Dutch Court Says Country Violates Human Rights By Not Meeting Global Norms In Slashing Emissions

24 June 2015 | A Dutch court today ruled that the country’s government failed to protect human rights by not implementing policies that would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020.

“Based on the State’s current policy, the Netherlands will achieve a reduction of 17% at most in 2020, which is below the norm of 25% to 40% for developed countries deemed necessary in climate science and international climate policy,” the court said in the official English translation of its decision, available online here.

In a test of human rights tort law, the three-judge panel sided with the Urgenda Foundation, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of 866 citizens who accused the government of negligence for “knowingly contributing” to policies that would send global temperatures spiraling upward and flood the low-lying country. Urgenda had argued that the country was obligated to meet minimum requirements to protect its citizens, and it had the support of several signatories to the Oslo Principles, which were formulated in March by legal experts and high-court justices from around the world – including the Netherlands and the United States.

In April, Jaap Spier, Advocate-General to the Dutch Supreme Court, told the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw that, because of the Oslo Principles, “Courts can force countries to adopt effective climate policies.” He added, “Court cases are perhaps the only way to break through the political apathy about climate change.”

A similar case is underway in neighboring Belgium.

Norway Supports The Governors’ Task Force To The Tune Of $25 Million

Norway broke new ground in supporting the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force this week when the country announced $25 million in financing to the initiative over a 4-year period. While the funds have potential to plug significant funding gaps, they could also encourage other countries to follow Norway’s example.

18 June 2015 | BARCELONA | During this week’s annual Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF) meeting here, Hanne Bjurstrom emphasized the importance of markets as well as on-the-ground activities that require subnational support.

“Last year we saw the importance of subnational leadership in driving the international agenda,” said Bjurstorm, Norway’s special envoy on climate change. She also cited subnational commitments such as the Rio Branco Declaration, an agreement among 13 rainforest nation governors to slash deforestation by 2020, during her speech at the GCF event.

These comments were perhaps expected as the GCF is a collaboration of states and provinces from seven countries with the shared goal of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) using jurisdictional approaches.

A more surprising comment was what Bjurstrom announced shortly afterward: 200 million Norwegian krone (roughly USD $25 million) in financial support to the GCF fund. The money flows through the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and will be distributed over a 4-year period, Bjurstrom said.

“We realized the important work being done at the subnational level and wanted to support it,” said Bjurstrom. “This is the right moment to act.”

It’s the most significant amount of finance the fund has received to date, Bjurstrom said. It is also noteworthy because the funds flow directly to GCF member states and provinces. The ability of the GCF member states and provinces to directly access funds is key, she said.

“This money is specifically for the GCF Fund with no strings attached,” Bjurstrom said.

The direct access to funds makes Norway’s contribution special, agreed Danae Azuara, a Project Manager in Mexico with environmental NGO the Environmental Defense Fund,. “It is recognition to the subnational action that is incentivizing innovative solutions.”

More details on this announcement are expected but Bjurstrom said she hopes Norway’s action will encourage other countries to step up and do the same.

In terms of allocation, typically, 80% of all funds flow to capacity building (technical assistance and training, institutional structure and policy framework among other activities) said Ben Ayade, the Governor of Nigeria’s Cross River State, a GCF member. However, he stressed the importance of on-the-ground activity.

“Capacity building is great, but not more important than planting trees. Success in forests can only be measured by forest cover,” Ayade said.

Bjurstrom noted this point as well in highlighting on-the-ground progress and her support of subnational approaches to deliver deforestation reductions. During her GCF speech, she cited jurisdictions as having the potential to improve agriculture’s sustainability and productivity while at the same time protecting and restoring remaining tropical forests.

 

On The Road To Paris. Next Stop: Bonn, June 2015

Mid-year climate talks begin this week in Bonn, Germany – a critical but largely overlooked pit-stop on the way to year-end talks in Paris. Gustavo Silva-Chavez of Forest Trends points out that land-use issues still account for 24% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and will play a central role in whatever solution emerges in Paris.

 

1 June 2015 | Visas have been secured, travel arrangements have been made, and the international climate policy community including the Forest Trends COP team, is arriving in Germany for the latest round of UN climate change meetings. They will take place 1-11 June in Bonn, Germany and there is added urgency to make significant progress and set the stage for a successful global deal in Paris later this year. Normally, the June UN sessions focus on scientific and technical issues but this year, additional meetings specifically on the draft overall global deal have been added to the agenda.

Starting at last year’s UN meeting in Lima (or COP which stands for Conference of the Parties), countries started to add their preferred options on some of the key issues, including the overall temperature goal, the legal framework, transparency issues, mitigation, finance and REDD+. As a result, when 196 countries start adding their options, we now have a bloated text that has every option possible. Comprehensive? Yes. Ready for an actual negotiation? No.

