Tree silhouette Skyline silhouette
Carbon Protocols

Urban Forest Carbon Protocols

Rulebooks for verified carbon projects in cities

Urban forest carbon protocols form the foundation of our work. Developed by leading scientists and urban forest professionals, the protocols define the set of rules that tree planting or preservation projects must follow in order to earn third-party verified carbon credits.

See our full protocols and summaries.




Independent, third-party verification of carbon projects ensures the integrity and quality of voluntary greenhouse gas programs. Third-party verifiers, also known as validation/verification bodies (VVBs), verify that carbon projects meet the rules and requirements in the CFC protocols and that the quantification of GHG emissions mitigation are accurate. All VVBs must be qualified and approved by CFC. See qualification statement for more details.

As an urban forest scientist, I led the quantification of carbon in the Air Resources Board protocol in 2011 and a second attempt at a protocol at the Climate Action Reserve in 2013. I've been proud to contribute to the quantification work of City Forest Credits and see it result in carbon projects in multiple cities.

—Dr. Greg McPherson, Retired Senior Scientist
U.S. Forest Service

National Drafting Group

The experienced protocol drafting group included top scientists and stakeholders from diverse subject fields. Members include city climate program managers, nonprofits, watershed professionals, private arborists, utilities, and land trusts. All members served voluntarily and without compensation to further the advancement of the public resource of urban forests.

Zach Baumer

City of Austin Climate Program Manager

Rich Dolesh

National Recreation and Park Association Vice President Conservation and Parks

Ian Leahy

American Forests Vice President of Urban Forestry

Scott Maco

Davey Institute Director of Research and Development

Jenny McGarvey

Alliance for Chesapeake Bay Forest Programs Manager

Greg McPherson

U.S. Forest Service Research Scientist

Mark McPherson

City Forest Credits Executive Director

Darren Morgan

Seattle Department of Transportation Manager

Walter Passmore

City of Palo Alto City Forester

Shannon Ramsay

Trees Forever Founding President and CEO

Heather Sage

Pittsburgh Park Conservancy Director of Community Projects

Misha Sarkovich

Sacramento Municipal Utility District Customer Solutions

Skip Swenson

Forterra Vice President Policy and Programming

Andy Trotter

West Coast Arborists Vice President of Field Operations

Our urban forests are where most of us live, work and play—an essential public resource. I founded Trees Forever, a regional nonprofit based in Iowa over 30 years ago. I was excited by the US Forest Service research on developing a rigorous carbon protocol for urban forestry. I was honored to join the other drafting group members to develop a quality national standard for carbon crediting. Thanks to City Forest Credits for its leadership.

—Shannon Ramsay, Founding President and CEO
Trees Forever

Validation and Verification

Third-party verification

An independent assessment of carbon projects is a critical step in ensuring the integrity and quality of voluntary greenhouse gas programs. Third-party verifiers also known as validation/verification bodies (VVBs) assess that carbon projects meet the rules and requirements in the CFC protocols. All VVBs must be qualified and approved by CFC. See qualification statement for more details.

Dr. Gordon Smith – Director, Ecofor LLC
Dr. Gordon Smith provides third-party verification of preservation projects. He brings many years of experience in carbon accounting, greenhouse gas standards, verification, and implementation. Dr. Smith is a member of the editorial board of the journal Carbon Management; Greenhouse Gas Management Institute advisory committee; accredited expert with the Verified Carbon Standard in afforestation/deforestation, improved forest management, avoided deforestation (REDD), and agricultural land management; and AFOLU Technical Committee of the American Carbon Registry.

Dr. Qingfu Xiao
Dr. Qingfu Xiao provides third-party verification of tree planting projects. He has an extensive background in urban forestry ecosystem services assessments and analysis, measuring and modeling complex urban forestry hydrology, and GIS and remote sensing of environmental landscapes. Dr. Xiao is currently an Associate Project Scientist in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources at University of California, Davis.

Robust and Secure System

Issuing and tracking carbon credits

We adhere to the industry standards for carbon registries. Our Carbon+ Project Registry includes documentation and verification information for every project.

Our role is to approve projects, ensure they meet the protocols, provide guidance through the process, and issue and track credits. We require third-party verification of all projects before we issue credits. Credits are then issued under a unique ID and serial number in a secure registry database.

Initiate a Carbon Project

What you need to know to get started

Urban forest leaders never have enough money to grow and care for city trees. Carbon credits may provide a new source of revenue to fill the gaps. 

Location is key. First, projects must be located in one or more of the following urban areas:

  1. Urban area per U.S. Census Bureau maps
  2. Incorporated or unincorporated city or town
  3. Municipally-owned watershed zones
  4. Transportation or utility rights of way

We can provide overviews that describe more details on eligibility, requirements, and project design recommendations.

Carbon Preservation Project Fact Sheet

Carbon Planting Project Fact Sheet

CFC 2021 Carbon Fee Schedule

City Forest Research

Quantifying our valuable public resources

City forests in the United States provide $18.3 billion in benefits per year. This value is expected to grow as urban areas continue to expand. See our White Paper about the functions, scale, and value of city forests.

Explore Carbon Projects