California's success in the socio-ecological practice of a forest carbon offset credit option to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions


The mitigation of climate change through the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has become a central goal of international policy. An estimated 27 cap-and-trade programs to reduce carbon emissions exist worldwide. But only a small number of them use a forest carbon offset credit option. In 2012, California created a forest carbon offset credit option as part of its greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. The offset credits have come primarily from US forests that meet requirements for additional, verifiable increases in carbon storage through improved forest management. California, with the help of its cap-and-trade program and modest carbon offset option, has met its initial goal for lower carbon emissions. This case study reveals a gap in socio-ecological practice research on a forest carbon offset credit option by identifying seven measures of success. These seven measures show how a forest carbon offset credit option can enhance a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Countries and regions that are using or contemplating the use of a forest carbon offset credit option can employ these seven measures to design, evaluate, or upgrade their forest carbon offset programs.

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Fig. 1

Source: California Air Resources Board (2018a)


  1. 1.

    Information provided by Stephen Shelby, an administrator at the CARB Compliance Offset division. Personal communication January 24, 2017.

  2. 2.

    Information provided by Sarah Wescott, a program associate with the Climate Action Reserve, a California Offset Project Registry. Personal communication, November 2, 2016.

  3. 3.

    Information provided by Dylan Jenkins, vice president, at FiniteCarbon Portfolio Development. Personal communication February 11, 2017. Information provided by Stephen Shelby, an administrator at the CARB Compliance Offset division. Personal communication January 24, 2017.

  4. 4.

    Information provided by Sarah Wescott, a program associate with the Climate Action Reserve, a California Offset Project Registry. Personal communication, November 2, 2016.


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Correspondence to Thomas Daniels.

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Kim, C., Daniels, T. California's success in the socio-ecological practice of a forest carbon offset credit option to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Socio Ecol Pract Res 1, 125–138 (2019).

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  • California
  • Cap-and-trade
  • Carbon
  • Forest carbon offset credits
  • Greenhouse gas emission
  • Offsets
  • Mitigation
  • Socio-ecological practice research