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Insights from the Field: Forests for Climate and Timber

This brief provides an overview of the Carbon Canopy, a novel partnership among companies, landowners, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that seeks to leverage markets for ecosystem services to increase the area of southern U.S. forests certified as sustainably managed. It is designed to inform companies, NGOs, and other organizations
interested in developing or participating in similar programs
that link forest certification with carbon offsets.

Executive Summary

The Carbon Canopy is a novel partnership among companies, landowners, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that seeks to leverage markets for ecosystem services to increase the area of southern U.S. forests certified as sustainably managed. The partnership aspires to sustain southern forests for their economic, climate, water, and other benefits.

  • The Carbon Canopy’s first focus has been on linking forest carbon offset generation and certified forest management, wherein carbon offset revenue is designed to compensate woodland owners for the cost of certification and provide an attractive new revenue stream.

  • The Carbon Canopy’s experience to date provides a number of insights for other organizations seeking to build and expand markets for forest carbon offsets linked with forest certification. These insights were gleaned from the authors’ observations as well as interviews with several members of the Carbon Canopy partnership, including landowners, buyers, and NGOs. These insights apply to building demand, ensuring supply, and creating the transactional infrastructure for forest carbon offsets and certified saw timber or wood fiber.

  • To build robust demand, companies, NGOs, and other organizations seeking to replicate the approach of combining forest carbon offsets and certification should—

    • Actively recruit buyers; and
    • Secure an anchor buyer early on.
    • To ensure sufficient supply of offsets and certified timber, these organizations should—
    • Invest in woodland owner education;
    • Make the business case to woodland owners;
    • Find upfront financing; and
    • Be sure to engage all parties with claims on the land.
  • To create an efficient transactional infrastructure, these organizations should—

    • Select forest management and carbon offset certification standards early on;
    • Select standards that are high quality and that facilitate market participation; and
    • Leverage existing resources and landowner networks.

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