Why does Bonn Matter?

The negotiations for an overall comprehensive agreement will take place under the current version of the negotiation text that is currently almost 100 pages. The more difficult process of elimination, where specific options are deleted, will wait until the text is shortened and more manageable. It is hard to say what success looks like. 60 pages? 50 pages? There is no exact page number that Forest Trends can point to as a successful outcome but progress has to be made. Otherwise, we will not have time to get down to something that can be negotiated by Ministers and Heads of State in Paris.

Other Issues on the Agenda

REDD+ in SBSTA–Every year, the June negotiations in Bonn focus primarily on scientific and technical issues. These take place under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, or SBSTA for short. This is the agenda:

  1. Whether there is a need for further guidance on issues relating to safeguards
  2. Developing methodological guidance on non-market-based approaches
  3. Methodological issues related to non-carbon benefits
Forest Trends believes that the current guidance on safeguards is sufficient for now and that countries must implement and respect these safeguards. Countries should think of the UN safeguards as a “floor” and should aim to strengthen them over time with technical assistance and financing, if needed. We also think that countries are free to decide if they want to access carbon markets or not, but that efforts to dismiss carbon markets are not helpful. Forest Trends has been tracking REDD+ finance flows in 14 countries as part of our REDDX project, and our findings clearly indicate that current financing of REDD+, which is primarily from donor countries and not carbon markets, is insufficient to reduce global deforestation at the scale needed to avoid dangerous climate change. And finally, non-carbon benefits can mean a lot of things but a lack of agreement should not prevent REDD+ from going forward and be a fundamental pillar of mitigation in the Paris agreement.

Land use–The agreement at COP 21 in Paris needs to address all sources of emissions. Although most people think of climate change as a fossil fuel problem, agriculture, forestry, land use change, and other land uses, (the “land sector”), account for about 24% of global greenhouse gas emission. This sector must be part of the Paris agreement and together with NGO partners, Forest Trends will be working to make sure that land use is included in the text out of Bonn.

Forest Trends on the ground

Forest Trends staff will be on the ground covering these meetings, with a focus on the ADP negotiations, as well as mitigation, finance, land use and REDD+ issues. Stay tuned for further updates and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Gustavo Silva-Chavez is the Program Manager of Forest Trends’ Forest Trade and Finance program. He can be reached at gsilva@forest-trends.org.

Climate Negotiators Want Emissions Trading Rules Even If They Don’t Plan To Play The Game

The United States and the European Union both excluded market-based mechanisms to reduce emissions in the national climate plans they submitted to the United Nations. But negotiators say a framework for international emissions trading is needed, even if many countries won’t use it (yet).

30 April 2015 | Implementation, balance, inclusiveness. Those are the three words Gao Feng, China’s Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative for Climate Negotiations uses to describe his hope for an international climate agreement to be negotiated this December in Paris. Speaking on a Center for Climate and Energy Solutions’ (C2ES) panel last week, officials from China, the European Union, Gambia and New Zealand grappled with the question of how market-based mechanisms for emissions reductions might be included in the Paris agreement – among other issues.

Gao is doubtful that emissions trading will be a significant part of an international climate deal under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), at least in the short term.

“I don’t see sufficient demand to drive the so-called global carbon market right now,” he said, citing the fact that both the United States and the European Union (EU) – two of the largest potential government buyers – excluded market-based emissions reductions from the first drafts of their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). “If a contribution is to be determined nationally, then in theory you may not have the demand at home because every country may calculate the exact amount that it can do,” he said.

Of the eight INDCs submitted so far, only Switzerland’s and Liechtenstein’s mention market-based instruments that would allow investments in emissions reductions abroad to be counted against a national target. Norway plans to use international carbon offsets only if it cannot secure a collective agreement with the EU. The United States and the EU both took a pass on using international offsets to meet their targets, though their climate plans do not preclude the use of domestic carbon markets to lower emissions.

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Leaving an Open Door

The EU plans to cut emissions 40% under 1990 without purchasing offsets from outside the region. Nevertheless, the Paris agreement should ensure that those countries that want to use carbon markets to reduce emissions can do so in an accountable way, said Jake Werksman, Principal Adviser for DG Climate Action of the European Commission. This would include some kind of regulatory framework to prevent double counting of emissions reductions, he said. (For instance, if Switzerland finances a wind power project in Mexico and then counts those emissions reductions against its total, Mexico could not also count those reductions domestically.)

