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King County’s new Forest Carbon Program confronts climate change by offering local companies the opportunity to offset their carbon emissions by keeping forests intact here in the region, making it possible for their employees and their families to explore and enjoy the protected outdoor spaces.
King County is the nation’s first local government to offer a certified carbon credit program in both urban and rural areas that protects local forests.
The county’s new Forest Carbon Program offers local companies the opportunity to offset a portion of their carbon emissions within King County where their employees and their families can explore and enjoy the protected forests.
“We are making it possible for local companies to help us protect forests, confront climate change, and promote healthy habitat right here where their employees live, work, and play,” said Executive Constantine. “Our first-of-its-kind carbon credit program has the potential to be a national model for public-private partnerships that improve the quality of life for people and wildlife in their own backyards.”
Microsoft is the first local company committed to purchasing the county’s rural carbon credits, which will be formally available in late 2019. Microsoft has committed to purchasing all of the credits from the rural program in its first year to offset carbon emissions from its operations.
Kirkland-based Fishermen’s Finest is the first local company to purchase urban carbon credits from King County from a recently protected forest near Sammamish. They are a home-grown fishing company with operations in the North Pacific and Bering Sea. The company is pushing the Alaska fishing industry to consider climate change and sustainability in fleet operations.
The temperate forests in the Pacific Northwest are among the best in the world at storing carbon because many native tree species have long, productive lifespans. The same factors that made Pacific Northwest forests ideal for timber production also make them highly effective at storing carbon. But until now, very few carbon credits were available that protect local forests.
King County acquires high-value forests that are at risk of development and then offers buyers the opportunity to purchase carbon credits generated by keeping carbon in the forests. King County will then invest the revenue generated by the program to protect more forests and offer credits to additional buyers.
Forests protected and managed under the program’s guidelines also will produce other benefits, such as cleaner air and water, healthier habitats for salmon and wildlife, and recreational opportunities.
For the rural forest carbon project, King County partnered with the Pinchot Institute to determine how much carbon is stored in local forests. This project will meet standards developed by the internationally recognized Verified Carbon Standard, while the county’s urban forest carbon projects meet the standards developed by City Forest Credits, a Seattle-based nonprofit that developed an innovative verification protocol for urban forest canopy preservation. The strict standards ensure that carbon offsets have a real and lasting impact.
In the first five years of the program, the urban and rural components of King County’s Forest Carbon Program will store at least 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide that otherwise would have been emitted into the atmosphere.
Natural Capital Partners, specialists in developing carbon project solutions for corporations, has worked closely with King County on the rural carbon credits program and pre-purchased all the credits from the first year on behalf of its client, Microsoft. The project’s location close to the Microsoft campus makes it an ideal fit for the company’s carbon neutral program.
Advancing Executive Constantine’s Land Conservation Initiative
The Forest Carbon Program advances Executive Constantine’s Land Conservation Initiative, a 30-year vision to protect 65,000 acres of King County’s last remaining and most vital conservation lands and ensure that all the county’s residents have access to greenspace. It offers the first new private funding source for the Land Conservation Initiative and a rare opportunity for businesses in the Puget Sound region to support land conservation.
King County plans to expand its Forest Carbon Program so local cities, nonprofits, and private forest landowners can participate as they protect forests, increasing the amount of carbon stored and generating funds for additional forest conservation.
"We are making it possible for local companies to help us protect forests, confront climate change, and promote healthy habitat right here where their employees live, work, and play. Our first-of-its-kind carbon credit program has the potential to be a national model for public-private partnerships that improve the quality of life for people and wildlife in their own backyards."
Dow Constantine, King County Executive
"Microsoft shares King County’s commitment to carbon neutrality, and the Forest Carbon Program offers a unique approach to carbon in a way that is good for our business, good for the community and good for the environment. We have operated 100 percent carbon neutral since 2012, and our participation in the Program is a good example of how this global goal can drive positive local outcomes in our own backyard."
Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer, Microsoft
"We continually work with our clients all over the world to evolve their carbon reduction programs in ways that will deliver benefits to their most important constituents. It’s a pleasure to be able to work with a program like this that ticks all the boxes: verified emission reductions, enhancing biodiversity and, uniquely, providing beautiful greenspace that can be enjoyed by Microsoft’s teams in Redmond."
Mark LaCroix, Executive Vice President Client Solutions, Natural Capital Partners
"King County and Fisherman’s Finest are leading by pioneering new pathways to address climate change. Preservation of urban trees brought the County and Fisherman’s Finest together in the first carbon credits issued and sold for urban forest preservation in the world. This represents an important pathway to greener, healthier, and more equitable cities and towns. This new public-private partnership is a model for metropolitan areas across the U.S."
Mark McPherson, Executive Director, City Forests Credits
"American Forests salutes the work of King County and the critical contributions of Fisherman’s Finest. Their leadership in pioneering this innovative funding mechanism for urban forestry is providing a model for our work and that of our partner City Forest Credits in cities nationwide."
Ian Leahy, Vice President and Director of Urban Forestry, American Forests