Canadian Harvest Deferral Pilot FAQ

By Zach Melanson, Posted on June 14, 2023

On June 1st 2022, NCX and Community Forests International teamed up to launch Canada’s first harvest deferral forest carbon pilot in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. This pilot program presented an exciting opportunity to test family forest owners’ interest in carbon projects while simultaneously adapting NCX’s growing US program to the Maritime context — all with the aim of developing new natural capital markets for the nearly 90,000 forest stewards living in the region.

With over 60 participants covering 65,000 acres of Wabanaki Forest, the pilot marks the first time small-family forest owners have been compensated for the climate benefits their forests offer! While much remains to be learned from the pilot, it’s clear that family forest owners are motivated to manage their forests to optimize for carbon, climate resilience, biodiversity, recreation, and many other values. As the pilot comes to a close and we look to the future, we know many of you have questions. We’ve done our best to summarise the most frequently asked questions below.

  1. Will the pilot program continue?

The pilot will not be continuing with an additional enrolment at this time. While the program itself was an incredible success, larger carbon market conditions are currently proving difficult for expansion. Community Forests and NCX are now taking lessons from the pilot and these new market signals to innovate further and maintain our momentum.

  1. Why is the program not continuing?

The innovative quality of NCX’s ‘tonne-year’ approach, combined with the current risk aversion of buyers due to poor quality offsets being sold throughout the larger carbon offset market, has greatly reduced demand for NCX’s Harvest Deferral Credit methodology. At a bigger scale, overall trust in carbon markets is at a low point right now. Several certification bodies have come under criticism (in many cases warranted) for poor practices and lack of transparency. This is disappointing given the deep care that has gone into the NCX program and the strong potential for real benefits for the community and climate.

Yet the potential climate benefit of the nearly 12 million acres of private forestland in the Maritime region remains as important today as ever. Community Forests and NCX remain focused, and we’re continuing to pursue the vision of democratizing access to forest carbon and natural capital markets for the people who live and work most closely with forests.

  1. I am one of the pilot participants. What should I expect next?

NCX is committed to completing the pilot as planned. NCX will use remote sensing, analysis, and in some cases, field measurements, to determine the carbon sequestration and storage of your forest over the 1-year pilot. This will determine the resulting credits, and subsequent amount to be paid to you. Your ‘Seller Agreement’ with NCX has all the details and information you need to finalize your participation in the pilot program.  In addition, NCX has contacted pilot participants with a detailed timeline for concluding the pilot.

We encourage you to continue to consider the carbon, biodiversity, and other values your forest provides moving forward. However, you are no longer under any obligation to continue deferring harvest activity beyond the end of the pilot’s performance period, ending May 31st 2023.

  1. Will Community Forests International be developing a similar carbon program of your own?

Community Forests’ will continue to work in solidarity with family forest owners, Indigenous-led organizations, and communities to create opportunities to manage forests for their important climate benefit. We remain committed to our decade-long efforts to advocate and improve access to natural capital markets in the region and continue to actively build readiness and capacity across the sector. Stay tuned!

  1. Are there other opportunities to access carbon markets?

Several organizations are working to develop landowner-based projects in different regions across the Maritimes. As of June 1st, 2023, we are aware of two groups actively engaging landowners in conversation, the Nova Scotia Working Woodlands Trust (NSWWT), and the Sustainable Forest Alliance of PEI (SFA).

  1. How can I prepare for the next opportunity?

There are several things you can do to better position yourself for emerging opportunities. To learn more read ‘Five Ways to Prepare for Carbon Offsets Markets: A Short Guide for Land Stewards’.

We are proud of our collective achievements. Our dedicated team continues to work on behalf of family forest caretakers to create the next opportunity for you to participate in forest carbon markets. The pilot’s success has shown what is possible in the sector and we continue to learn valuable lessons about how we can improve forest carbon projects in the future.

Thank you to everyone who participated. None of this would have been possible without the encouragement, enthusiasm, and cooperation of family forest owners, associations, marketing boards, cooperatives, and provincial governments!