Friday, April 12, 2024

City-county council supports research for carbon credit program. Now what?  

The Indianapolis City-County Council recently passed a special resolution to show its support for a possible carbon credit program. Now the city will evaluate how it might benefit from such a program. 

Carbon markets allow for businesses, municipalities and other organizations to purchase a carbon credit to offset their greenhouse gas emissions, according to the North East Foresters Association. A carbon credit provides ways for businesses to reduce their impacts on climate change by monetizing a single tree or acre. 

The resolution, passed Dec. 5, doesn’t mean Indianapolis will definitely have a carbon credit program. Instead, councilor John Barth, who sponsored the resolution, said it’s about the council “expressing our support” to move the city toward having a program in the future. Establishing a carbon credit program would require passing an ordinance, which Barth said he hopes to do eventually. The resolution requires an update by November 2023 on timelines, a proposed model and potential outcomes of a program. 

Exploring new public policy such as carbon credits can be challenging. Barth said he wants to make thoughtful, impactful decisions versus making decisions because something sounds exciting, which is why the council is looking at what it considers successful carbon credit programs in Seattle and Austin, Texas. 

“My position is, let’s be confident in the steps we take by doing the appropriate research,” Barth said. 

Councilor La Keisha Jackson said this is an opportunity for Indianapolis to be innovative for future generations. 

“Trees heal,” Jackson said, which was a big reason why she supports the carbon credit program. Trees help reduce crime and stress, and they increase property value and bring foot traffic to businesses. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, a 10% increase in tree coverage can reduce crime by roughly 12%. 

“In my council district, I want that equity for the community and equity for the youth,” Jackson said, who represents District 14 on the far east side. 

The city and its partners are already planting thousands of trees a year and upholding Indy’s status as a certified “Tree City USA” for 34 consecutive years, according to the special resolution. The city has a goal of planting 30,000 trees by 2025; the Department of Public Works and its partners have planted more than 23,000 trees since 2018. However, the city can only fund upkeep of the trees for about three years. 

A carbon credit program is one way to ensure that trees are healthy for years or even decades, said Jeremy Kranowitz, CEO and president of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. 

Additional upkeep for trees can make a difference in the survival of a tree, he said, and maintaining a tree past three years would mean more self-sufficient, thriving trees in Indianapolis. 

“It’s in the city’s best interest to maintain those trees for their lifetime,” Kranowitz said. 

There are opportunities for organizations to offset their carbon footprint, which would provide more of an incentive for corporations and even education institutions to become more sustainable as well. 

“These are trees that I can see, touch and watch grow overtime. There’s something really enticing about having your carbon emissions offset right near where you live, work and play,” Kranowitz said. 

Stringent requirements and limitations could prove difficult to register some trees in Indianapolis for carbon credits, he said. To get carbon credits for older trees, the city will have to demonstrate that the tree is at risk of being chopped down. If the tree is not at risk of being cut down, it can’t be used for carbon credits. 

Carbon credits are not a quick fix to climate change, and it won’t generate massive amounts in revenue for the city, but Kranowitz said implementing carbon credits could be beneficial to the community, and every little bit helps. 

“The important thing is that trees have value and right now, we’re not capturing any of that value,” Kranowitz said. “It is something that is measurable, and it is something that is making a difference, and it is something that I think we should be pursuing.” 

Contact staff writer Jayden Kennett 317-762-7847 or email jaydenk@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay. 

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