Climate change, also known as global warming, is occurring because we are burning the oil, gas and coal stored in the earth’s crust for heat, transportation and the manufacture of products. Burning releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that trap the heat of the sun and warm the earth’s atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that occurs naturally. However, the buildup of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from industrial activities far exceeds the natural ability of forests to capture and store carbon dioxide.
Forests store vast amounts of carbon in the trees and soil. Cutting trees for logging releases greenhouse gases and reduces the forest’s ability to capture carbon dioxide for decades.
After logging, new trees are planted, but it takes almost 20 years before the new trees are effective at sequestering carbon.
Preventing trees from being cut down is an important part of the solution to reduce the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the short term.
Many governments, companies and citizens are concerned about the volume of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and are looking for solutions that reduce emissions.
In addition to these efforts, the idea of carbon credits arose as a way to give market value to those activities that prevent or reduce the amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
A carbon credit is generally measured as one metric tonne of carbon dioxide gas or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.
Companies can assess the carbon “footprint” of their activities by measuring how many tonnes of greenhouse gases their operations release into the atmosphere in any given year. The company may then be required by law, or may volunteer, to reduce their carbon footprint by finding ways to reduce their emissions and by offsetting any remaining emissions.
A Municipality that prevents the release of a tonne of carbon dioxide can sell their carbon credits to a company somewhere else that wants or needs to ‘offset’ their emissions.
Communities have the opportunity to develop forest conservation carbon projects and sell the carbon credits that result from improved forest management. Carbon credits have monetary value, just like shares in a company that are bought and sold on the stock market.
At first glance, the carbon credit system may seem quite complex, but it is now on a path to an internationally recognized incentive system. Through high quality standards this system can decrease overall global greenhouse gas emissions, prevent further climate change and potentially generate revenue for communities through forest-related carbon credit projects.
A company that wants or needs to reduce its ‘carbon footprint’ but is either unable to reduce its green house gas emissions (because there is no alternative) or is unwilling (because of the costs), will buy carbon credits to ‘offset’ its emissions.
For example, West Coast Air conducted an audit of their business operations and determined that the majority of their emissions came from the 17 planes they operated. They implemented maintenance operations to improve fuel efficiency, then purchased carbon credits to offset the rest of their emissions to become a carbon neutral company.
Municipalities can generate and sell carbon credits by preventing forests from being cut through improved forest management practices preventing stored carbon from being released into the atmosphere.
In order for forest conservation carbon credit projects to generate the highest value in the marketplace, they must meet a set of well-recognized carbon standards that ensure the offset is genuine. The project must:
⦁ Achieve a real change compared to “business as usual” (called “Additionality”)
⦁ Prevent the activity (for example deforestation) from simply moving to another location (called “Leakage”)
⦁ Permanently reduce or avoid emissions (ie., the project provides some degree of protection from obvious risks like illegal logging and natural disturbance and doesn’t simply delay the emissions until some time in the future) (called “Permanence”)
To qualify, North Cowichan would have to designate portions of the forest off-limts to logging for 30 years.
Some carbon credit projects are called “charismatic” because they are more appealing to buyers and to the public. A charismatic carbon offset project is usually unique, has associated social and environmental sustainability benefits, takes place in unique and attractive landscapes, and works with cultures that are intriguing or admired.
Charismatic offset projects tell an attractive story and large companies will pay more to share that story as part of their own branding. Carbon credits from charismatic offset projects typically sell at higher prices. It is likely that our beautiful landscape and First Nations community will be able to attract companies willing to pay a bit more because of our unique story.
This question is currently being examined by the Municipality with consulting help from UBC Forestry and 3GreenTree Counsulting.
We will keep you up-to-date as we learn more.
pages 57 - 70 UBC Partnership Slide Show
pages 52 - 55 UBC Draft Presentation