By Kayla Young
Western North Carolina is home to abundant and rich forest carbon stocks, which can be placed in forest carbon offset programs to support carbon storage and sequestration, forest health and retention, enhance the recreational and intergenerational value of forest land, and provide additional income for families. Increasing the carbon stored in forests removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and helps to mitigate against global climate change. Currently, however, the Southeastern United States has had relatively little engagement with forest carbon markets.
On October 6th, 2017, the Appalachian Carbon Research Group (ACRG) hosted the Offsets for Future Forest Stewardship and Education Together (OFFSET) Workshop at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. During a full day of multi-stakeholder dialogue, the OFFSET Workshop discussed information about voluntary and compliance forest offset programs, supported understanding about the mechanisms for participation in a forest offset project in the Southeastern United States, and facilitated expert and stakeholder discussions on the future of forest carbon offsets in the region.
Among the speakers were representatives from the Climate Action Reserve, a non-profit carbon registry, based in California; Hunter Parks, the Founder and Chairman of Green Assets, Inc., a company for designing and implementing carbon offset projects; Kevin Harnish, a Forestry Analyst with The Conservation Fund; Joe Schwartz, Forestland Analyst with The Forestland Group; Rick Huffines, the Executive Director of Tennessee River Gorge Trust; Eric Marland, Chair of the ASU Mathematics Department; and, Tani Colbert-Sangree, Program Coordinator for the Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative.
Through speaker presentations and small group activities, plenary discussion, and a survey, the workshop informed a better understanding of current barriers and sources of uncertainty for diverse interests and land use preferences—including private forest owners, land trusts, and forest industry. Factors identified by participants as ‘most important’ or ‘most uncertain’ in the future development of carbon offset projects relate to prolonged time commitments, project verification and monitoring costs, and ‘buy-in’ from other states in the Southeastern United States. Recognizing these factors of change is the first step in understanding and perhaps increasing participation in carbon offset projects in the region.
ACRG plans to utilize information gathered at the workshop to inform current and future research projects to understand carbon offset programs and markets, as well as the role of forests in helping achieve local and global climate mitigation goals.
About ACRG: The Appalachian Carbon Research Group at ASU is an interdisciplinary and collaborative group of students, staff, and faculty, who are studying carbon dioxide emissions, carbon accounting, and carbon offset possibilities. Among its accomplishments are many research papers and a recent book titled Understanding and analysis: The California Air Resources Board Forest Offset Protocol. The group’s work has been supported by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Air and Space Administration, the Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics (RIEEE) at Appalachian State University, and the Clabough Foundation.
If you have any comments or questions, contact Dr. Tatyana Ruseva at [email protected] or any other member of the ACRG. Contact information can be found at https://theoffsetworkshop.wixsite.com/theoffsetworkshop.