California’s cap-and-trade program pays loggers to clearcut old-growth forests
Timber industry lobbyists clinched a nice little victory in Sacramento four years ago, and now forests and the climate are paying the price.
Under California’s cap-and-trade program, which began in late 2012, timber companies can earn carbon credits by felling forests and chopping down old-growth trees — and then replanting the razed earth with younger trees. Which they will eventually chop down, again, after they have grown. The idea was that the younger trees would suck up a lot of carbon dioxide as they grew. But that flies in the face of scientific findings, published earlier this year in the journal Nature, that older trees are far better than their younger cousins at sucking carbon out of the sky.
A coalition of environmental groups sent a letter on Tuesday to the California Air Resources Board and Climate Action Reserve, the state’s carbon-offset registry, urging them to reconsider the wrongheaded rules:
Ignoring objections and calls from nongovernmental organizations like Sierra Club California, Center for Biological Diversity, and others to remove or modify these provisions, the Air Resources Board rubber-stamped the Forest Protocol and incorporated it intact as an integral part of the ARB’s cap and trade rules. We believe these actions by CAR and ARB were misguided policy decisions, and should be reconsidered in light of the new scientific findings.
In our view, the flawed Forest Protocol undermines the credibility of California’s cap and trade system by incentivizing the destruction of old-growth forests in the state and in North America.
“It’s time to cut the incentives for clearcutting from the cap and trade program,” said John Trinkl of Ebbets Pass Forest Watch, which works to protect forests from clearcutters, including Sierra Pacific Industries, which lobbied for the logging-friendly provisions. “SPI stands to gain $100 million for selling offset credits from growing tree plantations after clearcutting old growth forests. They should be punished, not rewarded.”
Get Grist in your inbox