Acquire leadership support and involve knowledgeable staff early in carbon emission dynamics and markets.

A New Mexico DOT experience with carbon sequestering

February 2009
New Mexico,United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

Early results from the NMDOT CSPP, released in February 2009, offer some valuable insights that may be useful to other DOTs and FHWA Division Offices evaluating the viability of carbon sequestration practices in lands they control. Each of these lessons falls into three broad categories: Policy Lessons, Process Lessons, and Human Resources Lessons, presented in three separate articles, with the human resources lessons being identified below.

Human Resources Lessons
  • Identify and involve those with knowledge of the eco-regions and habitats of the state. With extensive variability among ecosystems across the country, and in some cases within a state, it is important that personnel with significant understanding of those ecosystems be involved in any carbon sequestration program a DOT may implement. These staff members will likely be responsible for estimating the baseline carbon volume and annual sequestration rates, which are based on soil composition and native plant species distribution in the state. Sound scientific data are needed before a protocol for grasslands that are not grazed can be developed. Additionally, NMDOT has found that its counterparts are relatively unfamiliar with the concept of carbon sequestration. While it may not be central to a state DOT’s mission, outreach to provide relevant stakeholders a working understanding of the topic may be necessary to implement carbon sequestration activities.
  • Identify and involve those knowledgeable in carbon dynamics and markets. Expertise in carbon dynamics is most likely found in universities, consulting firms, and/or a state’s Department of Natural Resources. In engaging carbon dynamics experts, it is important that state DOT staff members are aware of how the DOT’s actions can affect sequestration rates, how protocols are applied and carbon accounting carried out, and what the outlets for selling carbon credits are (e.g., CCX, RGGI, WCI, etc.; see footnote 1). It is also important to understand the difference between "tons of carbon" and "tons of carbon equivalents (CO2e)." Most markets trade in tons of CO2e.
  • Acquire and maintain support from leadership within the DOT and Division Office. Carbon sequestration in highway ROWs is not currently a burgeoning discipline at state DOTs. Therefore, an effort to create a program at the margin to do so will require the support of upper management decision-makers (who may also need to be briefed about carbon sequestration). Early during the CSPP's candidate selection phase, NMDOT informed its leadership of the opportunity and has worked to keep it notified of progress and obstacles throughout the process.
Early experience from the NMDOT’s carbon sequestration pilot project demonstrates the need for assembling a team with knowledge on eco-system, carbon accounting, and carbon markets.

[1] Markets for trading "carbon credits," or offsets, are in the early stages of development. The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), launched in 2003, is one such market. It offers a "legally binding integrated trading system" to reduce GHG emissions by facilitating the sale of surplus carbon allowances or the purchase of emissions contracts by its members. Entities seeking to voluntarily reduce their emissions can buy and sell the allowances to offset their excess emissions. Under a national “cap and trade” system, which is an emissions reduction tactic using a national emissions ceiling that is reduced over time, participation in a carbon market would not be voluntary for those with emissions greater than the established threshold. Related market-based initiatives, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and Western Climate Initiative (WCI), target specific sectors for emissions reduction. RGGI is a coalition of 10 northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States that uses a market-based cap-and-trade approach to reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector. WCI is a collaboration of seven U.S. governors and four Canadian Premiers. Much like RGGI, the WCI identifies and employs cooperative ways to reduce greenhouse gases in the region, focusing on a market-based cap-and-trade system. Both RGGI and WCI have established coalitions of states or jurisdictions to engage in coordinated market-based emissions reduction.

Lesson Comments

No comments posted to date

Comment on this Lesson

To comment on this lesson, fill in the information below and click on submit. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field. Your name and email address, if provided, will not be posted, but are to contact you, if needed to clarify your comments.


Carbon Sequestration Pilot Program: Implementation and Next Steps

Published By: Federal Highway Administration

Source Date: February 2009

URL: www.climate.dot.gov/documents/FINAL_C-Seq_Report_021109.pdf

Other Lessons From this Source

Lesson Contacts

Lesson Analyst:

Firoz Kabir


Average User Rating

0 ( ratings)

Rate this Lesson

(click stars to rate)

Application Areas

None defined


New Mexico


United States

Focus Areas

None defined


None defined

Lesson ID: 2009-00502