For the first time in the Pacific Northwest, a forest carbon project has been verified under the rigorous carbon offset protocol in California’s cap-and-trade program. The Nisqually Carbon Project will generate 37,000 carbon offset credits after the first verification, with more to come in later years. This first batch is equivalent to taking 6,000 cars off the road. Microsoft, working with Natural Capital Partners, purchased the vast majority of the credits, 35,000, as part of its ongoing voluntary commitment to being carbon neutral, a growing national trend by companies to address climate change.
“Everyone has a role to play if we’re going to tackle climate change,” said Tamara “TJ” DiCaprio, Microsoft’s Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability. “At Microsoft we want to do our part and this project not only offsets carbon emissions, but it also protects forests in the region we call home,” she added.
The project – which is a partnership between Washington Environmental Council and the Nisqually Land Trust – is comprised of 520 acres of forest adjacent to Mount Rainier National Park. The project will restore the forest, creating needed habitat for endangered species, including northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets.
“Old forests hold more carbon than young ones,” said Becky Kelley, President of Washington Environmental Council. “This project focuses on restoring old growth forest to store carbon, which also creates habitat for endangered species and helps provide clean drinking water for local residents.” she added.
After 40 years, the project will double the amount of carbon stored in the forest, increasing it from 223 metric tons of CO2 per acre to 446. Under California’s protocol, the project must retain forest carbon for 100 years after each year that credits are sold, guaranteeing permanent protection of both the land and the atmosphere. Nisqually Land Trust currently owns the forest and will manage it in perpetuity for ecological restoration and carbon storage. The previous owner managed it much more intensively, which lowered the amount of carbon per acre.
“This forest can be seen from the main road into Mount Rainier National Park, so it’s a big part of the local economy,” said Joe Kane, Executive Director of the Nisqually Land Trust. “It’s only natural that Microsoft would invest in protecting this iconic landscape, since it adorns the desktop of millions of Windows PCs,” he added.
Every year, 1.5 million people visit Mount Rainier via the state highway adjacent to the project. The local community of Ashford strongly supports the project because the forest it protects provides a dramatic view that helps draw visitors to Ashford’s lodges and restaurants. The project also protects a key section of a popular cross-country ski trail that is one of the area’s main attractions. Proceeds from the sale of offset credits will be used to steward the land over the long-term.
“The Nisqually Land Trust project is a perfect complement to the other international projects in Microsoft’s portfolio of carbon offsets, demonstrating both a global and local commitment,” said Zubair Zakir, Director of Carbon Sourcing at Natural Capital Partners. “Increasingly our clients are looking for this sort of high quality project which helps maintain ecosystem services in regions important to them,” he added.
Globally, the Information Technology sector is responsible for approximately 2 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, which is similar to aviation. Recognizing this, in May 2012 Microsoft made a commitment to become carbon neutral, and introduced an innovative carbon fee model into the business in order to encourage behavior change from teams and to create a fund for investment into both internal and external carbon reduction activities. The Nisqually Forest Carbon Project is one of the projects in Microsoft’s carbon offset portfolio.
Across the Pacific Northwest there are millions of acres of privately owned forest, particularly lands that are under intensive industrial management, which could be eligible for similar forest carbon projects.