With climate change occupying a prominent space on the current political stage, the potential for forest owners to benefit from emerging carbon markets has become top of mind for many. As viable carbon markets become established, forest owners will have an opportunity to earn additional income while helping to diminish the adverse effects of climate change through the sequestering of carbon by growing long-lived woody species. Benefits accrue not only to the individual, but to the wider community as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is reduced.
In emerging carbon crediting schemes, credits are received by the forest owner in exchange for implementing perennial vegetations on his or her land; credits are then sold in the open market. The credits are usually based on tree plantings, but other systems – including enhancement of soil organic matter, perennial grass plantings and underground carbon traps (including large bodies of water) – are being studied by researchers, policy makers and governments. The individual forest owner typically deals with an ‘integrator,’ a larger organization which markets large amounts of carbon and functions as a cooperative or marketing board. To date, most of the carbon offset projects in Canada have focused on public or corporate-held forests. Approaches to carbon crediting in the private land forestry context, meanwhile, are in their infancy – a great opportunity for the EOMF to lend its expertise in the design and delivery of programs involving private landowners.
The EOMF’s Forest Science Committee is playing a lead role in exploring opportunities for forest owners in eastern Ontario to benefit from emerging carbon markets. The EOMF could, for example, serve as a pilot area for testing viable approaches, and potentially act as the ‘integrator’ for landowners in the region, in much the same fashion as we do now in the context of our Forest Certification Program. There are many issues to be addressed including the schedule of payment to landowners, the ‘security’ of carbon sequestered (e.g., given risks associated with pest outbreaks and other natural disasters), the alienation of land for long periods of time, and the transfer of ownership, among others. These issues will likely be resolved on a larger scale than that with which the EOMF deals; nevertheless, the great strength the EOMF offers is its ability to bring people together to articulate their views – providing an important vehicle for influencing policy directions.
Click here for an article on the subject by Dr. Peter Hall, Chair of the EOMF Forest Science Committee: CarbonAccounting_Dec 2010.pdf
Below are some other useful references on carbon offsets.
- Forest and Urban Tree Carbon Project Protocol (Tree Canada)
- A Framework for Forest Management Offset Protocols (Canadian Council of Forest Ministers)
- A Landowner’s Guide to Carbon Sequestration Credits (Central Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership)