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Blue Carbon Financing of Mangrove Conservation in the Abidijan Convention Region: A Feasibility Study

Coastal vegetated ecosystems such as mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and salt marshes have long benefited coastal communities and fisheries, and in recent years have been recognized internationally for their significant capacity to sequester and store carbon (“blue carbon”)—at rates that surpass those of tropical forests. Yet these ecosystems are being converted rapidly. Current annual mangrove deforestation has been estimated to emit 240 million tons of carbon dioxide. For this reason, financing mechanisms to pay those tropical countries that have significant blue carbon resources to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation have been explored as a means to fund mangrove conservation. This report by the United Nations Environment Programme, the Abidjan Convention Secretariat, and GRID-Arendal explores the potential of international carbon finance mechanisms to help fund mangrove conservation along the coast of West, Central, and Southern Africa that is covered by the Abidjan Convention—from the southern border of Mauritania to the northern border of Angola—and the scale of economic benefits that this conservation might provide for communities and countries in the region, including benefits not always recognized in traditional assessments or valuations. This report aims to increase knowledge about blue carbon stocks in West, Central, and Southern Africa and the steps that interested communities and countries in the region could take to secure international payments for their conservation and avoided GHG emissions.

Authors: John Virdin, Tibor Vegh, Connie Y. Kot, Jesse Cleary, Patrick N. Halpin, Christopher Gordon, Marie-Christine Cormier-Salem, and Adelina Mensah

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Blue Carbon

Blue Economy

Climate and Energy

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Environmental Economics

Reports

Use of Preservation in North Carolina Wetland and Stream Mitigation

To better protect the nation’s wetlands and streams, the Clean Water Act allows use of compensatory mitigation to replace the benefits of lost wetlands and streams. This study summarizes North Carolina’s use of preservation for compensatory mitigation by private mitigation banks and a state-operated in-lieu fee (ILF) program. Within private mitigation banks, preservation activities have generated 5.6% of wetland credits and 9.1% of stream credits since 2008. Within the state in-lieu fee program run by the Division of Mitigation Services, 45.0% of wetland credits and 6.2% of stream credits have resulted from preservation. However, a majority of the wetland credits generated by preservation in the ILF program came from one site described as unusually large by program staff. Since 2008, North Carolina’s ILF program and mitigation banks have continued to use preservation at relatively low rates for both wetland and stream mitigation. Mitigation providers have stated that the clarity of the state’s preservation policy makes it easier for preservation to be included in projects in North Carolina than in projects in some other states. Notably, between 2012 and 2015, no wetland preservation was used for mitigation by the ILF program.

Authors: Ben Young, Lydia Olander, and Amy Pickle

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Ecosystem Services

Working Papers

Integrating Large-Scale Planning into Environmental Markets and Related Programs: Status and Trends

Building on earlier efforts, guidance from the federal government on mitigation for environmental impacts recommends the use of large-scale plans, preferably carried out in advance of impacts, to steer both development and mitigation. The idea is that advanced planning can improve site selection for proposed projects and increase the return on investment for mitigation while helping to provide greater predictability for project proponents, increase the efficiencies of project review, reduce permitting times, and support better environmental results. This paper explores progress in integrating large-scale, spatially explicit planning into environmental markets and programs in the United States. Through interviews with experts and review of the gray literature and government documents, it identifies examples of large-scale planning in these programs. It describes how the planning is guiding decisions about impact avoidance and compensatory mitigation, whether the planning is required or optional, and if the planning incorporates co-benefits or other regulatory-driven priorities. The assessed programs cover wetlands and streams, at-risk species, water quality, stormwater, greenhouse gases, and natural resource damages. They range from somewhat centrally planned programs in which spatially explicit planning is more common to distributed, market-based approaches in which such planning is less common. Large-scale planning appears to face few barriers to development and use, but its uptake may be limited by other factors like cost and time, uncertainty in the required spatial models, or insufficient proof of value. There has been little study of such planning’s investment return, environmental outcomes, or permitting time. 

Authors: Lydia P. Olander and Ben L. Young

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Ecosystem Services

Working Papers

Unconventional Oil and Gas Spills: Risks, Mitigation Priorities and States Reporting Requirements

An analysis led by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, which appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, concludes that making state spill data more uniform and accessible could provide stakeholders with important information on where to target efforts for locating and preventing future spills. However, reporting requirements differ across states, requiring considerable effort to make the data usable for analysis. 
 
By examining state-level spill data, it finds that 2 to 16 percent of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells across Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania spill hydrocarbons, chemical-laden water, hydraulic fracturing fluids and other substances each year. The study characterizes spills associated with unconventional oil and gas development at 31,481 wells hydraulically fractured or "fracked" in the four states between 2005 and 2014, identifying 6,648 spills in the 10-year period. Across all states, the first three years of a well's life, when drilling and hydraulic fracturing occurred and production volumes were highest, had the greatest risk of a spill. It found a significant portion of spills (from 26 percent in Colorado to 53 percent in North Dakota) occur at wells that experienced more than one spill, which suggests that wells where spills have already occurred merit closer attention.
 
