Microsoft is helping to preserve forests at the foot of Mount Rainier by investing in the potential of trees and restored forests to soak up carbon pollution. The value of absorbed greenhouse gas emissions will be set through California's cap-and-trade exchange and the income used to grow the asset, through new plantings and road removals.
The Nisqually Carbon Project ensures management of trust lands, worth $3.3 million, for the next 100 years. The deal, covering 520 acres, is thought to be a first project to use California's policy standards in the Pacific Northwest.
Microsoft already invests in projects to reduce or absorb carbon pollution all over the world. It achieved carbon neutrality two years ago.
But they’re not usually on land that people in the Pacific Northwest could easily explore or measure.
Paula Swedeen is a forest policy specialist with the Washington Environmental Council. She says the work includes noting the sizes and species of trees in the forests now, as well as developing plans to restore them in the future.
Based on that, there's a calculation of carbon produced through growth. It starts with measuring and counting individual trees on the land now. "And if there’s any defects or chunks taken out of the tree, you get a very good calculation of the volume of the tree,” she says.
You can calculate how much pollution it absorbs, based on its carbon content. Each ton of carbon locked up in the trees is to be bought and sold on California’s exchange.
Microsoft is buying most of the credits for the land owned by the Nisqually Land Trust. The income generated will go back to the land to manage the forests, restore some logged areas and keep them healthy for the next 100 years.