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This Week In Forest Carbon: Blue Carbon Floats To Attention

Ecosystem Marketplace

Over the last five years, coalitions such as The Blue Carbon Initiative, which aims to develop financial incentives and policy mechanisms for restoring and conserving blue carbon ecosystems, have emerged rapidly. The group released a manual for measuring blue carbon stocks last month and hopes that the guide will be used in emerging carbon methodologies, as well as IPCC accounting.

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

12 November 2014 | If you build it, will they come? That’s the question that the authors of blue carbon methodologies are now asking.

“Blue carbon” ecosystems include seagrasses, tidal salt marshes and mangroves that provide a myriad of benefits and store an incredible amount of carbon. These coastal oases are also some of the most threatened natural places on the planet and are being lost at a rate of about 2% per year, due mainly to aquaculture and coastal development.

Despite their importance, the significance of coastal ecosystems to climate change was not widely recognized until recently. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) didn’t release its Wetlands Supplement for national-level wetlands carbon accounting until 2013. Before that, wetlands were not considered to be a “managed” land base.

However, over the last five years, coalitions such as The Blue Carbon Initiative, which aims to develop financial incentives and policy mechanisms for restoring and conserving blue carbon ecosystems, have emerged rapidly. The group released a manual for measuring blue carbon stocks last month and hopes that the guide will be used to produce data that will flow into emerging carbon methodologies, as well as IPCC accounting.

The American Carbon Registry (ACR) released the first carbon methodology for wetlands restoration in the Mississippi Delta in 2012 and now hopes to expand its geographic scope to California. At the global scale, the Verified Carbon Standard’s (VCS) methodology for Tidal Wetland and Seagrass Restoration is wrapping up its first assessment and is expected to be available early in 2015.

Could carbon finance be a game-changer for these fast disappearing ecosystems? It depends.

“Generally I think the price of carbon is too low to support really most land-use activities, including wetlands. And wetlands projects are expensive,” said Steve Emmet-Mattox, one of the lead authors of the VCS methodology, speaking at the Restore America’s Estuaries Summit last week.

Some project developers hope that blue carbon restoration methodologies will pave the way for blue carbon conservation methodologies that will function more like the avoided deforestation (REDD) methodologies available for forest ecosystems and perhaps achieve economies of scale.

Blue carbon and other emerging land-use carbon methodologies are discussed in more detail in our State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2014 report, to be released next week. This year’s report is chock full of data-driven findings on pricing, standard use, and project types as well as new findings on project co-benefits, payments for emissions reductions at the jurisdictional level, and the climate risks that forest carbon offset buyers are facing.

If you’re located in Washington, D.C., we’d love to have you join us for our launch event at the World Bank on Friday, November 21st at 4 p.m. We’ll present findings from the report, followed by commentary from an expert panel. Forest Trends’ President Michael Jenkins will moderate the discussion.

If you plan to attend, please email Ben McCarthy with your RSVP (please include your name and organization). Details will follow.

Can we count on your support to publish this year’s report? Please take a look at the sponsorship prospectus and contact Molly Peters-Stanley or Allie Goldstein with any interest.

More news from the forest carbon marketplace is summarized below, so keep reading! The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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

News

INTERNATIONAL POLICY

Aiming for an A+ in REDD+

The UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) Programme launched the REDD+ Academy, a series of technical courses developed by the program in conjunction with Yale University to provide participants with hands-on knowledge of REDD+. A training program in Indonesia was the first in a series of REDD+ Academy events, with the next session scheduled for early 2015 in Buenos Aires, Argentina for Latin America countries and a third to be held in Nigeria for the Africa region next year. The Academy courses present an overview of key REDD+ issues such as national forest monitoring systems, monitoring, reporting and verification requirements, reference emissions levels, safeguards, stakeholder engagement and climate finance.

Reporting from Africa

Representatives from 21 UN-REDD Programme countries in Africa participated in an October workshop to discuss the building of national strategies for REDD+, including the value of establishing specific teams to lead these efforts. The countries also discussed the importance of conducting in-depth analysis to fully understand the drivers of deforestation and to identify best practices in sustainable forest management. The stakeholders were urged to fully consider three key questions to facilitate REDD implementation in their countries: why, what and how?

