Table of Contents
Major Topic Sections
Related topics in this section
Vegetation and soils are widely
recognized as carbon storage sinks. The global biosphere absorbs roughly 2
billion tons of carbon annually, an amount equal to roughly one third of all
global carbon emissions from human activity. Significant amounts of this
carbon remains stored in the roots of certain plants and in the soil. In fact,
the inventory of carbon stored in the global ecosystem equals roughly 1,000
years worth of annual absorption, or 2 trillion tons of carbon.
management is defined as either the net removal of CO2
from the atmosphere or the prevention of CO2 net emissions from the
terrestrial ecosystems into the atmosphere.
Such activities – in the form of forest
and agricultural land-use activities – can help, especially in the near
term, to solve the issue of increasing atmospheric CO2,
at a reasonable cost and with secondary environmental and other benefits.
They also can allow more time for developing new energy technologies that require long lead times, including lower-emitting energy technologies,
and to avoid the premature retirement (at high costs) of existing energy
Domestic and international activities
undertaken by individual utilities in this area include reforestation and
forest preservation. In addition to sequestering CO2 emissions,
these activities have the added benefits of:
restoring bottomland hardwoods on marginal agricultural lands; preserving,
creating and improving habitats for a variety of wildlife, including
migratory birds and waterfowl, and even threatened and endangered species;
improving water and soil quality; reducing flooding; conserving biological
diversity in ecosystems; and providing recreational benefits.
Research and development
activities in terrestrial sequestration are focused on integrating measures
for improving the full life-cycle carbon uptake of terrestrial ecosystems,
including farmland and forests, with fossil fuel production and use. The
following ecosystems offer significant opportunity for carbon sequestration:
The focus includes below-ground carbon and long-term management and
utilization of standing stocks, understory, ground cover, and litter.
Agricultural lands. The focus
includes crop lands, grasslands, and range lands, with emphasis on
increasing long-lived soil carbon.
Biomass croplands. As a
complement to ongoing efforts related to biofuels, the focus is on
long-term increases in soil carbon and value-added organic products.
Deserts and degraded lands.
Restoration of degraded lands offers significant benefits and carbon
sequestration potential in both below-and above-ground systems.
Boreal wetlands and peatlands.
The focus includes management of soil carbon pools and perhaps limited
conversion to forest or grassland vegetation where ecologically
subsections below elaborate on several to these several terrestrial
sequestration areas, including an overarching discussion of measurement,
monitoring, and verification (MMV) issues.
Several organizations have been active in
sequestration projects, and possibly could serve as Partners in Terrestrial
Sequestration Projects. A partial list of these organizations includes the
Terrestrial sequestration, while a
promising area for GHG mitigation, introduces several policy issues
regarding the measuring, monitoring, and verification of the GHG savings.
Some of these issues include the following:
One criticism of forestry efforts is that these do not provide the
same long-term benefits as reducing energy-related emissions. This
can be true if stored carbon is released within a few decades, due to
natural disaster, land ownership changes, etc. However, there also
are ways to address the issue of duration or permanence, such as
buffers and contingency credits (i.e., making the project
larger as a safety margin); external insurance; and full carbon
accounting. Full carbon accounting assesses all changes in carbon
stocks in all important carbon pools of the project. In this
approach, any shortfall must be addressed by purchasing credits or
undertaking other projects. Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind
that even if a forestry activity
were short-lived, e.g., a few decades, it would still be
valuable, since it may serve as a bridge to the future.
Leakage occurs when man's efforts produce a direct greenhouse gas
benefit in one location/time but also a contradictory (or amplifying)
effect elsewhere. For example, if one area of forest is protected or
increased, negative leakage would occur if, due to demand for forest
products, a corresponding area of forest elsewhere were harvested,
reducing the net greenhouse gas benefit. Positive leakage can occur
where an activity leads to amplified or "spillover" benefits in other
situations. Leakage is an issue for all types of projects, including
energy projects. Leakage can be avoided, minimized or at least
quantified by proper project design. In addition, many projects
clearly present no leakage concern to begin with; e.g., the UtiliTree
Carbon Company's projects in the Mississippi River Valley of the U.S.
do not significantly alter the millions of acres of agricultural land
in the region and do not contain a commercial forestry aspect that
would alter forest product markets.
Additionality, or supplementarity, is a criterion that can be an issue
for poorly conceived projects, but which is not an issue generally.
