Proposed rules for forest carbon offset projects are receiving criticism as a new draft protocol is opened up for public review.
The B.C. government released the draft Forest Carbon Offset Protocol (FCOP) Tuesday (November 23) and is requesting comments from the public on the document.
Under the protocol, forest managers who undertake activities that meet requirements, such as planting trees, restoring forests and protecting sensitive areas from development, would generate offsets that they can sell on the carbon offset market.
Ben West, the healthy communities campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, said using carbon offsets as forest protection is a “step in the wrong direction”.
“As much as I do believe there’s a certain logic to protecting the value of a forest and providing some resources or revenue to folks to give them an incentive not to cut forests down that do provide a service that’s useful to all of us...we just simply can’t allow for the additional emissions to be justified by protecting forests," West told the Straight by phone today (November 26).
"We've done a pretty good job of fighting to protect forests without offsets, and I think that's something that we need to continue doing."
West said he’s concerned about the logic of bioenergy as “carbon neutral.”
“The basic principal [is] that you cut down a tree and burn it, you plant another tree and you basically are carbon neutral—but the reality if you look around the world is that we’re deforesting the planet at an alarming rate,” he said.
West said in B.C., the rate of deforestation, in particular due to the pine beetle, is extreme.
“We’re not anywhere close to replacing the biomass of the planet that’s being used up,” he said.
West sees the concept of carbon offsets as “fundamentally flawed”, and said he would prefer to see an emphasis on emission caps.
“If we’re serious about doing anything about climate change, the cap part of cap and trade is a lot more important than the trade part, and so far we’re doing the trade and not the cap,” he said.
“There is legislation in place in B.C. to reduce emissions, but there seems to be nothing happening to actually make it a reality."
Other environmental groups say they are reviewing the 150-page protocol and will provide more detailed response on the draft rules next week.
Members of the public can submit their written comments on the requirements until January 31, 2011. The final protocol is expected to be completed in early 2011.
You can follow Yolande Cole on Twitter at twitter.com/yolandecole.