WRA, Inc. is kicking off the development of a first of its kind forest carbon crediting program in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. The program is being developed in partnership with Sempervirens Fund, California’s oldest land trust, and is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The program, formerly referred to as the “Carbon Bank” is now being called the “Santa Cruz Mountains Carbon Cooperative” (i.e., Carbon Co-op). The new name emphasizes the collaborative dynamic of the program; it is being designed to enable relatively small forest landowners to participate in the carbon market by aggregating forest carbon projects across ownerships to achieve the necessary economies of scale for financial viability. The goals of the Carbon Co-op are to protect the biodiverse forest ecosystems of the Santa Cruz Mountains and enhance the capacity of the iconic redwood forest to sequester carbon and reduce climate change.
Following the completion of a feasibility study in 2016, WRA and Sempervirens Fund are launching the development of the Carbon Co-op, with the goal of implementing a pilot project in late 2018. As a first step to designing the Carbon Co-op, WRA and Sempervirens Fund led two workshops for local landowners in mid-February 2017 to collect input and gauge landowner interest in participating in the program. Nearly 50 landowners attended the workshops, and others expressed interest by phone or email. This response demonstrated a clear appetite for carbon crediting in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Over the next several months, WRA will be working with partners to adopt a carbon crediting protocol for the program, most likely in collaboration with an existing carbon crediting registry, and will be estimating carbon credit yields for various forest carbon projects. WRA will also be engaging with private companies that are interested in voluntarily purchasing carbon credits from the Carbon Co-op. WRA hopes to gain a clear sense of demand and begin to negotiate contract terms this year.
In addition to leading landowner and credit buyer engagement, WRA’s conservation finance team will explore innovative financing strategies and structures for stacking multiple sources of capital and ensuring adequate protections to both landowners and investors in the program. Carbon Co-op updates will be posted periodically on WRA’s blog and a new web page is being created for the Carbon Co-op on Sempervirens Fund’s website, expected to go live in the spring of 2017.
For a local perspective on the Carbon Co-op, check out this Santa Cruz Sentinel article that was published last month. If you have questions about the design of the Carbon Co-op, or are interested in participating, please contact Ben Guillon.