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This Week In Forest Carbon:
California Delays Its Rice Cultivation Protocol

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) tabled its rice cultivation protocol for consideration next spring. While disappointed by the delay, many groups understood the need for better environmental safeguards and robust stakeholder engagement, as this protocol is set to be the first land-based offset protocol adopted by the ARB.

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) tabled its rice cultivation protocol for consideration next spring. While disappointed by the delay, many groups understood the need for better environmental safeguards and robust stakeholder engagement, as this protocol is set to be the first land-based offset protocol adopted by the ARB.

This article was originally published in the Forest Carbon newsletter. Click here to read the original.

28 August 2013 | The California Air Resources Board (ARB) disappointed many stakeholders in its cap-and-trade program with news that its planned rice cultivation protocol – expected to go before the board this October for approval  –  was tabled for consideration  next spring, while the mine methane capture protocol remains on track.

Many were hoping to see draft versions of both protocols, but the ARB explained that the recent stakeholder process raised several issues with the current rice cultivation protocol. Environmental groups are particularly concerned about the impact of early drainage activities on late broods, mosquito abatement and the wetlands and the rice straw baling effects on bird populations.

The general sense is that the protocol, while delayed, will still go through. Harold Buchanan, CEO of CE2 Carbon Capital, says the rice cultivation protocol is not expected to provide a material volume of offsets to the California market – suggesting the delay is unlikely to significantly impact the shortage of offset supply projected for the second and third compliance periods of the state’s cap-and-trade program.

 

While disappointed by the delay, many groups understood the need for better environmental safeguards and robust stakeholder engagement, as this protocol is set to be the first land-based offset protocol adopted by the ARB.  

 

Belinda Morris, California director for the American Carbon Registry, cited advantages to the delay, including being able to incorporate the latest growing season data into the protocol and further examining cost-effective aggregation mechanisms for projects.

 

Robert Parkhurst, the Director of Agriculture Greenhouse Gas Markets for the Environmental Defense Fund, noted that the success of the offset program rests on its integrity, and this delay “reflects the fact that they are committed to carefully considering the range of issues, doing it right, and not cutting corners.”  

 

Meanwhile, the mine methane capture protocol will be considered by the ARB board at the October 24-25 board meeting; if adopted, it could be effective as early as next year. But the debate continues over the ARB’s draft version of the protocol, which currently restricts early action activity to projects produced under the Climate Action Reserve versions. Stakeholders countered that mine methane projects produced under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) could easily find a place in the compliance program, an argument that the ARB appears willing to embrace.  

 

These and other stories from the forest carbon marketplace are summarized below, so keep reading!  

 

With the redesign of our  Forest Carbon Portal  and continued expansion of our Spanish language sister website  Valorando Naturaleza, Ecosystem Marketplace hopes to continue to bring you this kind of fresh information in the second half of 2013! If you value what you read, consider supporting Ecosystem Marketplace’s Carbon Program by contacting  Molly Peters-Stanley. We’re $50k away from being able to publish this year’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets report in a few months’ time – can we count on your support?

 

Here at Ecosystem Marketplace, we are transitioning from data collection to report-writing mode in order to bring you this year’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets report. For those of you developing forest carbon offset projects, if you have not yet responded with data and wish to participate in the survey, please notify  Daphne Yin.

 

A big thank you to the following organizations that have most recently contributed data to this year’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets report, including:  WM Beaty.

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at general@forestcarbonportal.com.



News

U.S. Markets

Offsets seen eluding capture by EPA  

Forestry, land use and other types of offsets are likely to be shut out of the carbon pollution standards on new and existing power plants  soon to be proposed  by the US Environmental Protection Agency. But the Obama administration will be supporting offsets through other programs as part of its efforts to ensure the US follows through on its emissions reduction pledge.  Obama’s Climate Action Plan  more broadly highlights REDD+ and addresses the role of the US in curbing carbon emissions by reducing agriculture-driven deforestation, and US agencies such as the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) run a range of programs designed to increase soil sequestration and to protect forests that could support offset projects.

