Tribal Nations: Carbon Credits

With climate change, an economic opportunity has arose for tribes to enter into the carbon credit market. Carbon credits are a way to offset greenhouse gas emissions. The Indian Land Tenure Foundation partnered with the InterTribal Agriculture Council to create the National Indian Carbon Coalition (NICC). NICC assists tribes with understanding carbon sequestration projects and helps them to get started should they want to pursue this venture.

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There are currently several markets to trade in. When developing a carbon sequestion project, tribes need to consider the time period for choosing which market to enter into. The California Cap and Trade market began in 2013.  It was set up to have various companies reduce their greenhouse emissions either through purchasing carbon credits or reducing carbon emissions. More information can be found here. Tribes often own and manage forested lands that are undeveloped. By simply growing trees and documenting their good stewardship of the land, tribes can produce carbon credits to trade with companies that have caps on their greenhouse emissions through state law or voluntary goals.  A carbon credit is one metric ton of carbon dioxide. The credit can be sold to companies on the California Cap and Trade Market. This market requires tribes to enter into agreements dedicating their land for a time period of 100 years. Other voluntary markets require a time period of 40 years.  However, California's carbon market has typically paid more per carbon credit than other markets.

For a tribe to consider doing this type of project, they first need a feasibility study, along with a forest inventory. Trust and allotted lands normally require an approval process and permit for land use activities by the Department of Interior through their Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) offices. This approval is not necessary for enrolling land in a carbon market program, and tribes keep the revenue generated from the program.  Tribes often think of the next seven generations and have an inherent responsibility and desire to preserve their lands for future generations.  This type of market is new to tribes. NICC assists tribes with setting up trades and providing expertise, which is extremely beneficial to tribes looking into diversifying their economic portfolios.

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