Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Community Forestry International: Actively Managing Forests Promoting Larger Forests Faster for More Carbon Storage

November 21st, 2016
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Community Forests International’s 705 acre woodlot near Sussex has stored carbon to the tune of $300,000. (photo credit: Zach Melanson)

When Jeff Schnurr returned to Canada after travelling the world, he wondered if it was possible to  encourage people to grow more forests than they cut down. He’d spent a considerable amount of time on the island of Pemba off the coast of Tanzania, helping its population reforest its land. In 2008 the locals had realized that if they didn’t take action soon, their island would be completely deforested. Soils would become unworkable, freshwater would be scarce, and employment for the islanders would be difficult to come by. His experience helping reforest Pemba made him realize the value of keeping trees in the ground.

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Dale Prest cutting wood from Community Forests International’s 705 acre carbon forest property near Sussex NB (photo credit: Zach Melanson)

He started looking around his home province of New Brunswick for ideas and met Clark Phillips and Susan Tyler, who’d been actively managing their forest of 100 acres since the 1970s.  They were now looking to retire, but they were resistant to sell to their neighbours, as they were clear-cut loggers. The amazing thing about their forest was that they had managed it so well that it was the age of a 60-year-old forest — twice as old as it actually was — holding significantly more carbon in its trees than a younger forest and therefore, more highly valued.

I was curious to know how a forest could age so rapidly, so Jeff explained, “Fast growing trees like field spruce and white pine, grow up in the first few years creating a shade canopy under which the slower growing trees such as oak, maple, and hemlock start to grow. In a forest left naturally, it takes a while for these slower growing trees to get out from under the faster-growing ones, but once they do, they take off. In a managed forest, we clear the canopy earlier so the slower growing trees have access to light and can grow faster.” These slow growing trees store far more carbon in them than their scraggly, fast growing counterparts. The cleared trees are sold to either a local sawmill or a pulp and paper mill, depending on where the market is.

What makes this model special is the fact that the trees are valued for the carbon they store, rather than for the wood they produce. As carbon markets develop, Jeff hopes this business model will encourage woodlot owners to keep their trees in the ground instead of clear-cutting them. To value that carbon, Jeff and the team at Community Forests International

set out to come up with a way to quantify and value that carbon, where like-minded companies could buy carbon credits.

Valuing Stored Carbon

Buying carbon offsets has always been a contentious issue for companies and government bodies looking to achieve carbon neutral status in their operations. Critics say that it’s too tempting to use carbon offsets instead of addressing your in-house carbon emissions and therefore you’re not tackling the real issue. Then there’s the flipside where some carbon offset companies are said to be offering  “questionable” offsets (see this David Suzuki article for more details). As a carbon offset purchaser, it can be difficult to know where to purchase them from. Jeff wanted to make sure that CFI was as transparent as possible so that purchasers could be confident that the carbon offsets they purchased were actual offsets and not just carbon storage that would be there anyway. They are enrolled in the Chain of Custody program through Forest Stewardship Council, and their program is audited by the New Brunswick Community Land Trust.

CFI looks at what a typical forest’s carbon storage of the same age and same geographical location and uses that as a baseline carbon number to start valuing its carbon storage. With baseline carbon storage established they do site visits and aerial visits of their own forest. Through density evaluations, they can accurately assess the amount of additional carbon their forest stores. It’s this excess carbon that companies are purchasing. As the forest grows, more carbon is stored in the trees, the forest becomes more valuable.

Jeff’s goal is to demonstrate that storing and selling carbon makes keeping trees in the ground and selective cutting more financially viable. I asked him why most forestry companies don’t do what he does. Jeff admitted that it’s an expensive way to manage a forest. “It wouldn’t be possible to operate a typical forest this way.” Traditional forests are clear cut and left to regenerate over a 60 year period. They are pretty much left to their own devices.” Jeff said that by contrast, their forests have evaluators in them every year. “We take a look at what’s going on, how much more carbon is being stored, which trees can come down.” CFI also values its stand on a 100-year life cycle versus the typical 60-year cycle.

What does the future look like?