For international projects (of all types, not just forestry) in
nations that are not required to take on emission reduction
commitments, if a project fails to create valid GHG credits, and then
a party in another nation claims such credits, then net greenhouse gas
emissions would likely be higher. For domestic projects, carbon
sequestered via activities that are already required by government
regulations or by law might in some cases not be considered
additional. Careful evaluation of project baselines/reference cases
or benchmarks can address emissions additionality.
Quantification of Carbon
Measurement methods for carbon stored in trees and other vegetation
have existed for many decades. Techniques for measurement of carbon
in soils have advanced over recent years to the point where they are
accurate but many measurements can be required to accurately measure
soil carbon. Thus, it is not a matter of whether carbon can be
measured accurately but more a matter of how to continue to improve
the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of such measurements.
The following suggested guidelines will
help in the development of credible projects and programs:
Carbon benefits must be real, compared
to reasonable baselines or reference cases.
Only actual project results should be
Projects must be monitored and
The carbon accounting system should
provide transparent, consistent, comparable, complete, accurate,
verifiable and efficient reporting of changes in carbon stocks.
Monitoring should balance cost and
accuracy to attain reasonable accuracy.
Projects should be consistent with
maintaining or enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity, while avoiding
generally the conversion of native ecosystems.
Negative leakage must be evaluated,
quantified and addressed in project accounting.
Full carbon accounting is necessary
over a long period of time for all lands with forestry activities
related to the Protocol to address the issue of permanence.
Trees are referred to as "carbon sinks,"
because they take carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air and
sequester it in living plant tissue. About one-half of a tree is carbon.
Carbon can be managed through many different types of forestry activities,
including: forest preservation and management projects to maintain carbon
sequestered by reducing deforestation and harvest impacts; forest management
to enhance existing carbon sinks; creation of new carbon sinks by planting
on pasture, agricultural land or degraded forest sites; storing carbon in
wood products; and energy conservation through shading buildings and homes.
The technical potential for forest carbon
management is great, able to counteract a meaningful portion of the carbon
added annually to the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) estimated that, during 1995-2050, slowing deforestation,
promoting natural forest regeneration and global reforestation could offset
about 60 to 90 billion tons (12-15%) of fossil fuel-related CO2
emissions (as carbon, C), with three-quarters of this in the tropics. The
IPCC also reported that reduction of deforestation-related CO2
emissions is especially important because these emissions currently
represent about 20 percent of man-made CO2 emissions and have
made up one-third of man-made emissions since 1850.
The electric industry has a long history of
involvement with traditional forest management and tree-planting programs,
through preserving forest lands for both recreational use and wildlife
habitat, tree maintenance around power lines, education of homeowners on
tree placement around power lines, and commercial forestry on electric
utility-owned lands. In association with events such as Earth Day and Arbor
Day, many utilities supply seedlings for employees, children and others to
plant. The electric industry owns a large amount of land in order to house
and surround its current and future generation, transmission and
Utilities have also initiated numerous
forestry projects specifically to offset CO2 emissions or
conserve energy. These efforts included electric power companies involved
in urban forestry energy conservation programs such as American Forests'
Global ReLeaf program and some utilities are using biomass as a fuel to
produce electricity. The majority of trees planted, however, are
associated with projects designed specifically to remove CO2 from the
atmosphere and to store carbon in tree biomass.
Carbon offsets, properly documented and
monitored, should be a major component of any strategy to respond to
greenhouse gas concerns. Well-designed projects can be important tools
because of their multiple attributes: reducing emissions and increasing
uptake of carbon; contributing to sustainable development goals; providing
substantial ancillary environmental benefits; and cost‑effectiveness in
Some specific reasons for utilities to
participate in forest carbon management include:
Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas
emissions can often be managed through the variety of agricultural
activities which utilities and their customers engage in, such as:
Conservation tillage to reduce soil
disturbance and maintain higher soil carbon and nitrogen content
Improving efficiency of fertilizer and
pesticide use, reducing energy usage during their manufacture and
Reducing post-application fertilizer
nitrogen emissions by changing application rate, placement, and timing
Creation of new carbon sinks by
planting halophytes (salt-tolerant plants) on otherwise unproductive
desert coastal lands
Managing grazing lands through
improved species of forage, integrated nutrient management and
Recovering and using methane for
on-farm power production
Reduced methane emissions from
ruminants (i.e., cattle) through improved nutrition and other
sequestration has great potential to address carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and many land grant
universities are actively evaluating these opportunities.
