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Nutrient Trading and Carbon Benefits


As part of efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay, the state of Maryland instituted a nutrient trading program to improve the water quality of the Bay and its tributaries. In a recently released study, CIER quantifies The program establishes a cap and trade system that gives farms and businesses incentives to reduce the amount of water pollution they produce.

To mitigate nutrient emissions, “nonpoint sources” in Maryland have taken measures such as planting grass or forest buffers around agricultural land to block nutrient runoff or implementing low-till methods to reduce the erosion that leads to water pollution.

Many of these methods have multiple environmental benefits. Forest buffers not only reduce nutrient loss but the extra green captures carbon that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere. These multiple benefits help the environment, but scientists and policymakers debate whether allowing them to be counted multiple times (known as stacking) could harm the effectiveness of a future carbon market.

A CIER study addresses this question to examine how stacking would affect the price of carbon and environmental integrity of a carbon market, as well as how these various pricing policies would affect current participants in the nutrient trading program.

Nutrient Trading Team

Our team collaborated with the World Resources Institute on this project.


Rebecca Gasper , Graduate Research Assistant, CIER
Gwen Bagley , Graduate Research Assistant, CIER
Matthias Ruth, Director, CIER

Mindy Selman,
Senior Associate, World Resources Institute
Liz Marshall , Former Senior Economist, World Resources Institu