DIAMOND BAR, CALIF. - The Air Resources Board adopted an updated Forest Project Protocol today at its monthly hearing in Diamond Bar, Calif., that opens up the voluntary offsets market to private landowners, public lands and out-of-state projects.
Today's adoption will expand the protocol to allow forestry projects throughout the country. There are currently two certified forests accredited under the previous protocol in Humboldt and Mendocino counties. The amount of sequestration credits will vary from one project to the next, depending on the types of trees that are growing, density of the forest and other factors.
"Landowners, forestry experts, academics, environmentalists and government agencies all came together to produce a protocol that will capture and store millions of CO2 emissions every year through cost-effective, sustainable forestry practices," said acting ARB Chairman Barbara Riordan. "Once again, California is leading the way in introducing innovative yet common sense solutions to the global climate change crisis. This protocol guarantees that any verified forest projects will meet rigorous and conservative accounting standards."
The updated protocol removes some of the barriers to participation, such as the requirement for conservation easements, and now allows public lands to apply for registration. One promising project involves re-foresting and storing carbon in Cayumuca State Park outside of San Diego, which was ravaged by wildfires in 2003.
The revised protocol also opens up the forestry offset market to private and public lands across the country. "Global warming knows no boundaries, nor should the country's only government-approved forestry protocol," Riordan added.
Finally, the protocol ensures that all projects must result in increased on-site carbon stocks and promotes "natural forest management," managing for a diversity of species and age classes, which will improve forest health through increased habitat and watershed protections.
Forests actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, a process known as "forest carbon sequestration." This occurs when trees absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, storing the carbon as wood. Forests also give off carbon dioxide, from decomposing leaf matter on the forest floor for example.
The protocol adopted by the Board today set forth scientifically rigorous approaches to accurately measure the amount of net carbon captured in a forest. The protocol was developed by the Climate Action Reserve (formerly known as the California Climate Action Registry) over the past six years through a public process and expert review and was originally approved by the Board of Forestry in 2004.
The Board had adopted a previous version of the protocol in 2007. At that time, the Board directed ARB staff to form a workgroup to update the protocol, with a focus on expanding applicability to allow greater landowner participation, particularly for public lands and private working forests. The protocol update accomplishes these goals, and has also significantly improved some of the accounting methodologies, which will allow for many rigorous projects to be developed on forestlands throughout the United States.
Projects developed in Humboldt and Mendocino counties are already being used by private individuals and companies to offset carbon emissions produced elsewhere.
For more information, please visit ARB's Compliance Offset Program.
The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.
The energy challenge facing California is real. Every Californian needs to take immediate action to reduce energy consumption. For a list of simple ways you can reduce demand and cut your energy cost, see our web site at http://www.arb.ca.gov