EDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.
Although the Yurok Tribe is the largest Native American tribe by membership in California, it has struggled for centuries to keep hold of its ancestral land – an integral part of the Tribe’s livelihood. As European settlers moved in, the Yurok culture of living in unison with nature was rapidly and repeatedly challenged, as their land was taken and the natural ecosystems on which they depend were disrupted. In the New World economy that emerged, a person could make money from this acquired land in one of only three ways. The first was by cutting down the trees to harvest timber. The second was by cutting down the trees to create farmland. The third was by selling the land, most likely to someone who was hoping to cut down the trees for one of the first two purposes.
This story has played out countless times across the world, but California’s cap-and-trade program is changing the existing paradigm by creating a fourth way to derive revenue from forestland through the creation of an active carbon offsets market. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved five types of offset protocols for use in cap and trade, one of which is for U.S. forestry projects. This offset protocol gives forest landowners that meet stringent certification criteria a financial incentive to keep sustainable inventories of trees, and their carbon, on the land as opposed to cutting and hauling it all away. Companies regulated under the cap-and-trade program may purchase certified offset credits to account for a small percentage of the greenhouse gas pollution they produce. In this way, offsets can provide valuable opportunities to cut pollution while also creating valuable sources of revenue for landowners.