California to Propose Lifting Ban on Alaska-based Forestry Offsets

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By Gloria Gonzalez

July 24, 2014 – Forestry projects located in Alaska – “the Land of the Midnight Sun” – could soon be allowed to provide carbon offsets to California’s cap-and-trade program.

Right now, forestry projects providing offsets to California’s program must be based in the lower 48 US states, but the staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) will propose allowing Alaska-based forestry projects into its carbon trading program. The aim is to have an update to the ARB’s forestry protocol ready for ARB board consideration in late 2014.

Both the American Carbon Registry’s (ACR) and the Climate Action Reserve’s (CAR) voluntary forest offset protocols allow for the inclusion of offset projects located in Alaska. But the ARB did not allow Alaska-based projects when considering early action methodologies and programs back in 2011 because of the absence of data from the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program of the U.S. Forest Service. The ARB staff is now working to review and finalize the data needed to include Alaska-based projects in the program, said Brieanne Aguila, Manager of the ARB’s Climate Change Program Data Section. The ARB board would have to remove the exclusion of Alaska in its forestry protocol before projects based in the state could enter the program either through the compliance or early action pathways.

To date, no Alaska-based forestry projects have been registered on ACR or CAR, although several project developers have expressed interest in potentially developing forestry projects for the California program.  ACR and CAR are designated as Offset Project Registries, which help the ARB in facilitating the listing, reporting and verification of compliance offset projects and they both also issue registry offsets, but these offsets must be converted to ARB offsets to be eligible for the cap-and-trade program.

The Verified Carbon Standard has registered and issued offsets to the Afognak Forest Carbon Project, an improved forest management project that covers more than 3,300 hectares located on the North coast of Afognak Island, Alaska. The project has a lifetime of 30 years and is expected to sequester 1.56 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the course of the project from 2006-2036, according to the verification assessment completed by the Rainforest Alliance. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and American Land Conservancy developed the project and designated Camco International Group as the project proponent representative. 

Photo: Sea lions off the coast of Afgonak Island, Alaska. Via Wikipedia.org