A New Soil Carbon Storage Standard

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The bCarbon Standard

Since November 2019, the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University has been hosting a multi-con¬stituent working group to develop an innovative measurement-based standard for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil. The result is bCarbon, a 100 percent voluntary program designed specifically to work for landowners, businesses and the environment.

The proposed system is designed to enhance economic resilience for both the agricultural and industrial communities, offering solutions that could result in a new, multibillion-dollar market while restoring the robust ecosystem of the native prairie and grasslands. Increasing biodiversity, restoring natural water cycles, and improving drought resistance are all important co-benefits that enhance quality of life for rural communities and economic resilience for ranches and farms.

The goal for bCarbon is certification of one million or more tons of sequestered carbon in year one. By 2023, we anticipate more than 100 million tons, and a goal of 700 million certified tons of soil carbon storage by 2025.

Texas Dirt: The Key to Environment, Economy and Resilience

Technical Details About Our Standard

Stakeholders

The heart of bCarbon is a diverse set of stakeholders who have worked together since October 2019 to find a more pragmatic and scalable way to approach soil carbon sequestration.

Baker Soil Carbon Sequestration Working Group
(partial list of participants)

Government Agencies

  • British Consulate General Houston
  • New Mexico Department of Agriculture
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
  • USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service

Businesses

  • Applied Ecological Services Inc.
  • Batker Consulting
  • CSL Capital
  • Formosa Plastics
  • Gensler Architects
  • Greater Houston Partnership
  • Groundwater Services Inc.
  • GSI Environmental Inc.
  • Plasmonics
  • Soil Value Exchange
  • Sourcewater Inc.
  • Sprint Waste
  • The Right Environment
  • Topl
  • US Business Council for Sustainable Development
  • Valero

Nonprofit, Science, Academic and Philanthropic Organizations

  • America’s Wetland Foundation
  • Audubon Texas
  • Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University
  • Carbon Nation
  • Climate Action Texas
  • Coalition of Sustainable Communities NM
  • Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation
  • Dixon Water Foundation
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • Lone Star Coastal Alliance
  • Pecan Street
  • Quivira Coalition
  • Rice University
  • Texan By Nature
  • Texas Coastal Exchange
  • The Progressive Forum

Landowners

  • King Ranch
  • LaBelle Properties Ltd.
  • Western Landowners Alliance

Plus, more than 20 individual scientists, subject matter experts and many other interested parties as stakeholders.

Ten Principles of bCarbon

These ten principles represent the best effort of the working group to articulate a system that is fair, works for landowners and carbon storage buyers, and offers independent verification and both scientific and market-based credibility.

01

The credits under this system are issued for the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by photosynthesis and storage in the soil as carbon.

02

Any landowner who sequesters carbon dioxide in the soil within a given calendar year is eligible for soil storage payments for that year.

03

Transactions may occur on an annual basis after an initial declaration of intent to participate in the soil carbon sales program and the initiation of soil carbon testing requirements.

04

Transactions can be based upon estimated values subject to verification. Soil carbon testing is required for verification.

05

To become eligible for payments, a landowner must agree that the land will be maintained and protected in a way that promotes and protects soil health and landscape ecological health for 10 years. Transactions occurring in subsequent years will require renewal of the 10-year commitment, creating a “rolling” 10-year requirement.

06

Landowners are not required to manage their land in any particular fashion. However, certain land management techniques will lead to greater carbon sequestration than others.

07

A buffer account will be maintained to ensure all credits issued under this standard are protected against failure risks.

08

It is anticipated and specifically allowed that third-party entities will act as assemblers (also described as “aggregators”) of credits creating the market between buyers and sellers.

09

All credits issued under this standard must be certified.

10

All credits certified under this standard may be bought and sold until retired, with all transactions being recorded with the certification entity.

Principal Researchers

Jim Blackburn

Jim Blackburn is a professor in the practice of environmental law in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rice University, teaching courses in sustainable development and environmental law. He is also a practicing environmental lawyer with the Blackburn & Carter law firm in Houston and a Rice faculty scholar at the Baker Institute.

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Kenneth B. Medlock, III

Kenneth B. Medlock III, Ph.D., is the James A. Baker, III, and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics at the Baker Institute and the senior director of the Center for Energy Studies. He is also the director of the Masters of Energy Economics program, holds adjunct professor appointments in the Department of Economics and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and is the chair of the faculty advisory board at the Energy and Environment Initiative at Rice University.

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Caroline A. Masiello

Caroline A. Masiello is an associate professor in the earth science and chemistry departments at Rice University. She is a biogeochemist interested in the processes that control decadal and centennial-scale carbon fluxes through the earth system. Her work includes both basic science directed at improving the understanding of controls on earth system carbon fluxes and applied science directed at managing C fluxes to mitigate climate.

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