CFI aims to demonstrate the value in keeping trees in the ground and actively managing a forest. In places where there are regulated carbon markets, the chances for this type of system to flourish is greater. With the Canadian government announcing its new carbon pricing policy to be implemented by 2018, all provinces will be looking at different carbon storage solutions providing incentives for foresters to preserve trees instead of cutting them. When carbon is monetized, growing trees will become a valuable practice, and learning how to store carbon faster will be appealing to farmers.  “There are over 40,000 private woodlot owners in New Brunswick. We’re hoping that the smaller producers will see value in actively managing their forests to store carbon rather than clear cutting full sections at a time.”

Jeff’s hope is that even the larger forestry companies will see value in actively managing their stock and leaving as much in the ground as possible to provide carbon offsets for those who need it.

CFI provides a new business model for valuing stored carbon. As Canada seeks to meet its carbon reduction commitments it agreed to at COP 21, CFI’s model becomes timely, relevant and financially viable in a carbon constrained environment.

For more information on Community Forests International, please visit the website and read their latest press release on what valuing  carbon could mean for New Brunswick.

Jeff Schnurr presented “Strengthening Symbiotic Flows: Valuing Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital” at the Green Building Festival in Toronto in September, 2016.

Trump, climate and us: A letter to those who won’t give up

November 16th, 2016

I am a volunteer with the Climate Reality Project – an organization dedicated to educating the world about climate change and the science behind it. Its goal is to dispel the myth that it doesn’t exist, or, according to Donald Trump, a hoax invented by China. Like many who work in some way or another trying to get greenhouse gasses under control, I have been thinking a lot about the consequences of the recent US election and what it will mean for the progress we’ve made, especially over the last year.

On November 9th, Karel Mayrand, the President of the Board of Directors of the Canadian chapter of Climate Reality Project, wrote some encouraging news. Below, with permission from the Climate Reality team, I am sharing his blog post. Thank you, Karel, for sharing your thoughts.

Trump, climate and us: A letter to those who won’t give up

Like me, you likely woke up before sunrise this morning, opening your eyes in the dark to confirmation that the nightmare is real.

Like you, last night I felt sick to my stomach. I felt a strong sense of anxiety for my sleeping children, who also went to bed anxious. What future will we be leaving them?

I’m writing to you today because I need you to know that this new obstacle will not stop us. I need you to hear the truth — that we are millions, that we will not abandon our values of justice and inclusion, or ever stop working to protect all life on Earth. » Read more: Trump, climate and us: A letter to those who won’t give up

Thought Provoking Keynote Address at Greenbuild

October 12th, 2011

Greenbuild NEXT International Expo was jam-packed with places to go, people to see and things to do. There was absolutely not one dull moment to be had. To give you an idea of how big this conference has become, there were about 25,000 attendees, 1700 exhibitors, 105 education sessions available over 4 days.

The opening keynote address included an opening statement by Rick Fedrizzi, the President and CEO of the US Green Building Council, an opening keynote speech by Thomas Friedman and a roundtable discussion including Mr. Friedman, former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, and Dr. Paul Farmer, moderated by Cokie Roberts. To top off the evening there was an excellent performance by Maroon 5, a band dedicated to lowering its carbon footprint, singing out on behalf of Haiti, and leading green lifestyles. I never knew that, I’ve always just enjoyed their music.

Tom Friedman was the highlight of the evening for me. He spoke about how it wasn’t a coincidence that the current economic and environmental crises are occurring at the same time. Regarding environmental sustainability, we are borrowing against our grandchildren’s future with the attitude being “IBG” — meaning “I’ll be gone” so it doesn’t matter. On the economic side of things, several practices and changes have meant that we no longer practice restraint with our accounting — both personally and corporately. There has been a generational shift to sloppy accounting practices resulting in events like the sub-prime lending fiasco; instant gratification is the norm, spend now, catch up later, especially since money is cheap. But we never end up catching up.

Mr. Friedman quoted some scary statistics that came out in a World Wildlife report. We are currently consuming 25% more natural resources than our earth can regenerate. We are creating a smaller and smaller base of natural resources from which an ever increasing world population must live on.

The way to fix this problem is with price signals — pricing natural resources so that the consequences of taking them out of the natural environment or adding CO2 into the atmosphere is reflected in the price of any product. Natural resources are not finite, despite the fact that they have always been valued that way. As Mr. Friedman notes, the way our current financial system works, we under price our natural resources while the financial gains are privatized by corporations and the losses are socialized (weather extremes leading to hurricanes, drought, etc.) becoming government and therefore, tax payer burdens.

