Capturing Carbon in Mass Audubon Forests

Stump Brook Wildlife Sanctuary
Stump Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Mass Audubon is committed to fighting climate change through conservation, advocacy, and education. And we are always looking for innovative ways to make a real and lasting impact. Our recent entry into the California Air Resources Board (CARB) carbon offset market is a prime example.

Establishing a price on carbon is an effective way to harness economic pressure to force carbon emissions reductions, but no policy has yet been implemented at the federal level. The best model is California’s comprehensive carbon emissions reduction campaign, which includes a cap-and-trade program for industries.

Mass Audubon has enrolled 10,000 acres of our forests in a CARB Improved Forest Management project, the first of its kind in Massachusetts. Since the carbon stored in these acres exceeded the regional average value, we were awarded more than 600,000 offset credits, which were then sold on the CARB carbon offset market.

A Closer Look at Cap & Trade

Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat in the atmosphere, resulting in worldwide, anthropogenic warming that’s driving changes in our environment. Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is one of the most important actions we can take to fight climate change, and one of the best ways to do that is to store that carbon in trees. Forests cover more than 60% of Massachusetts and remove approximately 14% of the state’s yearly greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere.

As part of its carbon emissions reduction program, California has created a cap-and-trade program, which establishes an upper limit—the "cap"—on the total carbon volume that can be emitted annually by various industrial sectors in the state. Regulated entities are required to obtain a credit, representing one ton of carbon dioxide, for every ton of carbon dioxide that they emit. These credits—known as allowances when issued by the state, or offsets if generated by a third party—can be bought and sold through the carbon market—the "trade."

The cap, determined by the number of allowances issued by the state, declines every year to drive a continual reduction in overall emissions. While Massachusetts participates in a regional greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, it is not as comprehensive as the California market. The expansion of this program is a Mass Audubon legislative priority.

Looking Forward

By enrolling the 10,000 acres and selling the offset credits, Mass Audubon has committed to maintaining the carbon stored in these forests for at least 100 years. In return, the funds generated from the sale will support our work—including land stewardship and climate education programs—so we can continue to fight against climate change in all that we do.

Learn More

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about this project. 

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