(Source: Summer 2016 Newsletter, page 3)
Equivalent of taking 6,000 cars off the road
The Land Trust and Microsoft have made national news and local history by completing the state’s first-ever “carbon credit” transaction.
News of the deal made the Seattle Times, the New York Times, the Tacoma News-Tribune, the Olympian, radio stations KPLU and KUOW, and over a hundred other media outlets nationwide.
To simplify, as part of its voluntary $20 million-a-year initiative to offset 100 percent of its carbon emissions worldwide, Microsoft has paid the Land Trust for carbon stored on a 520-acre property within our Mount Rainier Gateway Reserve, near Ashford.
As trees grow, they pull, or “sequester,” carbon pollution from the atmosphere and help reduce the impacts of climate change. The amount of carbon and the rate at which the Land Trust’s trees are sequestering it has been verified under California’s rigorous cap-and-trade program, the country’s only regulated carbon-credit program.
Microsoft purchased 35,000 carbon credits, the equivalent of taking 6,000 cars off the road. If we had not acquired the property and eliminated commercial harvest of the trees, much of that carbon would have been released into the atmosphere.
“This is a game changer,” said Land Trust Executive Director Joe Kane. “There are 28 land trusts in the state, and we all face a common problem: How are we going to finance stewardship of our conservation properties over the long haul?
“The carbon market might hold an answer. As these trees grow, they’ll continue to generate new credits. Potentially, we have a perpetual stewardship fund.”
The forest Microsoft has invested in provides habitat for at least fifteen different wildlife species, including marbled murrelets and northern spotted owls, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
However, Kane said, the project was a “big gamble. It took over two years and was enormously expensive for us, with no guarantee of success.
“But the carbon-credit model holds huge potential for the climate, for our forests, and for land trusts. Somebody had to step up. We consider it our job to be a conservation innovator, so we gave ourselves the assignment.”
The Washington Environmental Council (WEC) partnered with the Land Trust. WEC’s Paula Swedeen, one of the nation’s leading authorities on carbon markets, was the project’s lead developer.
“It was a rigorous process,” she said. “But it has to be. California companies are legally required to meet emissions standards, and there can’t be any question about what work the forest is doing. The data has to be rock-solid.”
Meanwhile, she said, WEC wanted to demonstrate to other Washington businesses that a carbon project can be done. “We wanted to pair carbon financing with forest conservation right here at home.”
This is the first time a business has purchased credits in Washington State. “Microsoft has set an example,” Kane said. “And this is a carbon project you can walk around on. How cool is that?”
Additional Information (9/29/16): Check out the Washington Environmental Council video about the project.