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Ecosystem Marketplace, Marketplace Mitigation Mail

September 3, 2010    

From the Editors

The Ecosystem Marketplace's Forest Carbon News
Tracking Terrestrial Carbon

Peatlands now seem to have a firm footing in REDD.  Russia’s wildfires dramatically highlighted the importance of these ecosystems and the devastating costs of peatland degradation.  And while the haze slowly receded over Russia, the wind was at the Voluntary Carbon Standard's back as their first REDD methodology targeting the soggy swamps went live this month. 

From
carbon payments for helping re-wet drained peatlands to aligning economic incentives to prevent their degradation in the first place, Ecosystem Marketplace digs in to peatlands with two recent articles exploring both the Russian wildfires and the potential for carbon finance in light of the new VCS REDD methodology.  

Moving past peat, but still stuck in the muck, corruption and challenges to REDD transparency surfaced from a variety of sources this month.  The billions of dollars just starting to be funneled into REDD programs are being eyed suspiciously and efforts to ensure transparency may be a hard sell. 

First, the Interim REDD+ Partnership is stepping in to provide its first official attempt at surveying the landscape of REDD+ activities -- in the timespan of two weeks -- as part of its stated desire to produce a transparent global registry.  In Indonesia and Brazil, renewed concerns over corrupt officials siphoning off money from nascent deals with Norway emerged in the press.  And finally, the announcement of a forest carbon deal between an Australian firm and the entire country of the Democratic Republic of Congo is raising eyebrows as the information on such a vast deal remains shrouded in mystery.  This, in the wake of a agreement (covered in our
last newsletter) the company says it signed with Malaysian tribes to pursue REDD projects that is also being contested.

On firmer footing, Australia signaled a new move to get its forest owners out of the carbon market mire.  Stranded by the government's abandonment of the operational Greenhouse Friendly program and failure to follow through with a nationwide trading scheme,
Aussie forest spirits may be up again as a new proposal to allow forest owners to generate carbon credits emerges and kindles new interest from neighboring New Zealand as well.

Read all this and more in the most recent installment of Ecosystem Marketplace’s Forest Carbon Newsletter below.

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


News

Project Development

Rumble in the Jungle

Two very different takes on a purported national carbon deal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) emerged last week. Shift2Neutral, an Australian carbon services firm, announced the deal which was then covered by Reuters and REDD-Monitor. Reuters reports the deal has apparently been cleared with national and state government officials, as well as local tribal chiefs and landowners.  Totally unexpectedly, REDD-Monitor offers a more critical eye, pointing out that there have been no official statements made by the DRC or UN-REDD Programme, and argues that Shift2Neutral are too inexperienced and limited in their capacity to take on a project of this magnitude.  Read the Reuters article here and the REDD-Monitor article here.

A CDM Wonderland from India’s Wastelands

India’s first CDM-approved Wasteland Restoration Project has started with 300 hectares of wasteland reclaimed through tree planting. Proponents of the project say that it offers multiple benefits: sequestration of carbon, reclamation of barren land, and income for rural communities. And India is looking to expand the project to its 165,000 acres of wasteland, with plans for 40% of the land to become biofuel plantations. Read about the project here

And the Award for Best Monitoring Goes To…

The Juma REDD Project has been awarded by Rainforest Alliance’s Eco-Index as the best monitoring and evaluation methodology category. The Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS) manages the project, which protects 366,151 hectares of forests.  Read the press release from FAS here, and see this project’s profile on the Forest Carbon Portal’s Project Inventory here.

CAR Registers Fourth* Forest Project

This month the Sempervirens Fund’s Lompico Headwaters Forest Carbon Project announced the completion of verification under the Climate Action Reserve standard.  Preserving more than 400 acres of redwoods in California, the project has major support from Pacific Gas and Electric’s ClimateSmart program.  This makes it the fourth* forest project overall to move from simply being “listed” by CAR to being registered and the first since the Reserve moved to version 3 of the Forest Project Protocol.  Nearly 12,000 credits are to be issued for activities from 2007 to 2009.  Read the full story from Mercury News here.  See the project’s listing on the Forest Carbon Portal Project Inventory here.

