FCU | Carbon Program Basics

Forest Landowners Foundation

All The Basics You Need To Know About Carbon Programs

Forest carbon markets allow for businesses, municipalities, and other organizations to purchase carbon credits to offset their CO2 and other Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Landowners create forest carbon credits when they implement projects specifically to increase their forests’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and store carbon. Those projects can then be verified and monetized in the marketplace for forest carbon. A marketplace for forest carbon offsets has developed because reducing emissions of CO2 and other GHG’s can be difficult and expensive, and projects to sequester and store carbon in forests can provide a more economically viable alternative.

This market builds on the already large role in carbon sequestration forests play today. According to the US Forest Service, forests in the US capture about 16% of US emissions from burning fossil fuels (Vose et al. 2012). Forests also provide multiple ecosystem services to the public — water quality and quantity regulation, wildlife habitat that protects biodiversity, and diverse recreational opportunities.

Forest Carbon Project Types

When it comes to doing a forest carbon project, there are three project options for carbon offsets; afforestation or reforestation avoided conversion, and improved forest management (IFM) – see graphics below. The most common type is IFM. All projects must show they are sequestering more carbon than a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. There are different costs and benefits for each kind of forest project, and each has its own approach to carbon accounting (determining the amount of carbon sequestered). Figuring out which is best for your property is the first step in the process of enrolling in a voluntary carbon program.

Five Requirements of Carbon Offsets

The most fundamental aspect of a forest carbon offset project is that the forest must store more carbon than it would without the carbon offset project. This additional carbon the forest stores allows another company or entity to compensate for GHG emissions made elsewhere. This creates a private sector market that provides financial support for forests, including helping keep that land in forests. The visual below lays out the five requirements for carbon offsets.

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