On June 29, 2009, the British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Range released its Forest Offset Protocol – Draft for Review. The Protocol is intended to provide guidance to proponents preparing forest offset projects under the B.C. Emissions Offset Regulation. The full text of the Draft Protocol is available here.

This bulletin describes the types of offset projects eligible under the Protocol and highlights some key issues that remain undecided.

Eligible Projects

The Protocol is intended to support the recently announced Request For Information (RFI) for forestry offsets issued by the Pacific Carbon Trust (PCT). Further details can be found here.  

The Protocol covers the three types of forest offset projects eligible for purposes of PCT’s RFI:  

  • Afforestation Projects. Tree planting projects on land that is not forested and has not been forested at any time since December 31, 1989.  
  • Select Seed Use Projects. Projects that plant seedlings selected for specific traits in order to promote faster growth, increased timber volume and carbon content, and resistance to insects and disease.  
  • Fertilization Projects. Projects that add nutrients to increase tree growth on sites that are deficient in one or more soil nutrients.  

For each of these project types, the Protocol sets out eligibility require-ments and how the project baseline condition is determined. The baseline is the expected greenhouse gas (GHG) sequestration absent the project, against which GHG removals from the project are measured.

Eligible Project Areas

The Protocol applies to forest offset projects on private land, land held by local governments, Indian Reserves, treaty settlement lands, and Crown land under long-term area-based tenures, such as tree farm licences or long-term Land Act leases.  

The Protocol may also apply to a forest offset project in an area that is a protected area or park if the required licences and permissions for operating on the land are obtained.  

Key Points of the Protocol

  • Provides guidelines on quantification of project reductions, including approved growth and yield models and forest carbon accounting models for quantification. Other models may be considered if they meet minimum requirements;  
  • Identifies in detail the Sources, Sinks and Reservoirs to be included in calculations of GHG emissions and removals for the different eligible project types;  
  • Provides a recommended approach for inventory and project monitoring and also sets out reporting requirements; and  
  • Establishes a 10-year time period for which an eligible project may be validated under a project plan. Activities beyond this time frame must be validated in subsequent project plans. Project reductions, however, may be verified over a longer period of time.

The requirements of the Protocol are additional to other applicable laws, regulations and standards that require compliance.  

Future Considerations

The Protocol does not fully resolve two key risks that will be central to any forestry offset project. While the Protocol recognizes that addressing the risk of reversal is central to forestry offsets and identifies three possible approaches, it does not recommend a preferred approach to follow. Further, the Protocol does not address how to meet title requirements under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act and Regulations given the unique characteristics of forestry projects.  

Urgent Action Required

The Ministry of Forests and Range is seeking comment on the Draft Protocol by July 10, 2009. Comments should be submitted to:

Climate Change and Forest Carbon

Forest Practices Branch

BC Ministry of Forests

PO Box 9513 Stn Prov Govt V

ictoria, BC V8W 9C2

E-mail: brian.raymer@gov.bc.ca