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Opening Up Thousands of New Forest Acres to Meet the Demands of Carbon Markets

For those searching for ways to implement critically important climate goals, the Family Forest Carbon Program is a path to reducing your carbon footprint, enhancing forest benefits and supporting rural livelihoods — all while meeting stakeholder expectations for corporate sustainability.

2020 began with historic announcements from several influential entities in the business world — including BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s announcement that climate risk will guide the world’s largest institutional investor in all of its investment decisions. BlackRock, even this month has reinforced its intent to continue pushing companies to address climate risk in their governance efforts. As a domino, companies are declaring audacious goals for reducing their carbon emissions and environmental impacts.

Capitalizing on carbon markets has emerged as a growing area of opportunity to meet these goals. As the demand for voluntary carbon credits continues to grow — in addition to frameworks such as CORSIA for airlines that require carbon offsets — the supply of verified, affordable credits is likely to become a significant challenge; requiring the need for innovative solutions capable of providing a stable supply at a reasonable price.

When it comes to supply for carbon markets in the US, particularly for forest carbon, more than 1 in 3 acres of forestland are bring left off the table. More specifically these acres are the small parcels of forestland, in parcels from 20 to 1,000 acres, owned by families and individuals.

Collectively, family forest owners own the largest portion, or 38 percent of U.S. forestland. Yet they haven't been able to participate in current carbon markets due to the high transactional costs and the complexity, compared to the size of their land holdings.

The American Forest Foundation (AFF), in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), has recently introduced the Family Forest Carbon Program — which addresses the barriers preventing family forest owners from participating in carbon markets while providing companies an opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment and reduce their carbon footprint.

The Program unlocks the carbon sequestration potential of these forests, presenting a unique and unprecedented solution for reducing carbon emissions and empowering rural communities.

The Family Forest Carbon Program eliminates the systemic barriers that have prevented family forest owners from leveraging their forests for economic and environmental impact. The Program shifts to a practice-based approach, where landowners are given incentive payments to implement science-based sustainable forest practices that are guaranteed to produce additional carbon sequestration. This unique, practice-based methodology — being co-created by AFF, TNC and Verra — takes into account the constraints of small forest ownership, yet is more credible and scalable, to allow small landowners to contribute at a landscape level.

Companies in turn can purchase carbon credits from the Family Forest Carbon Program to help meet their carbon-reduction goals. In addition, the Program also provides a range of co-benefits that address vital issues including biodiversity, water quality and ecosystem resilience. These additional benefits stem from the implementation of practices that will improve forest health, in addition to capturing carbon. As companies increasingly seek out ways to prioritize how they balance resource stewardship with achieving their sustainability goals, the FFCP provides a specific method for offsetting carbon emissions, while also delivering a range of additional positive environmental outcomes that can be leveraged as a result of investments made to the program.

Beyond the environmental outcomes, the FFCP also delivers community and economic benefits to the places where forests are located; giving companies an opportunity to support rural communities, possibly where they source.

Company investors, employees, customers and local communities expect greater focus on addressing the looming threat of climate change and the impending consequences it has for our economy, environment and society as a whole. For those searching for ways to implement audacious, yet critically important climate goals, the Family Forest Carbon Program is a path to reducing your carbon footprint, enhancing forest benefits and supporting rural livelihoods — all while meeting stakeholder expectations for corporate sustainability.

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