Restoring bush will result in carbon credits, cash

  • May. 12, 2006 5:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Old Massett economic development officer John Disney says there is money to be made restoring long-ago logged riverbanks. No, this isn’t a new forestry fund, or watershed restoration grant scheme. Mr. Disney’s project is all about climate change and the Kyoto Protocol.
He has been working on the idea for three years and to understand what he’s trying to do, one needs to first know something about carbon credits.
The concept involves buying carbon units, mainly in tonnes, to offset the C02 generated by industrial activities.
Canada committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to six percent below 1990 levels by 2010 when the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997. But instead, the emissions are now 35-percent higher than 1990 levels.
Mr. Disney says his plan is to restore the bush to a more pristine state by repairing riparian zones now covered with thick alder. This, he says, will produce carbon credits saleable on the open market.
Experts believe that the carbon credit system could cover up to 75-percent of Canada’s emissions and would be the simplest way to meet targets.
Mr. Disney proposes to sell the carbon credits, from what he calls Canada’s only forestry-related carbon credit project, to Canadian companies and to the government to reduce Canada’s emissions.
Mr. Disney says old growth, the natural state for the riparian zones to be in, sequester more carbon than the alder choked riverbanks do. By grooming and managing the alder, he says he can speed up the return to old growth by 110-150 years.
Regulations now ensure these areas will never be logged again, so the result will be a net decrease in carbon in the atmosphere.
“Alder takes a little bit of carbon out, but a spruce tree sucks up a lot more,” he says.
Due to the sensitive nature of the sites, he plans to groom the areas on a metre-by-metre basis and carefully brush around as many growing conifers as possible.
He is still trying to get the necessary permits to be able to implement a pilot project in a riparian area on crown tenures, but he projects the project will be worth millions in a few years. He says one tonne of carbon credits are worth about $25 on the Canadian market.
“We will be creating wealth from planting trees and repairing areas affected by man,” he says.
Besides turning Haida Gwaii into a net carbon sink, Mr. Disney is motivated to create jobs for local residents. He believes this labour intensive industry will employ 20 people.
Mr. Disney is looking for funding to implement the pilot project as well. He needs $4.5 million to get his project to the point where he has a saleable product. He thinks this will take one year.
“The ecosystem is so vibrant,” he says, meaning the project will get results faster than in other areas.
He says he has been working with a number of scientists on the idea, but has yet to convince the provincial regulators that the project is sound. A similar project began in Clayoquot Sound in 2003, but never got off the ground.