Seeing the forest for the trees

The recent release of a report by the BC Auditor General has led to a vigorous debate on the future of carbon neutral government.

The recent release of a report by the BC Auditor General has led to a vigorous debate on the future of carbon neutral government. As a seller of carbon credits to the Pacific Carbon Trust, the Nature Conservancy of Canada looks forward to any clarity that may result  in the BC carbon market. However, a recent opinion piece in this newspaper (“Carbon controversy opens eyes” April 5, 2013), perpetuates factual errors that fail to inform any debate.

Columnist Sam Van Schie accepts, without question, the assertion that the Nature Conservancy of Canada did not need carbon revenues to protect Darkwoods. Acquisition of a conservation property is the beginning of our work, not the end. When the Nature Conservancy of Canada purchased Darkwoods in 2008, our expensive, long-term commitment to the conservation lands began. From the outset a forest carbon project was seen as critical to supporting this stewardship effort. Without the possibility of carbon offset sales the Nature Conservancy of Canada could not have protected Darkwoods at the current size and scope.

Further Ms. Van Schie fails to understand that legal obligations tied to funding sources have no bearing on the credibility of a carbon project. Carbon credits are based on the difference between the protection of Darkwoods by the Nature Conservancy of Canada versus what would have happened had the Nature Conservancy of Canada not acquired the land. We know the alternative was a market-based buyer who had intentions of intensively logging and subdividing the property. The difference between that scenario and the current conserved property forms the basis for carbon valuation.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada spent three years developing the carbon project, exercising due diligence at every step while working with various industry experts. The project is certified under the Verified Carbon Standard — a standard that ensures a carbon project follows internationally-recognized protocols and has tangible environmental benefits. The project also fulfills all provincial regulations and meets all standards for carbon offsets.

More importantly, Darkwoods is a world-class conservation project that supports the surrounding communities. Overall the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s ownership of Darkwoods has resulted in a $13 million economic benefit to the region, to date.

Without revenue from forest carbon, the long-term protection of this vital 55,000 hectare property and the fate of animals and plants that find a haven there would be in jeopardy. The proceeds from the carbon sales went back into the long-term stewardship of Darkwoods — for the sake of nature and the people of British Columbia.

Darkwoods ensures in perpetuity, British Columbians will see the magnificent forest for the trees.

Tom  Swann

Associate regional vice-president, BC

Nature Conservancy of Canada


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