*A correction was made to this story after it was brought to our attention that the Lompico Headwaters Project is the fourth forestry project to be registered by CAR.  We incorrectly stated that it was the third registered project in the original newsletter.


International Policy

US and Brazil Agree to Debt-for-Nature Swap

The US has agreed to cancel $21 million of Brazilian debt in exchange for protecting the critically threatened Atlantic Forest, Caatinga and Cerrado ecosystems.  The agreement falls under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998, and in this deal targets these three ecosystems because they are among the most endangered in Brazil, even more than the Amazon forest.  Read about the deal and more details on the three ecosystems in Mongabay here.


US Policy

Forest Service Foresees Onslaught of Forest Conversion

Given the current US tax structures in place, the primary incentive lies in converting standing forests into housing developments.  As the majority of forests in the US are privately-owned, one possible solution is to give payments to forest-owners to leave their forests standing, says a recent report by the US Forest Service (and corroborated by Ag Sec. Vilsack and others in the forest business).  Payments for carbon sequestration, as well as other ecosystem services, such as mitigation banking and water services, are some of the options perceived to help make preserving the private forests possible.  Read about the report in The New York Times here and access the report itself from the US Forest Service here.

$10M for 10 US Forest Projects

Ten forestry projects were selected to share a $10 million pot under the US Forest Service's Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.  The projects were selected to restore high-priority forest areas including wildfire mitigation and water quality and wildlife habitat enhancements.  Read a little bit about each of the projects here on the US Forest Service site, and some more detail about the program and the two projects in Idaho and Montana from the Flathead Beacon here.


National Strategy & Capacity Development

Carbon Credits for Aussie Land Owners

After a dose or two of heavy criticism from the Australian public as well as Labour party MPs, current Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a plan to allow foresters and farmers to create carbon offset credits for international sale into foreign emissions trading markets. The current voluntary scheme, known as Greenhouse Friendly, is being phased out, and there are concerns that the forest carbon sector would be left high and dry without a domestic market created by a government-administered program. This plan does little to address those concerns, but is a boon to farmers, foresters and other land owners, who may stand to make a substantial sum selling credits, particularly to neighboring New Zealand, who are waiting for more supply to feed into their operational trading scheme.  Read Carbon Positive’s coverage of the Australian moves here and of New Zealand’s northwesterly glance here.

Building Methods for REDD in Congo

Deep in the equatorial rainforest of the Congo basin, researchers from the World Resources Institute (WRI) are working to make REDD an option for the Republic of Congo. The project aims to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from the country’s forests, develop new methods to measure and monitor forest degradation, build in-country forest monitoring capacity, and ensure that data is transparent and publically available. WRI hopes that REDD projects in the Republic of Congo will help protect carbon- and biodiversity-rich tropical rainforests, while improving the livelihoods of local communities.  Read more from the WRI website here.

Scaling Back the Moratorium?

The US$1 billion Norway-Indonesia REDD deal has been big news recently. Most recently, Indonesia announced that its moratorium on the clearing of natural forests will be smaller than originally planned. Agus Purnomo, the President's Special Adviser on Climate Change, said that the moratorium might be piloted on a small proportion of the total forest cover to prove that the project will work. But the announcement may be a sign that mining, logging, and palm oil interests, concerned that the moratorium will impact expansion and current permits, are really behind the wheel. Details remain to be worked out, but the scheme is still on track to begin in January 2011.  Read more about the back-scaling from Reuters here

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government in action resists backsliding on the peatland forest clearing moratorium by rejecting a request by the Central Kalimantan provincial administration to develop 127,000 hectares of peatland production forest for oil palm and mining sites. The forests had been allocated for conservation projects as part of the REDD deal. Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan says he has not issued any permit to convert peatland for commercial purposes since he took office last year.  Read about that from the Jakarta Post here.