 

Project Development

REDD-y for the next validation

Zambia’s first REDD+ project just passed its validation with flying colors, with a “Gold Level” designation awarded from the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) Standards. The  BioCarbon Partners’ (BCP) Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project  is among the first REDD+ projects in the South African Development Community to achieve all three Gold Level validation criteria in communities, biodiversity and climate change adaptation. The project combats deforestation through 18 community-based interventions such as conservation farming and eco-charcoal harvesting. Strong community involvement is credited with the project’s success. Local traditional leaders and government authorities even wrote letters of support to the CCB auditors. BCP now aims to achieve VCS validation by the end of 2013.  

 

Leveraging Laos Forests  

The World Bank  just signed a grant agreement  to give $31.83million for Laos’ Scaling-Up Participatory Sustainable Forest Management (PSFM) Project. The project seeks to expand sustainable forest management by increasing areas under PSFM plans and pilot project areas under REDD+ and a landscape approach to forest management. Nineteen million of the grant comes from the International Development Association and $12.83 million from the Strategic Climate Fund’s Forest Investment Program. The grant is in line with Laos’ 2020 Forestry Strategy, which aims to improve the quality and quantity of forest areas in addition to developing sustainable forestry products.  

 

Opinion: Consenting communities strengthen project

In Kalimantan, Indonesia, local communities are looking for alternatives to palm oil concessions, which currently cover more than 17% of the land. An opinion piece in the Jakarta Post covers the work of Central Kalimantan community co-operative, the United Rainbow of Kotawaringin Barat, which is developing its  proposed Lamandau River REDD+ project  that could become the largest REDD+ project in Indonesia. Unlike prior REDD+ projects, which relied on consulting firms and international experts, the community-initiated Lamandau Project will allow local community management. Research from the Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR) supports the model, noting that community groups are best at managing their own land. However, challenges remain as the project has not yet received the necessary permits over the past 16 months.

 

Ushering in the Brown Revolution

Clay Pope of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts recently crossed state borders to share the organization’s  ECOpass concept  with the 2013 National Rural Assembly. Under the Oklahoma program, the public can voluntarily buy ECOpasses in $5, $30 and $50 denominations equal to different levels of carbon credits created by practices such as no-till farming, grass and tree plantings, and improved pasture management. Farmers applying these practices to their lands who have signed up for the Oklahoma Carbon Initiative – with verification provided by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission Carbon Program – can then receive payment for their efforts.

 

Sustainable plantations get a second wind

EcoPlanet Bamboo – the largest owner and operator of commercial bamboo plantations outside of China – recently wrapped up its first phase of growth in which it  reforested 10,000 acres  of highly degraded land in Central America and Southern Africa into bamboo plantations. During this phase, the firm achieved dual validation from the VCS and the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards on top of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for its plantations in Nicaragua, and was the first offset project developer to contract the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency to tap into political risk insurance. The firm now plans to pursue a second-phase goal of reforesting 1 million acres of degraded land in Southeast Asia, Brazil, and Africa, with some of its new work to potentially include an offset component.

 

A blue outlook for BluForest investors

A new post in the REDD Monitor  investigates BluForest, a publicly traded firm that reportedly owns 135,000 hectares of Ecuadorian forest from which it plans to “sell carbon offsets through [its] website to voluntary markets where no verification is required.” This atypical view of verification may be explained by research from REDD Monitor, which found that BluForest has no previous experience in forest conservation or carbon markets. Instead the company has a history of being involved in mining, oil and gas, as well as in pump-and-dump share scams under its former identity, Greenwood Gold Resources. Last month, investor George Sharp filed a civil action against BluForest for alleged fraud and negligent misrepresentation. According to BluForest’s Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the firm pre-sold 74,300 tonnes CO2 (tCO2e) in credits to two companies in late 2012.


