The Family Forest Carbon Program announced this week it has received concept note approval on a new innovative methodology on measuring carbon sequestered by family forests from Verra, the non-profit organization that oversees the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), the world’s leading voluntary program for the certification of greenhouse gas emissions reduction projects.
"Nearly all small family forest owners are left out of current carbon markets due to high cost and complexity," said American Forest Foundation's Family Forest Carbon Program director Christine Cadigan. "Yet carbon markets could provide landowners with needed income to help them care for, and conserve, their land. Finding a solution to this, is key to our program success."
The Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP), a joint venture between the American Forest Foundation (AFF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a new program to address climate mitigation through family-owned forestland, providing companies an opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment and reduce their carbon footprint.
More specifically, the program helps small family forest owners participate in a previously inaccessible carbon market. The Family Forest Carbon Program unlocks access to this market by taking a practice-based approach whereby forest landowners in the program receive incentive payments to implement specific sustainable forestry practices that increase carbon storage. Monitoring of carbon is then calculated based on targeted measurement of forest stock changes, rather than more time-intensive traditional forest carbon inventories. This reduces the costs to landowners by 75%.
With a focus on efficiency and accuracy, AFF and TNC have been working with Verra to review and validate this new approach and methodology is robust and credit, in order to provide companies with verified carbon credits for purchase.
“The Family Forest Carbon Program is a great initiative that can help small- and mid-size family-owned forests advance critically important climate action,” said David Antonioli, CEO of Verra. “These forest owners have had a hard time accessing carbon finance, and this methodology has the promise of opening up new pathways to finance forest conservation and restoration, which is both exciting and timely.”
In innovating to design this new methodology that accommodates the constraints of small land holdings, the Family Forest Carbon Program team has developed unique elements that not only help to cut costs for landowners, but could strengthen global approaches to carbon measurement in the future, including:
- Applicability across a wide range of forest management practices, taking a broad landscape-scale approach that captures impacts from various potential practices;
- A more robust quantification option compared to approaches reliant on growth and yield modeling;
- Simplified and standardized approaches to additionality and emission reduction estimates
“The Family Forest Carbon Program team is committed to producing a workable methodology to engage America’s 290 million acres of family-owned forest in material climate mitigation. TNC’s latest science suggests natural climate solutions, and specifically forests, provide the greatest opportunity to realize carbon sequestration and storage benefits immediately,” says Peter Ellis, Lead of TNC’s Global Natural Climate Solutions Science Team. “Improved natural forest management tools like those developed by the Family Forest Carbon Program are unlocking the action we need now to deliver measurable climate benefits, and they have huge potential to scale in ten years we have, to meet the global challenge of climate change.”
AFF and TNC are currently piloting this program in Pennsylvania to ensure the approach works seamlessly for landowners while maintaining credibility. AFF and TNC will continue working with Verra on the methodology approval process, with the goal of achieving final VCS inclusion later in 2020.