By: Nathanael Massey, E&E reporter

Since the 1600s, the United States has lost more than half of its historical wetlands to drainage, dredging, agriculture and, more recently, inundation due to sea-level rise. Without the moderating influence these habitats once offered, nearby communities have been put at greater risk from natural phenomena like droughts and powerful storms, and unique ecosystems have been disrupted.

The impacts of wetland destruction aren’t just local, either. Like forests, wetlands are densely vegetated and can be counted among the world’s most important carbon sinks.

With that potential for carbon sequestration in mind, a number of groups have turned to voluntary carbon markets as a source of potential funding for their work restoring lost wetlands. And while a number of projects have already met the requirements of the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), the world’s largest voluntary greenhouse gas program, a new tool developed by the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) will help expedite the process in the future, its architects say.

The VCS maintains stringent criteria by which carbon credits can be checked and verified by buyers, and the multi-stage verification process has in the past been a hurdle to projects seeking participation in voluntary carbon markets. The tool developed by CPRA provides a standardized methodology to both quantify carbon saved by a project and ensure that a project isn’t duplicating work that might be otherwise accomplished, either by policy or through other initiatives.

In the past, “the initial auditing exercise to approve developed projects was both complicated and lengthy,” said David Antonioli, CEO of VCS. “With this methodology, you only need to show that you meet the eligibility requirements spelled out in the methodology. That provides more certainty for the developers — you have a better understanding that your project is going to be able to generate carbon credits.”