He aptly notes that while a price signal is the key to changing human behaviour, we shouldn’t be looking for it any time soon. This current American (and Canadian for that matter) administration isn’t about to radically overhaul the pricing structure before they’re out of office. Let’s face it, a price signal right now would be political suicide — even if it is necessary.

He compared the IT industry with the “green revolution” by saying the difference is that with the IT revolution you got a product that had a function that was seen as beneficial such as cell phones, personal computers and all the software and technology that’s developed around these devices. At the end of the day with the green revolution, all you’re getting is the same things you already have: heat, cooling, lighting, transportation. Where is the incentive in converting to cleaner methods if the price signals aren’t there? To me it’s like when you take your car to the mechanic’s to get some work done and all you get back is a working car and a big fat bill; nothing visually has changed, and your bank account has decreased a little. It can feel deflating. (Don’t you think the least mechanics could do is vacuum the inside of your car just to make it look like you’ve gotten something for your money?)

So, after this frank lecture, which was pretty depressing because he was stating the reality of the economic and environmental mess we’re currently in, he did offer some hope. On his travels across the US, he meets lots of fascinating and ingenious people. People with ideas about how to solve the world’s problems while still earning a decent living. He’s glad that these grass roots people “didn’t get the message” that a price signal was necessary to overhaul our problems. Maybe our ingenuity will save us after all. So, to all of you inventors, keep on inventing and us find our way out of this mess we’ve created.

 

 

Weekly Round Up of Eco Building and Other Eco News from around the Web

May 1st, 2011

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the ecosphere. Keeping up with what’s happening in green building and on the environmental front would be a full-time job in itself. Here are a few of some of the thought-provoking the articles from the last week.

Nearly Net Zero Energy Home: http://www.jetsongreen.com/2011/04/boleyn-solar-home-happy-valley.html. This is an excellent example of a good looking nearly “zero net energy” house. A zero net energy home is defined as a home that produces the same amount of energy as it uses. This one comes close with a combined electric and heating bill of $263 per year.

US Energy Production Mix 2011 and 2035: http://www.grist.org/climate-energy/2011-04-22-chart-of-the-day-the-u.s.-energy-mix-in-2035: I admit that I’m a numbers geek, so I love these two pie charts on Grist that show the make up of the US energy mix now and predicted for 2035. The big take away is that natural gas will have more of a presence and coal less. I guess my own disappointment is that renewables are still predicted to make up only 11% of the entire energy supply mix. Eleven percent? Can’t we do any better than that?

Living Future Conference 2011: http://www.buildinggreen.com/live/index.cfm/2011/4/29/Postcards-from-the-Unconference: Building Green people are attending the “Living Future ‘Unconference,'” in Vancouver this week. I admit that I’ve never heard of the event, but once I read about it, I will now be paying very close attention. Basically, the conference is a way to bring visionaries together who look beyond “green buildings” and towards how do we rejuvenate cities to be healthy urban environments?

Stop Climate Change — What you can do: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/top-10-ways-you-can-stop-climate-change/: From Earth Day, a list of the top ten things you can do to stop climate change. Really? We can stop climate change by eating local/organic and carpooling? The list of actions is symbolic of course — yes you should eat less meat and use the car less and it will make you feel like you’re actually doing something about it, but we should also be putting pressure on governments and corporations to lead by example. The last action: donate to your favourite environmental not for profit organization.

Why use an Energy Monitor: http://blog.practicallygreen.com/2011/04/top-action-save-money-avoid-surprises-when-you-use-a-home-energy-monitoring-device-to-track-electricity-usage/: I couldn’t write a weekly round up without pointing to my own article, could I? For Practically Green’s action: use an energy monitoring device I wrote about why this is an important step. After all, if you’re trying to figure out how to reduce your own energy consumption at home, you have to know what’s consuming  all the energy. In the “Comments Section” one reader notes that one watt of power in Massachusetts produces 11 pounds of carbon in the air. It all depends on your state or province’s energy production mix, but it’s a good number to think about. Imagine how much energy is wasted (and CO2 pumped into the air) because we leave TVs and computers on standby all the time.

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