The Adirondack Park is rich with carbon offset projects
By Chloe Bennett
Carbon offset projects, meant to balance out greenhouse gas emissions from polluting companies, gained popularity in recent years. In 2023, the Adirondack Explorer found that more than 450,000 acres of private property in the park were used for the practice.
There are other ways to offset carbon, such as carbon capture technology or composting, but forestry projects are among the most popular forms.
Carbon offset projects have a share in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which calls for a net-zero emission status of 1990 levels by 2050. The law allows for 15% of its goal to be accounted for by such projects.
A new program focused on family-owned plots of land hit the Adirondack market in November 2023. The Family Forest Carbon Program, which started in Pennsylvania in 2020, was developed by The Nature Conservancy and the American Forest Foundation.
“We really need natural climate solutions to meet these huge state goals that we have,” said Michelle Brown, senior conservation scientist for the conservancy in New York. “So, a lot of the natural climate solutions depend on private landowners taking action on their property.”
Still, scientists question how useful forestry carbon offsets are. Land not already at risk of degradation might not enhance its carbon sequestration capacity with a project. The Family Forest Carbon Program states that it only sells carbon credits with additional carbon storage, while most other programs are not as rigorous. Some worry that carbon offset projects lead to more pollution by not storing additional carbon and allowing companies to continue operating as usual.
“The problem is that the protocols themselves are fundamentally flawed,” Charles Canham, senior scientist for the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, said. “It’s not that people are cheating and not following the protocols. It’s that people are, in fact, following the protocols, but the protocols lead to gross exaggeration.”
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