Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Status of Regulated Forest Offsets

An article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle a few days ago about how two privately owned Califiornia forests have been the first to be approved to sell carbon offsets for protecting old growth forests. They were approved by the California Climate Action Registry.

I've been wondering lately whether forest offests are a fait accompli or whether there is still going to be some serious discussion about whether they will be a good tool for climate change protection and conservation. I'm still wondering...

But I also put together some information that you might find interesting. In researching a background document for a meeting I'm participating in this week, I pulled together a summary of where things are at with regulated offsets in various policy initiatives in Canada (including the Western Climate Initiative, which includes western States). Here it is:

  • Alberta: Alberta has a approved protocol for afforestation that is eligible for companies to meet emission compliance requirements. A forest management 'offset quantification protocol' was being developed by private sector proponents but has been stalled. The great flaw of the Alberta offset system is that it has no additionality test for offsets.
  • British Columbia: British Columbia released a ‘policy intentions paper’ for “Emission Offsets Regulations under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act," which commits to a carbon neutral public sector. Offsets would be available to public sector agencies. No signal has yet been given about forest offsets. This intentions paper specifically addresses additionality tests and requires replacement of credits that are 'reversed' (i.e. not permanent). These two factors puts BC's 'offset intentions' ahead of the rest in this list.
  • Ontario: In September 2007, the Ontario government announced that it would be starting pilot projects for agricultural and forest offsets. However, a recent follow-up announcement involved only agricultural offsets.
  • Western Climate Initiative (Arizona, British Columbia, California, Manitoba, Montana, New Mexico, Ontario, Oregon, Quebec, Utah, Washington): The WCI released their draft recommendations this Summer and listed afforestation, forest management, forest preservation/conservation and forest products in a list of priority areas to be considered for offset project types (Rec 9.3). Offset credits would be available to offset up to 10% emissions allocations, which could be as much as 50% as a company's emission reduction target. The recommendations make it clear that being a priority does not mean that these project types are guaranteed to be in the system
  • Canadian federal government: In August, the Canadian government released a draft guide for [offset] protocol developers. The draft guide for protocol developers includes fast track approvals for afforestation and forests (forest management, long-lived products, forest conservation). The fast-track process is based on using existing protocols that have been approved in other jurisdictions. The basis for the fast-track forest management protocol is the California Climate Action Registry's Forest Project Protocol 2.1 (forest management), which allows the following activities: conservaton-based forest management, restoration and conservation.
Photo Credit: Clinton Webb, taken from the website of The Wilderness Committee

No comments: