Friday, January 28, 2011

Maryland Governor Releases Report On Benefits Of Ecosystem Markets

Annapolis, Md. - Governor Martin O'Malley today released a first-of-its-kind assessment of Maryland's ecosystem markets - an approach that provides industry the opportunity to purchase credits to offset impacts to our natural resources. According to the report, which was prepared by the State's Ecosystems Services Working Group (ESWG), a fully developed ecosystem marketplace could have significant economic benefits in Maryland and actually be more effective than regulation alone.

"We must insert the true value of our environment into the way we do business and live to create a sustainable future," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "Ecosystem markets are a potentially powerful tool to help move Maryland Forward, so our children and theirs can enjoy the same natural wonders we enjoy today."

The report found that ecosystem markets can help offset impacts to natural resources, while also spurring economic growth and creating green jobs. Creating a credit system other industries willingly invest in - similar to existing carbon credit programs - will require expansion of the green economy and green industries to handle increased business, creating new jobs.

For example, rather than creating a one-acre wetland on-site to offset a loss caused by development, a developer could purchase a credit to help preserve a larger 30-acre wetland "bank" that is integrated into the landscape.

While ecosystems markets do exist in Maryland, there is concern that they are not operating at their full potential. Outside the $144 billion carbon market, there is currently an estimated $16.6 billion in ecosystem services projects underway nationally, which is projected to more than double by 2020.

"We are making a concerted effort to identify market solutions to help restore the Chesapeake Bay and inject economic development plans to create green jobs," said Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Deputy Secretary Joe Gill, who chaired the work group. "This initial observation will help direct efforts to maximize timely progress toward achieving these goals."

The next step is for the ESWG to develop a second report by June 2011 with a specific plan. The goal will be to identify changes in existing programs, to actively promote market-based mechanisms, and encourage the private sector and landowners to play a larger role in conservation and restoration in Maryland.

The Ecosystems Services Working Group was established in August 2010 by DNR in response to recommendations by the Governor's Green Jobs and Industry Task Force to assess the status of and make recommendations on how to encourage ecosystem markets in Maryland. Members of the ESWG include State environmental, agricultural, planning and economic development agencies; private environmental restoration and investment companies; and non-profit organizations that specialize in ecosystem markets and financing.

In addition to Mr. Gill, members of the Working Group include Dan Baldwin and Dan Rosen (Maryland Department of Planning); John Campagna (Restore Capital); Christine Conn, Dave Goshorn and Sean McGuire (Maryland Department of Natural Resources); Renee Fizer, Marya Levelev and Kelly Neff (Maryland Department of the Environment); George Kelly (EBX USA); Doug Lashley (GreenVest); Dominick Murray (Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development); Dan Nees (Forest Trends); Mary Owens (Critical Area Commission); Susan Payne and John Rhoderick (Maryland Department of Agriculture); and Marianne Dise (Office of the Attorney General).