Wetlands methodology, GM, Disney-funded forestry projects draw raves

At this week’s American Carbon Registry (ACR) annual awards ceremony, some of North America’s biggest voluntary offset buyers showed it is a small world after all, purchasing carbon credits from the same forestry organization.

General Motors (GM) and the Walt Disney Company drew raves for their common affinity for projects developed by the National Forest Foundation, the nonprofit partner of the US Forest Service.

GM’s Chevrolet brand will retire carbon credits from a variety of projects, including a foundation project that is restoring 250 acres of the San Juan National Forest in Colorado, as part of its $40 million Chevrolet Carbon Reduction Initiative, which has a goal of reducing up to eight million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

“This is one of the project types that GM has seen as really innovative,” said Nicholas Martin, chief technical officer for ACR, which awarded its Corporate Excellence award to the Detroit-based automaker.

The Walt Disney Company likewise has invested $30 million in global forest carbon projects. One was a National Forest Foundation project to reforest 900 acres in the Angeles National Forest through the planting of 154,000 trees to help recover from the Station Fire, the largest and deadliest of a series of California wildfires in 2009. ACR recognized the Burbank, California-based entertainment and media conglomerate, alongside the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, for its efforts to revive and restore forests with the registry’s Commitment to Quality award.

“It’s just been a phenomenal ride for us,” said Robert Antonoplis, vice-president and counsel for Disney. “It’s been a real learning experience for us as a company,” he added, also describing the positive impact Disney’s offset commitment has had on the company’s employee recruitment efforts.

Meanwhile, the use of the carbon markets to finance the restoration of the delta wetlands became a reality in 2012 with approval of the first carbon offset project methodology.

Tierra Resources developed the first methodology to finance restoration of the wetlands, starting with the Mississippi Delta, with funding from Entergy’s Environmental Initiatives Fund. The methodology facilitates the creation and monetization of carbon offset credits from a broad range of wetland restoration activities.

“This was very personal work for us being based out of Louisiana,” said Sarah Mack, CEO of Tierra Resources. “We really see it as a key to our sustainability to be able to implement and expedite large-scale restoration in our region.”

The company is working with the ACR to expand the methodology to California. The registry approved the methodology last year and gave its Innovation Award to Tierra Resources and Entergy for its development.

“Tierra Resources invested a whole lot of sweat into making this methodology a reality and really went above and beyond what people thought was possible at this time,” said Belinda Morris, ACR’s California director. “This is a great opportunity for greenhouse gas reductions. It also presents opportunities for adaptation.”

Buyers in the United States were the world’s top source of voluntary demand for carbon offsets, contracting 37% of global volumes worth $178 million in 2011, according to the State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2012 report.

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