Two years after the REDD Offsets Working Group, California’s Air Resources Board seems to be getting serious about incorporating international avoided deforestation offsets into its cap-and-trade program. There’s been a flurry of activity on the subject, ranging from presentations and workshops to technical papers, leaving some to think REDD will be added in time for the program’s third compliance period in 2018.
7 April 2016 | Could companies in California soon be financing tropical forest preservation in the Amazon and the Lacandon Jungle? More than two years after the REDD Offsets Working Group (ROW)released its recommendations for incorporating international avoided deforestation offsets into California’s cap-and-trade program, the state’s Air Resources Board (ARB) seems to be getting serious about the potential addition.
At a public workshop on April 5, representatives from the ARB presented on some of the technical and legal issues the state would need to consider were it to move forward with what would be the first inclusion of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests) in a compliance carbon market. Because California already has memoranda of understanding in place with Acre, Brazil and Chiapas, Mexico, much of the discussion focused on how risks such as reversal (the chance that credited carbon could later be emitted) and leakage (the chance that reducing deforestation in one place could push it elsewhere) could be addressed in a jurisdictional REDD program. The ARB is considering including an offsets buffer pool (how big should it be?), insurance (who else has tried this?), and discounting issuances in future years.
“The jurisdictional approach inherently reduces the risk of reversal compared to the project approach,” said Sean Donovan, an ARB Air Pollution Specialist.
Still, if ARB moves forward with implementing REDD, it will need to approve registries that can handle the issuance and retirement of these tonnes. It is still fleshing out what the minimum requirements for these jurisdictional offset tracking systems should be – and whether registries should be able to accommodate jurisdictions with nested projects. ARB is currently seeking input on whether existing standards such as the REDD+ Rulebook formulated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or the Verified Carbon Standard’s (VCS) Jurisdictional Nested REDD guidelines should simply be “referred to or incorporated” – or whether California should impose additional requirements. ARB representatives emphasized the importance of third-party and truly independent auditing regardless of the standard used.
“In the international CDM [Clean Development Mechanism] marketplace there were allegations that ‘independent’ – and I used quotes there – entities had conflicts of interest,” said ARB cap-and-trade chief Rajinder Sahota. “That was a really high concern with other trading programs, and we’ve devoted quite a bit of staff time and resources to this issue.”
Late last month, ARB presented their current thinking on REDD reference levels and crediting baselines, and is seeking comments on a technical paper outlining these and other issues by April 8. Comments on yesterday’s sessions are due April 22, and another workshop covering the linkage process and social and environmental safeguards is scheduled for April 28. The flurry of activity is a long-awaited signal for those who hope to see REDD added to California cap-and-trade in time for the third compliance period in 2018.
“By acting soon, California could help inform and shape how REDD+, including both jurisdictional program and nested project activities, fits within other emerging compliance regimes, such as the aviation market-based mechanism,” Toby Janson-Smith, Chief Innovation Officer at VCS, told Ecosystem Marketplace.
More news from the carbon markets is summarized below, so keep reading!
HERE’S THE DEAL
Fishing for neutrality
Austral Fisheries, catcher of toothfish and prawns, recently announced its commitment to offset the carbon emissions it cannot reduce in order to supply what it’s calling “CN” (carbon neutral) Fish. The company has calculated its 2014 emissions so far and purchased an associated 27,444 offsets from a large-scale reforestation project in the Australian wheatbelt. The project, developed by Carbon Neutral, is certified by the Gold Standard but also meets the requirements of Australia’s National Carbon Offset Standard. Austral Fisheries said that it has signed a five-year contract with Carbon Neutral but that long-term, the company is interested in supporting blue carbon projects. “In the seafood industry, someone needs to be first,” a video on the company’s website states.
An internal price on carbon has spurred a “virtuous cycle of environmental awareness,” Microsoft sustainability boss TJ DiCaprio wrote in a recent Huffington Post article. Money from the internal price is re-invested in carbon-cutting initiatives both within and outside the company. Microsoft’s strategy is to directly reduce emissions through energy efficiency; purchase renewable energy; and invest in carbon offset projects. To date, the company has purchased a total of 1.72 million offsets from 35 projects, including the Rimba Raya REDD+ project in Indonesia and the Makira REDD+ project in Madagascar. In March, Microsoft won a Climate Leadership Award for organizational leadership from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Overcoming Great Barriers
Green Collar Group, a major supplier of land-based offsets to the Australian government’s Emissions Reductions Fund, announced a new partnership with the state of Queensland to work with landowners to develop carbon sequestration projects that will ultimately benefit the Great Barrier Reef. “The principle goal is to reduce sediment load and nutrient load in the river systems that end up on the Reef,” James Schultz, the CEO of Green Collar, told Ecosystem Marketplace. This could be done through revegetation of riverside properties or reducing fertilizer use, he added. The partnership, known as the Catchment Conservation Alliance, is still in the early stages of identifying landowners to participate in a 25-year program.
