Planting forests to sequester carbon dioxide will work only if the forests are sustainable in the long term—and forests will be sustainable only if they provide an incentive to the farmers on whose land they are planted. Reforest the Tropics (RTT) is developing an innovative model for sustainability in tropical carbon-offset forests.
The log shown in the picture is one of many thinned last week from a Costa Rican carbon-offset forest. A thinning is a selective partial harvest to improve the quality of the forest and to allow the remaining trees to grow with less competition. This site was a farm pasture 10 years ago, prior to its reforestation by RTT in cooperation with Mr. Rojas, a farmer. The log shown contains about 1 cubic meter of wood, which the farmer can sell for about US$30. Most logs in this first thinning were smaller. The current thinning began last week and is presently ongoing; dozens of logs will eventually be extracted from this forest. The extraction of these logs improves the carbon-offset forest by concentrating its growth in the better remaining trees. This is the first of many planned periodic thinnings to improve this forest and to provide the farmer with income under the RTT model.
This research forest was sponsored by a group of 26 US donors. RTT manages the forest in a 25-year contract with the farmer. In general, under the RTT model, US sponsors donate $5,000, a one-time deductible donation, for the rights to the resulting sequestration in a 2 ½-acre forest during those 25 years. The sequestration rate in this forest is estimated at 25 tonnes of CO2 annually. Thus, the undiscounted cost per sequestered tonne of CO2, if our estimates of the rate of sequestration are right, is about $8-$10/tonne of CO2.
The RTT model is designed to be a sustainable, win-win model for sequestering carbon dioxide that benefits all participants and the environment. Contact RTT for additional information or to get involved by sponsoring a new research forest to offset the carbon emissions of an organization or individual.