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July 5, 2018

Northern Maine carbon offset project to help combat climate change

Photo: /Mark Berry/The Nature Conservancy
A new carbon offset project on 124,000 acres of forest along the St. John River blends forest management, wildlife habitat and financial incentives to address climate change. This photo was taken near Desolation Pond.

Mark Berry, the Nature Conservancy's Maine forest program director, sees a bright future for carbon offset projects in the fight against climate change, like the one his group is launching on 124,000 forested acres along the St. John River.

The project, announced June 26, involves a 10-year agreement with Climate Trust Capital, a U.S.-based private investment fund that's putting $2.2 million into the project. Climate Trust Capital is an independent entity of The Climate Trust, a nonprofit based in Portland, Ore.

As the forest owner, The Nature Conservancy has made a long-term commitment to maintain increased timber stocking on the land so that carbon can be stored.

Through a cap-and-trade market set up by California and Canadian provinces known as the Western Climate Initiative, greenhouse gas emitters will be able to buy carbon credits resulting from the project to offset emissions generated elsewhere.

"A number of other landowners in Maine have been carefully considering carbon offset projects as a potentially attractive opportunity," Berry told Mainebiz in a telephone interview. "I think we will see more over time."

This markets the largest investment for Climate Trust Capital, which is making the investment through its $5.5 million Fund I.

The Fund will develop and manage the Upper St. John River Improved Forest Management carbon project with The Nature Conservancy. The Fund's investment is based on the anticipated 10-year value of carbon offsets generated from the project.

Revenues will be reinvested back into the property and used by the Conservancy to advance renewable energy and forest-related projects.

Millions in expected revenues

Berry told Mainebiz that while it's too early to give an estimate of the expected revenue, "it's definitely anticipated to be a multimillion dollar project," with most of the benefit going to The Nature Conservancy.

He said that an inventory would be conducted this summer and into the fall.

The Nature Conservancy said in a news release that the market-driven approach offers a natural way to capture carbon dioxide from the air while creating financial incentives for polluters to cut their emissions and for landowners to manage for carbon storage.

Speaking more generally, Berry highlighted Maine's importance in combating climate change.

"We have an amazing forest resource and a real opportunity to not only maintain a timber economy, but also to do something really important for our climate," he said.

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