Carbon Credits and The Great Bear Rainforest
First Nations peoples have lived in harmony with the huge forests of North America for thousands of years. These forests have served as huge lungs for the earth helping to naturally regulated greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Sadly, forest-based carbon offsets and other land use carbon offsets have been largely forgotten under the Kyoto world carbon scheme… but this is about to change. The “Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change” indicates that 35% of greenhouse gas emissions are tied to land use change, a quite significant figure compared to the 15% due to fossil fuels. There is a movement now, to include land-based offsets in the word greenhouse gas regulatory system after 2012, something that will be carefully debated in the Copenhagen COP 15 Climate Meetings in December.
The United States is now moving toward regulation with the passage of a climate bill through Congress this year , and introduction of another proposed bill for the Senate next year (Kerry/Boxer Bill). In both cases the United States is looking to generate up to 90% of the carbon offsets required for its national climate regulation system from forest sources, and half of this from foreign sources. This is great news for First Nations as there will be significant incentives to conserve such forests under ecosystems management schemes. In the United States many conservation forest projects are now in the carbon pipeline under the new Climate Action Reserve (CAR) rules, favoured by US legislators.
In Canada , many of the major undeveloped forests on the West Coast and the Northern region are under land claims with Federal and Provincial governments. A recent study, “The Carbon The World Forgot”, indicates that these northern boreal forests ”contain two to three times the carbon stored in the tropics”. This same region is home to some of the world last intact terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, with abundant populations of mammals and birds. Scattered throughout this northern forest are hundreds of indigenous communities. With over 200 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent tied up , this is a crucial carbon sink or storage area. The world’s policy makers are just becoming aware of the incredible importance of these forests. The carbon stored here is equivalent to over 40 years of world greenhouse gas emissions .
By asserting their claims to this traditional land, First Nations will be able to negotiate sustainability management plans with government that allow for the generation of forest-based offsets. The monetization of these offsets can be put into sustaining thes ecosystems as well as sustainable community development. Many green jobs can be created with community members actively managing and protecting the forests. Large scale ecosystems-based management schemes are being developed now, with the Great Bear Rainforest being a great example of evolving best practice for management and governance.
Shawn Burns, CEO Carbon Credit Corp.