NATIONAL POLICY

Down in the delta

Nigeria ranks in the top 10 of a list no country would brag about: the highest deforesters. The country lost 55.7% of its primary forests between 2000 and 2005. However, the Delta state of Nigeria has made a pitch to access financing from the UN-REDD Programme, presenting its readiness plan and hosting a site visit to the local forests. “Delta is a state that is very much interested in protecting its environment,” said Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Felicia Adun. “We know that trees in the forest are very important for the sequestration of carbon, so we need to conserve the forest.” Nigeria’s Cross River state is the only state in the country already participating in the program.

Trick or treating down under

On October 31, the Australian Senate passed the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) amendment, which will establish the AUS$2.6 billion Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) to replace Australia’s repealed carbon pricing program once the House follows suit. The legislation aims to remove barriers to project development, such as a requirement for project proponents to hold carbon sequestration rights landowners were often reluctant to part with. However, wetland restoration projects will not be supported by the fund. New land-based projects can register under current CFI or the new ERF rules until July 1, 2015, but must utilize the fund’s rules and updated methodologies afterwards.

FINANCE

We can always send the IRS after them

Tax evasion in the Brazilian Amazon state of Parí¡ is widespread, topping $108 million a year, mostly from landowners declaring below market values for their assets and skirting limits on how much forest can legally be cleared, according to a new report by the NGO Imazon. The authors argue that updating rules governing productive use of land for cattle ranching the largest source of deforestation in the region would weaken incentives for land speculation. Raising the cut-off for tax breaks to two head per hectare would encourage more productive use of pasture, they say.

SUSTAINABLE COMMODITIES

Bunge-jumping toward zero deforestation

Bunge, a food ingredient company and one of the world’s largest traders of palm oil, announced a commitment to source deforestation- and peat-free palm oil. The announcement follows recent pledges from two of its buyers, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Brands, and earlier policies from competitors Wilmar and Cargill to ensure zero deforestation across a range of commodities. The new policy focuses on protecting primary and secondary forests and updating its labor and human rights safeguards. However, Bunge has yet to set target dates or timelines for implementation.

Green is the new black

Clothing companies Levi Strauss & Co., Marks & Spencer, Aritzia, ASOS, Under the Canopy, and Portico recently joined the environmental non-profit Canopy’s Fashion Loved by Forest Initiative, which requires members to commit to source clothing fiber that doesn’t come from old-growth and high conservation forest. Current membership, which now totals over 25 companies, represents more than $75 billion in annual sales of clothing. This and other details of the initiative’s recent work can be found in the new report by Canopy, A Snapshot of Change: One Year of Fashion Loved by Forests.

HUMAN DIMENSION

Crafting a better future

Women of the Paiter-Suruí­ tribe just opened a store to sell their homemade bead necklaces, feather earrings, and other handicrafts. The move marks another step in the tribe’s 50-year-life plan for its territory, which seeks to preserve the tribe’s cultural traditions and maintain its forest through sustainable economic paths. A larger-scale initiative is the tribe’s Suruí­ Forest Carbon Project, which became the first to produce carbon offsets under internationally recognized standards for an indigenous tribe. The craft store offers both a way for women to economically support their families while also keeping local bead making and other traditions alive.

Getting this show on the road

Ama Kudom Agyeman, a member of the Planning Committee of Ghana REDD+, has taken to the road to spread the word about REDD+. Through the project, “Think Development, Think Sustainability, Think REDD+”, Agyeman recently addressed major stakeholders of the Ghanian municipality Hohoe and students in a two-day program to explain REDD+’s benefits to the region. The meetings are part of a larger Ghana REDD+ Road Show, which seeks to educate metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies about the benefits of sustainable forest management. Hohoe was the last stop before the National REDD+ Forum held in Accra. The show previously visited Damongo, Dormaa Ahenkro and Tarkwa.

