Donate E-News Signup Contact Site Map Search

Get updates on our progress to advance new market opportunities for agriculture.

Please leave this field empty

Farmers Combat Climate Change with
Cap and Trade
  Print This Page

Cap and Trade Dictionary

additionality – a concept that states, if carbon emissions were being reduced by a source before cap and trade legislation, then the source should not be given offset revenues once the system is implemented.  In short, offset revenues should be used only to reward projects that truly need them.  There is debate as to how to best implement the additionality concept.

best management practices– Best Management Practices (BMPs) support conservation goals like protecting against soil loss and keeping nutrient’s from leaving the farm. When done right, BMPs can improve the environment while also improving the farmer’s bottom line. Our BMP Challenge supports farmers ability to implement conservation practices in a risk-free environment.

biofuel production – a method for agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Biofuels are fuels made from biological material, the most common of which is plants.  Farmers can grow crops that are then transferred to refineries for fuel production. 

cap-and-trade systems (in regards to greenhouse gas) – a system in which a governing entity “caps” the total amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted within their jurisdiction.  Industries and other groups operating under the cap are then supplied with emission credits that permit them to emit a specified amount of greenhouse gas; the entirety of the allowances does not exceed the cap, maintaining the overall emission level.  Sources then buy and sell credits from one another, depending on each one’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In short, the buyer is being charged for polluting and the seller is rewarded for emission reductions. 

carbon – “Carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted in a number of ways. It is emitted naturally through the carbon cycle and through human activities like the burning of fossil fuels.  Natural sources of CO2 occur within the carbon cycle where billions of tons of atmospheric CO2 are removed from the atmosphere by oceans and growing plants, also known as ‘sinks,’ and are emitted back into the atmosphere annually through natural processes also known as ‘sources.’ When in balance, the total carbon dioxide emissions and removals from the entire carbon cycle are roughly equal.  Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1700’s, human activities, such as the burning of oil, coal and gas, and deforestation, have increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. In 2005, global atmospheric concentrations of CO2 were 35% higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution.”
EPA: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/co2.html

carbon leakage – refers to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions in one area, as a result of more stringent carbon reduction policy in another; as a result, no net carbon reductions are gained.  For instance, if the United States passes strict climate change legislation and China does not, there is fear that the heavy greenhouse gas emitting sources will merely ‘leak’ to China. 

carbon sequestration – an approach of greenhouse gas mitigation in which gasses are captured from point source emitters and sequestered underground and out of the atmosphere.

carbon tax – tax on carbon or other greenhouse gas emissions. The intention is to drive up the monetary cost of greenhouse gas emissions, in order to steer sources towards greater efficiency or more environmentally friendly substitutes.  There is a debate between proponents of a cap and trade system and a carbon tax, as to which is the best method for reducing greenhouse gases on a national and global scale. 

conservation tillage – a method of growing crops in which plant residue is left on the top of the soil rather than being plowed off or into the soil.  Conservation tillage augments soil health and productivity by increasing organic matter in the soil.

early actor – those who have already taken steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions despite the absence of national climate change legislation.

efficient use of fertilizers and manures – a method for agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Fertilizers require a fossil fuel intensive manufacturing process; manure releases methane.  A more efficient use of both these agriculture inputs can reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a relatively low cost. 

emission allowances  - the designated amount of pollutants that a source may emit under a cap and trade system.  There is debate regarding the best method to allocate emissions allowances.

greenhouse gas (GHG) – any gasses that entrap heat in the earth’s atmosphere.  Some of these occur naturally in the atmosphere, some are generated only through human activities and some are a result of both.  The most common forms of human generated GHG are: Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide and Flourinated Gases.  The EPA has recently proposed a rule that necessitates yearly GHG emission reports from large point source emitters. 

greenhouse gas offsets – a financial instrument that symbolizes a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.  Participants can compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing greenhouse gas offsets.  Greenhouse gas offsets exist in both compliant and voluntary markets.  Under a cap and trade system, greenhouse gas offsets can help bring down the cost of lowering net greenhouse gas emissions.

methane – “Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years. Methane is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year period and is emitted from a variety of natural and human-influenced sources. Human-influenced sources include landfills, natural gas and petroleum systems, agricultural activities, coal mining, stationary and mobile combustion, wastewater treatment, and certain industrial process.”
EPA: http://www.epa.gov/methane/

measurement - Most forestry and agriculture sinks are not clearly defined yet. More research can help formulate metrics that assess the benefits of sequestration in these areas.

methane digester – technology that burns waste methane produced in animals’ guts and uses the heat to power a generator.  Digesters could help meet electricity needs while destroying methane.  Moreover, extra power can be resold to electricity grids, helping to improve the economic stability of farmers.

nitrous oxide – “Nitrous oxide (N2O) is produced by both natural and human-related sources. Primary human-related sources of N2O are agricultural soil management, animal manure management, sewage treatment, mobile and stationary combustion of fossil fuel, adipic acid production, and nitric acid production. Nitrous oxide is also produced naturally from a wide variety of biological sources in soil and water, particularly microbial action in wet tropical forests.”
EPA: http://www.epa.gov/nitrousoxide/index.html

non-point source emitters – pollution that cannot be traced to any specific source, such as agriculture or urban runoff into watersheds.

permanence – the ability of a project to permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere. 

point source emitters – individual, identifiable sources of pollution, such as a coal factory. 

renewable fuels – fuels produced from inexhaustible resources such as the wind and the sun. 

x Return to the Farmers Fight Climate Change Tutorial

American Farmland Trust