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Opinion: The Pope Is Right On Climate, Wrong On Offsets

Pope Francis fears that companies may use carbon offsets to buy their way out of their environmental responsibilities, but the evidence tells a different story. While some bad actors surely abuse the mechanism, most companies that use offsets do so to reduce emissions far beyond their own base of operations. Here are the numbers.

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What Part of “No Net Loss” Does Alberta Not Understand?

The Canadian province of Alberta is chopping up its countryside to extract valuable oilsands, and its longstanding wetland policy of “no net loss” means that oil companies should be offsetting the damage by restoring wetlands across the province.  That policy, however, only applies to populated areas — leaving most of the province’s territory unprotected.

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New Guide:
Corporate Ecosystem Valuation

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has released its new Guide to Corporate Ecosystem Valuation (CEV). The guide, the first major attempt to package approaches to ecosystem valuation specifically for business, offers private sector actors a framework for understanding how – and how much – their businesses depend on ecosystem services.

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On the Blog: EPA Authority Over Greenhouse Gasses Remains Tenuous

The US Senate on Wednesday narrowly preserved the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act by shooting down a bill that denies scientific findings on climate change.  That preservation, however, remains tenuous at best.
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The Hypocrisy of Land-Use Accounting

Climate talks have resumed in Bangkok, with several familiar sticking points.  One issue that has overstayed its welcome is the debate over how developed countries should account for carbon stored in and released from their farms, forests, prairies, and bogs.  Current rules let them decide which types of land use they will account for and which they can ignore.  Developing countries say that’s not fair, and with good reason.

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Army Corps Needs to Examine Rationale for Mitigation Territories

Mitigation bankers have long complained that different regulatory agencies apply different standards, and a study published late last year bears that out – at least when it comes to how the 38 districts of the Army Corps of Engineers determine the amount of territory individual mitigation banks should be allowed to cover.

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We Must all Learn from Each Other

Western science has achieved great things, but it often misses the obvious – at least from the perspective of indigenous peoples who have lived with that obvious for generations.  The same blind spot applies to indigenous peoples – a blind spot that can have devastating implications for the development of forest carbon projects if not addressed.

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Environmental Sustainability is the New Economic Bottom Line

That’s the message in “Accounting for Sustainability: Practical Insights", which culls insights from a five-year project sponsored by Prince Charles that examined the feasibility of factoring industries’impact on the environment into their economic spreadsheets. Using case studies and interviews with leaders at major accounting firms, the book documents the bond between capitalism and environmental capital.

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On the Blog: Voluntary Carbon Fills Compliance Void

VCS released its first verified carbon credits from a REDD project last week, the California cap-and-trade scheme is aiming to start in 2012 and voluntary standards are engaging with governements and policy makers around the world.  A guest blogger examines the continued development of the voluntary market–and how mechanisms can be utilized to foster market integrity as a whole.

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No Correlation Between Democracy and Forest Governance

As UN negotiators scramble to develop a global mechanism for generating carbon credits by saving rainforests, individual countries are moving ahead with their own plans.  Research published last year, however, shows that most of those plans are woefully out of synch with each other – a fact that could have dire consequences for the development of a truly global carbon market.

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NGOs Need to Walk Softly and Hang Tough

Scores of non-governmental organizations are trying to help indigenous people out of poverty by showing them how to earn carbon credits, but not all are getting results NGO veteran James Gray says that if NGOs really want to help, they have to cede more control to indigenous groups – and they have to convince those groups that they’re in it for the long haul He offers this example from his own experience with CARE in Guatemala.

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Maryland Sets Pace for Chesapeake Water Quality

The US State of Maryland has a history of putting innovative ideas into practice when it comes to the environment.  Over the past three years, for example, it has quietly implemented one of North America’s most sophisticated large-scale payments for watersheds services programs, and now it’s developing a statewide system of ecosystem services.

