The Climate Action Reserve—an organization that establishes “regulatory-quality standards for the development, quantification and verification” of emissions reduction projects in North America—is working on defining eligible forestry projects that would capture and sequester carbon emissions, thus creating offsets.
EKO’s Bayon sees a lot more activity in this sector, pointing out at least three forestry offset projects have been approved in the US, and another three that have been submitted for approval to groups like the Climate Action Reserve.
“We have a feeling there are a lot more in the pipeline,” he says, adding that his firm is currently raising a fund to invest in these projects. “Behind that, there are at least another half-dozen.”
Offset-worthy forestry management efforts include reforestation of previously harvested forest lands, “aforestation” or planting trees on non-forest lands, and “avoided conversion” that keeps forest lands from being harvested then used for other purposes.
NAFO’s Tenny says efforts that lengthen the rotations between harvests for a forest should also be considered, since “only a tiny fraction is harvested every year,” and that they should analyze the benefits of carbon sequestration “on the stump and in long-lived forest products” like lumber and other wood-based construction materials.
When it comes to products like lumber, the issue of who owns the credits—the sawysawerer or the buyer—gets dicier. So far, discussions point to the landowners getting the carbon credits for the forest projects.
While it may seem like lumber and paper firms will be the beneficiaries of this, very few of these firms still own forest resources, having divested such assets because of an unfavorable tax change
Weyerhaeuser, however, still owns potential carbon-credit-generating forest lands, as well as carbon liability operations in papermaking, lumber and housing development arms.
“We’ll be regulated under cap-and-trade but we’re a source of credits under cap-and-trade,” says company spokesman Anthony Chavez.
He agrees with Tenny that credits should stay with the landowner—Weyerhaeuser owns 6 million acres of forest—but concedes that the final determination on that is still “up in the air.”
The other main obstacle of the past, monitoring, has been overcome by new technology. Experts, for instance, cite the advent of software like Google Earth in making global monitoring quicker, broader and cheaper.
Another key change has also taken place--awareness and appreciation. It's well past the days of treehuggers.
“We can’t tell people to stop driving cars and trucks. But we can stop deforestation,” says Horowitz,“The value is in the carbon.”