Jakarta to Jack up MRV Capacity

In an effort to get the necessary scientific capacity in place to measure, report, and verify carbon emissions, Indonesia has announced the creation of a Climate Change Center. The Center is funded with US$7 million in startup money coming through the US-Indonesian Comprehensive Partnership setup in June.  The Partnership entails a total commitment to US$136 million over three years for climate change and other environmental programs.   Read about the program from the US Department of State here.

Planting Forests Across the DMZ

South Korea status as the fourth most forested country in the world has grown from major efforts from the Korea Forest Service (KFS) over the past few decades. On the other side of the demilitarized zone, North Korea’s forests have been largely cleared or degraded, leading to regular flooding in much of the country. The minister of the KFS recently stated that reforestation in the North would be a top priority when the two nations are reunified.  Get the skinny from the Korea Times here.

China to Spend Big on Forests, but Less than Before

According to the Chinese State Forestry Administration (SFA), the Chinese government is planning on spending US$30 billion on afforestation schemes over the next 10 years. Additionality buffs will be thrilled to learn that this amount is about 14% less than the government spent on afforestation projects over the previous 10 years (1999-2009).  Check out a couple more details from The People’s Daily here.  And read how China’s Green Carbon Fund might fit into this picture from a background paper by the SFA’s Executive Deputy Director of Climate Change here.


Finance & Economics

Spigot Opens for Norway-Indonesia REDD Money

After the back-and-forth and confusion in the press and covered in previous newsletters, Norway has now sent Indonesia the first installment of the $1 billion deal the two countries struck up in May.  After another set of meetings in August, Norway agreed to transfer $30 million (3% of the total agreed amount, mind you) to Indonesia to start Phase I of the partnership on REDD+.  Read about the two-day meeting between delegates from the respective countries, what was discussed and terms of the agreement, from the Norwegian government’s mission to Indonesia website here.  You can also read more about the agreement and what supporters and opponents are saying on Mongabay here and Carbon Positive here.
And read about concerns over the potential for REDD corruption in The Jakarta Globe here.

From Russia, On Fire

Environmentalists have put a price tag of $300 billion on the damages caused by the fires in Russia this year.  They also largely attribute the fires to “absurd” forestry policy changes during Putin’s days as president.  Read about the monetary costs being attributed to the fires and alleged culpability of now Prime Minister Putin here

Ecosystem Marketplace’s Daniel Kandy takes a deeper look at the Russian peat fires and explains how poor management of peat bogs across the country set the stage for this summer’s fiery mayhem, and how carbon markets and payment for ecosystem services more generally could contribute to mitigating some of these risk factors.  Check that out on Ecosystem Marketplace here.

Brazil’s Promise and Peril

The hope and perspective of Brazilian REDD possibilities is met with strong skepticism in the press recently.  An article in D+C explains both the reasons for hope – Brazil could reduce emissions 37% by 2030 without giving up declared development ambitions (according to a World Bank report (PDF) – and the reasons for concern – historic corruption and resource mismanagement.  Read about the many facets to the ongoing discussion and debate here.

Make sure to scroll further down and read a little more coverage of the Suruí people, their REDD project and efforts to conserve and protect their forests.  Also, go here for an earlier story on the Suruí on the Forest Carbon Portal.

Texas Forest Owners Open to Environmental Credits

Earlier last month the results of a survey intending to gauge landowner interest in ecosystem service markets by the Texas Forest Service illustrated that a significant majority of the more than 1,000 responding forest owners – 82% – would consider selling environmental credits.  Even those not wanting to sell right now were interested in learning more about their options.  Read about the survey and its results from the Cherokeean Herald here and access the survey report on the Texas Forest Service’s website here.


