Rainforest Solutions Project

Promoting conservation and economic alternatives in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest


Opinion: Great Bear Forest Carbon Project offers prosperous future for Coastal First Nations

January 21, 2013

As discussion around complex and important issues like comprehensive claims, treaty implementation and Idle No More continues, positive economic development initiatives taking place in First Nations communities are moving forward.

The Coastal First Nations have spent the last decade building a sustainable economy. What might surprise many is that First Nations on B.C.‘s Central and North Coast and Haida Gwaii are quietly emerging as leaders in the sales of carbon credits. The Great Bear Forest Carbon Project offers Coastal First Nations the potential for sustainable economic and social development while helping to conserve the largest and most ecologically significant temperate rainforest in the world.

The path we took to reach the point where we are ready to market our carbon tonnes hasn’t been easy. Land use planning and resource agreements have been negotiated with the Province over the past decade. These agreements ended years of confrontation over logging and land use. This unprecedented collaboration resulted in more than 1.5 million hectares of conservancies and the establishment of higher standard ecosystem based management of lands and resources.

First Nations hold Aboriginal Title in the Great Bear Rainforest, while the Province asserts Crown title to the land. Thus in 2009 the Coastal First Nations and BC negotiated a Reconciliation Protocol. The Protocol includes an opportunity to create carbon offsets. It also defines a carbon sharing agreement. Since then we’ve spent hundreds of hours and more than $1 million to create mechanisms that met international standards that allow us to sell carbon offsets from the Great Bear Rainforest.

The carbon industry is required to use independent accounting firms to validate and verify the volume of carbon tonnes that can be sold. Stantec and KPMG were commissioned to independently validate and verify the carbon tonnes in the Great Bear Rainforest. Their findings were that the carbon tonnes in the Great Bear Rainforest met all the requirements therefore giving us the authority to sell carbon tonnes into the market place.

The Great Bear Carbon Offset Project, the largest project of its kind in B.C. and the world, provides us with significant opportunities. We expect that we will sell up to one million tonnes of carbon each year. The revenues – expected to be between $15-20 million per year – will be used to create new jobs in forestry planning and stewardship, management of conservation and biodiversity areas, marine use planning and invested in sustainable industries like renewable energy opportunities, shellfish, tourism and non-timber forest products.

In response to a lack of opportunities in our communities the Coastal First Nations looked beyond the usual resource extraction and exploitation models. They believe that innovation is the new strategic imperative for our organization and our communities. In fact the economic prosperity of our communities is dependent on our continued efforts in developing new models to create a sustainable economy.

Given the vast area of the Great Bear Rainforest – one of the world’s largest remaining intact rainforests – we plan to continue being a serious player in the growing carbon credit market.

Our carbon project represents an unprecedented opportunity for companies and organizations wanting to demonstrate a clear commitment toward addressing the climate impact of their operations in a meaningful way. By purchasing high-quality carbon offsets from the project, they will support protection of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest, and invest in a conservation economy that balances ecological integrity and human well-being.

Art Sterritt is Executive Director of Coastal First Nations