The European Union launched the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) in 2005 to reduce emissions in the bloc, also providing a mechanism for handling offsets – mostly anticipating the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which came into effect in 2008, but also to handle offsets from other cap-and-trade initiatives. Entities covered by the EU ETS have historically been the major source of compliance demand for carbon offsets, but oversupply of allowances in the EU ETS has caused CDM prices to plummet below the $1 mark, and a plan to link the EU ETS with Australia’s fell through after Australia repealed its carbon tax.

“We’ve had great experience in terms of running a carbon market domestically, but we’ve had difficulty managing the relationship between that domestic carbon market and international carbon markets in a way that ensures environmental integrity and a good carbon price at home,” said Werksman. “So we’re really focusing on getting our domestic house in order at the moment.”

New Zealand enacted emissions trading in 2008 under its Permanent Forests Sink Initiative, but the market has been so flooded by lower-priced CDM offsets that domestic forest project developers have been hard-pressed to find buyers for their tonnes. Nevertheless, the country is very interested in an international carbon market and would welcome a framework establishing minimum standards and guidelines, said Jo Tyndall, Climate Change Ambassador for New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“In New Zealand’s case we have got some challenges around how much we can reduce our emissions domestically and the ability to purchase emissions reductions elsewhere allows us to be much more ambitious than we would otherwise be able to be,” she said, emphasizing that emissions trading should be a voluntary tool available to governments.

Reality Check

Developing countries that would likely be on the receiving end of carbon offset investments have mixed views on market-based mechanisms. In its INDC, Mexico actually proposes two different targets, committing to a 25% reduction in emissions by 2030 without international assistance, and raising the ante to a 40% cut conditional on “fully functional bilateral, regional and international market mechanisms.”

Other countries, such as Bolivia, oppose market-based mechanisms that allow developed countries to meet targets through offsetting.

The question remains as to how the UNFCCC’s Green Climate Fund (GCF), to which industrialized countries are supposed to provide $100 billion per year by 2020, will distribute its money for mitigation and adaptation. Some funder countries are advocating for “payments for performance” for avoided deforestation and other carbon-cutting initiatives – meaning that the money only flows if the emissions reductions are achieved. (This concept is also central to carbon markets.)

The GCF was capitalized at $10 billion during last year’s negotiating session in Lima, Peru, but it will only be able to start spending if additional contributors meet an April 30th deadline to sign their contracts. The U.S., for instance, said it would not meet the end-of-month GCF deadline due to its budget cycle.

Pa Ousman Jarju, who has the wide-ranging title of being Gambia’s Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Water Resources, Parks and Wildlife, criticized the U.S. for dragging its feet on financial disbursements.

“It’s beyond imagination that the United States of America [would have] people in Congress and some so-called scientists denying what is happening in the world,” he said. “This is money that is going towards really supporting those who are in dire need.”

Paris or Bust?

While the upcoming Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC has the same objective as before – to limit global temperature rise to no more than two degrees Celsius – the bottom-up approach currently underway is starkly different from the top-down Kyoto Protocol that aimed to limit emissions from developed countries.

“One of the big challenges that negotiators have had in this process is how to describe the agreement that is beginning to emerge in terms of an existing legal format,” said Valli Moosa, South Africa’s former Minister for Environment and the co-chair of C2ES’s ‘Toward 2015’ dialogues. “They’ve found it really difficult to do so.”

“The main difference between Kyoto and what we will see in Paris is that the numbers will not necessarily be in the printed protocol,” said Harald Dovland, the former co-chair of the UNFCCC’s Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform, and the other Toward 2015 co-chair. “I foresee that what negotiators and parties can agree on is that there will be a core agreement of a legally binding nature but there will be a lot of important material in the supporting decisions, declarations, or whatever [they’re] called.”

Another key difference? After more than twenty years at the table, many negotiators see Paris as their last chance.

“The current generation of chief negotiators – and I know a number of them – they seem to have a sense of mission,” said Moosa. “They know that if we fail in Paris, it will be a big blow in a number of ways. One is that the global climate agreement could then possibly happen outside of the UNFCCC framework.”

A scenario in which a global climate deal was left up to heads of state rather than hammered out under the UNFCCC process “would not necessarily make it easier,” he added. “I am on tenterhooks and extremely worried that this process might not succeed, notwithstanding the fact that all the ingredients are in place for success.”

Marks & Spencer: Cooking Its Way To A Cleaner Future

15 April March 2015 | When you think of clean cookstoves, Marks and Spencer (M&S) is not the first name that comes to mind. And yet the UK-based retailer is the first in its sector to commit to increase the focus on clean cooking with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, building off its positive experience with a UNICEF-developed improved cookstove project in Bangladesh.

This commitment to clean cookstoves is the latest offshoot of the company’s sustainability plan, known as Plan A. The company launched Plan A in January 2007, establishing 100 commitments to achieve in five years, including a carbon neutrality goal. The plan has since been updated to Plan A 2020, with the company setting a goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable retailer.

