By Jenn Watt
Published Sept. 26 2017
Forests are natural carbon sinks with trees taking carbon dioxide from the air and capturing it – a process that helps to slow climate change.
This valuable role is being recognized through the Ontario government’s greenhouse gas offset protocol which will allow forest companies to offer credits that can be purchased by carbon emitters.
Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve announced last week that it would be signing up to provide the offsets through BlueSource Canada which sells credits to emitters.
According to a press release created by the two groups Haliburton Forest’s will be the first such agreement using sustainable forest management on private land.
The forest owner makes “certain commitments to ensuring a level of carbon sequestration on the property” said Haliburton Forest manager Malcolm Cockwell in an interview with the Echo.
“So in other words to make sure that the trees are growing at a particular rate and therefore sucking carbon out of the atmosphere. In exchange for that commitment one is able to calculate the number of carbon credits. A carbon credit is the equivalent of one ton of CO2 that’s been sequestered.”
In order to do this the Forest must set up a system of measurements to validate that it’s capturing the amount of carbon it says it is – some 75000 tonnes a year of greenhouse gas reductions – from its 100000-acre property.
Cockwell said his company is conducting the first steps of that process now.
“Right now we’re in the process of collecting the data; calculating exactly what’s going on inside the forest. We’re probably going to install 1000 plots – permanent sample plots – within the property and the sample plots will get re-measured at regular intervals so we know exactly how much carbon we’re sequestering each year” he said.
“At the same time we’re engaged with the provincial government in the development of the protocol and we’re also communicating very openly with the public at large and also with forests Ontario with the experiences we’re having.”
The province is expected to give more details about its protocol in December.
The demand for carbon credits comes from cap-and-trade which puts limits on emissions. For companies that cannot meet their allowed emission levels they can purchase offset credits through organizations like BlueSource.
“The impending forest management protocol [from the Ontario government] will create binding obligations on Haliburton Forest that provide the security that the GHG reductions will be permanent” the press release says.
“Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve [is] making a 100-year commitment … to maintain these very high standards of sustainable forest management” confirmed BlueSource VP Jamie MacKinnon in an interview with the paper.
Measures to be taken by the Forest to enhance carbon sequestration include “increasing the maturity of trees harvested (rotation times) improving the health and growth of the forest and harvesting less than annual growth” the release states.
Cockwell said the Forest has already been harvesting trees sustainably which puts the company farther along the path than some other woodlot owners.
“We’ve got a history of doing good forest management … that’s a big motivation for making this commitment so early in the game. We’re probably the first major forest in Canada to make a commitment like this” he said.
In the press release MacKinnon is quoted saying that the Ontario carbon market will be offering opportunities to many other woodlot owners in the future.
Cockwell hopes that Haliburton Forest’s experiences can be shared so that when the day comes that owners of smaller plots of land engage with the market they know how it works.