Developing Implementation Strategies that Maximize Carbon and Resiliency Benefits of Hurricane Recovery Efforts (Spring 2019)

Background

This fall, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) and the Governor’s Office initiated the Natural and Working Land Stakeholder Group (NWL) to promote ecosystem resiliency, sequestration/avoided carbon emissions and adaptation to climate change on state, federal and privately-held natural and working lands.

This group, which is comprised of land management experts, non-profit organizations and representatives from universities and agencies working in conservation, forestry, agriculture and coastal planning, has prioritized four land management opportunities on which to focus, including: (1) hog lagoon buy outs and biogas capture from hog waste; (2) peatland/pocosin hydrology restoration; (3) coastal habitat restoration; and (4) floodplain and buffer zone conservation and/or expansion. These particular land management opportunities were chosen for their potential to achieve both beneficial carbon and resiliency outcomes.

While the potential carbon reductions of each management opportunity are roughly understood, the recovery and resiliency opportunities (e.g., reduced flooding, reduced pollution run off into estuaries, reduced salt water intrusion into agricultural lands, improved drainage) have not been estimated with defensible precision nor have the carbon benefits been assessed with a high level of consistency.

To maximize the climate-oriented benefits of its practices, the NWL group must assess the extent to which the practices it promotes are helping to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Such an assessment will help the group prioritize new policies and funding requests.

Project Description

This project will help NWL managers, advocates and public officials prioritize practices that accomplish recovery while maximizing resiliency to severe weather events like Hurricane Florence through practices that also result in climate-oriented benefits. The end products will help to prioritize recovery activities in the short term and, in the long-term, help NWL group members develop and implement strategies that maximize climate-oriented benefits of land management practices and decisions.

The team will accomplish these goals by developing implementation pathways and projected costs and benefits for management practices specifically related to pocosins wetland recovery and hog manure management. These implementation pathways will serve as the basis for recommendations that will inform the decision-making and funding processes related to hurricane recovery efforts. The focus on pocosins and hog waste is derived from an expectation that of the four management opportunities, recovery practices with respect to pocosins and hog waste management are likely to yield the highest and best resiliency and carbon outcomes.

The team will conduct interviews with NCDEQ staff and NWL group members to understand their decision-making processes and protocols in order to identify processes for appropriately incorporating climate-oriented and resiliency benefits into decision-making and management practices. The team will also learn to evaluate and utilize a decision-making matrix to score climate-oriented benefits of pocosins and hog manure management practices. The team will then develop strategies to implement and fund such practices, such as through hurricane recovery funds, agricultural cost share or a reward system for carbon reductions.

Finally, the team will consider how aggregation of carbon benefits and resiliency measures could be facilitated. Potential programs could involve a non-profit carbon offset measurement and verification program, which could register and track and/or aggregate carbon reductions on behalf of land owner/ manager participants. Such implementation options could prove beneficial in terms of preparing the state for participation in future carbon trading programs.

Anticipated Outputs

Scoring mechanism derived from a science-based decision-scoring matrix by which NWL can assess land management, funding and advocacy decisions related to hurricane recovery and other land management program opportunities for climate change and resiliency benefits; mapping tools to track NWL activities; policy recommendation papers to be shared with partnering agencies

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this team will include 3 undergraduate students and 4 graduate students.  The ideal mix of disciplines would include environmental management, public policy, biology, psychology (with a focus on decision sciences), civil and environmental engineering and law. 

This project will last through the Spring 2019 semester. We will begin the semester with an overview of the issues before splitting into two subgroups, each of which will focus on a particular management opportunity (pocosins wetland recovery or hog manure management). The team will then move onto different implementation mechanisms as well as a review of state politics, relevant federal and state agencies and relevant state and federal policies and programs.

In February, we will coordinate meetings with government officials, such as NCDEQ staff, government policy advisors and NWL group participants. We will also coordinate with an effort focused on the scientific assessment of potential practices, which will inform the creation of the decision matrices.  At this time, we will also consider ways by which carbon benefits could be scored so as to allow the practices to be recognized on a carbon reduction or carbon climate change adaptation basis should a future carbon trading regime arise. By the end of March, students will have an outline of the implementation options for their particular management challenge, which can be reviewed by NCDEQ staff and relevant NWL members. Subgroups will then incorporate feedback and produce final recommendations and implementation plans by the end of the spring semester.

Students on this team will have the unique opportunity to directly interact with decision makers at governmental and non-profit organizations and to have a timely and significant impact on decision-making processes that have the potential to not only enable immediate recovery activities but also use those activities and limited funding to establish long-standing practices for carbon mitigation and adaption related to land management in North Carolina. Students will learn how to seek creative policy solutions and funding, navigate trade-offs that arise when working with stakeholders and make practical and implementable policy recommendations.

Interested students should apply as soon as possible. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through January 9.

Timing

Spring 2019

  • Spring 2019: Begin overview of land management issues, implementation strategies, state politics and agencies; discuss and begin implementation and evaluation of decision-scoring matrix; outline implementation options for review by NCDEQ staff; incorporate feedback and produce final recommendations and implementation plans

Crediting

Independent study credit available for the spring semester

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Team Leaders

  • Timothy Profeta, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
  • Tatjana Vujic, Office of the Executive Vice President

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Lydia Olander, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
  • Katherine Warnell, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Natural and Working Land Stakeholder Group (NWL)
  • Sushma Masemore, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
  • Jeremy Tarr, North Carolina Office of the Governor