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PeerJ Publication: California forest carbon protocol invalidates offsets

A new analysis compares California Air Resources Board forest carbon offset results with directly measured values of forest CO2 flux, revealing differences that challenge claims of emission reduction and offset validity.

Cambridge, MA, Sept. 23, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --  Planetary Emissions Management Inc., a research and development company commercializing portable, high-precision analyzers for radiocarbon, has published a review and analysis of the forest carbon offset protocol of the California Air Resources Board and the Climate Action Reserve (CARB-CAR). The study calls into question the validity of CARB-CAR forest carbon products. The open-access PeerJ publication can be downloaded here.

Earth’s Forest in the Balance: Why CO2 Measurement Matters

  • Deforestation is an enigma; societies claim to value forests but globally destroy them. 
  • CARB-CAR forest carbon protocols do not involve a direct CO2 measurement.
  • Related commercial forest carbon protocols also lack CO2 flux into and out of the forest.
  • Absent CO2 measurement reforestation/conservation carbon pricing and markets are uncertain.
  • Climate change platforms (Paris Agreement/REDD) also lack a direct carbon measurement.
  • A shared, standardized measurement framework is needed to break the deforestation enigma.

Bruno D.V. Marino, lead author of the publication and CEO of Planetary Emissions Management, stated: “Thirteen years have passed since the landmark legislation, AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, went into effect, yet the scientific basis and accuracy of metrics for ~$1 billion of commercial forest carbon emission reduction offsets have not been independently validated.”

The study reviewed and analyzed the CARB-CAR protocol results compared to the actual measurement of net CO2 forest carbon flux made by research projects across the US. “We found a surprising disagreement between the CARB-CAR protocol results and the direct measurement of CO2 flux that was difficult to reconcile, providing criteria for invalidation as well as revealing common features with related protocols such as the American Carbon Registry, the Verified Carbon Standard, and the Clean Development Mechanism,” continued Marino.

Validation of commercial claims of emission reduction should be embraced by all stakeholders considering the consequences of misstatements made by the automotive industry, which were discovered through the direct measurement of emissions.

The importance of forests in Earth’s natural carbon capture and storage function and supply of resources for humanity cannot be overestimated. However, the lack of accurate quantification of carbon sequestration impedes validation of emission reduction claims, hinders growth and management of forest restoration and conservation programs, obscures the real price of forest carbon, and diminishes carbon markets.

The implication for policy programs is clear. “Basic science must translate to commercial sector practices addressing climate change mitigation policies; otherwise, they may lack accountability and market traction,” said Brandt Rousseaux, VP International Relations and Public Policy Advisor to PEM.

Forest restoration is an enormous ecological, social, and economic opportunity, with an estimated 1-2 billion hectares of degraded land potentially available for renewed growth and carbon sequestration. The direct measurement verifies the net removal of atmospheric CO2 by forests, providing validated products for carbon market transactions.

“Forest carbon quantification across landscapes is readily achievable--what is lacking is a unified international framework that gets the measurements right, similar to that successfully adopted by the Montreal Protocol, which has 197 signatories to preserve the protective ozone layer. Nothing less is required to reverse deforestation and free the biosphere to optimize nature’s protective forest carbon sink now and for future generations,” continued Marino.

The Paris Agreement, the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), and the Green New Deal all require quantification for claims of emission reduction to translate into social, economic, and planetary benefits.

The authors suggest that the CARB-CAR protocol incorporates a direct measurement and collaboration with the forest carbon research communities to further explore the issues raised by the study, including eliminating the gap in pricing between voluntary and compliance offsets.

The lesson learned is that buyers of products claiming forest-based carbon emission reduction should demand validation through a direct CO2 measurement to effectively enhance reforestation and catalyze forest carbon markets now and for future generations.

About Planetary Emissions Management Inc.

PEM Inc. is an American research and development company focused on the commercialization of advanced laser-based, portable, and high-precision radiocarbon analyzers for industrial applications, radiocarbon dating, and the management of fossil fuel CO2 emissions.


Planetary Emissions Management Inc.

Marketing Dept., Media & Press: +1 855-254-5055 ext 102

Email: inquiries@pem-carbon.com 

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The complete infographic can be downloaded here (link to infographic: https://www.pemcarbon.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/PeerJ7606-V3-1_Infographic_Final-2.pdf?utm_source=mailchimp&utm_campaign=03001ec8e1f0&utm_medium=page).