The river less traveled
Along the Ucayali River in the Peruvian Amazon, AIDER, a Peruvian non-profit, is developing a REDD+ project involving the indigenous Shipibo Konibo people. The Shipibo Konibo earn their livelihoods by farming bananas and cassava for a few months a year and fishing, hunting, and harvesting timber in the remaining months. Illegal logging and fishing are a big problem in the territory. The villages are very remote – up to 120 kilometers from the nearest market – and the Shipibo Konibo report that their capacity to monitor for illegal activities is strained. The project was validated under the Verified Carbon Standard in 2015 and is estimated to reduce more than 550,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (tCO2e) per year.
Offset if you like
Japan’s Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa said last week that carbon pricing may be a part of the country’s future climate plans, and a draft plan released earlier in March said that an emissions trading system would be “considered carefully.” These references to market-based mechanisms to reduce emissions remained in the plan despite industry pressure to remove them. Still, the document puts more emphasis on voluntary action by industry. The government set up a third-party certification system for domestic projects in 2012, with at least 1.5 million tonnes offset voluntarily to date, from more than 500 projects. Japan is committed to slashing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 26% below 2013 levels by 2030.
The last culinary frontier
In November 2015, a group of chefs, scientists, environmentalists, social entrepreneurs, and writers set out on a journey by boat through the Peruvian rainforest to discover foods that rarely make it to restaurant or dinner tables but are consumed by indigenous people throughout the Amazon. “It’s an uncommon fruit called ayahuma, meaning ‘dead man’s head,’” said Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Ámaz Restaurant, holding up a brown fruit the size of a large grapefruit. The group’s goal is to bring Amazonian food to more mouths and markets – thus creating value for standing forests and their ecosystem services. A brief video about their journey, which was organized by Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends, is now available on YouTube.
Nine cheers for REDD
A new position paper developed by a coalition of environmental organizations – Conservation International, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Global Canopy Programme, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Sustainable Travel International, The Nature Conservancy, VCS, and Wildlife Conservation Society, as well as Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends – calls on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to include REDD+ offsets as an option in the market-based mechanism (MBM) it is developing this coming October. “The ICAO MBM can depend on REDD+ to provide the volume of robust offsets it needs to meet its emission reduction targets as well as a multitude of additional benefits in developing countries,” the paper states.
The implementation of China’s ETS in 2017 will cover at least four billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and have major implications for other carbon markets, according to a new policy paper by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ITCSD). The author, Jeff Swartz of the International Emissions Trading Association, notes the rise of “carbon clubs,” or countries that agree to work together on emissions trading protocols, post-Paris. Because China’s climate target is intensity-based, a carbon club that includes China “might have to impose trading restrictions on the number of units that could be imported or exported from the club by China, or establish an exchange-rate mechanism for members with intensity-based targets,” Swartz writes.
Farming in the new normal
Techniques such as no-till, organic mulching, composting, rotating livestock, and using cover crops are the tenets of a climate-friendly genre of farming laid out in Eric Toensmeier’s new book The Carbon Farming Solution. Activist Bill McKibben describes the book as “the toolkit for making the soil itself a sponge for carbon.” The book discusses carbon markets – such as Chevrolet’s voluntary purchase of 40,000 carbon offsets from farmers implementing no-till in North Dakota – as a potential avenue to finance the shift. Toensmeier also advocates for “silvopasture,” or grazing livestock among widely spaced trees, to mitigate emissions from the animals.
Research Assistant – Forest Trends
Based in Washington, D.C., the research assistant will support Forest Trends’ partnership with the government of Peru to develop a strategy for achieving improved agricultural outputs alongside verified environmental conservation. Specifically, the position involves supporting the preparation of a report documenting business and finance models that have successfully engaged smallholder agricultural producers. The successful candidate will have excellent research, organizational, and writing skills and familiarity with issues relating to smallholder agriculture.
Expert in GHG Inventory Systems – Coalition for Rainforest Nations
Based in Rome, Italy or New York, New York, the expert will provide training and capacity building for the development of institutional arrangements for national GHG inventories. They will also support local staff to prepare GHG estimates for forestry and land use, including REDD+. The position runs for three years and involves undertaking field missions to deliver training courses in participating countries.
Senior Consultant, Sustainable Investments – South Pole Group
Based in London, Stockholm, or Berlin, the Senior Consultant will plan, coordinate, and manage projects and consultancies related to sustainable investments, and liaise with clients. The successful candidate will have a degree in economics, finance, or a related discipline and at least five years of relevant work experience. Language skills in German, French, Spanish, and Scandanavian languages would be an advantage.
Intern, Climate Change – Conservation International
Based in Arlington, Virginia, the intern will conduct a literature review to identify the adaptation, mitigation, and biodiversity outcomes of nature-based climate change interventions, and support the development of presentations and briefs. Candidates must be currently enrolled in a master’s or doctoral program and be able to commit five to six months of full-time support to Conservation International. Familiarity with REDD+ and blue carbon as well as an understanding of basic social and environmental monitoring and evaluation methods is required.
Program Assistant, Global Climate – Environmental Defense Fund
Based in Washington, D.C., the Program Assistant will provide administrative support for staff members in the Global Climate Program, which works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world through the promotion of innovative market-based mechanisms. The position involves making travel arrangements, translating documents from Spanish and Portuguese to English, managing the logistics for climate-related workshops, and conducting research on forest conservation and REDD+.
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