Carbon for sale
October 2, 2008
Selling carbon credits could be a new revenue stream for managing Sierra forests and preventing catastrophic wildfire.
The Sierra Business Council has launched the Sierra Nevada Carbon Cooperative starting with Waddle Ranch in the Martis Valley. The group touts the strategy as a way to dissuade deforestation and create revenue to maintain healthy forests.
“Waddle Ranch is part of a larger project partnering with private land owners, land trusts, and land managers to capture the value of carbon services,” said Steve Frisch, president of the Sierra Business Council. “That can then become a source of revenue for land owners or funding for managing forest health, fire prevention, thinning, or watershed health.”
Along with the Heart K Ranch preserved in Plumas County by the Feather River Land Trust, Waddle Ranch could kick off the collaborative, Frisch said.
Betony Jones, director of program development at the Sierra Business Council, said a collaborative will make getting into the emerging carbon credit market easier for land owners.
“You have to insure the carbon stored, and in the Sierra fire is a big risk, so you have to insure against that,” Jones said. “Each land owner would set aside a buffer they agree not to sell and that combines into a giant pool.”
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Frisch said properties of 600 to 5,000 acres make the most sense for carbon sequestration, and the Sierra Business Council is looking for more properties to join up.
“This can be thought of as a land preservation strategy ” but another way to look at it is as a large-scale tool,” Frisch said.
Carbon credit income won’t likely prove more profitable than development or other land uses, but Frisch said it will augment other uses from sustainable timber harvest to open space management.
“Carbon is not enough to pay for land in the Sierra outright,” Jones said.
But while selling carbon credits makes sense as a new source of revenue, critics question whether or not it makes sense to allow polluters to purchase these credits to offset their emissions.
Frisch said California Assembly Bill 32 will require polluters to both reduce and offset emissions, however, and credits aren’t just about what the trees are taking in.
“You’re reducing emissions by reducing sprawling development and increasing sequestration,” Frisch said.
The management that goes into carbon credit-holding forests is also meant to prevent the catastrophic release of carbon in a fire, he said.
“It’s not just input ” it’s output too,” Frisch said.
In Waddle Ranch’s case, not only does the carbon the forest takes in count ” it’s also the carbon averted by stopping somewhere between 300 and 800 homes and a golf course from being built, Jones said.
The 1,462-acre Waddle Ranch was preserved from development with collaborative efforts led by the Truckee Donner Land Trust to meet the $23.5 million price tag.
One of those contributors was the Truckee Tahoe Airport District, which now holds the rights to the land’s carbon credits.
Right now the airport is going through the process of getting the carbon storage volume of Waddle Ranch inventoried and verified, said Dave Gotschall, airport general manager.
“I think we’re still more than a year off, we’re not in a position that we have to sell so we can wait and see where things are after the election,” Gotschall said.
Plants take in carbon dioxide as a part of their biological processes, releasing oxygen and storing carbon. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that many scientists believe is linked to climate change.
The mixed-conifer forests typical to the Sierra Nevada store about 150 to 200 tons of carbon per acre.
The Sierra Business Council is anticipating selling carbon credit for between $9.70 and $12 per ton.
It costs between $60,000 and $100,000 to get started with an inventory and plan to manage the property.
” Information from the Sierra Business Council
Seven Western U.S. states and four Canadian provinces proposed a comprehensive program to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, manufacturers and vehicles.
The Western Climate Initiative would establish a regional market to trade carbon emissions and is designed to keep costs down for those affected. It covers more polluters than other regional plans adopted in the United States and Canada.
The plan sets the parameters for a so-called cap-and-trade program designed to help cut the region’s emissions below 2005 levels by 2020 while keeping costs down for those affected.
The cap-and-trade greenhouse gas reduction program, which aims to hold carbon dioxide emissions steady through 2014 and then gradually reduce them, is widely viewed as a model for future programs around the globe.
The plan was drafted by Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington state, and the four Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec which have joined the program in the last 18 months.
” Associated Press