 

Because there is no Plan B, Plan A lays out Marks & Spencer’s 100 sustainability commitments-including carbon neutrality-to be achieved in the next five years.

“Climate change is a big issue for business, especially retail that relies in raw materials being available to sell,” said Carmel McQuaid, head of sustainable business, Plan A at M&S. “There was always a focal point on how to become carbon neutral.”

The retailer began implementing its Plan A goals by looking for opportunities to lower emissions within its own operations, such as energy efficiency improvements and the use of renewable energy. Efficiency improvements alone – including in stores and across its fleet of trucks – account for reductions of around 16,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year in the company’s UK and Ireland operations, according to the firm’s website. The company’s gross global CO2 emissions for 2013 were 566,000 tonnes, according to its Plan A report 2014.

By 2012, McQuaid said progress was evident. “But there’s only so far energy efficiency and renewable energy can go to deliver reductions in the timeframe science indicates is required,” she added.

 

Incorporating green into Marks & Spencer’s shop at Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet-England’s largest outlet center.

 

The firm turned to the voluntary carbon offset market to help meet its carbon neutrality target, working with The CarbonNeutral Company – and in the process, becoming the fifth-largest voluntary buyer of offsets, according to a new Ecosystem Marketplace report that analyzes CDP data.

M&S has purchased carbon offsets from the Kasigau Sustainable Farming project in Kenya developed according to a Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) methodology, the VCS Sabah rainforest rehabilitation project in Borneo and a VCS waste-to-energy project in Wuhe, China, among others.

“Ideally, we would have wanted to buy from projects closely related to our business, but there’s not a lot [of offsets] in the market via supply chains,” McQuaid said.

Once M&S signed the contract to work with The CarbonNeutral Company, the retailer said it was also keen to work with an NGO partner to find ways of making the carbon finance go further and bring more benefits to the communities, she said.

 

A green wall at a Marks & Spencer operation in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England.

“M&S asked its NGO partners if they had any interest in carbon finance to extend their programs, and UNICEF stuck its hand up,” said Rebecca Fay, London-based global marketing director for The CarbonNeutral Company. The NGO presented a couple of clean cookstove projects, and the Bangladesh one was deemed “the best fit, in terms of what was already in place to get the project developed and its alignment with M&S’s business,” she said.

Over the next 12-18 months, the three organizations worked closely together, with UNICEF new to the carbon finance sector and M&S new to clean cookstoves. This learning process was a real eye-opener for M&S, McQuaid said.

“Because we worked so closely with them [UNICEF], we really realized the benefits of [improved] cookstoves that, if someone had just walked in with a marketing brochure, we wouldn’t have realized,” she added. Improved cookstoves use less fuel wood than traditional stoves, reducing the risk of pollution-related ailments and lessening the need for woman to embark on often-dangerous trips in search of fuel.

The investment by M&S allowed the project to get off the ground and enabled the first 40,000 stoves to be installed – a process completed by November 2014 – and the first verification under the Gold Standard is imminent, Fay said.

Beyond this initial investment, however, M&S officials want to raise awareness of the sector among other corporates so officials decided to join the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves rather than duplicate its outreach efforts. Its commitment, announced at the Alliance’s inaugural Commitment Roundtable, as part of its Cookstoves Future Summit in November in New York, comprises three parts: to work with its suppliers to understand how employees of M&S suppliers of products such as textiles, coffee and food currently use cookstoves; to promote the UNICEF project; and to work with the UK government’s Department for International Development to raise awareness and share its experiences.

The retailer started working on these pledges even before the November summit. Together with The CarbonNeutral Company, M&S organized a roundtable in April 2014 – which included a BBQ using cookstoves – with executives from about 15 firms to showcase the Bangladesh project and encourage others to get involved.

M&S is also working with the Alliance to increase the uptake of clean cookstoves, particularly in its key supply chain countries of Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. By working with its suppliers, the firm wants to identify the barriers to clean cooking, including cost, awareness and education. While the company is open to participating in the development of more cookstove projects, the focus is on recognizing these barriers and determining who can best intervene, McQuaid said.

“If we can align it with our supply chain, that’s also good,” she said.

Katie Kouchakji is a freelance journalist covering the carbon markets based in the United Kingdom.
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How Fine Italian Leather Drives Illegal Deforestation

17 March 2015 | Quick! What do Italian jackets, British beef, and French chickens have in common?

Answer: they’re overwhelmingly dependent on imports of illegally-harvested products driving deforestation across the developing world, according to a new report called Stolen Goods: the EU’s Complicity in Illegal Tropical Deforestation, released today by the environmental NGO Fern.

