By Kasey Krifka
A two-year assessment of the potential to develop blue carbon projects on Louisiana's coast estimates that carbon finance revenue can provide up to $1.6 billion in critical funding to assist with wetland restoration over the next 50 years.
The study, supported by Entergy Corp. through its Environmental Initiatives Fund, and prepared in partnership by New Orleans-based Tierra Resources and Portland-based nonprofit The Climate Trust, examines existing wetland restoration techniques — river diversions, hydrologic restoration, wetland assimilation and mangrove plantings — identifying areas for future scientific investigation to support carbon offset programs.
Initial study findings showed that restoration in Louisiana has the potential to produce over 1.8 million offsets per year and almost 92 million offsets over 50 years. This is the equivalent of taking approximately 350,000 cars off the road each year or 20 million cars off the road over 50 years. Wetland restoration techniques identified in this study could potentially generate $400 million to $1 billion in offset revenue depending on the dollar value of the carbon offset — with the potential for almost $630 million more by including prevented wetland loss in the carbon accounting.
Entergy’s commitment to the study stems from the company’s mission to create sustainable value for all its stakeholders. Wetlands play a crucial role in storm protection for many Entergy communities, helping preserve industries, businesses, homes, and livelihoods along with Entergy’s own facilities and assets.
“Entergy was pleased to be able to sponsor this important work and help unlock the huge potential for wetland carbon credits in Louisiana,” said Chuck Barlow, vice president for environmental strategy and policy for Entergy Corp. “By capitalizing on the economic benefits offered through carbon credits, more of Louisiana’s wetlands can be restored and preserved. Eventually, this work in Louisiana can be expanded to address other critical wetland areas throughout the nation and the world, making this study a first step, with the potential for major global impact.”
The primary barrier to wetland carbon commercialization that was identified through this study is the high cost of wetland restoration. Carbon finance will likely lead to new public-private partnerships that leverage carbon funds with government restoration dollars to stimulate investment into wetland projects.
“The results of this study demonstrate that carbon finance has substantial potential to generate important revenue to support wetland restoration,” said lead author Dr. Sarah Mack, president and CEO of Tierra Resources. “Furthermore, this study points to Louisiana as an innovator of creative financing strategies for wetland restoration, and as creating new investment opportunities that will yield substantial economic and environmental benefits.”
“Carbon markets provide economic incentives for reducing carbon emissions, as well as an important and innovative approach to finance environmental restoration and conservation,” said Dick Kempka, chief commercial officer for The Climate Trust. “The opportunity to engage in this emerging sector and help provide a path for wetlands restoration to enter the carbon markets has been an exciting journey.”
“Wetland restoration provides a wealth of benefits including storm surge reduction, habitat preservation, carbon sequestration and recreation; as well as job creation, and economic development that are vital to Louisiana’s sustainability and resilience,” states Michael Hecht, president & CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “By innovating creative financing solutions for coastal restoration, local companies like Tierra Resources are contributing to the growing hub of Emerging Environmental expertise that can be found in Greater New Orleans.”Image credit: Tierra Resources
Kasey Krifka is the Marketing and Communications Manager for The Climate Trust.