A point of contention

Peru’s forests have become “increasingly contentious” with the recent murder of Edwin Chota and other environmental activists, said Richard Smith, Executive Director of Peruvian conservation NGO Instituto del Bien Comíºn. His remarks kicked off the 16th Dialogue on Forests, Governance, and Climate Change. More than 100 participants met to discuss the theme “Investments, Communities and Climate Change: Risks and Opportunities” in late October. Central to the discussion were the rights of indigenous and local communities in processing land tenure claims, and the importance of both governments and private businesses incorporating the principles of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Scientists love the Walking Dead too

Climate change will present “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts,” according to the United Nations’ IPCC. “Which for scientists, conservative by nature, falls just short of announcing that climate change will produce a zombie apocalypse plus random beheadings plus Ebola,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report on climate change uses the strongest language to date indicating that governments and businesses need to make unprecedented reductions in their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reverse deforestation and forest degradation in the near future to avoid even more extreme disruptions. The report comes on the heels of a record 300% surge in deforestation in September.

STANDARDS AND REGISTRIES

For future forest reference

The UN-REDD Programme released a report on establishing forest reference emissions levels that draws on case studies from Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guyana, Mexico, Nepal, the Republic of the Congo and Vietnam. Brazil utilized a 10-year rolling average to establish the baseline for calculating emission reductions under its Amazon Fund, an approach the report highlighted for its simplicity, strong country ownership and high degree of transparency. Brazil’s approach also allows the fund’s administrator to direct monies to areas where they are most needed. However, the approach is conservative in estimating actual emission reductions, according to the report.

One flew over the country’s nest

VCS revised its Jurisdictional Nested REDD (JNR) requirements to ensure jurisdictions can align their JNR programs with the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s Carbon Fund, simplifying the process for JNR programs to access the Carbon Fund. Additionally, a JNR Monitoring Report template and several JNR representations were released to provide more functionality for governments looking to use the JNR framework.

PUBLICATIONS

Delta dawn, what’s that carbon you have on?

A recent study published in the journal Global Change Biology gives credence to efforts to tap into the carbon markets to finance US wetlands restoration. Researchers measured carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta in California  drained more than a century ago for agriculture and human settlement and experiencing one of the highest subsidence rates in the world. The drained areas were carbon sources, but the flooded region was a carbon sink. A case can be made for restoring wetlands, even though the same study also uncovered the release of methane a GHG 20 times more potent than CO2. The ACR and partners are developing a methodology to quantify GHG emissions from wetlands restoration in the California delta and other coastal areas.

JOBS

Program Director Dogwood Alliance

Based in North Carolina, U.S., the Program Director will ensure seamless team management, development, program delivery and quality control and evaluation. Successful candidates will have at least three years of experience working in environmental advocacy in a team management role, along with demonstrated knowledge of and experience in climate change and/or forest conservation policy analysis and strategy development. Read more about the position here.

Program Manager, Secretariat Plan Vivo Foundation

Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Program Manager will manage and provide support to a growing portfolio of Plan Vivo projects, from reviewing Project Idea Notes to annual reviews and ongoing project verification activities. Successful candidates will have over three years of experience in a relevant sector and be accustomed to dealing with scientific and technical documentation.  Read more about the position here.

Global Climate Change Advisor – Management and Engineering Technologies International, Inc.

Based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Global Climate Change Advisor will work with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry to provide technical assistance and capacity-building services for the Government of Ethiopia to implement specific aspects of a Climate-Resilient Green Economy strategy. Successful candidates should have a master’s degree in a related field and at least five years of international work experience in a natural resource or environmental field, preferably related to REDD+, climate change or other global initiatives. Read more about the position here.

Senior Conservation Planner, The Nature Conservancy (TNC)

Based in Samarinda, Indonesia, the Senior Conservation Planner will support the development of the Berau Forest Carbon Program (BFCP), a key REDD+ demonstration program in Indonesia. In particular, the Planner will lead TNC’s support for the development of a sustainable palm oil sector in BFCP through spatial planning, conservation and land-use planning. Successful candidates will have at least seven years of experience in conservation practice along with fundraising and management experience. Read more about the position here.

Senior Project Managers/Project Managers, Responsible Sourcing – Proforest

Based in Oxford, United Kingdom, the Project Manager will consult on responsible sourcing for international brands and consumer goods clients. Work includes proposal writing, budgeting, technical work and managing client relationships. Successful candidates should have at least five years of experience and a clear understanding of sustainability issues affecting forest products and agricultural commodities sectors.  Read more about the position here.

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