Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has proposed two bills aimed at creating a revenue stream for the state by focusing on carbon conservation and sequestration of oil and gas byproducts. The first bill, dubbed the “tree bill,” would allow investors to lease forested lands for up to 55 years with the aim of preserving the forest’s ability to absorb carbon emissions. Estimates for the revenue this may generate range from the millions to the billions. The second bill aims to establish a system for sequestering carbon from oil and gas facilities, industrial sites and potentially power plants. While the proposal is in tune with global emissions goals, there is debate over the effectiveness of carbon offsets, which some critics see as “greenwashing” without any verified benefits.
Alaska is one of the regions most transformed by climate change, and boreal forests there are facing increased threat from wildfires. While the “tree bill” that Dunleavy proposes is intended to stop any carbon releasing activity or processes in state forests, the question remains of how effective human intervention will be at preventing the carbon-releasing effects of the increasing and intensifying wildfires caused by climate change. As wildfires become more frequent and intense, boreal forests, which hold 30% to 40% of the world’s land-based carbon, are already transitioning into net carbon sources. While carbon sequestration is viewed as a viable tool in the fight against climate change, questions remain over the effectiveness of Alaska’s proposal.