From Carbon Markets to Water Quality Trading

Water Jan 1, 2001
Ricardo Bayon

The panel looked at a variety of issues, including how nutrient trading systems currently work in the US, how they might be made to be more instrumental in the Chesapeake Bay, and the various roles that government, private businesses, and NGOs might play in creating robust water-quality markets. The consensus among the panelists was that a trading system in the Chesapeake could help address the Bay's growing problems of nutrient pollution. Some members of the panel argued that, for such a system to work, there needs to be stricter regulation of nutrient emissions across the watershed, while others said that the system would only achieve its true effectiveness if it was truly "watershed-wide" rather than focusing on a tributary-by- tributary scale. Others commented that residents of the Bay need to "care enough" to demand that such a system be put into place. One panelist even suggested that what was needed was "a documentary highlighting the problems of nutrient pollution" in the Bay. Overall, it was a fascinating discussion that touched upon many of the key issues surrounding the potential for the creation of a water quality trading scheme in the Chesapeake: the role of agriculture, the need for standards, monitoring, and verification, and the need for stricter (or different) regulation, as well as the need for greater awareness amongst residents of the problems. We will be following-up this meeting with a series of discussions and analyses aimed at furthering the creation of an environmentally effective water quality trading scheme in the Chesapeake. We see this as an issue of global importance because if a large-scale scheme can be created to prove that water quality trading is viable and effective, it could capture the global imagination and serve the same sort of catalytic role that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme did for carbon markets. Stay tuned to see if we are right. In the weeks to come, we will be up-loading a video of that event so you can almost "be there" even if you weren't able to be with us in person.