National Strategy & Capacity  

Resisting REDD  

As Cameroon  moves ahead on its Readiness Preparation Proposal  approved by the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in January, local communities worry over losing their property rights and access to forest land. While the government of Cameroon already has several platforms to support indigenous and equal gender participation and is currently educating communities about REDD+ through presentations, misunderstandings about REDD+ remain. In addition to highlighting the complexity of raising community awareness and participation, the continued suspicion of REDD+ projects points to the need for clearer land tenure rights. One local NGO worker succinctly summed up the importance of this issue, stating, “Even if REDD+ doesn’t bring the money, let it bring good governance.”

 

Australian carbon farming in the weeds

Researchers have pinpointed  invasive weeds  such as gamba grass as a potential threat to landholder involvement in savanna burning, one of the eligible offset project types under Australia’s Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI). “There’s a large disparity between the profits generated from savanna burning – $1.92 per hectare – and the costs of managing gamba grass – $40 per hectare – meaning that much more savanna needs to be enrolled for carbon farming to cover the costs of weed eradication,” says study co-author Vanessa Adams. More broadly, Australia’s recent decision to transition early to an emissions trading scheme in July 2014 and coinciding linkage with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has raised concerns about whether the market price would be enough to support domestic offsetting under the CFI.

 

Forests in the thick-of-et  

Accusations have flown in New Zealand regarding its ETS treatment of forestry.  A new report  revealed the scheme is damaging the forestry sector, as cheap foreign carbon credits continue to flood the national market and drive down New Zealand Unit prices. The Labour Party has pounced on this opportunity to denounce the current government’s actions and promise a stronger ETS under its leadership. The  government defended itself  by asserting that the international market price is fairer for New Zealand emitters and that the Forest Owners Association is trying to ratchet up the price for its own self-interest to which the association  responded  that it merely reported facts about the current market.  

 

Turning a new leaf  

Ghana  will soon receive $50 million  from the Forest Investment Programme dedicated to addressing deforestation causes and improving forest management and benefit-sharing programs. Many historical attempts to reduce deforestation failed to include local rural communities. As a result, many community members engaged in illegal poaching, logging and other forms of trespassing. However, hopes are high that new funding will turn a new leaf for better forest management. The African Development Bank and World Bank aim to unify Ghana’s forest and land use programs, identify investments to prevent further deforestation, promote community participation and support climate-resilient economic development, such as through REDD+ activities. The funding is set to run through 2016.  

 

Receipt to follow in new partnership

Early August, Ethiopia and Norway  signed a bilateral REDD+ partnership agreement. The agreement does not promise a specific budget. Instead, payments will be based on results and will be decided as verified results appear. The agreement will primarily help develop Ethiopia’s forest sector, particularly the development and implementation of Ethiopia’s REDD+ strategy. Additionally, programs will benefit as part of Ethiopia’s broader Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy and related green economy development.  

 

Testing climate intelligence

Climate-smart agricultural projects by the UN FAO showcase the difficulties and opportunities of transitioning to new farming techniques. So far, the FAO’s Economics and Policy Innovations for Climate-Smart Agriculture Programme  has spearheaded a €5.3-million project  in Malawi, Vietnam and Zambia. These climate-smart projects attempt to reduce emissions from agriculture and enhance crops’ resilience to climate change. Studies of conservation agriculture in Zambia and Malawi and sustainable land management practices in Vietnam show that some farmers struggle with overhead costs in adapting to new methods, while others come up with innovative solutions. To broaden options available to farmers, the FAO stresses the need for increased investment from both traditional agricultural finance and emerging climate finance vehicles such as the Green Climate Fund.  