Deserts and degraded lands
As an alternative to
forestry, sustainable, drought proof options in rainfall areas between 2 and
25 inches exist for saltbrush growing and stock grazing with superior
sequestration levels than normal grasslands. The advantages of saltbrush, a
hardy perennial plant with life expectancy of beyond 100 years, is its
capacity to be fully established in twelve months, salt tolerant up to
25,000 ppm, and with 3-5 meter tap roots and up to 10 meter laterals, carbon
storage persists through regular stock grazing from either cattle or sheep.
Successful saltbrush applications have been made in both the middle East and
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American Electric Power (AEP)
has pursued a number of reforestation and forest
preservation activities in the United States, Bolivia, and Brazil. In
the United States, AEP has partnered with the Conservation
Fund and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
to acquire, protect, and restore a bottomland hardwood forest on more than
18,000 acres near Catahoula Lake in east central Louisiana, a major
haven for migratory birds in the Mississippi
delta. AEP restored the bottomland hardwood habitat by planting native trees
on its portion of the property and a portion of the property owned by USFWS.
In Bolivia, AEP is working to protect the Noel Kempff Mercado Park,
which has nearly four million acres of threatened
tropical forests and is one of the most
biologically diverse areas in the world. The project preserves forest that
otherwise would have been logged –helping to mitigate GHG emissions by
capturing carbon in the trees – and fosters sustainable development in local
communities. In Brazil, AEP helped create the Guaraquecaba Climate
Action Project in the Atlantic Forest to
restore and protect 17,000 acres of threatened or degraded tropical forests.
Public power systems are sequestering
substantial GHG emissions through the use and expansion of APPA’s
TREE POWER™ program. Currently, more than 250 utilities, serving
more than 50 percent of public power’s 19.1 million customers, participate
in the TREE POWER™ program, which was created in 1991.
sponsors several carbon sequestration
programs, such as “Trees Forever” in Iowa, and similar programs in
Missouri. Since 1992, the company has planted more than 230,000 trees, which
has resulted in the sequestration of 13,000 tons of CO2 emissions
and more than 319 tons of combustion
carbon sequestration activities from two
projects, the Bayou Jean de Jean and Maknockanut, sequestered more than
1,600 tons of CO2 emissions annually, from 2003 to 2005.
DTE Energy in 1995
committed to plant 10 million trees by the year 2000. The company achieved
that landmark in only three-and-a-half years. An additional 10 million trees
have been planted to date, for a total of 20 million trees. These trees will
absorb approximately 6.6 million tons of CO2 emissions and
produce 4.6 million tons of oxygen over a 50-year lifetime. Since 1998, the
company also has funded an annual Urban Forestry Grant program and awarded
77 grants to 58 Michigan communities. DTE subsidiary Detroit Edison was one
of the original sponsors of the Rio Bravo Conservation Area project to
protect rainforests in Belize. Detroit Edison also was a major sponsor of
the UtiliTree Carbon Company, which funded forest restoration projects
in the United States and abroad.
Duke Energy has initiated a
number of reforestation and afforestation carbon sequestration projects in
which the company provided funding for the purchase and planting of trees.
Organizations that Duke Energy has partnered with include USDA, The Nature
Conservancy (TNC), Ducks Unlimited, and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
More than 1.5 million trees have been
planted through these partnerships. Duke Energy also has partnered with TNC,
a local conservation group in Belize, and several U.S. electric
utilities to undertake the Rio Bravo Carbon Sequestration Pilot Project in
Belize. The project both preserves existing tropical forest by protecting it
from conversion to agricultural uses and implements
sustainable logging practices.
Entergy established the
Sustainable Forestry Plan in 2002 to identify property within its
of company-owned land that are deemed to
have high potential for achieving carbon sequestration, restoring wildlife
habitats, or beautification. Through 2005, 3,200 acres of company-owned land
have been reforested and more than 1.25 million metric tons of CO2
emissions sequestration are expected. In 2005, Entergy funded the
acquisition and reforestation of native bottomland hardwoods on an
additional 300 acres of marginal cropland adjacent to the Tensas River
National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. Along with the plantings done
in 2004, a total of 1,600 acres have been
restored. This property has been donated to USFWS for inclusion in the
Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge. Over the next 70 years, the
bottomland hardwoods are expected to sequester 760,000 metric tons of
CO2 emissions. In addition, the reforested land helps restore habitat that is
critical to the threatened Louisiana black bear.
Working with EPRI, Power
Partners℠ are developing GHG emissions offsets by reducing N2O
emissions in agricultural crop production: Nitrous oxide (N2O) is
a significant GHG emission. Each ton of N2O
emitted into the atmosphere is equivalent to emitting 296 tons of CO2.
