Exploring stakeholder needs, motivations and interests in the forest carbon market

Research Team:

Tatyana Ruseva, Political Science
Jason Hoyle, Appalachian Energy Center
Brian Bulla, Public Administration
Dinesh Paudel, Sustainable Development
Eric Marland, Mathematics
Gregg Marland, RIEEE

Project Summary:

A major challenge hindering the growth of California's Air Resource Boad carbon offset program concerns the untapped potential of private lands to generate additional carbon sinks through reforestation, imporved forest management, or forest conservation (California ARB, 2016).  Over half of all forestland in the US is under private ownership and approximately 75% of North Carolina's 18 million acres of forests are privately owned (Butler et al. 2016).  Properly designed and implemented carbon offset programs can provide forest owners with additional income, and promote forest retential and carbon sequestration.  However, as it stands, landowners are hesitant to participate in the carbon offset program or continue in the program once enrolled (Kerchner and Keeton, 2015).

This cluster proposes to extend its work to better undertand the relationship between environmental regulatory programs, such as California's Air Resource Board compliance offset program and voluntary participation in such programs.  Little is known to date about the needs, interests and motivations for partcipation in these programs. Until recently, forest carbon offset reserach has focused primarily on the USFS forest offset compliance protocol and issues, such as baseline establishment, measurement metrics, uncertainty, permanence, verification, and additionality.  The carbon offset cluster will address, next, the needs, interests, and motivations for participation in the carbon offset market by different forest owners in and around North Carolina.

Even though some of the environmental benefits of carbon offset programs are realized immediately and other benefits accrue over time, generating greater participation in carbon offset programs might hinge heavilty on economic considerations.  The financial viability of forest offset projects has been found to be a key consideration among forest owners in the northeastern US (Kerchner and Keeton, 2015; Markowski-Lindsey et al. 2011).  Therefore, exploring the suite of economics signals and other barriers influencing the decision making process of landowners in and around western North Carolina forests could provide practitioners and offset program designers with greater understanding and improved decision-levers capable of increasing participation in offset programs.  Gaining insight into variations among projects across regions, owner types, legal constraints, etc. in California's Air Resource Board forest offset program will allow the group to make recommendations to the agency to increase enrollment by removing barriers to participation.

Current research offers an incomplete understanding of what motivates landowners to enroll in the offset program and what renders landowners unable to move forward once verification begins (Kelly and Schmitz, 2016; Galik et al., 2013).  Privately owned forests represent a significant portion of land cover in the United States, and effectively encouraging landowners to participate in the offset program could aid climate change mitigation efforts (Butler et al. 2016).

QEP Global Learning


Dr. Nicole Bennett
Interim Director, Research Institute for Environment, Energy and Economics
401 Academy Street
234 IG Greer Hall
Appalachian State University
ASU Box 32131
Boone, NC 28608

ph: (828) 262-2764
fax: (828) 262-6553