Participants in California’s carbon offsets market are concerned the state Air Resources Board (ARB) is moving too slowly to clear a backlog of early action credits despite hiring more staff.
Nearly 12 million early action offsets are queued up in ARB’s pipeline, awaiting conversion into offsets eligible for compliance use by emitters under California’s carbon market.
“We have hired a new forestry expert and redirected existing staff to tackle this,” said Dave Clegern, ARB public information officer.
Unconverted forest project offsets, at more than 8 million units, represent the bulk of those in the bottleneck.
Cleghern said his agency expects to clear the backlog by this autumn, a claim greeted with skepticism by those familiar with the market.
“That’s great news, if it’s true,” said one industry source.
While ARB is required to issue offsets for new projects within 45 days of submission by developers, it’s not required to follow the same timelines for early action credits, resulting in most remaining unapproved for up to two years.
“I will take ARB at its word that it will dedicate enough resources so that things won’t languish,” said Gary Gero, president of the Climate Action Reserve. “I think the answer will come when we see projects move through the system.”
But according to another source, developers are seeing no progress in the wake of last month’s new hires.
“They’re are still waiting to see some kind of a result,” the source said.
Project developers have until Sept. 30 to submit offsets to the early action program, meaning the backlog could continue to swell.
All early action credits must be converted to California Carbon Offsets (CCOs) by Aug. 2016, a deadline that still looms over the market in spite of ARB’s promise to have cleared the bottleneck within the next few months.
“They can’t slide the deadline,” said Peter Weisberg, program manager for The Climate Trust, an Oregon-based offset developer.
“It’s part of the [cap-and-trade] statute and they’d have to go through many hurdles.”
By Robert Mullin – firstname.lastname@example.org