SPRINGFIELD — Today Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to offer farmers and other landowners the opportunity to earn and sell greenhouse gas emissions credits by adopting various conservation practices. These practices limit airborne levels of carbon dioxide and methane that are believed to contribute to global climate change.
"This is a win-win project for both Illinois farmers and the environment, providing a little extra income, while reducing agricultural runoff impacting our lakes and streams and helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Doug Scott.
The new project is called the Illinois Conservation and Climate Initiative (ICCI), and it is being implemented in partnership with the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX®), the Delta Institute, and an Advisory Committee representing Illinois agriculture and conservation groups.
CCX is North America’s only voluntary, legally binding greenhouse gas emission reduction and trading system. CCX allows the carbon benefits from these conservation practices to be quantified, credited and sold to its members, including large companies, municipalities, and institutions, that have made a commitment to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and wish to do so by purchasing “carbon offset credits.”
The Delta Institute is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental quality and community economic development. They are responsible for “aggregating” the credits from many different farmers and landowners in order to sell them in large blocks to CCX® members. State agencies, including the Illinois EPA and Illinois DNR, are conducting outreach and education to identify farmers who want to voluntarily participate.
"We are pleased to be working in partnership with the State of Illinois to help the agricultural community take advantage of carbon trading opportunities," said Tim Brown, Co-Director of the Delta Institute.
The ICCI positions Illinois agriculture to take advantage of the emerging market in emission offsets. Although the value of these credits usually represents a modest income that could change. For example, carbon credits are much more valuable in Europe and Asia where mandatory greenhouse gas limits have been adopted.
Terry Davis, a farmer from Roseville, Illinois, and President of the Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts, is one of the first in Illinois to sign-up for ICCI.
“As a grain producer in Illinois and a no-tiller I welcome the opportunity to become involved in the reduction of greenhouse gas while improving the sustainability of the soil for the future and I am personally enrolling my no-till acres in the ICCI. The SWCD’s of Illinois that I am a part of share this commitment to preserve the resources of IL to allow future generations the same opportunities that we now enjoy,” said Davis.
Eligible conservation practices - such as conservation tillage, planting grasses and trees, and capturing methane with manure digesters - also enhance the environment by creating wildlife habitat and limiting soil and nutrient run-off to streams and lakes.
"We at the Illinois DNR are delighted to be part of this exciting initiative. It meshes so well with what we are all about at DNR - managing, sustaining and conserving our natural resources," said IDNR Deputy Director Leslie Sgro.