Can I receive carbon credits for the trees in my yard?

Trees for Energy Conservation April 27, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

The short answer is no. Not at present, and not likely any time in the near future. The reason is mostly because of practical challenges due to the scale of a yard.

 

Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthesis and store the carbon in the wood. Therefore, some carbon credit programs do include planting trees as a way to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and thus offset emissions from other sources. 

However, before awarding carbon credits, programs require projects to go through a comprehensive third-party verification process. The verification process includes checking issues such as “additionality” (making sure the trees would not have been planted anyway, in the absence of the carbon credit), “permanence” (making sure the land does not revert to non-tree cover in the future), and “leakage” (making sure the land-use change does not create unintended carbon dioxide emissions from other sources, such as the truck that brings the tree from the nursery to your house). 

This verification process is quite time-consuming and costly. It would cost far more to go through this process than the potential value of the credits. For this reason, the only financially feasible afforestation and reforestation carbon credit projects are those that have a sufficiently large scale. Currently, the feasible scale is in the hundreds or thousands of acres, which is bigger than a yard.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.