California Rewards Landowners for Leaving Forests Standing to Help Control Global Warming
SACRAMENTO, California California has become the first U.S. state to reward landowners for leaving forests standing to help control global warming, under a program adopted recently.
The voluntary program by the California Climate Action Registry promotes conservation, improved timber management, and reforestation to keep carbon dioxide in trees and out of the atmosphere, where it is the most abundant greenhouse gas.
California loses about 60,000 acres (24,000 hectares) of forest to development annually. Because healthy trees store carbon dioxide but release it when they're destroyed, the forest loss is equivalent to 2.5 million new cars going on the roads every year, said Laurie Wayburn, president of the Pacific Forest Trust.
The state's Climate Action Registry, created by lawmakers four years ago, set up what amounts to an accounting system to measure carbon dioxide storage in timberland. Tracking storage levels is crucial to an emerging commodities market in which carbon credits are traded as part of greenhouse gas control efforts.
Other states now are looking to California's model, said Wayburn, whose group helped develop the program.
Worldwide, forest destruction is the second-leading cause of carbon dioxide behind fossil fuels, said Wayburn.
A law two years ago required the state to create incentives for industries that protect forests to offset carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere. More than 40 companies, cities, and government agencies track their emissions through the registry.
Terry Tamminen, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency and chairman of the registry's board, issued a statement urging other states to follow California's lead. The program will benefit not only air quality but water quality, by protecting vulnerable watersheds, he said.
Source: Associated Press