COLUMBIA, S.C. – Clemson Cooperative Extension experts are holding a second workshop to show South Carolina forest landowners how participating in the carbon market can provide a new revenue stream while helping combat climate change.
A Carbon Market for South Carolina workshop is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon May 9 at The Lakehouse at Clemson’s Sandhill Research and Education Center, 900 Clemson Road, Columbia. The cost is $25. Seating is limited. To register, go to http://bit.ly/ClemsonCarbonMarket.
Marzieh Motallebi, an assistant professor at Clemson’s Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science, said the workshop will inform landowners about the amount of carbon sequestered due to various forest management activities. Carbon sequestration occurs when carbon is absorbed from the atmosphere.
Forest owners will learn how they can create and trade carbon offsets, also known as carbon credits. Carbon sequestration and the sale of carbon credits could be beneficial to society in many ways, including combating climate change, enhancing wildlife habitat, improving soil quality and conserving biodiversity.
“We are going to talk about the benefits of joining the carbon market for landowners,” Motallebi said. “We want to show forest landowners how they potentially can be sellers of carbon credits from their forest areas.”
A fact sheet, Carbon Offsets for South Carolina Family Forest Landowners, written by Motallebi and Clemson postdoctoral researchers Mustapha Alhassan and Hamed Majidzadeh, explains carbon offsets and why they are important.
“By participating in the carbon market, South Carolina family forest owners will have an opportunity to reduce climate change impacts if they decide to create and sell forest offsets,” Motallebi said.
Offsets can be sold through credit developers. A buyer can be an end user, which is the regulated entity in the California Cap-and-Trade Program (CA-CTP). For more information, go to http://bit.ly/ClemsonCarbonOffsets.
Not all forests are eligible to participate in this market, Motallebi said. Forest landowners should conduct an inventory of their forests and based on the amount of carbon they sequester each year, they can receive credits.
“They also should get specific certification to join this market,” she said. By joining this market, forest landowners are required to put their forests under a long-term easement (e.g. for 100 years).
All of these will be explained during the workshop, she said. In addition to Motallebi, who will talk about the good and bad of the carbon market, other speakers include Sarah Wescott, climate program manager of the Climate Action Reserve in California.
“I’ll be addressing some fundamental basics about the carbon market,” Wescott said. “I also will provide a comparison of the California compliance offset market to the voluntary offset market. My presentation will also serve as a sort of Forest Offset Projects 101, laying some of the groundwork on forest carbon basics and covering some standard requirements for forest projects.”
Since the Climate Action Reserve was created in 2001, Wescott said both compliance and voluntary carbon markets have grown in size, in terms of volume of credits transacted and number of projects registered.
“The reserve’s rigorous and transparent protocol development process brought confidence to these markets by fostering a robust science and policy community to create project and accounting standards, quantification tools and an accessible public credit registry,” she said.
Information about the Climate Action Reserve shows that in 2016, the Reserve issued voluntary credits commanded 48 percent of total volume transacted in North America, equivalent to $14.2 million in market value. Additionally, there has been an average of 57 percent year over year growth in voluntary credit use by companies and organizations in the Reserve registry between 2010-2017.
“The carbon offset program will probably be of most interest to South Carolina landowners who have some conservation-based goals,” Wescott said. “The program can also be great for providing long term funding into the future via the sale of carbon credits, so this aspect may be appealing to landowners who have considered how their properties will be sustainably managed into the future.”
In addition to Wescott, other guest speakers include Hunter Parks, founder and chairman of Green Assets, and Michael Dawson, center director of the Audubon Center Sanctuary-Francis Beidler Forest. Parks will talk about the carbon market mechanism and how this market functions. Dawson will talk about South Carolina’s experience in the carbon market.
Some forest projects in South Carolina have already sold carbon credits in the California’s carbon market through carbon developers. The Francis Beidler Forest sold about 450,000 carbon credits for no less than $8 per credit in California’s carbon market in 2014 through a San Francisco carbon developer company known as Blue Source. Brookgreen Gardens also sold 162,551 carbon credits in California’s carbon market in 2015 through the Green Assets carbon developer company.
Forestry is a major contributor to the South Carolina economy. Information provided by the Forestry Association of South Carolina shows the total economic impact of South Carolina’s forest industry is valued at more than $21 billion annually. Data from the South Carolina Forestry Commission shows 88 percent of the state’s forests are privately owned and 63 percent of these private forest are family owned.
–Denise Attaway, Clemson University