Sell carbon-eating value of Vermont trees? Proceed carefully, working group says

By Guy Page

January 9, 2020 – Fight global warming by growing more trees and selling their ‘carbon sequestration’ value to climate-conscious carbon emitters? Vermont should move forward – carefully.

That’s the gist of the final report of a legislative study committee published Jan. 4. It, and its seven recommendations, were presented yesterday to the House Energy & Technology Committee.

“Keeping forests as forests and promoting forestry practices that best sequester and store carbon are crucial to Vermont’s efforts to mitigate climate change and protect important state natural resources,” the Vermont Forest Carbon Sequestration Working Group report declared.

Trees consume the C02 produced by people, animals and fossil-fuel combustion and emit oxygen. Vermont is 75% forest (4.46 million acres.) In fact, trees consume half of Vermont’s total C02 emissions, the report said.

Therein lies an opportunity to offset CO2 emissions and make money.

Some climate change activists, landowners, and foresters would set a monetary value – a “carbon credit” – for every ton of CO2 consumed by trees. At auctions, states, carbon ‘polluters’ buy carbon credits to offset their own carbon emissions. So they can say, ‘for every ton of CO2 we emit, we sequester a ton of CO2 in a forest up in Vermont.”

But Vermont’s not quite ready to jump into the big carbon markets.

For example, The State of California operates a complex, expensive auction geared more to huge forest lots found in bigger states. Questions remain about how a carbon credit system would affect taxation and forest management. Winter trees don’t eat as much carbon as warm-weather forests. The working group recommends the State of Vermont:

  1. Educate Vermonters by preparing and providing information about forest carbon sequestration.
  2. Develop a plan by 2022 for a pilot carbon offset project on one parcel of state land.
  3. Help towns and cities develop pilot carbon offset projects for their own land.
  4. Explore public-private partnerships with groups experienced with carbon offsets.
  5. Prevent “double counting” of carbon sequestration. Carbon credits shouldn’t be sold to more than one entity.  
  6. Protect landowners by not hindering taxation of forest land at its current use value.
  7. Allocate more money for staff and other resources to do the work listed above.

Landowners should not be compelled to participate, the study also recommended. The working group of lawmakers, environmentalists, and forest industry experts was led by Forest & Parks Commissioner Mike Snyder.