2008 Corporate Responsibility Report

How we are creating a smarter foundation for a sustainable future

Photo: Robert Houser, roberthouser.com
Since 1985, The Conservation Fund has helped protect more than six million acres throughout the United States, sustaining wild havens, working lands and vibrant communities. The organization treats conservation as its business, protecting lands that have important natural-resource and other public benefits by forging solutions that work economically and environmentally. PG&E has signed two landmark agreements with The Conservation Fund as part of the ClimateSmart™ program—investing in California forestry projects that will remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and help to balance out the energy-related carbon footprint of customers enrolled in the program.

Chris Kelly is the California program director for The Conservation Fund, where he leads statewide efforts to protect and enhance important natural landscapes, working collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders.

Why did you choose to partner with PG&E?

PG&E is a nationally recognized leader when it comes to addressing climate change. When they launched the ClimateSmart program, it was a natural fit for us. It enables us to accelerate the pace of restoration and enhancement activities in our forestry projects and use the groundbreaking work of the Climate Action Reserve's forest project protocols to document and verify the resulting greenhouse gas reductions. We've signed two flagship contracts for significant emission reductions. It's a partnership we're very proud of.

Can you tell me about the forestry projects for the ClimateSmart program?

There are two forestry projects in Mendocino County—Garcia River and Big River Salmon Creek. Both are located in the redwood region, a forest type found nowhere else in the world and uniquely productive when it comes to absorbing greenhouse gases. The revenue we receive from the ClimateSmart program allows us to conduct meaningful forest restoration, including reestablishing a more natural composition of tree species. Both forests will recover more rapidly and will achieve climate benefits that would not have happened otherwise.

What are some other benefits of these projects?

Beyond the climate benefits, restoring these forests enhances habitat for steelhead trout, coho salmon and many other species listed as threatened or endangered by the state and/or federal government. Our sustainable forest management and watershed restoration activities also provide meaningful employment for woodworkers, biologists and foresters. And there are recreational benefits—we allow the public to enjoy our forests for fishing, hiking and horseback riding.

What have you learned along the way?

It's been a learning experience for all of us. The ClimateSmart program is a demonstration project—it's a proof of concept. I believe our agreements with PG&E have become a key reference point for how to successfully transact for greenhouse gas emission reductions and how real, on-the-ground projects benefit forests, local communities and the atmosphere.

Why is it important to have a common set of standards for measuring greenhouse gas emissions?

It's critical to have a highly rigorous, transparent, scientifically peer-reviewed and government-sanctioned set of standards. It gives the public and policymakers confidence in the carbon sequestration that's occurring. PG&E has been very diligent in ensuring all projects for its program are of the highest quality and integrity, including requiring levels of assurance that go beyond accepted protocols.

How can PG&E lay a smarter, sustainable foundation for the future?

My hope is that PG&E will continue to be a visible and important leader in bringing people together to develop creative and effective solutions to climate change. PG&E should also take what it learns from its programs into the policy arena so that these tangible examples can help inform policy decisions. This is vitally important to ensure emerging policies are effective.