Thursday, October 08, 2009

New "Carbon Canopy" Brings Groups Together for U.S. Southern Forests

A newly announced group of diverse stakeholders say their work to build credibility within US forest carbon market will create incentives to protect, restore and conserve forests while providing sources of paper and wood products from forests managed to a high environmental standard.

Staples, and one-time foe Dogwood Alliance are teaming up with other conservation groups, wood products companies and landowners to announce a new, comprehensive project that will protect forests, combat climate change and help develop sources of paper and wood products certified to the high standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The Carbon Canopy is focused on forests in the Southern US, the largest paper and wood-producing region in the world where 90% of the forests are privately owned. Combined with the loss of forests to development, logging practices such as large scale clearcutting and the conversion of natural forests to plantations has created concerns about the long-term health of the region’s forests.As a first step to addressing these concerns, the Carbon Canopy will develop a pioneering project that will be based on rigorous environmental standards to determine how the emerging US forest carbon market can be credibly leveraged to pay private landowners to expand carbon stores in working forests in the South. The ultimate goal is to create financial incentives for landowners to increase forest conservation and restoration efforts, and to certify management practices to the high standards of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Through the pilot project the Carbon Canopy will “test” how southern forest landowners might benefit financially from expanding forest conservation and restoration on the ground in a working forest certified to the high standards of FSC certification.

The pilot project will be focused on increasing the abundance of older, more mature natural forests through select logging and thinning. In addition to expanding carbon sequestration the management practices will ensure the protection of water quality and biodiversity. The initial project will meet the rigorous carbon accounting standards of the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VSC) and the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and the management practices will meet the high standards of FSC certification. Staples and Interface, have offered to pay the pilot project landowner(s) for increases in carbon stored and sequestered as a result of improved forest management practices on the ground. Pacific Forest Trust will manage the development of the pilot project.

“Never before have we seen this kind of collaboration in the South between forest industry, large US corporations, landowners and environmental groups to find real solutions” stated Danna Smith, Executive Director of the Dogwood Alliance.

“This project is a continuation of the important work that we began with Dogwood Alliance years ago to effect change and responsibly preserve and cultivate the forests of the US,” said Mark Buckley, vice president of environmental affairs of Staples Inc. “We are excited to be a part of a project focused on the longevity of our forests, one that will benefit the stewards of the land, positively impact future generations and support local and regional economies by creating products originating from forests managed to a high environmental standard.”

Carbon Canopy partners include: Staples, Dogwood Alliance, Columbia Forest Products, Pacific Forest Trust, FSC US, Rainforest Alliance, Green Press Initiative, Domtar, The Home Depot, Environmental Defense, Interface, The Forestland Group and The Keystone Center.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Obama Executive Order Mandates Recycled Paper to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

President Obama has issued an Executive Order directing the federal government to act as hundreds of leading corporations and other governments are and to review and reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions throughout its operational footprint. The action, if implemented effectively, could result in much greater efficiency and cost savings to taxpayers and stimulation on environmental innovation and green jobs in the marketplace.

The statement from the White House says that Executive Order 13423, "sets sustainability goals for Federal agencies and focuses on making improvements in their environmental, energy and economic performance. The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target within 90 days; increase energy efficiency; reduce fleet petroleum consumption; conserve water; reduce waste; support sustainable communities; and leverage Federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies."

The direction clearly points to a review of paper use efficiency, to lower emissions and financial costs to the taxpayers. Also included explicitly in those "environmentally responsible products and technologies" is post-consumer recycled paper, and meeting agency defined minimum post-consumer recycled content.

Of course, as many readers may know, these minimums should already be the standard, as President Clinton first issued an Executive Order in his term which specifically created recycled paper content minimums for federal purchases. It is commonly held opinion that Clinton's Order is not currently enforced, nor has been for some time, and needs better oversight to achieve its results, and Government Accounting Office reports have suggested as much.

It is critical that the Steering Committee set up by this new Executive Order from the Obama Administration be an effective body, with transparency and authority to make this program successful. Secondly, it will be critical that the EPA consider increasing its minimum recycled content goals for some paper products, in response to a marketplace that has changed a great deal in the last decade.

Boosting recycled content purchasing would send strong signals to the marketplaces, particularly when occurring in conjunction with a corporate wave of responsible paper purchasing policies forecasting an increase in demand for recycled content. These market forces are creating jobs and rewarding green innovation move the U.S. economy into the 21st Century. Investment in a network of smaller, efficient recycled paper mills near urban centers to collect waster paper from these teeming "papersheds" will create green jobs and significantly reduce the worst environmental impacts of overconsumption of paper from natural forests.

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Download the Executive Order HERE