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Determining a True Carbon Benefit Part 3: From Intention to Action

“I want my woods to be healthy.”

“I want to create better habitat for wildlife.”

“I want to pass on this land to my children and grandchildren.” 

Ask a family forest owner what drives them to own land and these are some of the most common phrases you will hear. But what do these desires have to do with measuring and calculating the carbon benefit of a forest carbon project? More than a ton, to say the least.

A forest carbon project pays forest owners to increase the carbon sequestered and stored in their forest. The project must measure the carbon impact before they are able to sell this carbon to companies in the form of verified carbon credits. 

To do this means measuring additionality or “Is the carbon generated from a forest carbon project because of the project or would it have happened absent the particular project or intervention?” 

To answer this question, most look to intention: Did the landowner intend to capture carbon in his/her trees regardless? While intention does play a role, it is often misinterpreted by those unfamiliar with the needs and behaviors of forest owners. 

Rather, to create a true carbon impact, a forest carbon project should factor intention into program design, yet measure real-life behavior. 

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