At NCX, we generate carbon credits when forest landowners defer a planned timber harvest for one year at a time. Naturally, we often get the question, “what happens if a landowner enrolls for one year and then cuts down the trees the second year?”
The short answer: Our carbon credits represent real impact that already happened, not a promise of future impact. One carbon credit from NCX delivers the same benefit to the climate as every other high-quality forest carbon credit, just without the risk. So, if a landowner cuts after their one year of participation with NCX, it is no different than harvesting in year 101 after a 100-year project.
What is the difference between realized impact and a promise?
Our annual approach enables us to only credit landowners after the promised climate benefit has occurred and been measured. That is payment on delivery.
After an annual project is complete, NCX measures the forest and then issues the resulting high-quality carbon credits. If our estimates were off from what was expected because of an unexpected harvest or otherwise, the count of credits produced from a project reflect that result. Because we only credit after a project is completed, NCX credits are ex-post carbon credits. This contrasts with a 100-year promise for decades into the future found in many traditional long-term projects.
At NCX, we believe when you credit a promise instead of results, risk and uncertainty come along for the ride. We’ve designed our program to eliminate this risk.
How do one year terms add up to big benefits for the climate?
We’re doing this at really large scale, with thousands of landowners and millions of acres every year. In 2021, when all other U.S. improved forest management (IFM) projects together had acreage the size of Seattle participating, NCX participation was collectively the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.
In 2022, we did it again and in 2023 we’ll do more. That is a massive amount of trees pulling carbon out of the air each year that would have otherwise succumbed to harvest.
Can landowners re-enroll?
Definitely! NCX offers the opportunity for landowners to re-enroll if they still have a clear likelihood of harvesting, and many do re-enroll. But, some of them will harvest for any number of reasons, and that doesn’t negate the benefit. With landowners’ engagement in our one-year program, year over year, we’re paying them to grow their forests incrementally longer.
When you look at the aggregate effect of growing multiple forests one year longer, each year, it increases the average age of forests on the landscape. That is a massive amount of carbon stored this decade, when we need it most.