The majority of emissions of nitrous oxide – a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) – are from agricultural sources, particularly nitrogen fertilizer applications. A growing focus on these emission sources has led to the development in the United States of GHG offset protocols that could enable payment to farmers for reducing fertilizer use or implementing other nitrogen management strategies. Despite the development of several protocols, the current regional scope is narrow, adoption by farmers is low, and policy implementation of protocols has a significant time lag. Here we utilize existing research and policy structures to propose an ‘umbrella’ approach for nitrogen management GHG emissions protocols that has the potential to streamline the policy implementation and acceptance of such protocols. We suggest that the umbrella protocol could set forth standard definitions common across multiple protocol options, and then modules could be further developed as scientific evidence advances. Modules could be developed for specific crops, regions, and practices. We identify a policy process that could facilitate this development in concert with emerging scientific research and conclude by acknowledging potential benefits and limitations of the approach. Key policy insights Agricultural greenhouse gas market options are growing, but are still underutilized Streamlining protocol development through an umbrella process could enable quicker development of protocols across new crops, regions, and practices Effective protocol development must not compromise best available science and should follow a rigorous pathway to ensure appropriate implementation.
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© 2019 The Author(s).
Niles MT, Waterhouse H, Parkhurst R, McLellan EL, Kroopf S. Policy options to streamline the carbon market for agricultural nitrous oxide emissions. Climate Policy. 2019 Aug 9;19(7):893-907.