NW company becomes first to utilize carbon credits

By Oregon Small Business Association,

In a recent transaction in the Pacific Northwest, Jefferson Land Trust sold 400 metric tons of timber resources.  What makes the deal remarkable is that it didn’t sell any wood—instead the sale was for the carbon stored in the trees.  It was the first direct purchase of carbon credits by a Pacific Northwest company and the first on the North Olympic Peninsula.  Shorebank Enterprise Cascadia, a non-profit financial institution that promotes economic opportunity and a healthy environment, purchased the carbon from the land trust.  In return, the company offsets three years of its carbon dioxide emissions.

Although the company had previously analyzed its operation and adopted efficiencies to reduce its carbon use as much as possible, some carbon use could not be avoided.  “With this purchase of carbon offsets, we are paying the environmental cost of doing business,” Shorebank’s Mark Bowman told The Statesman Journal.

Carbon offsets enable individuals and businesses to reduce the CO2 emissions they are responsible for by offsetting, reducing or displacing the CO2 in another place.  Carbon offsets typically include renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects.

Trees naturally collect carbon in the photosynthesis process, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, absorbing the carbon as they grow and locking up greenhouse gases that might otherwise contribute to environmental damage. Carbon is released when the trees are eventually cut down.  In a carbon trade, the owner of the forest is paid to delay harvesting for the contracted amount of time so that the forest will continue to hold the carbon.  In this transaction, the contracted amount of time is 100 years.

According to The Statesman Journal, all forests store carbon in their trees and soil, but the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest have the greatest carbon accumulations of any ecosystem on Earth.

Back in 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both came under fire for flying in private jets to promote their state’s environmental efficiency credentials, emitting tons of carbon in the process.  To silence their critics, both announced they had purchased carbon credits from the Van Eck Forest in Humboldt County.

Ideally, carbon emission offsetting should be used to offset the unavoidable CO2 pollution after all other possible alternative efficiencies have been exhausted.  The danger of carbon offsetting is to postpone real solutions to solve the problem of global warming and other pollution.

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