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My Climate Journey
Getting to the Root of Forestry Carbon Offsets

Getting to the Root of Forestry Carbon Offsets

My Climate Journey podcast

Our guests today are, Diego Saez-Gil of Pachama and Sam Gill of Sylvera, and we're talking about forestry carbon offsets.

Forestry carbon offsets were designed as a financial tool to provide an economic incentive for landowners to make alternative decisions, to pay landowners to keep their forests intact in the case of deforestation avoidance credits or to reforest previously damaged land in the case of reforestation credits. The money for this economic incentive comes from large actors who can then take "credit" for their action and apply it against the carbon footprint of their own organization. This is a carbon offset. In the simplest terms, if part of a company cannot decarbonize quickly, but still aims to achieve net-zero emissions, they can pay a forest landowner to preserve their forest and take an agreed upon amount of carbon off their balance sheet accordingly. And it’s a relatively new thing. Forestry carbon offsets have become a popular product over the last decade, and like any maturing industry, it has challenges.

Diego and Sam are here to walk us through why forests matter, the history of offsets and how they work, some of the challenges highlighted recently, and what they think the path forward looks like. Regardless of what you think of carbon offsets, this is a crucial problem to solve. Without an economic incentive to maintain and regrow the world's forests, any thought of avoiding the worst effects of climate change is out the window. 

Listen on Spotify

In this episode, we cover: 

  • Diego's background and intro to Pachama 

  • Sam's experience and an overview of Sylvera 

  • Forests in the world today and why they matter for climate 

  • Risk of deforestation and the Amazon becoming a self-reinforcing negative feedback loop

  • How the story of biodiversity has changed from a forestry perspective 

  • Economic levers at play with regard to forests, including reforestation and afforestation

  • The link between forest credits, offsets, and carbon markets 

  • Problems associated with deforestation credits and managing illegal activity 

  • The voluntary market for deforestation credits, who's buying and why

  • How deforestation credits are measured now and historically 

  • Measuring reforestation and afforestation projects 

  • Diego and Sam's thoughts on a recent article in The Guardian claiming that most forest carbon offsets are worthless 

  • How Sylvera assesses forest projects and its reaction to The Guardian article 

  • Pachama's approach to creating synthetic baselines and validating the uncertainty of predictions 

  • Overcoming challenges through collaboration 

  • Predictions for the future of forest carbon markets

Visit our website for a full transcript of this episode.

Get connected: 
Cody Simms Twitter / LinkedIn
Diego Twitter / LinkedIn
Sam Twitter / LinkedIn  
MCJ Podcast / Collective

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Episode recorded on January 31, 2023

MCJ Collective Newsletter
My Climate Journey
A growing body of knowledge about climate change and potential solutions. This series traverses disciplines, industries, and opinions with hundreds of deep-dive conversations with science, technology, and climate leaders.