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Allowing polluters to offset carbon emissions by paying forest owners effectively reduces greenhouse gases, Stanford study finds

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See more here: Carbon Offsets Really Do Help Lower Emissions Aug 15 2017 Scientific American

By Rob Jordan August 14, 2017 read full Stanford News article here

You can’t grow money on trees, but you can earn money for letting trees grow. Or at least you can through a pioneering California program that allows forest owners around the United States to sell carbon credits to companies required by the state to reduce emissions. Researchers at Stanford analyzed the program and found that the initiative has valuable environmental benefits beyond just offsetting greenhouse gases….

….“California provides the first proof of concept with a government program that credits standing forests.”

….Forest offsets, which account for the majority of offsets in California’s cap and trade market, involve forest owners changing the way they manage their land so trees will store more carbon…cutting trees less often, reforesting previously forested land or improving forests through various management practices…

For each additional ton of carbon dioxide their trees store, forest owners can earn a credit – worth about $10 currently – to sell to California companies required to reduce or offset their greenhouse gas emissions. Since it started in 2013, the program has earned forest owners about $250 million, while offsetting 25 million tons of carbon – an amount equal to 5 percent of California’s annual passenger vehicle emissions.

…Although California’s cap and trade program allows the use of forest offsets up to an amount equaling 8 percent of a polluter’s emissions, the volume issued so far is only 2 percent of total capped emissions. Because the pool of available offsets is quite small, polluters still need to reduce their own emissions directly, rather than relying on purchasing offsets. The program as a whole leads to emissions reductions that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise, the Stanford scientists found after analyzing metrics used to confirm individual projects’ robustness.

Still, Anderson and her co-authors warn against using forest offsets in large numbers because they may distract from urgent and drastic emissions reduction priorities elsewhere….

Anderson, Christa M, Field, Christopher B, Mach, Katharine J. Forest offsets partner climate-change mitigation with conservation. Front Ecol Environ 2017; 15(7): 359365, doi:10.1002/fee.1515

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