Authors: Lauren A. Patterson, Katherine E. Konschnik, Hannah Wiseman, Joseph Fargione, Kelly O. Maloney, Joseph Kiesecker, Jean-Philippe Nicot, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Sally Entrekin, Anne Trainor, and James E. Saiers

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Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Use

Climate and Energy

Water Policy

State Policy

Journal Articles

Making Sure the Blue Economy is Green

Given the growing and seemingly limitless capacity to industrialize the oceans, there is a need to reimagine how to effectively measure, monitor and sustainably manage this seventy-one percent of the Earth's surface. In a commentary for the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the Nicholas Institute's John Virdin and co-authors write that we are now at an inflection point in history, where we no longer look to the ocean solely for protein and waterways, but also as a source for many more aspects of our increasingly industrialized society. While much of our focus has been terrestrially based where impacts are easier to identify, the authors write, greater attention is needed on the industrialization of our oceans, which have long been considered as a source of inexhaustible resources and reservoirs for unwanted terrestrially generated waste. 

Authors: Jay S. Golden, John VirdinDouglas NowacekPatrick HalpinLori Bennear, and Pawan G. Patil

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Ocean and Coastal Policy

Environmental Economics

Journal Articles

North Carolina’s Ocean Economy: A First Assessment and Transitioning to a Blue Economy

North Carolina’s ocean and coastal areas and their resources shape a unique and important segment of the state’s economy, particularly for its eastern region. From seafood and commercial fishing opportunities, to access to global markets through shipping and transport, and finally tourism and recreation, thousands of jobs and billions in revenue for the state depend on the ocean and coast. Yet to date, this segment of North Carolina’s economy has not been identified as a discrete contributor in the state. This working paper provides a first assessment of the existing information available to measure the size and extent of North Carolina’s ocean economy, and proposes next steps to transition to a blue economy.

Authors: Jane Harrison, Amy Pickle, Tibor Vegh, and John Virdin

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Blue Economy

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

State Policy

Working Papers

Sharing Groundwater: A Robust Framework and Implementation Roadmap for Sustainable Groundwater Management in California

This working paper offers a framework and roadmap for development of a robust groundwater-sharing system consistent with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires communities in priority areas to prepare groundwater sustainability plans. The proposed system draws on global experience. Robustness is its signature feature. Opportunities are maximized by a suite of robust local governance, allocation, and administrative arrangements. Additionally, the proposed system incentivizes innovation, stimulates investment, and facilitates low-cost adjustment to changes in groundwater demand. Among the dynamic components underlying this sharing system are a share register that records ownership and transfers of ownership in the basin’s available shares. These unit shares are fungible; each represents a proportional stake in access to the basin’s groundwater resources. Volumetric allocations are made in proportion to the number of shares held during determined periods throughout the water year.  These allocations are recorded in bank-like water accounts, affording account holders an efficient means to manage their resource but also ensuring that they cannot use more than is available. Unused water can be saved for later use. At the start of the transition to the new system, users are given an allocation buffer so that they have flexibility and time to adjust. Those who want to can make quick non-contestable trades at low cost.

Authors: Mike Young and Bryce McAteer

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Environmental Markets

Western

Water Policy

Environmental Economics

State Policy

Working Papers

Potential Pathways: Future of the Electricity Sector in the Southeast—Workshop Summary, October 5, 2016, Durham, North Carolina

The electricity sector is rapidly changing due to the shale gas revolution, a precipitous decline in coal generation, steep declines in the cost of solar generation, the proliferation of smart grid technologies, and a suite of new environmental regulations. On October 5, 2016, Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Duke University Energy Initiative co-hosted a one-day workshop that brought together experts on the electricity sector in the Southeast—including representatives of electric utilities, other market participants, nonprofit organizations, and energy and environmental agencies—to discuss factors affecting the region’s electricity sector. The main topics were future demand uncertainty, the ways that technology innovation could affect business models and regulatory structures, and the role of nuclear energy in the Southeast’s electricity future. This proceedings describes the main ideas that emerged from the workshop. It concludes with issues ripe for future research.

Author: Danielle A. Arostegui

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Climate and Energy

Environmental Economics

Energy Sector

Proceedings

Evaluating Flow Metric-Based Stream Classification Systems to Support the Determination of Ecological Flows in North Carolina

Streamflow is a main determinant of the ecological health of rivers and streams. Assignment of streams to classes is suggested as an initial step in the process of establishing ecological flow standards that ensure the appropriate environmental objectives are achieved. A new article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association evaluated a hydrological model with two distinct hydroecological river classification systems of stream classes in North Carolina and found that stream classification was inconsistent between all three models and highly dependent on the period of record of the underlying data. Based on these results, it was surmised that classification systems based on streamflow metrics are not a reliable approach for guiding ecological flow determinations.

Authors: Michele C. Eddy, Jennifer Phelan, Lauren Patterson, Jessie Allen and Sam Pearsal

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Water Policy

State Policy

Journal Articles

Fish and Invertebrate Flow-Biology Relationships to Support the Determination of Ecological Flows for North Carolina

Following recent droughts in North Carolina, the General Assembly convened an Ecological Flows Science Advisory Board to develop a strategy for establishing flow regimes that could protect the ecological integrity in the streams and rivers of North Carolina. A new article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association describes the method developed to characterize fish and invertebrate responses to flow alterations in the state of North Carolina to aid in setting ecologically sensitive flows that achieve appropriate environmental objectives.

Authors: Jennifer Phelan, Tom Cuffney, Lauren Patterson, Michele Eddy, Robert Dykes, Sam Pearsall, Chris Goudreau, Jim Mead and Fred Tarver

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Water Policy

State Policy

Journal Articles

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