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Forests are Wild – They Need Effective Governance to tap Their Resources

Editors Sarah Laird, Rebecca McLain, and Rachel P. Wynberg underscore this theme in "Wild Product Governance: Finding Policies that Work for Non-Timber Forest Products."  They poke and probe through more than a dozen forests in wealthy and developing nations alike.  Their conclusions are always the same. Rules that govern forests must be reworked to make the most of the wealth their wild products offer.  

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Where do we find the Money, Talent and Political Will to Protect the Environment?

The question is tough and so are the answers in “Conservation Capital in the Americas: Exemplary Conservation Finance Initiatives.” Editor James Levitt draws on case studies crossing economic and international borders to illustrate that while environmental solutions benefit from outside experiences, they require creativity and attention to local issues to succeed.

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RIBITS is Great; Why Not Make it Better?

The Regional Internet Bank Information Tracking System is one of the Army Corps of Engineers’ great successes, but it can be even better.  Ecosystem Marketplace has joined scores of mitigation bankers and other market practitioners in calling for expansion of the data base and increased transparency so that RIBITS can achieve its true potential as a mechanism through which mitigation markets can deliver true environmental benefits.

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Monitoring: What Works, and What Doesn’t?

Any scheme that aims to save nature by paying for its ecosystem services has to begin by measuring and monitorin those services.  Not all such methods, however, are created equal, say David Lindenmayer and Gene Likens in “Effective Ecological  Monitoring."  Through case studies and analyses, they illustrate the keys for successful ecosystem monitoring that forms the foundation for effective mitigation.

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A Green Development Mechanism for Biodiversity?

The United Nations aims to halt biodiversity loss by 2020, in part by promoting financing schemes that recognize the economic value of our planet’s living ecosystems.  One such scheme is the “Green Development Mechanism”, which is designed to both promote economic development and preserve biodiversity.  Its backers will be presenting their ideas on Friday and Monday in Nagoya.

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On the Blog: Is Papua New Guinea too Risky for the Carbon Market?

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare has reportedly denounced voluntary carbon schemes as being too risky.  The message, however, is not posted on Somare’s web page, and the voluntary programs he’s denouncing were never verified to any recognized standard. Yes, all markets are risky — but which ones is he referring to, and who really bears the risk?

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Climate Change is Real, and There is no Quick Fix. Deal With it!

That’s the take-home message in Clive Hamilton’s positively negative “Requiem For a Species: Why we Resist the truth about climate change”, which examines the hard science of climate change and the soft psychology of climate-change denial (as well as climate-change apathy and the desire for a quick and easy fix).  Face reality, he says.  And deal with it – now.

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Book Review:
How to Live a Low-Carbon Life

The average UK citizen emits around fourteen tons of carbon dioxide every year, but Chris Goodall says he can easily slash this to around two.  In his new book, “How to Live a Low-Carbon Life”, he not only shows how to achieve that goal, but argues that you’ll incentivize more reductions by making it cool to cut than by promoting complex financing schemes.  (We, personally, believe in both)

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Using Nature to Reach the Millennium Development Goals

As the second day of a three-day UN summit aimed at reducing poverty winds down in New York, it’s clear that many of the “Millennium Development Goals” agreed to ten years ago and set for 2015 will not be met.   Janet Ranganathan of the World Resources Institute argues that Payments for Ecosystem Services can help change that.

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Insuring REDD Projects: Questions and Answers

Just a few weeks of actual negotiating time remain before the year-end summit in Cancun, and climate talks are a mess.  Sure, most parties agree it’s a good idea to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by saving trees, but that’s about all they agree on.  This all highlights the amount of risk that investors take when paying for something today that won’t be delivered for decades – and the role that insurers could play in spreading the risk

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“Primary Production” and the True Cost of the BP Horizon Oil Spill

BP says it’s managed to plug the runaway well that pumped untold millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but that doesn’t help people whose livelihoods depend on the Gulf’s natural resources.  WRI’s Stephen Posner and John Talberth examine the impact of oil on the Gulf’s most basic life forms and the challenge of assessing its economic value.