The group found that leather from cattle raised on illegally-deforested land tends to end up in Italy, while the beef ends up in the United Kingdom, and the soy ends up in France-mostly to feed the country’s chickens and pigs. The Netherlands and Germany are the largest importers of deforestation-linked palm oil, which goes into a variety of consumer products including cosmetics and food products.

The findings dovetail with those of Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends, which found last year that agriculture is driving deforestation around the world, and almost half of global deforestation takes place illegally.

The report highlights the global forces driving deforestation and – ultimately – climate change, and it comes as governments and companies around the world pledge to slow or eliminate practices that drive deforestation. Next week, Ecosystem Marketplace, together with WWF and CDP, will launch a new site called Supply-Change.org to help people track the actions companies are taking to reduce deforestation.

What Constitutes “Illegal”?

Illegality is defined according to producer country laws. In some country that means converting forests to land for commercial agriculture without the right to clear the land, or using permits that were illegally issued or obtained to convert land. In some cases, even when companies have the right to convert land, they have been found to clear more forest than permitted, or to neglect agreed‐to payments to local communities or the government.

Gateway Netherlands

Globally, Fern says, the European Union imports 25% of all soy and 18% of all palm oil harvested on illegally-deforested land, 15% of all such beef and 31% of all such leather.

The Netherlands is the point of entry for one-third of all these products entering the EU, but much of that flows on to other countries. Still, combined, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France and the UK imported 75% and consumed 63% of the forest-risk products imported into the EU.

Indonesia and Brazil: Leaders in Illegality

The study says that more than half of the forest-risk products originate in Brazil, where it is estimated that some 90% of deforestation is illegal, while a quarter comes from Indonesia, where some 80% of deforestation is estimated to be illegal. Malaysia and Paraguay are among a number of other important source countries.

“EU consumption does more than devastate the environment and contribute to climate change,” said Sam Lawson, author of the report. “The illegal nature of the deforestation means it is also driving corruption, and leading to lost revenues, violence and human rights abuses. Those seeking to halt the illegal deforestation have been threatened, attacked or even killed.”

What to Do?

The report recommends that the EU ramp up its Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade program (EU-FLEGT), which is designed to combat illegal deforestation.

“Demand for forest‐risk commodities is being driven by a number of different EU policies, such as agriculture, trade and energy policy,” says FERN co-founder Saskia Ozinga. “We urgently need an Action Plan to make these different policies coherent, reduce EU consumption and ensure we only import legal and sustainably produced commodities.”

EU Leaves Land-Use Off Its New INDC

9 March 2015 | The European Union (EU) on Friday submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and land use was not part of it.

“The INDC was altered from a draft version that included land use in the 2030 goal – a move criticised by green groups and the UK’s climate minister Ed Davey for potentially being able to weaken emission reduction efforts in non-ETS sectors such as transport, waste and buildings, wrote Ben Garside in the newly-launched Carbon-Pulse.com. “Instead, the final INDC postponed a decision on how to account for land use emissions, vowing to establish a policy before 2020 ‘as soon as technical conditions allow.'”

“By avoiding a decision to treat emissions and removals from the land use sector separately and on top of the EU’s ‘at least’ 40% domestic target, the EU wastes important political capital to set incentives for other countries to be transparent on the amount of emission reductions they will achieve” said Carbon Market Watch Director Eva Filzmoser.

All submitted INDCs are available on the UNFCCC website here.

The new agreement will come into effect in 2020 and will pave the way to keep a global temperature rise this century under 2 degrees C.

Governments have agreed to submit their INDCs in advance of Paris with many developed and bigger developing countries expected to do so in the first quarter of this year.

In February, in Geneva, countries under the UNFCCC also finalized the negotiating text for the Paris agreement. The next round of formal negotiations will take place at UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn, Germany, in June.

INDCs have been chosen as the vehicle for national contributions to the international Paris agreement. They include, for example, details of emission reductions the country will undertake and can include other action plans covering areas such as adaptation to climate change.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC has encouraged countries to come forward with their INDCs as soon as they are able, underlining their commitment and support towards a successful outcome in Paris. “Momentum towards Paris is building everywhere. I look forward to many more INDCs being submitted over the coming weeks and months,” she said.

Countries have agreed that there will be no back-tracking in their contributions. This means that the level of ambition to reduce emissions will increase over time.

The negotiating text from Geneva also signals the ambition among many governments for a long-term goal to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the century.

All information such as documentation on designing and preparing INDCs as well as on sources of support for INDC preparation, is available here.

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Crossroads In Climate Negotiations When Adaptation And Mitigation Meet In Bonn And Lima

This article was originally published by Forests Climate Change. Click here to read the original.