 

Paradise lost in Ecuador

In 2007, the government of Ecuador had a daring proposal: in return for $3.6 billion, Ecuador would leave 840 million barrels of oil situated in pristine rain forests untouched. The proposed price was half the market price that the oil could fetch and the government hoped that countries concerned about climate change would pay for this opportunity. Unfortunately, the Yasuni-ITT Initiative has largely failed, with only $336 million raised and contributions from the largest gas guzzling nations – the United States, China and Japan – non-existent. While Ecuadorian President Correa recently  announced the dissolution of the initiative, local support remains high and the government will try to minimize the amount of development in the area.  

 

Methodology & Standards Watch

Do you have the smarts for agriculture?

As the Gold Standard expands into forestry and land use, the  standard is seeking members  to join its advisory panel on climate-smart agriculture, to inform the development of social and ecological criteria for the standard’s new climate-smart agriculture scope. The panel is open to Gold Standard Supporters, Fairtrade-related organizations, and market experts experienced in social and ecological issues, governance of standards and/or technical expertise in climate-smart agriculture. The deadline for submissions is September 6.

 

Un-till a market signal

A new article in the  Scientific American  revisits the history behind soil carbon management in US agriculture. One of the few historical efforts to encourage farmers across the US to participate in no-till agriculture was the voluntary Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), whose exchange platform closed in 2010 but in its heyday covered 810,000 hectares of farmland with plans to generate and sell millions of carbon offsets into a proposed nationwide cap-and-trade program.  

Despite the exchange platform shutting down, over-the-counter transactions of existing CCX credits have continued on a piecemeal basis, seeing 8.3 MtCO2e transacted in 2012, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’s 2013  State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets  report. A third of this volume came from agriculture, forestry, and other land use projects in the US.

On the side, the USDA has gone on to roll out conservation programs to help farmers sequester more soil carbon. Late last year,  VCS approved a soil carbon methodology  developed by The Earth Partners (TEP) for use on agricultural offset projects, based on decades’ worth of USDA science. In past interactions with The Earth Partners, California’s ARB reportedly reviewed the soil carbon methodology and acknowledged soil carbon as a potential future project type for its cap-and-trade program. TEP hopes to reengage with the ARB to push for a regional protocol on soil carbon now that the method is VCS-approved and a pilot project is underway.

 

Finance & Economics

Tracking REDD+ tracking (continued)

Forest Trends’ REDDX and the Overseas Development Institute’s Climate Funds Update recently launched Parts III and IV of the organizations’ collaborative series that explains existing REDD+ finance tracking projects – including Forest Trends’ own new  REDDX expenditures tracking initiative– while identifying niches and possible cross-over areas to directly support more comprehensive assessments of REDD+ policy and finance gaps and needs.

 

  • Part III, Lessons from the US: The Tropical Forest Group shares findings from tracking US REDD+ spending and the difficulties in following finance which is managed across a number of different agencies and in very different ways. Data from 2008-2011 reveals that US REDD+ finance has focused primarily on forest nations with large forests, relatively high GDP, and the smallest overall capacity gaps for executing national forest monitoring systems that can link with an international REDD+ framework.
  • Part IV, What do we know about the private sector contribution?  The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative discusses the need for stronger engagement with private sector players, clearer definitions of what constitutes REDD+ private sector finance (do investments into activities that contribute to REDD+ but aren’t directly linked to REDD+ verified emissions reductions (VERs) , and more strategic targeting of public sector dollars in order to improve the financial attractiveness of REDD+ for the private sector.

Human Dimension

Drawing Connections with Cartoons

Transparency International (TI)  uncovered a major lack of communal awareness  in REDD+ projects during a recent trip to Papua New Guinea. TI employees traveled to the country with the purpose of learning about villagers’ experiences with PNG’s REDD+ pilot projects. Instead, they ended up having to explain basic concepts of REDD to those same villagers. Using hand-drawn illustrations, the NGO’s employees outlined REDD+, community benefits and corruption. The Leileiyafa community, home to one of five pilot sites for REDD+, reported that a Forestry Department official had stopped by and promised them money for keeping the trees – six months ago. However, there had been neither follow up nor any discussions about when, how much or who would receive this cash. Lack of local consultations and lack of awareness about REDD+ highlight the problems faced when implementing REDD+ in many countries.  

