Can't See the Smog for the Trees?
12/23/2010—Center for Biological Diversity:
The California Air Resources Board has approved a cap-and-trade program including a ludicrous loophole that will encourage forest clearcutting in the name of reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change. The program, adopted last Thursday as part of California's effort to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions, would let industrial polluters purchase carbon dioxide "offset credits" from forest carbon projects -- including clearcutting -- instead of reducing their own emissions. The program also includes loopholes that allow big timber companies to claim carbon credit for tree growth that was already slated to occur; it lets industrial polluters dodge responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning "biomass" -- including whole, green trees -- for energy.
"Clearcutting forests is not the solution to global warming," said Brian Nowicki, California climate policy director at the Center. "At best, this will subsidize, at the expense of the people of California, some of the most damaging forest management going on today. At worst, this will incentivize the clearcutting of natural forests to be replaced by tree farms."
Giant landowners and timber cutters and their allies in the California Department of Forestry were able to convince seven out of 10 ARB commissioners to vote in favor of granting Big Timber clean-air credits for clearcutting – despite overwhelming evidence that CO2 emissions from clearcutting contribute substantially to global warming.
The seven commissioners refused to heed our warnings.
“We strongly urge the ARB to eliminate from the offset program the clearcutting of our forests as a way of sequestering carbon,” testified Forests Forever Legislative Advocate Luke Breit at the hearing. He urged the 10 ARB commissioners to “add provisions to assure that forest projects do not result in the conversion of naturally managed (uneven-aged forests) into clear-cut plantations.”
Despite an outpouring of public testimony in opposition at the hearing, the pro-clearcutting forces persuaded the ARB to condone an alarmingly bad practice.
The board voted to grant major timber companies such as Sierra Pacific Industries and Green Diamond Resource Company the right to profit from selling forest “carbon offsets” to industrial polluters unable to meet their statutory pollution-reduction goals under A.B. 32, California’s landmark law to limit greenhouse-gas emissions.
And the board’s vote will permit the timber companies to include clearcutting projects among the “offsets” sold. In the process, the timber companies stand to reap substantial windfall profits.
The ARB’s action defies common sense and good science! In its rush to judgment in favor of the timber industry, the ARB has made an egregious error and needs to be called to account.
On December 16, the California Air Resources Board will consider adopting a disastrous cap-and-trade program under AB 32, California's effort to combat climate change by reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions.
The program would allow industrial polluters to avoid reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing carbon "offset credits" -- many of which could come from forest management projects that allow clearcutting. The proposal would also allow industrial polluters to avoid greenhouse gas emissions limits by burning forest "biomass" -- including whole, live trees -- instead of fossil fuels, encouraging logging of California's forests and increasing overall greenhouse gas emissions.
As written, the forest protocols would even allow a landowner clearcutting old growth redwood to receive a carbon credit for the tree growth that would result from even-age management of the property. (I am told that the Fisher's have helped bankroll the research being conducted by Steve Sillett and others regarding the impact of redwoods on climate change and vice versa.)
Dozens of witnesses -- and several board members -- voiced opposition to the provision that would make clearcutting eligible to receive offset credits for improved forest management. The debate has split environmental groups, with the Nature Conservancy backing timber companies' and offset certifiers' position that the protocol does not encourage clearcutting.
Brian Nowicki, California climate policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity, urged ARB to remove references to "even-aged management," a term that within California means clearing adjacent areas up to 40 acres.