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Carbon Science for Carbon Markets: Emerging Opportunities in Iowa
Credible carbon credits are a precondition for carbon markets. Unlike two decades ago, when voluntary carbon markets were just being developed, much is known today that supports credible carbon credits, including those that are agriculturally based. This report addresses ways to further improve the credibility of agricultural carbon credits and reduce the cost of carbon programs by assessing the underlying science and adding transparency to how carbon markets function. We assess the history and structure of carbon markets; carbon credit measurement, reporting, and verification protocols; the impacts of land—especially cropland—and livestock management practices on greenhouse gas and soil organic carbon dynamics, and adoption of these practices; existing and emerging engineering technologies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions or enhance carbon removal; and quantitative tools that could help facilitate carbon market development. The geographic scope is primarily focused on the state of Iowa. The report furthermore highlights ways multisectoral collaborations—for example, between farmers, scientists, industry, government, and civil society organizations—could remove barriers and further market development.
The Carbon Sequestration Task Force was authorized on June 22, 2021, by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds under Executive Order Number 9. Task A of this executive order states: "Reviewing the research on carbon sequestration, considering any gaps in current assessments, and determining whether new research, standards, or definitions should be developed."
As part of the analysis provided to the Task Force, researchers at Iowa State University (ISU) were asked by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to undertake an assessment of the science supporting agriculturally based carbon markets. This report includes the work of 51 faculty members, staff, postdoctoral associates, and graduate student scholars associated with four colleges, four institutes and centers, and 13 departments throughout ISU.
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