What Is A Carbon Bank And Do We Need It?

Tom Vilsack United States secretary of agriculture plans to create carbon bank
  • A Federal “carbon bank” could provide a more efficient way to reduce carbon emissions
  • U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that private carbon banks aren’t working
  • Meat and poultry processors will be the focus of the department’s efforts

A carbon bank is being discussed as one of the first initiatives of the new Agriculture Secretary. It would offer credits for sequesterd carbon by sustainable management practices. The current proposal is for allocating $1 billion for buying carbon credits at “..$20 per ton, which could reduce greenhouse gas emission by 50 megatons every year,” say the team behind the Climate 21 project.

The new United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administration seems to have embraced the proposal as a way to reduce carbon emissions, but the exact mechanism remains to be hashed out.

“We will be exploring in depth how we could structure appropriately a carbon bank that would be designed for and benefit farmers,” Vilsack said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Would it require a price guarantee on carbon? Would it require a program that invests and provides resources for the capital costs associated with capture of carbon?”

Vilsack said the administration should be able to utilize the borrowing authority of the Commodity Credit Corp. His team is currntly researching if the entity’s Congressionally-authorized credit ceiling allows climate funding without taking away resources from other types of farm subsidies.

Carbon Bank Doubts

But there are citics of for-profit companies taking part in a carbon bank, as well as the science of sequestration. Regenerative agriculture is touted by major food companies as a solution for their massive carbon footprint. But “carbon leakage”, measurement challenges and inconsistent study results are issues that still haven’t been solved.

Despite this, Vilsack said he intends to make available “significant” resources to climate initiatives. Initially pilot programs, the goal is to ramp them up as the experience of the USDA grows.

A detailed analysis of the concept, promise and risk of carbon banks can be found at thecounter.org

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