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An Example

by dmarke last modified 2007-09-11 16:37

This is a simple example designed to demonstrate how a forest landowner might use the C calculator provide to estimate their potential C credit for sale.

Where do I start?

     To get started you simply need to know a few things about your land:

                What region of the US are a you located in?

                What type of forest do you have on your land?

                Is your forest a new forest (i.e., <10-yr-old afforestation) or relatively old (i.e. reforestation)?

                Have you managed your forest with fertilizers or thinning treatments (i.e., high intensity) or have you largely let your forest take care of itself (i.e., low intensity)?

                What is the current age of your forest stand?

     For example:  Mr. C. Quester lives in the northeastern US (Northeast) and owns 150 acres of Beech-Maple forest (Maple-Beech-Birch).  His forest is about 75-years old and he has not actively managed his forest lands (low intensity).

     Using the C calculator on the previous page Mr. C Quester can use the appropriate menus choices to acquire a table of values of current C contents.  Naturally, if Mr. C. Quester had different forest types on his land he could run the calculator for each type but he would have to know the actual acres of each type present.

Component Metric tonnes of C per hectare
Live Tree 123.8
Standing Dead Tree  7.7
Understory 1.7
Down Dead Wood 8.8
Forest Floor 29.1
Soil Organic 67.7
 Total Non-soil 171.1

What next?

             The table above represents an estimate of the C that has currently accumulated in the forest.  But what the landowner needs to know is the potential for future sequestration.  Mr. C. Quester has considered placing his land in a 50-year conservation easement to reduce his tax burden so he would be willing to sell C sequestered over this same 50 years.  As such, Mr. C. Quester returns to the C calculator and changes the age to 125 years.  He acquires a new table with the follow:

Component Metric tonnes of C per hectare
Live Tree 162.1
Standing Dead Tree 8.6
Understory 1.6
Down Dead Wood 11.5
Forest Floor 35.1
Soil Organic 69.5
Total Non-soil 218.8

    This represents the C expected to be accumulated in the forest 50-years in the future.

So how much C is available to sell?

     The C availabe to sell is simply the difference between these two age classes of the forest.  Remember, however, that in the simplest case most registries only accepted aboveground live tree C.  So in this simplest case           

                       Carbon Sequestration per hectare=162.1 - 123.8 = 38.3 Metric tonnes of C per hectare (Note: there are 2.47 acres per hectare or 38.3/2.47=15.5 Mton/ac)

Given this accumulation per acre and an ownership of 150 acres Mr. C. Quester has 15.5 Mtons/ac * 150 ac = 2325 Mtons of C

Finally, remember that the units of C offsets in CO2 equivalents so we multiply 2325 by 3.67 for 8532.75 Mtons of CO2 equivalents.

On an annually basis this is 170.7 Mtons of CO2e.

How much is this worth?

    Prices for C offsets vary broadly presently as this market is developing (look here).  In the US many people defer to the trading price on the Chicago Climate Exchange that has fluctuated at $3-4/Mton CO2e.  At $4/Mton Mr. C. Quester would make $683 a year. 

Should Mr. C. Quester pursue C registration? 

          Clearly, this is a question only the landowner can decide and many have argued that prices per Mton will need to rise before many landowners get involved.  There is evidence, however, that demand for credits is growing (Market News) and if laws are enacted in the US to mandate control of CO2 emissions (visit PointCarbon to see bills pending in Congress) demand will surely rise.  

What other costs are involved?

          Naturally, the above calculations are the revenue side of the ledger but there are also real costs that need to be considered.  First, the low-cost "Look-up Table" approach used above is not accepted by all registries.  Many registries require an on the ground inventory or a growth and yield model for all forest stands used in C offset projects.  If you have an existing inventory this imposes no added cost, if you do not have an inventory this cost might range from $3-10/acre for an inventory depending on the intensity of the inventory preformed.  Also, remember follow-up inventories might be required annually or at the end of the project.  Second, some registries require some level of forest certification or at the very least a forest management plan.  These again will add to the cost of management, although exactly how much is hard to estimate.  Finally, there may be a cost of registration (upto $500 for large land ownerships) and some small cost in labor of annual reports.  For smaller landowners, there are consulting firms that will provide these services and some are trying to serve as aggregators across a number of owners to spread costs out over a larger land base.  If you think you fall in this catergory pursuing an aggregator might be the best option.