Forest Carbon Offsets Revisited: Shedding Light on Darkwoods




van Kooten, G. Cornelis
Bogle, Tim
de Vries, Frans P.

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Forest Science


This paper investigates the viability of carbon offset credits created through forest conservation activities and the corresponding impact on carbon flux. A detailed forest management model based on a case study of a forest estate in south-eastern British Columbia, owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), is used to demonstrate the questionable nature of forest carbon offsets. We find that NCC management results in slightly less annual carbon sequestration than leaving the forest as wilderness, while sustainable commercial management of the site sequesters between 34 and 260 thousand tonnes of CO2 more per year than NCC management. As a result, ex ante claims of carbon offset creation by the NCC might be overstated. In terms of the number of offsets created, the broader message is that the large variation in carbon flux, which is highly sensitive to underlying modeling assumptions, has severe implications for the efficient functioning of carbon offset markets. Probably the only way to determine the carbon sequestered is ex post and not ex ante.



Forest management, carbon flux, discounting physical carbon, climate change


van Kooten, G.C., T. Bogle & F.P. de Vries, 2015. Forest Carbon Offsets Revisited: Shedding Light on Darkwoods, Forest Science 61(2): 370-380.