Methodology & Standards Watch

VCS Wades Into REDD Muck

A step forward for forest projects surfaced this month as the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) officially approved its first methodology to quantify the climate benefits from REDD.  The methodology was designed around the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve Project and focuses on preventing land-use change of tropical peat swamp forests in Southeast Asia.  Molly Peters-Stanley and John Vidaurrazaga of Ecosystem Marketplace take a look at the freshly minted methodology – what it is, what’s in it, what it means going forward – read it on the Forest Carbon Portal here.

ACR Looks to Welcome New VCS REDD Methodology

The American Carbon Registry (ACR) has opened up a public comment period for feedback on a “Methodology for Conservation Projects that Avoid Planned Land Use Conversion in Peat Swamp Forests.”  Sound oddly familiar?  This methodology was originally designed by Infinite Earth and Winrock International, the parent organization of ACR originally for VCS approval and is now being considered for grandfathering into ACR (kindly see above for more).  Check out a description of the methodology and where to send comments to ACR here.  The commenting period ends 24 September 2010.

CAR Debuts Forest Protocol v3.2.  Up Next, Aggregation

On August 31, version 3.2 of the Climate Action Reserve’s Forest Project Protocol was officially announced.  Incorporating nuances regarding the treatment of registered harvesting plans and habitat management plans associated with compliance under the Endangered Species Act, read the press release from CAR here.  You can access the full Project Protocol, read more about the planned aggregation protocol, and catch up on the new baseline procedures from CAR here.


 

Science & Technology Review

Trees Already Stuffed from CO2 Buffet

Since plants eat carbon dioxide (well, photosynthesize), more CO2 in the air should mean better-fed plants, right?  Not so, say researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada who have published a paper showing a growth decline in temperate and boreal forests since the beginning of the century, and especially after the 1950s. Warming conditions seem to lead to more efficient water use but slower growth in trees.  Access the full report (open access) from PLoS ONE here, see the press release here and read about the report in ClimateBiz here.

…. And So Are Other Plants

The past decade saw a decrease in the absorption of CO2 by terrestrial plants, with carbon uptake decreasing about some 606 million tons during the past 10 years. That comes after 10 years of increased CO2 absorption. The paper’s writers attribute the decrease not to an impaired ability of plants to absorb carbon, but that plants have reached their maximum level of absorption, and that the gains in carbon uptake from an extended growing season in the global North didn’t offset the productivity losses in the global South that occurred as a result of long-term and widespread drought.   Read the abstract from the journal Science here.  See coverage of the study in the Sydney Morning Herald here and from the Christian Science Monitor here.

Borneo’s Biodiversity Shows Resilience in Face of Logging

A new study has shown that even after logging, forests in Borneo retain significant levels of biodiversity. The study took place in Sabah, the site of proposed REDD projects and the Malua BioBank. The authors of the study argue this shouldn’t lessen the efforts to protect primary forest, but rather encourage conservation of areas previously considered less important due to their assumed depletion of biodiversity. Read about the study at Mongabay

Up in Smoke: Carbon Credits for Avoided Wildfire

A new report led by Winrock International scientists exploring accounting for “avoided wildfire” emissions along similar lines as REDD recently concluded that understory thinning is likely to cause more emissions than it abates.  In the US West, widespread beetle-killed forests up-and-down the Rockies, increased wildfire risk with climate change, and historical efforts of fire suppression have opened the door to a perfect storm for catastrophic wildfires across the region.  And the search for money to pursue wildfire mitigation treatments is becoming more desperate.  The authors note wildfire prevention treatments are critical, but the search for funding will need to continue as carbon credits get crossed off the list.  Read more from E&E News here (subscription).  Also, read about a recent scientific debate over avoided wildfire emissions that spilled into the headlines last month from The Guardian here.


Publications & Tools

The following publications and tools are a sampling of those that are available and posted daily to the Forest Carbon Portal.  Find more resources at our resource page here.

