Hawai‘i’s First Forest Carbon Offset Project Underway
VIDEO: Forest Carbon Project-Kahikinui State Forest Reserve from Hawai‘i DLNR.
The State of Hawai‘i took a significant step towards launching its first-ever forest carbon sequestration program on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, by selecting a certification standard to ensure a reliable and transparent process and to guarantee the environmental integrity of the credits resulting from it. The DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) awarded the contract to Verra, one of four standard-setting firms that submitted proposals. Verra manages the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), the world’s largest voluntary program for the certification of GHG (greenhouse gas) emission reduction projects.
Decades of uncontrolled grazing by goats, sheep, and cows have largely eliminated the original native forest. Reforesting the 4,700 acres of the Kahikinui Forest Reserve and the Nakula Natural Area Reserve on the leeward slopes of Haleakalā on Maui will withdraw an estimated 94,000 metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere while providing numerous other benefits to the people of Hawai‘i such as freshwater capture and storage, reef protection by reducing soil run-off, building habitat for endangered species, and decreased wildfire threats by removing fire-adapted invasive plants. Replanting efforts over the past three years have brought back over 250,000 native trees and shrubs.
“Verra’s selection as forest carbon standard for Kahikinui Forest Reserve and Nakula Natural Area Reserve is an important next step for DLNR and the State of Hawai‘i in addressing climate change,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “We envision the native forest restored here, along with other project’s like this, can help to move us close to Hawai‘i’s carbon neutral goals.”
Certifying the project under Verra’s VCS, which includes the verification and validation of the project by independent auditors, enables DOFAW to generate certified carbon credits that it, in turn, can sell to interested buyers, brokers, traders, or retailers. Philipp LaHaela Walter, DOFAW’s Resource and Survey Forester, explained, “Purchasing these carbon offsets will also benefit the buyers as it will allow businesses and individuals to offset their carbon footprint while directly contributing to the restoration and protection of Hawai‘i’s amazing forests and reefs.”
The forest carbon certification is estimated to cost a total of approximately $150,000. The majority of these costs will go towards the assessment of the project by independent auditors; a smaller portion will cover fees for registration, account opening and maintenance, verification and certification. Initial funding of $40,000 for the certification was contributed by Hawai‘i Tourism. DOFAW will re-invest any funds received from the sale of carbon offsets, which could be available as soon as 2020, back into the management of the forest.
This is the first forest carbon project operated by the State. Other areas are being explored to expand the effort. The certification of Koa reforestation projects currently show the largest potential for capturing and storing carbon. For example, the Kahikinui and Nakula Reserves are part of the Leeward Haleakalā Watershed Restoration Partnership (LHWRP), a voluntary watershed protection alliance of 11 landowners that encompasses 43,000 contiguous acres and strives for similar goals, including planting trees to mitigate climate change.
DOFAW Administrator David Smith concluded, “There are so many reasons to restore Hawai‘i’s forest, from ensuring we have clean, fresh abundant water for our people, in our streams, and on our reefs to protecting communities from wildfires and providing habitat for wildlife. The expected benefits of this and other projects like it are huge and can make significant contributions toward mitigating climate change impacts.”