for carbon credits, but more are on the way. Christopher Patrick, director of the VIMS seagrass restoration and monitoring program says that the aim is to showcase the concept to the rest of the world. 

“It’s proof of concept — that’s the important part here,” said Patrick “We’re not going to change global climate with this one project. But we can show it’s a viable approach.”

The uptake for carbon credit trading has been slow, with Verra only issuing credits worth 970,000 metric tons of CO2 so far. This is set to change, with many projects across the world targeting the credits.

Jennifer Howard, marine climate change director for Conservation International said, “I know of at least 20 different projects right now that are all trying to get developed and on the market in the next two years. I think we’re going to see a big explosion.”

Verra didn’t publish a methodology for giving credits to wetland and seagrass restoration until 2015. Last year, Verra revised its methodology to also consider wetland conservation.

The carbon credits market has been around since the 1990s, allowing polluters to offset their impact by supporting conservation projects. The program has faced various challenges including failure to channel funds to local communities and double-counting of carbon cuts.

Another issue is a law that governs how countries can use carbon markets to meet government-mandated targets. The law will be debated during the UN Convention on Climate Change this November in Glasgow.

+ Yale E360

Lead image via Adobe Stock