Atlantic Canada’s woodlot owners could benefit from the growing tendency of jurisdictions to require businesses to offset their carbon emissions, said Daimen Hardie, executive director and a co-founder of Sackville, NB-based Community Forests International.
Atlantic Canada has between 70,000 to 80,000 family woodlot owners who are ideally placed to form carbon offsetting partnerships with polluting companies, said Hardie.
He said carbon offset initiatives are being led by California, where companies that emit excessive carbon must pay a penalty or invest in projects that draw carbon from the atmosphere.
“To date, 60 million tonnes of forest offsets have been issued by the California Air Resources Board worth more than US$600 million in sales,” Hardie said.
He said this region’s mature forests, including the remnants of the Acadian forest, are diverse and stable and can store a lot of carbon.
“We have a strong carbon sink in Atlantic Canada,” he said. “Healthy old forests sequester more carbon, and young forest that’s maturing stores more carbon than young, planted trees.
“Carbon offset is like a new forest product that can be harvested, just not all at once. It’s the opposite of clearcutting. It creates a financial incentive to leave trees growing and curb clearcutting.”
Hardie said the income generated for regional woodlot owners participating in such schemes would depend on the price of carbon. In any case, in order to access the regulated carbon markets, Atlantic Canada would need to sign up to the standards outlined in the Western Climate Initiative (WCI).
WCI was founded by several U.S. states in 2007 with the aim of finding ways to reduce their greenhouse gases. WCI now includes Canadian signatories Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba, although only Quebec has taken steps to implement the program.
Hardie said that Forests International has been working with companies that have voluntarily chosen to reduce their carbon footprint since 2012. This work has saved 700 acres of old forest and generated revenue of $350,000, he said.
“We’ve been leaders in this field, selling into the voluntary market. We want this opportunity to be extended to small family woodlots. To do that, we need to serve a larger regulated market,” he said.
He said Forests International is building a support network to move on developing this opportunity if and when it arises, while also developing the voluntary market.
Forests International was founded by a group of New Brunswick tree planters passionate about using forests to fight climate change. The group helps rural communities in Canada and East Africa, specifically Tanzania, create enterprises that help combat climate change.
Despite being a non-profit, Forests International has started spinning out certain ideas to commercialize valuable innovation.
The group has recently launched Jaza Energy, a startup that is focused on delivering solar power to the world’s poorest communities.
“They’re commercializing the technology,” Hardie said of Jaza co-founders Jeff Schnurr and Sebastian Manchester. “They’re raising capital and bringing energy to way more people than we could in-house.”
Hardie, who is from rural Port Elgin in New Brunswick and still lives in the forest with his wife Estelle Drisdelle, who is a Forests International co-founder and homestead farmer, is delighted to be able to stay in New Brunswick after studying international relations at Mount Allison in Sackville. “Our partners in Africa and the European Union allow us to remain here and work on global issues with the global community,” he said.
“The challenges of climate change are huge. But forests are our greatest allies, and there are opportunities in the challenge. We can build our own ecosystem to fight climate change.”