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Exclusive: Cities net $1 million from carbon credit sales

Apr 4, 2022
Illustration of an aerial view of treetops in the shape of a dollar sign.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Over a dozen city forestry projects across the U.S. earned more than $1 million in the first bundled sale of carbon credits generated exclusively by urban forests, representing the largest U.S. sale of urban-forest carbon credits, Climate Deals has learned.

Why it matters: The sale price was about four times greater than that for offsets from rural forests.

What's next: Proceeds from the sale will be used to expand tree cover in cities, opening a new type of revenue stream for a widely popular — but typically zero-income — city sustainability effort.

  • "How do we look at every possible way to create value out of the urban forest, in the private market in particular? Carbon credits became the logical place to look," says Ian Leahy, vice president of urban forestry at the nonprofit American Forests, which advised City Forest Credits.

The details: City Forest Credits, a nonprofit, issued the offsets to 13 urban forestry projects across the country. The projects then sold the credits to Regen Network Development, a blockchain software development company that says it's developing "a global marketplace for the Earth's ecosystem assets.

  • The forests are located in Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington, in cities such as Boise, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Richmond.
  • The offsets amounted to 31,533 carbon credits, representing 31,533 metric tons of CO2.

Of note: The credits are being retired after the purchase, meaning they can't be resold.

  • "These will not be tokenized and then sold around over and over again," Doug McPherson, who represented the projects in the sales process, tells Alan. "The idea is to not create a blockchain asset that is just arbitraged and traded around as the price goes up."

What they're saying: The sale commanded a higher price precisely because the trees are located in cities, McPherson says: "Social equity is an important part of why these urban forest credits are so valuable, and several of the planting and preservation projects are tackling these issues through their projects."

  • The planting projects will include workforce-training programs and focus tree-planting efforts in underserved communities, McPherson tells Alan.
  • "Another reason for the high price is that this portfolio of credits represents all of the U.S. urban forest carbon credits available," he adds. "Regen Network effectively cornered the market on 2021 credits of this type. "

💭 Our thought bubble: Expect the sales price to propel further interest in carbon credits from urban forests — both from tree-planting organizations looking for new ways to fund their work, and buyers searching for credits that help mitigate skepticism about the true impact of offset programs.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that City Forest Credits issued, rather than sold credits to the urban forestry projects, and the projects sold those credits to Regen.

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