Institutional Pressures and an Evolving Forest Carbon Market


Derek Thompson, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA. E-mail:


It is estimated that 87 million acres of forestland in the United States (US) is managed by private industrial forestland owners (nearly 14% of the forestland nationwide). Private industrial forestland owners include forest product companies, Timber Investment Management Organizations (TIMOs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). Current regulatory and voluntary carbon markets, as well as proposed national emission reduction legislation, in the US make provisions for substantial carbon offsets from domestic forestry projects. This research employs the theory of planned behavior by means of an online questionnaire in order to survey large industrial forestland owners (>30 000 acres) regarding intentions to manage forestland for carbon sequestration and trading. Quantitative results suggest that very few organizations (18%) were managing forestland for carbon values. Attitudes towards carbon sequestration and trading were significantly influenced by the managers' beliefs that emission reduction legislation would become law and that US forest carbon offsets can be used as a legitimate climate change mitigation tool. Qualitative results revealed that most organizations are taking a passive approach to carbon sequestration and trading until a suitable regulatory framework emerges and carbon prices provide the conditions for a sound investment. The researchers suggest that, given the size and scope of the climate change phenomenon as well as the multifaceted and unified mitigation strategy required to address it, the development of functional carbon markets will be an iterative process and may require a global carbon framework that reflects the globalized nature of the forest economy. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment