June 19th and 20th marked the Spring 2014 meeting for Carbon Canopy, Dogwood Alliance’s forest carbon offsets initiative. Carbon Canopy is an innovative project that incentivizes forest conservation to create lucrative carbon sinks for landowners and valuable offsets for environmentally conscious businesses looking to reduce their footprint. Partners and stakeholders convened to discuss the state of Carbon Canopy’s mission and goals and to refocus the project’s direction. Many of the meeting attendees have been involved in the project since its conception. But for myself and two other interns at the meeting, we’re new to the team. Along with Arjun Wadwalkar and Yimeng Wang, I’m a summer intern at Dogwood Alliance, working on the business development plan for Carbon Canopy under the guidance of Andrew Goldberg, Dogwood’s Director of Corporate Engagement.
Gathered at the table, we all asked ourselves: since we first came together, what has changed? What has stayed the same? And what does it mean going forward? It’s clear that one important thing hasn’t changed—Carbon Canopy’s commitment to its core values. Discussing the main goals of the project, we affirmed that they were the same ones that inspired partners to come together in 2007:
- Conservation of forests in Southern Appalachia
- Growth of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forestland
- Generation of high quality offsets
- Stacking of co-benefits and bundling other ecosystem services
- Sustainable supply chain improvement
In addition to Carbon Canopy’s core values holding true, we noted another similarity from the onset of the project. In early 2007, Senators Lieberman (D-CT) and McCain (R-AZ) introduced a piece of legislation that would have established a market-driven solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A nationwide carbon market seemed promising—but the bill never made it through Congress. Now, we’re experiencing another moment of political inflection. In its recently proposed rule, the EPA plans to cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30% from the levels of 2005. It calls for states to develop their own plans for how to meet those goals. That could potentially call for the expansion of carbon markets beyond California’s existing Global Warming Solutions Act cap-and-trade system. Under the rule, states may adopt cap-and-trade systems that could lead to growth in demand for offsets from newly regulated utility companies. That’s where Carbon Canopy’s high quality, authentic credits come in. To prepare for the meeting in the month leading up to it, the other Carbon Canopy interns and I familiarized ourselves with the ins and outs of the carbon market and developed a stronger grasp on the mission of the forest carbon venture. We put together a presentation that digests the executive summary of the State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2014 (check back here for more information when the full report comes out in a few weeks!), provided our analysis of the market forces and competitive radar, and explained our take on the non-profit business model. We offered strategic recommendations for Carbon Canopy going forward, focusing on how it can strengthen its brand, provide more services, and further its overall mission. I’m looking forward to continuing to work on the project for the remainder of the summer, developing a more thorough business plan.
Marking a first for Carbon Canopy, continuing forestry education credits were approved for those foresters in attendance. Before the discussion and presentation on Friday, the group visited the Pisgah Mountain Tract, a piece of land that is managed by Columbia Forest Products. This is one of the key strengths of the Carbon Canopy Project—the ability and desire to connect stakeholders directly with the land. Out in the field on Thursday and at the conference discussion the next day, the dedication was evident. The field visit and meeting served to remind us all what we’re fighting for, and I’m expecting some exciting next steps for the Carbon Canopy.