Carbon offsets generated by forests to counter future global warming emissions from California’s big polluters are rapidly running out as trees are ravaged by wildfires and disease, new research published Friday suggests.
One of California’s key policy tools to fight climate change may fall far short of its goals, the researchers said, raising questions about similar carbon offset programs around the world. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, was conducted by CarbonPlan, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that studies the integrity of programs designed to offset carbon emissions. Research from the group https://www.Reuters.com/business/environment/california-program-overestimates-climate-benefits-forest-offsets-study-2021-04-30 questioned the value of California’s offset program of forest carbon in the fight against climate change in the past.
“The issues we observe here are not unique to the California program and raise broader concerns about the integrity of the claims of permanence of the offsets,” Freya Chay, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. communicated. Under California law, large emitters face carbon limits and can buy allowances if they exceed them. They can offset up to 4% of their emissions with offset credits, such as those generated by the program’s forest conservation projects in 29 states, according to the California Air Resources Board.
A portion of these credits are placed in a buffer account, an insurance mechanism operated in case projects are lost due to fire, disease, pests or financial risks such as bankruptcy. These credits are intended to secure carbon stocks for at least 100 years. But that promise is falling short, as climate change is fueling intense wildfires, drought and disease, the researchers said. Wildfires have depleted nearly a fifth of that buffer pool in less than a decade, the analysis found.
The researchers also predicted potential losses associated with sudden oak death disease, which has killed millions of trees in California and Oregon over the past two decades. Widespread tree mortality from Sudden Oak Death could wipe out any credits set aside for disease and insect risks to offset projects, the study found. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the California Air Resources Board (CARB) said its compliance offset program was “a prudent part of our program” and that its risk measurements were based on information available to the state agency at the time the policy was developed.
“We will of course reassess all relevant scientific and new information in our next protocol update,” CARB spokesman David Clegern said, without giving a timeline.
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