 

11 August 2014 | The June round of climate negotiations commenced with wide recognition amongst Parties of the need for deeper cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to be accelerating negotiations based on the outcomes of the 5th Assessment Report (AR5) released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this year.

This session was the last opportunity for Parties to meet before the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Summit, to be held in New York in September the first time world leaders have met on the issue since the failed 2009 Copenhagen Conference. High expectations for finance announcements are expected from this meeting.

The June meeting of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP) occurred against the backdrop of the announcement by US President Barak Obama of a 30% reduction in power plant emissions by 2030 and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) completion of the essential elements required for the full operationalization of the fund.

Ministerial meetings took place, from which Parties hoped to gain insights. Emphasis was largely placed on disappointment over lack of ratifications of the Doha Amendments to the Kyoto Protocol (KP) to enable the second commitment period, a stagnation in developed country ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions and ongoing lack of financial commitments. Many countries spoke of national processes underway for ratification to occur, however no major announcements were made.

The host country for the UNFCCC 20th Conference of the Parties (COP 20) Peru made their presence known. With much support from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), at every opportunity Peru reminded Parties of the urgency to act and set down high expectations for the meeting to be held in December in Lima. The incoming COP President, Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal made it clear that he hoped decisions in Lima will be made concerning pre-2020 mitigation, REDD+, GCF capitalisation, intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and a draft text for a new climate agreement.

It could be said that the substantive negotiations have commenced. Points of divergence and convergence are beginning to crystallize, which may enable the Parties to undertake their work to reach a durable and future proof agreement.

The emergence of synergies between adaptation and mitigation

During the Bonn session, it seemed that Parties became more accepting of the synergies and linkages between mitigation and adaptation. The recently released IPCC’s 5th Assessment report identifies that policies governing land use and REDD+ are more effective when both mitigation and adaptation are involved and that REDD+, primarily regarded as a mitigation framework, also has adaptation co-benefits.

During adaptation discussions in the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP), several Parties recognized the link between these two normally siloed issues and the mitigation co benefits associated with adaptation actions. The issue dominated much of the REDD+ discussions concerning non-market based approaches (NMBAs) and non-carbon benefits (NCBs).

In a climate finance context, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) already recognises funding for projects that include both adaptation and mitigation. The Green Climate Fund is also identifying linkages between adaptation and mitigation in the outcomes and results areas that are currently under development. The Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) have also commenced consideration of the issue in the context of forests and finance.

However, identification as to the technical details and development of modalities concerning the relationships between mitigation and adaptation has not yet been considered within the UNFCCC. Many Parties have mentioned that such information would be useful. Some preferred that this work should be considered after 2015, whilst others suggested it as a topic for one of the upcoming Technical Expert Meetings (TEMs).

Adaptation actions can have mitigation benefits and mitigation actions can give rise to adaptation outcomes but trade-offs may arise. Further exploration and safeguarding of circumstances where mitigation actions cause mal-adaptation and adaptation actions cause emissions increases may be warranted.

ADP Enhanced pre-2020 Climate Action (Workstream 2)

There is a recognized need to address the current gap between the likely global greenhouse gas emissions based on current mitigation pledges and those actions required to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 or 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

An important development to accelerate mitigation actions occurred following the Bonn session, with the release of draft text of a pre-2020 decision that will be further negotiated in Lima. It calls on all Parties to accelerate full implementation of the decisions under the 2007 Bali Action Plan with emphasis on technology, finance and capacity building. It also expresses the urgency of ratification of the Doha Amendments to the Kyoto Protocol and calls for developed countries to ensure the initial mobilization of resources of the Green Climate Fund reaches a very significant scale.

As a part of this process, a series of Technical Expert Meetings (TEMs) are being held. These intend to provide Parties with insights, experiences from the ground, examples of success stories, and challenges for scaling up of mitigation actions before 2020. During the June session, a TEM on Land Use was held with expert panellists from civil society organisations, intergovernmental organisations and country delegates.

The major conclusions were that:

  • there is high mitigation potential from the forest and agricultural sectors whilst contributing to adaptation;
  • scaling up of finance, technology and capacity building is required for the sector to reach its potential;
  • success will require long term sectoral policies;
  • participatory multi-stakeholder dialogues should commence at early stages;
  • there remains a high interest in REDD+;
  • it is necessary to identify tradeoffs and safeguards against potential negative impacts on food security, rights of indigenous peoples and biodiversity.

Parties have suggested that the TEMs go beyond the technical examinations and be consolidated into concrete national and international actions and identify outcomes and technical issues that can then obtain financial support. Some seek that the TEM results should be included in a Lima COP decision as a menu of options for countries to apply.

