California Cap and Trade Program

Why the California Carbon Market Isn’t an Option

Instituted in 2013, the California Carbon Market is the first multi-sector cap and trade program in North America.

How the CA Program Works:

In order for entities to qualify for the offset program, they must be able to prove “additionality”. An example of additionality, say in the livestock sector would appear like the following:

  • If livestock waste is deposited in a lagoon, it breaks down and releases harmful methane gas (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. This is considered your “baseline”.  You may put in a mechanical digester, which holds, pumps, and burns the gas in order to eliminate it. If this digester is the only reason that methane gas is not released into the atmosphere, then it can be considered additional and therefore qualify as an offset.
  • After it has qualified as an offset, the entity must follow specific livestock protocol written and approved by the California Air Resources Board. There are different protocols for each type of offset (livestock, forestry, etc)
  • Each additionality protocol states that the waste or emission regulation must “not be required by law” (For example see: Livestock protocol Nov 14th, section 95973 a 2, found on CA Air Resources Board website)

Why Composting is not included in the CA Program:

  • You must have additionality. If the compost would otherwise go to a landfill, then it isn’t additional. This is because the landfill already has legal protocol to capture greenhouse gases, and we know the protocol states that the regulation must be something that is  “not required by law”
  • Regardless, it does not matter if Rhode Island composters have additionality or not because there is currently no written protocol in CA for composting. If the CA program found a way to integrate composting, creating protocol would be a multi-year process (as the protocol must be written and approved by the CA Air Resources Board)

For more information on the California Carbon Market System:

Cap-and-Trade Program Hotline

(916) 322-2037

California Air Resources Board Public Agent:

Jeffery R. Coronado
Air Pollution Specialist
Industrial Strategies Division
Climate Change Program Evaluation Branch
California Air Resources Board
1001 I Street, PO Box 2815
Sacramento, CA 95812
(p) 916.322.8939

California Air Resources Board Links: 


Another Option: California Voluntary Market

California has a voluntary carbon market that has integrated composting entities across the United States. It is important to note the monetary returns are not as significant as those of California’s primary carbon market. Information on how to register your entity as a voluntary offset project can be found on the California’s Climate Action Reserve Website, which works with the California Air Resources Board. Protocol for Organic Waste Digestion and a registry of all projects across the nation that are involved in the program can be found on this website.

For further voluntary market inquiries:


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