 

Challenging traditional development norms

Challenging the “teach a man to fish” motto, the EU-funded  Community Owned Best Practice for sustainable Resource Adaptive management(COBRA) project  offers a new adage: “show a community how to catch fish, and you feed them for as long as they have the support to buy the equipment. Promote locally-owned solutions and skills to produce local food and they will be able to survive sustainably with minimal external support.” COBRA has worked with indigenous groups primarily in Guyana and Brazil over the past two years. They seek to identify community best practices for adapting to environmental challenges, ultimately hoping to scale up these practices to the national and international level to be used in global environmental policies such as the UN REDD+ scheme.  

 

Science & Technology Review

Painting the future  

A  new laser technology  can map forests in almost artistic representations. The $1.5 million laser, nicknamed Echidna 2, allows scientists to map individual trees down to their leaves. Created jointly by Boston University and CSIRO, this ground-based laser sends out wavelengths to map the forest canopy. The difference is in the details: unlike previous models, the Echidna 2 records individual trees data down to the leaf size. The data can accurately measure the size and health of forests and answer previously difficult questions about CO2 absorption. While it would be difficult to map every forest using a ground-based laser, samples taken can help improve the accuracy of airborne- and satellite-based laser data.      

 

Copying the Jurassic forest

As deforestation and degradation continue, one group is bringing trees back. The  Archangel Ancient Tree Archive  hopes to clone ancient trees before they disappear completely. For ancient trees that have weathered fires, drought, and disease, their survival is embedded in their genetic memory. The group believes that newly cloned trees could provide important mitigation services if they are reforested on a large scale. One such project recently planted cloned sequoias resilient to warming conditions. Saplings have also been planted in other environmental cleanup projects and protected areas. However, cloning is no easy task. With a 2% success rate considered promising, collected cuttings rarely push out initial growth.  

 

Publications & Tools  

REDD+ in a Green Economy: Global Symposium Report

The Global Symposium on REDD+ in a Green Economy, convened June 19-21, provided a discussion for the business case in restoring forests in developing countries and for linking REDD+ planning with budding green economy efforts. The  new report  summarizes plenary and working group sessions around four main topics: setting the scene and international context for REDD+ in a green economy; reaching out to the private sector; REDD+ country experiences; and the findings of three working groups on national support, research and development, and coordination.

 

The Forests Dialogue : Scoping Dialogue on REDD+ Benefit Sharing Co-Chairs’ Summary Report

The Forests Dialogue  hosted an event at the World Bank on March 23-24 on REDD+ benefit sharing. They have now released the dialogue  in report format, which discusses key issues and questions surrounding benefit sharing along with experiences and perspectives. The report shares perspectives from governmental organizations, non-government organizations, indigenous peoples and community members.  

 

Mapping the Potential for REDD+ to Deliver Biodiversity Conservation in Vietnam

UNEP and the SNV REDD+ Programme just  released a report  analyzing Vietnam’s existing and future potential for REDD+ to include biodiversity conservation. On a broader note, the report looks at Vietnam’s past three years of REDD+ readiness efforts and concludes that the country is only now beginning to consider coherent policy responses in addressing and respecting environmental and social safeguards.  

 

Jobs

Program Assistant – Ecosystem Marketplace’s Valorando Naturaleza

Based in Washington D.C., Ecosystem Marketplace’s Spanish language sister site ValorandoNaturaleza.Org is seeking a temporary part-time program assistant. The position will run for an initial 4-month consulting contract, beginning as early as September 2013, with potential for extension. The Program Assistant will help maintain the website by managing content, researching news and events and supporting the development of a news brief. Candidates should have native Spanish with strong English communication skills and excellent Spanish writing skills and basic knowledge of the carbon markets or other ecosystem services finance mechanisms. Read more about the position  here.