Many Parties considered the TEMs to be a useful and successful process and have expressed a desire to see them continuing up to and beyond 2015. TEMs could also advance the ongoing workplan to enhance mitigation ambition, which will continue until the new agreement comes into effect in 2020.

ADP Workstream 1 Elements Adaptation and Mitigation

Workstream 1 of the ADP was established with a mandate to develop “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, which is to be completed no later than 2015 in order for it to be adopted and to be implemented from 2020.

It is the intention of the ADP to enhance action, which includes adaptation action. For this reason, adaptation in the ADP negotiations has increased in profile. This is also reflected by the 50 / 50 mitigation adaptation allocation of funds in the Green Climate Fund.

Parties agree that adaptation will be a critical part of a new climate agreement. Some have put it as a Human Right, to be entitled to the means to adapt.

ADP adaptation discussions in Bonn focused largely around the usefulness and ability to identify a global adaptation goal. Uncertainty remains as to how to establish a global goal for adaptation and how such a goal might be measurable. Some Parties expressed serious doubts as to this approach, whilst others consider the content of Article 2 of the Convention to be sufficient. Building resilience was raised as an area for possible further consideration on the issue and such a goal could be framed in terms of support or within the context of a temperature limitation goal together with mitigation.

Lack of adaptation finance is also a serious concern for developing country Parties. Low mitigation ambition will create higher adaptation funding requirements in an environment that some Parties already consider to be in a funding crisis. Calls have been made for adaptation support to be reflected as a legally binding commitment linked to mitigation ambition. What will be required in terms of adaptation post-2020 will depend on pre-2020 mitigation, as well as mitigation over the longer term.

National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) are considered most likely to be the entry point for adaptation support under the 2015 agreement and Parties have called for strong linkages between NAPs and the Green Climate Fund. Formulation of NAPs, technical guidelines and institutional linkages between the Adaptation Fund and other finance institutions (such as the GCF) is progressing under the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). Whilst few countries have commenced the NAPs process, lack of financial support to enable implementation was a major emphasis in the discussions as was a need for greater coherence and understanding as to the implementation guidelines.

Mitigation discussions got off to a slow start Parties took issue with the lack of available space and exclusion of observers.

As was the case with adaptation, much focus was on a global goal. What form the mitigation goal will take in the new agreement remains uncertain. Options include: a temperature goal that reflects current science; an emissions reduction goal; a maximum concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere; or as a carbon budget.

There remains no agreement on this issue and questions remain as to whether developing countries should be taking economy-wide emission reduction targets to reach any such goal.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) strongly assert that the level should be adequate to protect the most vulnerable countries and should ensure limiting global average temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Many Parties maintain that all should mitigate having regard to the Convention Principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC) and equity.

Parties agree that adaptation will be a critical part of a new climate agreement. Some have put it as a ‘Human Right'. Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT.

On the issues of MRV and accounting, Parties seek differentiation and flexibility as well as key elements and principles for a common system. It was suggested that the new agreement include key principles specific to the land sector. Laying out the core items, and the specifics such as accounting rules should be negotiated post-2015.

As a mechanism designed for mitigation purposes, the Warsaw Framework provides a foundation for REDD+ to be anchored in a new agreement. Science shows that mitigation opportunities exist in the context of forests as well as coastal marine ecosystems and the inclusion of both has been sought.

ADP Moving towards legal form Contributions and Compliance

Under the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries have legally binding commitments requiring emissions reductions. As a result of more recent negotiations and the intended universal legal application of a new climate agreement, the softer term contributions is now more commonly used. Both developed and developing country Parties are currently in the process of identifying their intended contributions related to climate change action to be taken at the national level and what those contributions mean when considered aggregately at the international level.

Parties agreed at COP 19 in Warsaw, to “initiate or intensify preparation of their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs). The scope of INDCs remains unclear. Some Parties consider that INDCs relate only to mitigation contributions whereas others understand the notion to relate to adaptation, capacity building, technology transfer and financial support. In Lima, it’s expected that there will be an agreement on the scope of INDCs and the types of information required for INDCs to be assessed internationally and in the context of the 2 degree goal. Against this background, much discussion focused on this issue in Bonn, with draft decision text produced following the session.

Bonn saw progress towards a broader agreement that INDCs may go beyond mitigation and include contributions related to adaptation, capacity building, technology transfer and finance. Difficulties associated with measuring adaptation contributions were highlighted consistently, particularly due to its evolutionary nature and its dependence on mitigation actions. Despite ongoing disagreement on this issue, the revised draft text includes an option for Parties to agree on this broader approach.

Due to the level of convergence related to mitigation contributions, it was asserted that there is nothing to prevent work from commencing at the national level on preparations for intended mitigation contributions. The need for financial support for preparation of INDCs was however highlighted by all developing countries.