This project will investigate the approach of developing large-scale
GHG-emissions offsets by reducing N2O emissions in agricultural
crop production. The tools and information developed in this project will
broaden the GHG emissions-offset options available to electric utilities and
power generators and can serve as a mechanism to develop and strengthen
partnerships with the agricultural communities that they serve.
subsidiary has restored more than 120 acres of natural prairie habitat on
buffer lands and rights-of-way in Illinois since 1994. Exelon and its
subsidiary PECO, along with other organizations, are funding TreeVitalize,
an aggressive four-year, $8 million partnership led by the Pennsylvania Department
of Conservation and Natural Resources. TreeVitalize has three goals: to
plant more than 20,000 shade trees, to restore 1,000 acres of forested
riparian buffers, and to train 2,000 citizen volunteers in proper tree care
techniques in southeastern Pennsylvania.
PacifiCorp is funding the
reforestation of many acres of fir and ponderosa pine to absorb or sequester
CO2 emissions in Oregon and Washington. Larger-scale company
projects include aiding the preservation of more than 1.5 million acres of
rainforest in Belize and Bolivia. These two projects, developed in
partnership with local partners and TNC, are expected to reduce CO2
in the atmosphere by 40 million metric tons
over the life of the projects.
The PowerTree Carbon Company,
formally announced in 2004, is a reforestation effort in the lower
Mississippi River Valley (Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi). Twenty-five
power generators have committed more than $3 million for seven tree-planting
projects that will restore habitats and will remove and store more than 1.5
million tons of CO2 over their
To help public power utilities calculate
the environmental benefits of their tree planting programs, the
Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) developed the
Benefits Estimator. The Estimator, posted on APPA’s Web site, can be used to estimate the amount of energy and capacity a utility can save
(or has saved) through its tree-planting
program. It also estimates how many pounds of carbon and CO2
emissions will be sequestered.
has planted more than 35
million trees across the Southeast. In addition, the company initiated a
five-year program to restore the longleaf pine in the southeastern United
States. In partnership with the
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the program will plant longleaf pine
trees, restore critical habitat, sequester carbon, and improve biodiversity
throughout the Southern Company service territory. In the first two years of
this project, more than 1.5 million trees have been planted and
approximately 3,000 acres of critical habitat have been restored.
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American Forests, “Global ReLeaf”
Global ReLeaf is American
Forests' education and action program that helps individuals, organizations,
agencies, and corporations improve the local and global environment by
planting and caring for trees. There are two types of Global ReLeaf
projects: 1) In urban areas, trees are planted through the Global ReLeaf
Fund. The program also encourages individuals to plant trees around their
homes and businesses or join community groups to plant trees that shade,
cool, and beautify their neighborhoods. 2) In less-developed areas, trees
are planted in ecosystem restoration projects called Global ReLeaf Forests.
Many of these areas have been damaged by natural or human causes. These
trees help clean the air and water, filter polluted runoff, slow global
warming and erosion, and provide habitat for wildlife.
American Public Power Association, "APPA Tree Benefits Estimator" (2007)
The APPA Tree Benefits Estimator was
designed to APPA member utilities quantify and track the benefits of
planting shade trees. It estimates the amount of energy savings (KWh saved),
capacity savings (KW saved) and carbon and CO2 sequestration (lbs) resulting
from mature trees planted in urban and suburban settings. The Tree Benefits
Estimator can be used by those who have no formal background in urban
forestry or Demand Side Management (DSM) utility practices. The Tree
Benefits Estimator, developed by Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD),
was based on the experience of the SMUD's Shade Tree program.
Edison Electric Institute, “PowerTree
Carbon Company, LLC” (part of the brochure on Power Partners℠:
EEI Industry Initiatives)
PowerTree Carbon Company, LLC
is an initiative to plant trees in critical habitats in the Lower
Mississippi River Valley. Through PowerTree Carbon Company, LLC, electric
companies are partnering with government agencies and environmental groups
to plant trees and restore natural ecosystems in Arkansas, Louisiana, and
Environmental Protection Agency,
“Agricultural Practices that Sequester Carbon and/or Reduce Emissions of
Other Greenhouse Gases”
Presents a table describing
key agricultural practices and their effect on greenhouse gases. Also
includes information on representative sequestration rates and
saturation periods of key agricultural practices.
Environmental Protection Agency, “Carbon
Sequestration in Agriculture and Forestry"
Sequestration activities can help prevent global climate change by enhancing
carbon storage in trees and soils, preserving existing tree and soil carbon,
and by reducing emissions of CO2, methane (CH4) and
nitrous oxide (N2O). This website provides FAQs, basic science
background, sequestration practices, information on international
opportunities, and various tools and references.
