Make Like a Tree and Make an Impact

Cool Effect
Cool Effect
Published in
6 min readApr 19, 2024

Forests, and trees in general, play a crucial role in helping combat climate change by sequestering, or storing, carbon and keeping it from entering the atmosphere. Trees are one of the most efficient and effective carbon sequestration tools on the planet, with some estimates showing the world’s forests are responsible for storing close to 861 gigatonnes of carbon. In just one year, a single mature tree can absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide, permanently storing that carbon until the tree itself decomposes.

It’s often said that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, while the second best time is right now. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but the core of that message still rings true — healthy, well-managed forests can make a tremendous impact in the fight against climate change, especially as part of a high quality carbon project. This is where verified carbon credits come in. Land use changes are a tremendous driver of emissions, particularly through deforestation.

Oftentimes, however, those land use changes are tied to a financial incentive for the land owners and users, typically via the conversion of forests to farmland or the use of forests for aggressive, non-sustainable lumber practices. Globally, these types of land use changes have been responsible for around one-third of all global emissions since 1750.

Reducing these emissions are crucial to reducing some of climate change’s most extreme effects and also for meeting existing climate goals. Agreements reached at COP26 by 140 leaders (who represented 90% of the planet’s forests) made firm commitments “to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030,” with more joining in at COP27 — including a commitment to show progress on the issue by COP28. That’s where forest-based carbon credit programs come in. These forest-based carbon credits are essentially a mechanism designed to use carbon finance to help incentivize restoration, preservation, and proper management of forests in order to reduce emissions while also benefiting local communities. Some specific nature-based carbon projects include the following:

Improved Forest Management (IFM): IFM involves implementing sustainable forestry practices to enhance carbon sequestration and overall ecosystem health in existing forests. This may include reducing deforestation, promoting selective logging, and protecting against wildfires. Carbon credits can be generated by quantifying the increased carbon storage resulting from these management practices. Projects often involve measures to enhance forest health and resilience, such as controlling invasive species, mitigating wildfire risks, and restoring degraded ecosystems. Healthy forests not only store more carbon but also function better as carbon sinks over the long term — if they remain protected and managed efficiently.

Small community-based Improved Forestry Management projects like this one encourages residents to preserve and grow the biomass in their standing forests despite multiple opportunities to cut trees for profit or for increased grazing opportunities.

IFM generates revenue streams through the sale of carbon credits, providing financial incentives for landowners and local communities to conserve forests sustainably. This economic support funnels much needed carbon finance into these incredibly low income areas while also encouraging the adoption of environmentally friendly practices and facilitates the transition towards a low-carbon economy. Essentially, investing in improved forest management represents a win-win strategy for both the planet and its people.

Regenerative Agriculture: While not specifically forest-based, regenerative agriculture projects focus on restoring and improving soil health through practices like minimal tillage, cover cropping, crop rotation, and the integration of livestock. These practices increase organic matter, improving soil health, enhance carbon sequestration in that same soil, and promote biodiversity. Farmers can earn carbon credits by implementing regenerative practices that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Well-managed , high quality regenerative agriculture practices increase soil organic carbon (SOC) storage and reduce net emissions of CO2, CH4, and N2O while improving soil health and crop yields.

Blue Carbon: Blue carbon refers to the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes. These ecosystems are highly effective at sequestering and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In fact, mangroves, which in water on coasts, shorelines, and rivers, can sequester 5 times as much carbon as a typical area of rainforest. Aside from their carbon storage capabilities, they also reduce the impact of tsunamis and help mitigate some of the worst aspects of coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Blue carbon projects involve conservation and restoration efforts in these ecosystems to enhance carbon storage and mitigate climate change, leading to the generation of carbon credits.

Mangroves are a powerful blue carbon resource — they can capture 5 times more carbon than terrestrial trees and sequester carbon up to 400% faster than land-based tropical rainforests.

Afforestation, Reforestation, Revegetation (ARR): ARR projects involve planting trees (afforestation), restoring degraded forests (reforestation), or re-establishing vegetation on previously cleared or degraded land (revegetation). These projects aim to increase carbon sequestration, enhance biodiversity, and restore ecosystem services. Carbon credits can be generated based on the amount of carbon sequestered by the newly established vegetation over time.

Overall, these concepts demonstrate various nature-based approaches to mitigating climate change by enhancing carbon sequestration and promoting ecosystem restoration and resilience. Carbon credits generated from these projects provide financial incentives for land managers, farmers, and communities to adopt sustainable practices that benefit both the environment and society.

Additionally, a spectrum of additional carbon credit frameworks have emerged, each tailored to address specific challenges associated with forest conservation and carbon sequestration. For instance, initiatives like Verra’s Climate, Community, and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards provide additional robust frameworks for verifying carbon offset projects, ensuring transparency and accountability in emission reductions achieved through forest conservation efforts.

The purpose of these detailed frameworks isn’t to simply add more bureaucracy to the process — it’s to increase credibility for these programs, increasing their transparency and ensuring they’ve relied on science when creating the project itself. A strong, trusted carbon market is key to building the trust required to drive climate action from the private sector, and that trust starts at the project level.

Although this isn’t to say that there aren’t currently high quality carbon projects, using verified carbon credits, making a tremendous impact on both the planet and its people. Thanks to high quality, forest-based carbon projects, millions and millions of hectares of forests have been preserved, millions of dollars in carbon finance has gone towards helping marginalized communities on the front lines of the fight against climate change, thousands of jobs have been created, countless lives have been improved, and millions of tonnes of emissions have been reduced.

On our platform alone, there are three high quality, verified carbon projects currently making a world of difference through forest-based solutions:

Walk in the Woods: This project focuses on reforestation efforts on 71,865 acres of Montana land affected by deforestation. The project defers commercial timber harvest activities and implements improved forest management practices that enhance growth of a natural mix of Douglas fir, larch, true firs, western red cedar, lodgepole and ponderosa pine.

This Montana project preserves and builds standing US forest stocks while enhancing biodiversity in one of America’s most scenic areas.

A Bearadise: Protecting old growth forests in Alaska, this project will reduce about 1.5 million tonnes of carbon. Halting timber practices in this highly remote area (accessible only by boat or helicopter) ensures that carbon stays where it belongs, the local ecosystem can recover, and local wildlife like bald eagles, salmon, and brown bears can thrive.

These important old growth forests will reduce about 1.5 million tonnes of carbon in 30 years. This project ensures the survival of these trees, providing a safe home for the animals and clean air for Earth.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees: This small community based project in Mexico trains and encourages residents to preserve, protect, and manage their local forests. Aside from the benefits for the planet, this project provides employment opportunities for locals and also routes 90% of the revenues from sale of carbon credits directly back to a community that certainly needs it.

These three projects all reduce emissions while benefiting local communities, and they’re all powered by the benefits of well-maintained forests, and carbon credits provided by businesses, organizations, and individuals just like you. So go ahead, make like a tree — and make an impact for the planet and its people.

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Cool Effect
Cool Effect

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