The Name Game Springs up in Indonesia Again

There might be a particularly key loophole in Indonesia’s plans for REDD.  That being, one-third of emissions coming from deforestation are from areas that are technically not defined as “forests” – that according to a recent report from The Alternatives to Slash and Burn Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins (ASB).  Given that these emissions occur outside of institutionally-defined forests, they would not be accounted for under a national REDD+ scheme.  The push from some to classify plantations as forests is among the myriad problems of the delicate potential for REDD in Indonesia.  As such, ASB recommends putting the debate of forest definitions to rest, proposing a more comprehensive carbon counting system they call “Reducing Emissions from All Land Uses” (REALU).  Read more on the definitional issues, and their potentially very real consequences, and REALU from Mongabay here, Treehugger here and the ASB policy brief here.

The Private Sector Alongside National REDD Baselines?

The consulting company Climate Focus has released a report exploring the potential of engaging the private sector in the generation of REDD+ credits when baselines for deforestation would be set against a national backdrop.  The challenge of reconciling the private sector’s fondness for project-level investment with international political interests in scaling REDD up to national programs is explored through few central issues of concern, with  the authors concluding the scales tip in favor of the private sector having a role in funding REDD projects and developing relevant market mechanisms.  Find the report here.

Another NGO REDD+ Database Launched

An online database of REDD-plus readiness activities and projects has been launched by The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). The database is at an early stage of development, but already lists a number of profiles of REDD-plus projects and links to the original documents and websites are provided within the profiles.   IGES joins a rapidly-crowding forest carbon website world alongside Ecosystem Marketplace’s Forest Carbon Portal, Global Canopy Programme’s REDD Desk, and CIFOR’s Forests and Climate Change site.  Read about the new database from Carbon Positive here


Announcements

Interim REDD+ Stakeholder Survey: Due 10 Sept 2010

Sent out Thursday of last week, 26 August 2010, the Interim REDD+ Partnership has requested anyone and everyone with details about REDD activities fill out a survey of “REDD+ financing, activities and implementing arrangements” by Friday, 10 September 2010. The partnership is aiming to develop a database that “will provide transparency and accountability and will also serve as a foundation for identifying gaps and overlaps in financing and technology.”  So get your pencils ready, the quickly-closing window now has just over a week remaining before the deadline.  To see the letter from the co-chairs, guidance on how to fill out the survey and where to send it, and access the necessary documents, visit the Forest Carbon Portal here.

Matriculate to the Climate Solutions University

Hoping to enhance the natural resource knowledge and resilience of rural communities, a non-profit organization called the Model Forest Policy Program (MFPP) has announced $10,000 scholarships to enable webinar-based education and the formation of local stakeholder teams to develop forest management and water conservation strategies.  To find out more about the curriculum beginning in February 2011 and the scholarship opportunities, visit the MFPP website here
 
 

ABOUT THE FOREST CARBON PORTAL

The Forest Carbon Portal provides relevant daily news, a newsletter, articles, a calendar of events, the "Carbon Connections" discussion forum, a profile directory, a jobs board, a toolbox of resources ranging from methodologies to policy briefs, and market analysis on land-based carbon sequestration projects from forest to farm. All Forest Carbon Portal community members can comment on articles and upload their own projects, resources, events and job opportunities, although user permissions and rights vary according to involvement. The Portal also includes the Forest Carbon Project Inventory, a searchable database and map of projects selling land-based carbon credits across the globe and those in the pipeline. Users can search for projects by country, as well as by a variety of criteria such as project type, standard, registry and size. Projects are described in consistent 'nutrition labels' which supply as much information as can be maintained in a consistent structure. Operational projects must either be third-party verified or have sold credits to be eligible for listing.

 

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Ecosystem Marketplace is a project of Forest Trends, a tax-exempt corporation under Section 501(c)3. This newsletter and other dimensions of our voluntary carbon markets program are funded by a series of international development agencies, philanthropic foundations, and private sector organizations. For more information on donating to Ecosystem Marketplace, please contact info@ecosystemmarketplace.com. 

 
 

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