City Forest Credits (Formerly Urban Forest Carbon Registry) Update



Mark McPherson headshot

By Mark McPherson, Director, City Forest Credits

A year ago, I wrote for the Council blog about the Urban Forest Carbon Registry, a non-profit organization based in Seattle. The Registry developed the first-ever Tree Preservation Carbon Protocol that enables urban forest preservation projects to earn carbon credits and bring in new funding sources. The Registry is working with urban foresters in a number of cities to help them develop both preservation and planting programs. In addition, many urban forest professionals serve as advisors and protocol drafters for the Registry. Here’s an update.

New Name: City Forest Credits

The Registry recently announced a name change: City Forest Credits. It’s still a non-profit registry issuing Carbon+ Credits for city forests (more about the “+” later). We found that the terms “urban” and “urban forestry” do not connect well with either funders or the person on the street. By contrast, the word “City” ties to resilient cities, smart cities, carbon neutral cities. We also believe that the buyers of City Forest Carbon+ Credits will include sustainability and water-neutrality buyers, so we wanted to emphasize the credit as well as the carbon. 

Creating Longer-Term Programs for New Funding from Credit Buyers

Most of the early adopters of this opportunity are looking not just at projects, but at creation of longer-term plans and programs to connect buyers to local non-profits and cities. The City Forest Carbon+ Credit developed by our scientists includes quantified storm water, air quality, and energy savings benefits, plus CO2 storage. It’s a great opportunity to recruit new buyers and new funding sources, not just for one project but as part of a longer-term program. And not just for planting, but for preservation.

Ian Leahy, the Director of Urban Forestry for American Forests, has worked on the protocol drafting group and the Board of Advisors for City Forest Credits. He says, “We have corporate partners, like Bank of America and Coca-Cola, who want to fund urban projects in Miami and the Seattle area. They want a presence in those cities, and they also want to deliver quantified environmental benefits locally.”

Some of the organizations at work are TreeFolks and the City of Austin, Canopy and the City of Palo Alto; American Forests; King County, WA; the Mountains to Sound Greenway in the Seattle area; Friends of the Urban Forest and the City of San Francisco, and Texas Trees Foundation in Dallas. All have unique opportunities and challenges that reflect their communities, climate, and stakeholders.

Projects in process range from a large riparian planting in Austin, Texas, with both TreeFolks and the City involved, to a large-scale preservation program in King County, WA. King County’s program is part of the County’s Land Conservation Initiative. The County and its dozens of cities are working to accelerate protection of open space and creation of parks and trails to meet the needs of a rapidly-growing Seattle metro area. This collaborative effort has identified hundreds of at-risk forested parcels on thousands of acres of land throughout the Seattle urban area, in addition to tens of thousands of acres of upper-watershed lands.

Those who attended the Arbor Day Foundation’s Partners in Community Forestry Conference in November may have heard Walter Passmore, the City Forester of Palo Alto, describe this work. As Walter said, “Carbon credits will not solve all of our funding needs, but they hold a lot of promise both now and in the future as a tool in our kit to preserve, plant, and grow our city forests.”


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