Yesterday, the US Supreme Court ruled that the US EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. This decision starts to establish, at the national level, the framework for nation-wide action to combat and mitigate climate change.
California has been the leader in regulating CO2 emissions, and establishing a registry where entities report and certify their emissions and emission offset projects. Going far beyond what any other state has done or even the Kyoto protocol, this registry (California Climate Action Registry ) has recognized the important role that forests can play in sequestering CO and thus reducing the amount of CO2 that stays in the atmosphere.
California's forests are among the most "carbon dense" ecosystems on earth. California's giant conifers are big, and they grow (i.e. capture carbon turning it into wood) relatively fast. To recognize the important role California's forests play in climate change establishes the rationale for establishing a monetary value for healthy, standing, growing forests that could significantly help conservation efforts. On the other hand, some may argue for getting credit for "business as usual forestry practices" or establishing "carbon plantations" of non-native, quick growing trees.
As they stand the draft protocols have several requirements:
There are forest protocols for projects for reforestation, afforestation, conservation, and sustainable management, and there is ongoing research to establish a protocol for fuels reduction and fire management.
A lively debate is starting to take shape over how these protocols could and should be altered. The draft protocols were written with extensive input from many diverse forest interests. California is the first to tackle the complicated issue of how to quantify the role of forests in contributing to and mitigating climate change. The debate that we are starting to see in California is only a glimpse of what may come in the international arena.
What cannot be denied is that the carbon market is growing rapidly. Almost $30 billion dollars of CO2 were traded in 2006, and the market continues to grow rapidly. Regulations or caps on CO2 drive up the value of carbon.
The stricter the standards for measuring the climate benefits forestry projects the more likely it is that other countries and entities will agree to accept California's forestry projects as offsets. In other words, the stricter the standards, the higher the monetary value of forestland for carbon sequestration.
I'm interested to hear what people think about the potential role California's forests can play in mitigating climate change.
What do you think about the protocols?
What are the challenges, obstacles, threats, or opportunities you see in implementing or failing to adopt the protocols?