We have mentioned this before here at Forestry.com, carbon storage should be a possible source of income for forest owners. The fact is that there already are services offered where forest owners can get paid for planting new forest, fertilize the forest, or just leave it instead of cutting it down.


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Profitable carbon storage

In the US, services are offered to get paid by just letting the forest be. One example is a company named SilviaTerra that matches carbon buyers to forest landowners who wants to sell carbon storage. The landowner chooses the payment level at which he or she wants to participate and SilviaTerra tries to find a buyer who accepts that bid. When a deal is closed, an annual contract is made where the landowner takes on harvesting less volume than ordinarily planned for one year, increasing the amount of carbon stored in the forest. Upon verification of the result, the landowner receives payment for the additional carbon stored on the property.

In Sweden, there are also services offered. The company Absorb sells plants to common people and guarantee that those trees are planted on sites that are not used for anything, like unused agricultural land, meaning that new forest, and carbon storage, is created. The landowner in this case must sign a contract taking responsibility to manage that site for the purpose of storing as much carbon as possible for 50 years. For this, he receives SEK 5000 (approx. $ 500) per hectare for the whole period. That amount doesn´t even cover the planting, but on the other hand; If the landowner was planning to plant there anyway … it´s better than nothing.

Another Swedish company The Forest Solution, offer to fertilize forest land to increase the carbon storage. The offer aims for companies who wants to compensate for their environmental footprints by buying those fertilizing services.


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Carbon storage and wind mills. Could it be better?
Photo: Per Jonsson

Germany leads the way(?)

Those were only a few examples of available services in this field, by private/commercial companies. In Germany the political parties CDU/CSU and SPD have managed to enforce a decision in the parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) to investigate creating a system that rewards forest owners for ecosystem performances such as storing carbon.

The Bundestag call on the government to, on a scientific basis, create a feasible model to value the ecosystem performances. A system based on the above-mentioned model should be established, that rewards diverse ecosystem performances and notes (among other things):

– that the diverse ecosystem performances of the forest and its interaction with recreation and nature education is taken into consideration,

– that the reward is a payment tied to certain conditions,

– that the reward should be big enough to be interesting for the forest owners from a financial perspective,

– that the reward is a permanent and long-term system that aims at sustainable forest management,

– that the forest owner will have to prove to the authorities that, within a certain period of time, that his or her forest management has led to an improvement of the ecosystem performances, and that a reliable control is required before payment from the state can be received.

It is also pointed out that the reward system should be formed to secure improvement of the ecosystem performances in the forest. That means as for an example adaption to climate change and support of biodiversity. It´s also mentioned that the reforestation after the vast bark beetle damages should be made with biodiversity in mind, and the carbon storage should be long-term.

Not only gold diggers

This discussion is quite new. As in all new businesses “gold diggers” turn up. People whose main target is to gain profit for themselves – playing the environmental card to get rich.

One thing that strikes me is that buying carbon storage through forest owners to compensate for your own bad conscience, could be a way to continue letting co2 out from your business, but with less bad conscience. Wouldn´t it be better to try to decrease the emissions from your business instead? Is there a risk that the above-mentioned possibilities delay the development of getting cleaner production and cleaner factories?

I have no reason to believe that the companies mentioned above are gold diggers. I take it their intentions are good and honest. But it´s interesting that most initiatives in this direction comes from private companies, and as such they of course must be allowed to make a profit.

When a parliament like German Bundestag comes up with the same type of thoughts, but with a much wider perspective, it really starts to be interesting. The question is why we never heard of such initiatives from other governments or states before? I haven´t anyway. After all, it´s an issue that is being discussed everywhere on every level of society. So why do the governments let the private sector take all the initiatives, and the profits, in this issue?

Differences between countries

What´s interesting for me as a Swede reading about the German initiative is that the forest industry (sawmills, pulp- & papermills) is not mentioned at all. If anyone in Sweden would present an idea to pay forest owners to leave the trees in the forest, the Swedish forest industry would not be silent. They want their raw material, and they want in “now”!

In Sweden, according to the industry supported by the forest owner’s associations, there is only, and should only be, one way to make a profit from your forest – to cut it!

This discussion will for sure continue …

 

Sources: Absorb.nu, Theforestsolution.se, silviaterra.com, Bundestag.de, Forstpraxis.de, iSkogen.se