Soil Science Society of America, “Carbon
Sequestration: Position of the Soil Science Society of America”
The Soil Science Society of
America (SSSA) is the professional home for over 5,700 professionals
throughout the world dedicated to the advancement of soil science. This FAQ
addresses the relationship between carbon sequestration, land management and
other environmental factors.
United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization (UN-FAO), Land and Water Development Division, “Soil Carbon
This website provides
information on the activities of the Land Service of the Land and Water
Development Division (AGLL) of FAO on soil carbon sequestration within the
framework of its programme on the integrated planning and management of land
resources for sustainable rural development. The objective is to reverse
land degradation due to deforestation and inadequate land use/management in
the tropics and sub-tropics through the promotion of improved land use
systems and land management practices which provide win-win effects in terms
of economic gains and environmental benefits, greater agro-bio-diversity,
improved conservation and environmental management and increased carbon
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic
Research Service, “Is Carbon Sequestration in Agriculture Economically
Feasible?” (by Jan Lewandrowski and Carol Jones, originally published in
Amber Waves, April 2004)
While the U.S. farm sector’s technical
potential to store carbon is important to know, it is really the economic
potential for storing carbon that is most directly relevant to policymakers.
Using different incentive payment structures, ERS researchers analyzed the
economic feasibility of increasing carbon levels in soils and vegetation by
providing various levels of payments to convert croplands and pasture to
trees, shift cropland to permanent grasses, and/or increase the use of
conservation tillage systems.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of
the Chief Economist, “Global Climate Change"
The Climate Change Program Office (CCPO) operates within the
Office of the Chief Economist and functions as the Department-wide
coordinator of agriculture, rural and forestry-related global change program
and policy issues facing USDA. The Office ensures that USDA is a source of
objective, analytical assessments of the effects of climate change and
proposed response strategies. The Office also serves as USDA's focal point
for climate change issues and is responsible for coordinating activities
with other Federal agencies, interacting with the legislative branch on
climate change issues affecting agriculture and forestry, and representing
USDA on U.S. delegations to international climate change discussions.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of
the Chief Economist. “U.S. Agriculture and Forestry Greenhouse Gas
Inventory: 1990-2001” (Technical Bulletin No. 1907, March 2004)
The U.S. Agriculture and
Forestry Greenhouse Gas Inventory: 1990-2001 (USDA GHG Inventory) is a
comprehensive assessment of greenhouse gas emissions and sinks in U.S.
agriculture and forests. The USDA GHG Inventory provides extensive, in-depth
emissions and sinks estimates for livestock, cropland, and forests, as well
as energy consumption in livestock and cropland agriculture.
U.S. Department of Energy, Consortium for
Research on Enhancing Carbon Sequestration in Terrestrial Ecosystems (CSiTE)
The U.S. Department of
Energy’s Office of Science - Biological and Environmental Research
established CSiTE, a research consortium, to perform fundamental research
that will lead to acceptable methods to enhance carbon sequestration in
terrestrial ecosystems as one component of a carbon management strategy. The
goal of CSiTE is to discover and characterize links between critical
pathways and mechanisms for creating larger, longer-lasting carbon pools in
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy
Information Administration, “EIA §1605(b) Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse
Gases Program Technical Assistance: General Guidance, Project- Specific
Guidance, Reporting Tools, and Emission Factors”
Includes guidance and factors
for forestry activities and urban sequestration.
U.S. Department of Energy,
Office of Fossil Energy, “Terrestrial Sequestration Research”
sequestration is defined as either the net removal of CO2
from the atmosphere or the prevention of CO2 net emissions from the
terrestrial ecosystems into the atmosphere. This DOE program area is focused
on integrating measures for improving the full life-cycle carbon uptake of
terrestrial ecosystems, including farmland and forests, with fossil fuel
production and use. The program area is being conducted in collaboration
with DOE’s Office of Science and the U.S. Forest Service of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
World Resource Institute, “Carbon Storage
This 5-page PDF article
discusses how carbon sequestration and storage slow the rate at which carbon
dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere and mitigate global warming. Forests
sequester and store more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem, and
constitute an important natural defense against climate change.
World Resources Institute and The World
Conservation Union, “Climate, Biodiversity, and Forests:
Issues and Opportunities Emerging from the Kyoto Protocol”
This Research Report examines
why the role of forests and land-use change under the Kyoto Protocol remains
controversial. Notes that climate change is a major threat to biodiversity
and that protecting biological diversity may help mitigate other impacts of
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