“Primary Production” and the True Cost of BP

BP says it has managed to plug the runaway well that pumped untold millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but that doesn’t help people living off the Gulf’s natural resources.  WRI’s Stephen Posner and John Talberth examine the impact of oil on the Gulf’s most basic life forms.

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What will it take to make sure REDD+ is safe?

As international policy frameworks and pledges of billions of dollars move REDD+ forward, many observers remain concerned over how to ensure the lofty promises being made for global forest conservation will actually provide broader social and environmental benefits. The issue of safeguards took center stage this week in Washington, DC through a day-long forum of REDD+ policymakers, practitioners, and observers.

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Light at the End of Deepwater Horizon

Long before the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, the Obama Administration launched its Ocean Policy Task Force, which immediately began criticizing US ocean policy and offering an entirely new approach to federal resource planning for oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes.  Tundi Agardy says there’s no bright side to the Deepwater disaster, but she hopes the Task Force at least shines a bright light into a previously opaque tunnel.

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Forest Carbon is in the Climate Bill, but How do we Insure it? With Trees!

The American Power Act of 2010 is out of the shadows, and some provisions make it possible to earn carbon credits for reducing greenhouse gasses by capturing carbon in trees. But that often involves paying for something today that won’t be delivered for decades. How can the insurance industry engage the forest carbon offset asset market so as to deliver an asset that is real, measurable and verifiable as well as secured, insured and preferred?

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Carbon’s Price Must Reflect Its True Cost

Last week was a big one for environmental politics. US President Barack Obama approved new offshore oil and gas drilling for the first time in decades – in part, mostly likely, as a concession to congressional opponents of  a larger climate bill.  Then, Obama limited car exhaust under a new tailpipe rule. Such legislation will factor in the social cost of carbon, but the current means of determining that are woefully inadequate.

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Book Review: The New Atlas of Water Aims Both High and Low

The new edition of 2004’s Atlas of Water seeks to provide a high-level yet easily-accessible introduction to the wide variety of political, economic and environmental pressures and constraints that exist in the global management of water resources for personal, agricultural and industrial use. Colm Fay and Gabriel Thoumi say they have only partially succeeded.

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How Can Green Markets Access Islamic Finance?

The amount of  Shari’ah-compliant assets grew by nearly 30% over the past year, but no one really knows how much of that has gone to green sustainability investments.  Ecosystem Marketplace examines the role that  Islamic finance could provide in supplying  payments for ecosystems services.
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On the Blog: Share Your Thoughts on the European Carbon Debacle

BlueNext and NordPool halted trading in Certified Emission Reduction certificates (CERs) after “recycled” CERs found their way into the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.  It’s a bit off the EM path of voluntary and forest carbon, but it does impact the whole sector.  We’d like to find out what you think this means for the carbon markets, and have an active discussion going on the Eko-Eco Blog.

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K-16 Videoblog: Saving the Oceans by Quantifying Their Value

Mangroves not only protect coasts and nurture young fish, but they could be one of the most potent tools in the battle to slow global warming. They were also the center of debate in Palo Alto, California, where social entrepreneur Ben Metz videoblogged from the Katoomba MARES Meeting, which wrapped up Wednesday.

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Prince Charles and Wangari Maathai set REDD Agenda for Copenhagen

If there is any doubt that the larger world now understands that the quickest way to halt climate change is to halt deforestation, that doubt was dissipated by the opening ceremony at the high-level segment of COP 15 Tuesday night.  Prince Charles, Ban Ki Moon, and Wangari Maathai ushered in negotiations where the only thing people agree on is that we need to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

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In Defense of Offsets

A flurry of high-profile entities have given up on carbon-neutral flying, and several media reports say carbon offsets do more to ease guilt than to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially when applied to air travel.  Our Caroline Ott begs to differ, and answers three common arguments she says reflect a poor understanding of human behavior and the nature of legitimate offsets.

