The Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets, which is a part of the US Department of Agriculture, is taking a fresh approach to reducing carbon emissions – partnering industrial emitters of CO2 with landowners to plant forests or crops, the Christian Science Monitor reports.
The program will be similar to payments farmers currently receive to rest their land in order to preserve the soil. Another idea is to use revenues generated from a carbon tax to pay for planting trees in federal forests lost to wildfire.
The program is currently focusing on cataloging land-use activities that trap carbon and developing an acceptable standard for measuring them.
While some people find the project fascinating, some are wary. Environmental economist Ray Rasker told Christian Science Monitor that “you can get results much more cheaply and effectively by penalizing polluters who put out CO2.”
Last year, the U.N. promoted paying landowners to let forests grow as a viable way to fight climate change, but experts were unsure how to insure trees against fires.
Some experts question the effectiveness of forest-based carbon offsets. Adam Stein, co-founder of TerraPass, says forests carry inherent risks because when trees die, they release the carbon they’ve absorbed during their lifetimes.