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Do not forget the forest as a storage place for CO2

Companies and governments around the world invest billions in the development of new technology for capturing and storing CO2. - Do not forget that the forest is a natural storage for CO2. This technology already exists, says CEO Øyvind Berg of the Nicaforest program.

Since the industrial revolution, man-made greenhouse gas emissions have increased and contributed to a rise in global temperatures. To stop this development, governments, companies and individuals around the world are now working on reducing CO2 emissions and in storing emissions that cannot be removed. Norwegian authorities recently announced that they will invest NOK 25 billion (EUR2,4 billion) in the development of technology to capture and then store CO2 under the seabed.

- It is absolutely necessary that Norwegian authorities find a solution for storing emissions stemming from industry and petroleum activities. This requires new technology that we do not have today. We must not forget that the forest is also an important part of the climate solution, says Øyvind Berg, founder and CEO of the Nicaforest program.

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Forests store CO2. Here, Øyvind Berg (right) and the employees of the Nicaforest program are inspecting the Santa Elena plantation in the Chontales region of Nicaragua.

Improve the value chains around the forest

Together with Norwegian and Nicaraguan entrepreneurs and local landowners, he has established four teak plantations on 5 square kilometers of deforested areas in Nicaragua. The plantations are certified by FSC to ensure sustainable forestry. In addition, the Nicaforest program collaborates with Gold Standard to verify the positive environmental and social effects the program contributes to. The Nicaforest program serves as approved storage for 78,000 tonnes of CO2 and sells carbon quotas verified by Gold Standard.

- A simple solution to increase the storage of CO2 is to improve the value chains around forests, which would lead to an increase in the biomass of planted forest and capture of CO2. This presupposes that one follows the principles of FSC and does this in a way that is both socially beneficial and takes care of the forest. When you harvest timber, you have to plant new at the same time, says Berg.

Click here to read more about the Nicaforest reforestation program

Get the sustainability wheel going

The vision of the Nicaforest program has from the very beginning been to develop knowledge about sustainable forest production in Nicaragua. In addition, the program was to be approved by FSC and Gold Standard, so that they could disseminate High Impact Carbon Quotas to companies and individuals worldwide.

- For the Nicaforest program, it has been important to plant many trees, but our contribution to getting the "sustainability wheel" started is even more significant. This is what will be our biggest contribution when we look back at the work that has been done. If we manage to get more landowners in Nicaragua to replace cattle farming and deforestation with sustainable forestry, we will have succeeded, says Berg.

Many landowners in the Chontales region are betting on cattle farming. It has contributed to deforestation of large areas of land. Now the landowners in the Nicaforest program choose instead to plant trees on parts of the grazing land.

People and companies must contribute

In order to get more landowners and investors to invest in forests instead of mining, palm oil, or real estate in the big cities, the forest must provide an equally good or better return on the invested capital.

- If people want more forests to be planted, buying carbon quotas from forest projects is a great way to make this happen. Carbon quotas contribute to us raising capital for forest projects, which in turn serves as an incentive to plant more forests. The authorities have done much to prevent deforestation, but they cannot do everything. Now I hope that both people and companies contribute to the planting of new forests. This can be done by buying carbon quotas from certified forest projects, says Berg.

Powerful driver

In addition, everyone should set higher standards in regard to the environmental and sustainability practices of the companies we shop at.

- It is important that we as individuals and consumers demand products from suppliers who can document that they have a sustainability strategy. We must dare to demand that those who produce our food, our clothes, and the cars we drive around use renewable sources and compensate for their emissions through the purchase of carbon quotas. People's awareness of this is a powerful driver to influence development, says Berg.

The Nicaforest program has focused on building knowledge about sustainable forestry in the local community. Here, school children plant trees in connection with the national forest day to highlight the importance of the forest for the environment.

Foster development

He already sees how the Nicaforest program has contributed to the environmental and sustainability knowledge of the local landowners they work within Nicaragua. In addition, they have achieved a number of social effects that have served to benefit the local community.

- Forests are not just an important contribution to capturing and storing CO2 from the atmosphere. Sustainable forest production will also help developing countries that are crying out for development. We see this very clearly in the region where we have our plantations. Some organizations claim that you must not buy timber from developing countries. It is fine if the timber is not from a sustainable source, but if the timber is certified, it is contrary and it is important to support such sources. Pulling down the curtain becomes too easy, says Berg.

Replanting the forest

In 10 years, the timber in the Nicaforest program will be ripe and ready to be harvested. Yet, this does not mean that the forest's role as a storage unit for CO2 is lost.

- The carbon in the wood is stored in the timber until it is broken down or burned. When the timber is cut, we are also obliged to replant the new forest. Then we start a new growth cycle so that we will have the same carbon storage capacity as on the first plantations, or more. We will plant as many trees as when we established the plantations in 2012-2013. We will recreate the biomass that is on the plantations when we take out the timber, says Berg.

Do you have questions about the Nicaforest reforestation program, or do you want to know more about how you can compensate for your CO2 emissions by purchasing Gold Standard carbon credits?

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