 

 

 
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Bottom-Up Approach Offers Hope for CDM in Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa has so far failed to harness the opportunities for sustainable development offered by the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, but First Climate’s <strong>Durando Ndongsok</strong> says it doesn’t have to be that way.  He offers a recipe for success post-2012 – and it starts on the ground.

 
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Mitigation Bankers Say New Rule Heightens Old Conflicts: Survey

It’s been more than a year since the United States enacted uniform procedures for offsetting lost wetlands across the country, but market participants say "The Rule" has neither calmed the conflicts it was designed to eradicate, nor driven business to mitigation banks.  The reason, they say, is that regulators are as regionally inconsistent as ever.

 
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New Global Water Disclosure Project: A Call to Action to the Corporate Sector

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) long ago created the world’s largest database of corporate climate change information. Now it aims to do the same for corporate water information banking with the Water Disclosure Project (WDP) – launched earlier today. Ecosystem Marketplace Water Program Manager Tracy Stanton posted this summary to the Eko-Eco blog.

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What Kind of Assets Are Forestry Credits?

We’re finally figuring out how to measure the amount of carbon captured in trees, but how do we account for forestry credits once we’ve purchased or generated them? Companies have to agree on an answer if forestry credits are to attract the kind of value that will foster meaningful change. That’s not happening, however – and this new report examines various solutions on the table.

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Bit by Bit: A Canadian Federal Offset System

Canada is inching towards the creation of a national cap-and-trade scheme, and – not surprisingly – it resembles those bouncing around the US, complete with provisions that recognize credits from projects that deliver environmental benefits above and beyond the law, even if they aren’t "additional" in the classic sense. EM Examines the proposals in detail.

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US Starts Small in Developing Domestic Forestry

Carbon credits that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation were developed in part to save the tropical rainforests, but thousands of small forests outside the tropics can also add up to being major emitters if not properly managed. A new US bill targets these oft-forgotten gems – and could help kick global reduction efforts into high gear.

John Reid: Ensendo a los ecologistas la economa de la naturaleza

El Fondo de Estrategia de Conservación (Conservation Strategy Fund) de John Reid está equipando a los medioambientalistas alrededor del mundo con el “know-how” económico requerido y demostrándoles a ellos cómo comunicar sus hallazgos a los tomadores de decisiones.

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CDM in Africa: Facing the Hurdle of Conventional Finance

Climate change threatens the world as a whole – and Africa in particular, because increases in droughts and floods mean more on a continent where the population is already struggling to make ends meet. The continent therefore has more than most to gain from financing schemes that promote sustainable development and slow climate change – but will Africa be in a position to benefit?

Second in the Series: The Road to Accra, leading up to the October Katoomba Meeting in Accra, Ghana.

 
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Yasuni’s Means Won’t Achieve its Ends

The government of Ecuador has offered to avoid drilling for oil in the biodiversity-rich Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) concession of its Yasuni National Park in exchange for a carbon payment equal to just half the income the country would earn if it fired up the drills. Practitioners say it’s an intriguing idea – but one that misses the mark.

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EM Readers Weigh in on Economy

More than 75% of Ecosystem Marketplace readers responding to a recent survey believe the global economic slowdown will hurt voluntary carbon markets in the short term (although the big news may be that 11% believe the slowdown will actually help), while just over 50% believe it will harm the compliance markets. Still, more than two-thirds of practitioners responding have not altered their business plans.

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In the Year 2035 If Ecosystem Markets Keep Man Alive

The new book Dry Spring: The Coming Water Crisis of North America, is an environmental cautionary tale with a hopeful ending delivered courtesy of ecosystem markets. Here, author Chris Wood shares with the Ecosystem Marketplace his vision of a world in which that hopeful ending is realized.

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The Interconnectedness of Chesapeake Ecosystem Markets

With the US EPA’s new mitigation rules taking effect this weekend, GreenVest CEO Doug Lashley tells the Ecosystem Marketplace that what’s needed to save the Bay are not more ecosystem payment tools, but broader understanding of how existing tools work – alone and together – and the mechanics for implementing their use.