FINANCING CONSERVATION

Financing Conservation: Great Bear Forest Carbon Project

Conservation finance mechanisms, such as water funds, green taxes, bioprospecting, and tourism-based revenues represent types of payments for ecosystem services that can be used to finance a shift away from conventional and unsustainable resource use practices and create a market in favor of preservation, restoration, and sustainable management. One of the most promising conservation financing opportunities are payments for carbon sequestration. Such carbon offset projects can be small or large scale and be financed as non-profit or for-profit models.

The Great Bear Rainforest is a global ecological treasure. Source: TJ Watt from thenarwhal.ca.

One of the largest investments in carbon has been in Canada’s Great Bear Forest Carbon Project, which covers over 7 million hectares, from the Discovery Islands of British Columbia to Alaska’s Tongass Rainforest. Coastal old growth forests play an important role in capturing and storing vast amounts of carbon dioxide in the trees and soil, and the Great Bear Rainforest comprises the largest tracts of intact coastal temperate rainforest on earth. The trees and soil there store more carbon per hectare than any other tropical rainforest, including the Amazon. But when trees are cut for logging or land clearing, carbon dioxide escapes back into the atmosphere. 

The Great Bear Rainforest is the traditional territory of 26 First Nations. For thousands of years, First Nations on Canada’s west coast have sourced life, culture, and heritage from this environment. In 2009, Coastal First Nations, the Nanwakolas Council Society, and the Province of British Columbia agreed to one of the largest carbon offset projects in existence through a first of its kind Benefit Sharing Agreement between the parties. 

First Nations’ culture and livelihoods are deeply intertwined with its forests, rivers and sea. A Nanwakolas Council drummer celebrates the Great Bear Rainforest agreement with a traditional dance on Mon. Feb. 1, 2016. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.

This Indigenous-led forest carbon project includes changes in land-use legislation and regulation that have resulted in increased carbon stocks by converting forests that were previously designated, sanctioned, or approved for commercial logging to protected forests. Emissions caused by harvesting, road building and other forestry operations are also prevented. The project implements Ecosystem Based Management which focuses on the protection of biodiversity and the improvement of human well-being.

The local Indigenous communities use the revenue generated from carbon offset sales to generate employment and development in their communities.  Funds from the sale of carbon offsets go towards creating jobs, such as Coastal Guardian Watchmen who are highly trained and experienced guardians of land, water, wildlife, and cultural sites. In Kitasoo/Xais’xais territory, Guardian Watchmen have led monitoring of world-renowned grizzly bear habitat and eradicated illegal hunting. In Heiltsuk territory, offset funds provide core financing for advanced scientific research on crab, rock cod and invasive species to inform a sustainable approach to Indigenous fisheries management. Offset revenue also finances stewardship activities to monitor at-risk whales and salmon. 

While the First Nations were the visionaries who launched this innovative carbon financing project, Kinship Fellow Cornelia Rindt played a critical role in translating this broad vision into a “bankable project.” Cornelia helped the First Nations navigate the constraints and opportunities of carbon financing by helping develop project documents, ensuring compliance with the forest carbon offset rules and regulations, and managing the validation and ongoing verification processes required to generate the verified carbon offsets for sale. Carbon projects require significant data and documentation and Cornelia managed all aspects of the carbon project to support the Coastal First Nations and the Nanwakolas Council Society in developing a conservation economy.

Iconic species such as Pacific coastal wolves and the rare white Spirit Bear are found only in the Great Bear Rainforest. Source: Creator – Paul Nicklen/Ostromclimate.com

The investment of financial flows for carbon sequestration can be used at a range of scales and in different types of models to finance a variety of activities.  Kinship Conservation helps practitioners understand the nuts and bolts of an array of non-market and market-based tools, technologies, and skills and demonstrates how they can learn about others.


Featured: Kinship Fellow Cornelia Rindt

Cornelia Rindt (Kinship Fellow 2014) is the Director of Domestic Land Use at Ostrom Climate, one of North America’s leading providers of carbon management solutions. She is responsible for the development and management of forest and other land-use carbon offset projects within Canada and has worked with BC’s Forest Carbon Offset Protocol and Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard. Cornelia has managed the Great Bear Forest Carbon Project since 2009 which has resulted in millions of verified carbon offsets being sold which has generated significant revenues for the First Nations communities in the region. In addition to forestry, Cornelia is also focused on developing projects and protocols for both the blue carbon and grasslands sector. She is currently focused on the development of a blue carbon offset protocol for the west coast of BC to support project development in remote communities. Cornelia holds an M.A. in Environment and Management from Royal Roads University.