We all know that conserving the world’s forests is vital. Not only to preserve the delicate environments and ecosystems they support but also to reduce carbon emissions. In recent years, an added benefit has surfaced. Landowners with woodland areas on their land can sell their forest carbon to not only help reduce global carbon emissions but also turn a profit. But how does selling forest carbon work? Here we explore what selling forest carbon is like and how it can benefit landowners.
What Is Forest Carbon?
First, let’s set the scene. Trees are one of our greatest allies when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. Trees lock carbon away in their biomass (wood and vegetation) through photosynthesis, which prevents it from escaping into the atmosphere. This is known as forest carbon. Forest carbon doesn’t just refer to the carbon stored in the trees themselves – it includes the whole forest ecosystem, from the shrub layer and soil, right down to the dead vegetation on the forest floor. ² Preserving forests and the land they cover promotes healthy air, water, and soil, which will also help to combat climate change. Ensuring these forests are protected in the long term will make sure these essential functions continue to work effectively.
How Do I Go About Selling Forest Carbon?
The level of carbon dioxide trees capture can be measured and valued in carbon credits for landowners. One carbon credit equates to one tonne of carbon dioxide (or other greenhouse gas) removed from the atmosphere. These credits can then be bought and sold on carbon markets, allowing organisations all over the world to reach their own carbon emissions reduction and carbon offsetting goals. Not only that, landowners can make a profit from the sale of carbon credits on carbon markets.
With more organisations worldwide making public pledges to reduce their carbon emissions, the use of carbon markets is likely to increase rapidly in the next few years. Government policy will also be likely to help drive the increased use of carbon markets. For example, through the Paris Agreement, the European Union has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, with the goal of hitting net zero by 2050.
What Is A Forest Carbon Program?
There are many online forest carbon programs all over the world that enable landowners to sell their carbon credits. The exchanges work the same way as other stock and commodity exchanges. A forest carbon program will evaluate a landowner’s forest and give a membership offer, which will include an annual payment amount. They will then send a professional to the forest to provide an audit, which the program will manage on behalf of the landowner. Once complete, the landowner will receive their first annual payment. Going forward, the landowner will need to complete regular reports to continue receiving the annual payments.
Using a forest carbon program comes with many benefits. Programs will guide landowners through the often-complex process of selling forest carbon on the carbon markets. This assistance is invaluable to landowners who are new to the forest carbon world. Programs will also provide landowners with professional advice and guidance to help them manage their forests for the long term. The purpose of these programs is to reduce carbon emissions by storing carbon in forests, so it’s in their best interests to support their members to achieve this goal.
Landowners will often have a set of responsibilities they need to fulfil to be a member of a carbon exchange program, and these will vary depending on the program. Most of these responsibilities are around maintaining the forest and keeping it healthy. For example, if a landowner wants to carry out a commercial timber harvest in their forest, they will need to seek approval from their forest carbon program. There may also be restrictions on the use of fertiliser or the planting of non-native species, as these can upset a forest ecosystem.
What Should I Consider Before Getting Started?
Selling forest carbon is an emerging enterprise, but there are many programs that landowners can sign up to. However, no two programs are the same, and each one will have its own specific requirements landowners must meet before they can join. For example, a program may only accept applications from land that is privately owned. Before signing up for any program, landowners should take time to research programs thoroughly to see which one best suits their objectives. Seeking advice from legal and forest professionals will also allow landowners to gain insight into the process and help them make an informed decision.
Another stipulation for joining a forest carbon scheme may be that landowners need to provide a forest management plan written by an approved forester. A forester is responsible for the planning, maintenance, and preservation of forests and the resources within them. Finding a forester can be tricky at the best of times, as there aren’t that many around. In addition, because carbon markets are still a relatively new industry, finding a forester who is certified to work with forest carbon programs can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
Fortunately, foresters are becoming highly sought after as more people realise the value that their expertise can bring to safeguard trees as climate change starts to bite. The forest industry is estimated to grow 5% in the next decade, which means finding a forester in the future might not be so difficult. Foresters will charge a fee for writing a forest management plan, so this is something landowners need to keep in mind.
If you’re looking to become rich, it’s very unlikely that selling forest carbon alone will help you achieve this. Forest carbon doesn’t generate tremendous sums of money, but payments will certainly add another income stream to existing ones. The funds could be used to purchase machinery to help you maintain your forest or install fencing to protect your land. Extra income is always a bonus, but the feeling of taking practical steps to increase woodland coverage and support ecosystem restoration is a feeling you can’t buy.