 

Carbon Sourcing Manager – The CarbonNeutral Company

Based in London, the Carbon Sourcing Manager will conduct technical due diligence, commercial deal structuring/negotiation and sourcing of emission reduction projects in coordination with sourcing director. Candidates should have a postgraduate degree, ideally with training in engineering, emission reduction technologies, economics and 2-3 years working within the carbon markets. Read more about the position  here.  

 

Manager, Climate Change – The Skoll Global Threats Fund

Based in California, the Climate Change Manager will work closely with both the Climate Change Director and the Director of Policy and Communications to serve as a strategic collaborator to advance initiative planning and explore future opportunities to innovatively address the climate crisis. Candidates should have a Master’s degree in public policy, social or environmental science and at least 10 yearsexperience working on climate change issues, either in advocacy, policy or research. Read more about the position  here.

 

Research Fellowship, Agriculture and REDD+ – Climate Focus

Based in Washington D.C., the Research Fellow will work on national and international climate and agriculture policy, climate finance, climate smart agriculture and other legal and regulatory advice with Climate Focus senior staff. A significant portion of the applicant’s time will be to support the Climate Focus Colombia office, in particular towards a project in Nicaragua working on building capacity and developing best practices for agriculture and climate change adaptation. Candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree with related experience in natural resource management, forest and/or agriculture policy and be fluent in Spanish. Read more about the position  here.  

 

Project Field Coordinator, Mangroves and Markets – International Union for Conservation of Nature  

Based in Bangkok, the Project Field Coordinator will support the “Promoting Ecosystems-Based Adaptation through Mangrove Restoration and Sustainable Use in Thailand and Vietnam” project implementation, management and administration. Candidates should have a Master’s Degree in Natural Resource Management or a related subject and at least 3 years of experience in a similar role, including project coordination and management experience. Read more about the position  here.  

 

Communications Coordinator – Amazon Conservation

Based in Washington D.C., the Communications Coordinator will write, format, and design communications materials on Amazon Conservation’s activities, including published materials, website text, and e-newsletters. Candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree, at least 2 years of relevant work experience, and excellent oral, written, and organizational skills. Fluency in Spanish is strongly preferred. Read more about the position  here.  

 

Forest Programme Manager – WWF Democratic Republic of Congo  

Based in Kinshasa, the Forest Programme Manager will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of WWF policies for conservation and sustainable management of forest ecosystems for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Candidates should have a Master’s Degree in Forest with a minimum of 7 years of combined experience on project management, forest certification and REDD+. Read more about the position  here.  

 

Program Fellow, Andes-Amazon Initiative – Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Based in California, the Program Fellow will identify interventions to reduce the impact of agricultural commodities across natural habitats in South America, with a focus on Brazil and Argentina, through research, data analysis and synthesis, and working with Foundation staff and external experts. Candidates should have a Master’s or Doctorate degree in Agricultural Economics, Natural Resource Economics and a background in sustainable agriculture (5-7 years) in the Amazon, Cerrado or Chaco regions. Read more about the position  here.  

 

Carbon Sourcing Manager – The CarbonNeutral Company

Based in London, the Carbon Sourcing Manager will conduct technical due diligence, commercial deal structuring/negotiation and sourcing of emission reduction projects in coordination with sourcing director. Candidates should have a postgraduate degree, ideally with training in engineering, emission reduction technologies, economics and 2-3 years working within the carbon markets. Read more about the position  here.  

Chief of Party, Sustainable Forests and Climate Adaptation Project – Tetra Tech ARD

Based in India, the Chief of Party will be responsible for an active USAID-funded climate change adaptation and REDD+ project in India. Candidates should have an advanced degree in forestry, climate change, natural resource management and 10+ years of experience working on forest conservation and sustainable management of forests, climate change adaptation, REDD+ methodologies, and/or clean energy projects. Read more about the position  here.

 

 
 

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