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“We have definitely seen an increase and diversification among landowners who want to capitalize on this opportunity to do well for the atmosphere by doing good forestry.”

—Connie Best, PFT Co-CEO

Land Trust Alliance


California’s Landmark Climate Regulations Embrace Forests as Key Tool for Reducing Carbon Emissions

Nation’s First Economy-Wide Cap and Trade Program will be First Compliance Carbon Market in the World to Accept Forest Carbon Emissions Reductions


SACRAMENTO (Dec. 17, 2010) – California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) voted nine to one Thursday to adopt a set of regulations that will govern the state’s landmark cap and trade system. The program will be the first economy-wide cap on greenhouse emissions in the nation. It is a key component of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, otherwise known as AB 32, which requires California to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to 1990 levels by 2020.

California is creating the first compliance carbon market in the world to include projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improved forest management as a source of carbon offsets under its climate plan. Such offsets – also called carbon credits – can provide a portion of the carbon reductions required by the adopted regulations.

Forests are essential to climate protection, because of their ability to remove carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas fueling climate change – from the atmosphere and safely store that carbon for very long periods of time.

“The Pacific Forest Trust commends the California Air Resources Board for all the extraordinary and pioneering work they have done to craft this blueprint for California’s market-based system addressing climate change,” said PFT President Laurie Wayburn. “This truly is a historic moment. It’s exciting to see California leading the way yet again with a robust cap and trade program that creates incentives for U.S. landowners to conserve and steward our forests as a vital climate defense.”

The regulations approved Thursday include a compliance offset protocol for U.S. forest projects which is used to quantify forest-based emissions reduction projects for use in the state’s cap and trade program. Such projects create permanent emissions reductions from improved forest management, reforestation, and avoided conversion of forested lands for development. The ARB Compliance Offset Protocol for U.S. forest projects is the most rigorous forest carbon offset protocol developed to date. Offset credits issued from projects developed using ARB-adopted compliance offset protocols are required to meet essential AB 32 regulatory criteria that offsets be “real, permanent, quantifiable, verifiable, and additional.”

“The ARB has crafted a strong system for governing the use of forest carbon emissions reductions that brings real value to the atmosphere and to landowners for their effort to conserve and steward private forestland,” Wayburn said. “We have worked closely with the ARB and many, many partners to develop this rigorous offset protocol. Its adoption is a crucial step towards a healthier climate and a more robust, diversified forest economy.”

ARB’s Forest Offset Protocol requires forest projects to demonstrate sustainable harvesting practices and requires the use of native tree species. Implementing a forest project does not prevent forest owners from managing their lands for timber resources, but rather allows forest owners to receive credit for actions taken to increase carbon sequestration and avoid emissions on their lands.

“The forest protocol gives a financial incentive to landowners to manage their forests with longer rotations that let trees grow older and bigger. It’s a win-win-win: climate protection through increased carbon sequestration, healthier, more natural forests and providing landowners with new revenue for sustainable forestry,” Wayburn said.

While the regulations adopted Thursday promise significant benefits for the climate, forest and forest landowners, some in the environmental community fear an element of the Protocol that allows timber companies to practice clear-cutting in specific cases on a limited area of forests they are managing as forest carbon emissions projects. Clear cuts are legal under California forest practice law, but they would not be encouraged by the carbon market. Forest offsets are credited for net gains in carbon that is absorbed and stored as trees grow larger and older.

California is counting on these forest-based emissions reductions to help meet its ambitious climate goals set by AB 32. Developed by the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) with direction from a 2001 California bill sponsored by Pacific Forest Trust, the Forest Project Protocol establishes the accounting methods used to establish how much carbon is being stored in forest sequestration projects above about beyond what would have been achieved with “business as usual” forest management.

PFT led the development of the first version of the Climate Action Reserve Forest Project Protocol – adopted by the ARB as a voluntary, early-action tool to fight climate change in 2006 – and have been intimately involved in all of the protocol revisions since then. Through our Working Forests, Winning Climate program, the Pacific Forest Trust (PFT) has been deeply engaged in the development of AB32’s provisions for ensuring our forests serve as a net carbon sink that will safely absorb and store even more carbon emissions over time.

MEDIA: PFT Vice President for Policy Gabe Petlin and PFT President Laurie Wayburn are available to comment on Thursday’s ARB vote and the California Forest Project Protocol. Call Chris Harrison at 415-561-0700 ext. 13 or e-mail to arrange an interview.