Gov. Inslee’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force will be presenting its final recommendations on November 17, but what does this have to do with urban and community forestry?

The Task Force appears to be leaning toward recommending a cap-and-trade law here in Washington. Here is the quick summary on how cap and trade works:

  • The carbon emissions of large carbon emitters are capped;
  • The large carbon emitters can meet these caps on emissions in three ways. They can:
    • clean up their own emissions,
    • use allowances that are given or auctioned by the state to meet their capped emissions, and/or
    • buy carbon credits from offset projects. The offset projects remove carbon from the air to generate carbon credits that can be sold to the carbon emitters.

Offset projects can include urban forest tree-planting projects. California adopted a cap and trade law several years ago and included both urban forest and wildland forest projects in their offset project options.

If Washington adopts a cap and trade law and includes urban forest offset projects, urban tree planting projects in Washington could generate carbon credits that could be sold to the carbon emitters. This creates a funding source for urban forest projects and would be an exciting development in Washington, where urban forest projects often struggle to find funding.

Yet there are many obstacles to capitalizing on the work (or potential work) of the task force. These obstacles are as follows, in order of occurrence:

  1. The task force needs to recommend cap and trade;
  2. A cap and trade bill needs to be introduced and pass the legislature;
  3. The cap and trade bill needs to contain an offset component that includes urban forest offset project type(s);
  4. A protocol for executing urban forest offset projects needs to be drafted to meet the needs of Washington state.

We will follow these developments and keep you updated.

This article was authored and submitted by Mark McPherson, a Seattle-based attorney and supporter of urban forestry. Mark has served on the work group that created the second Urban Forest Protocol for the Climate Action Reserve in California. He has created an email group to keep urban forest stakeholders in Washington aware of these developments as they unfold.  If you wish to be included on his listserv, please email him at