The extent to which REDD+ will be included in INDCs remains unknown, however the draft text also includes provision for land sector contributions. This indicates potential for developing forest countries to rely on REDD+ to make their contributions. A question here emerges as to whether such REDD+ contributions may be legally binding under a new agreement. It may be argued that once a Party voluntarily participates in REDD+, certain legally binding obligations may arise.

Parties have proposed an ex-ante assessment in 2015 concerning whether INDCs put forward are sufficient to meet the 2 degree goal. There is disagreement concerning this assessment and calls have been made to include an assessment as to whether the financial commitments made are sufficient. Reviewing the adequacy of finance over time to ensure it remains sufficient was proposed as an ongoing process.

Although it remains early, there are signs emerging within the ADP of increasing cooperation amongst Parties, a decrease in technical time wasting arguments, and completion of important institutional arrangements such as the GCF.

The system of review will be linked with the INDC process. During the review discussion, the term setting a direction of travel was raised several times, as was a no backsliding requirement to enable upward adjustments of contributions over time. Although there was wide agreement to 5 year cycles in line with IPCC science, some Parties seek longer terms of 10 years. Review cycles may be linked with reporting cycles under the processes in place through International Assessment and Review (IAR) and International Consultation and Analyses (ICA).

In this context, Parties continue to emphasise the Convention Principles of CBDR-RC and many accept that, due to national circumstances, not all INDCs will be provided as expected in early 2015. The ADP Co-Chairs will be seeking completion of the decision on INDCs at the October inter-sessional so it can be put forward for recommendation to the COP in Lima.

Linked with the INDC process and post-2020 obligations is that of a new compliance mechanism to be developed in a new agreement.

A rich discussion occurred on this issue, with many Parties seeming eager to move beyond discussing elements and onto legal issues such as compliance and form. Calls were made for a legal expert team to be established to advise the Parties. Suggestions have also been made that a compliance regime may be centred around the concept of climate justice. There was no disagreement on the importance of a new compliance mechanism to be developed under the new agreement however preference was expressed for emphasis on substance rather than legal form, on the basis that the legal form will be determined by the substance and content of a new agreement.

Emerging issues related to a new compliance mechanism include facilitation, sanctions and review. It is widely accepted that compliance should strengthen implementation, and the current reporting frameworks through IAR and ICA may also assist with this.

There was wide agreement that a new compliance mechanism will build on the current rules under the Kyoto Protocol but tailor-made to a new agreement and possibly broader on the basis that the current KP compliance mechanism relates only to mitigation. The way in which a new compliance mechanism might be developed relating to adaptation and finance remains a topic for future negotiation and legal consideration. There was wide acceptance to ensure the mechanism includes a facilitative platform designed to provide assistance to Parties to meet their obligations.

One of the most important outcomes of COP20 will be the draft text of a new post 2020 climate agreement. Some have called for draft text to be produced prior to COP20.

Disagreement remains amongst Parties as to how the draft is to be prepared and whether the co chairs will prepare the text based on the submissions, text provided by other Parties, based on interventions made from the floor, or all of the above. The ADP Chairs are confident that all outputs will reflect inputs from the Parties and whilst some welcome a Chairs draft text, others do not on the basis that this would compromise the Party driven process.

The draft text discussion continues to carry with it negative experiences from the 2009 Copenhagen COP. It was mentioned that the Copenhagen experience fundamentally shook the multilateral process on climate change. Many seek to avoid the same mistakes.

SBSTA 40

The 40th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) undertook negotiations in Bonn on issues including agriculture, REDD+ non-carbon benefits (NCBs) and non-market based approaches (NMBAs). The SBSTA will consider guidance concerning REDD+ safeguards information systems at COP 20 in Lima.

Trees cocooned in spiders webs, an unexpected side effect of floods in Pakistan. The agriculture 'roadmap' will see workshops held on early warning systems and contingency plans for extreme weather events. Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

The discussions concerning agriculture took a step forward, considered to be a larger step by some more than others. An agreed roadmap was developed to progress the issue through to mid-2016. Although calls were made for a work programme to focus on mitigation and adaptation in the sector, the outcome has remained limited to the adaptation mandate.

The work programme, which includes a call for submissions from Parties and Observers, will consider:

  • development of early warning systems and contingency plans in relation to extreme weather events;
  • assessment of vulnerability and risk of agricultural systems in relation to different climate change scenarios;
  • identification of adaptation measures; and
  • identification and assessment of agricultural practices and technologies to enhance productivity in a sustainable manner, food security and resilience.

Workshops will be held on early warning systems and contingency plans in relation to extreme weather events; and vulnerability and risk of agricultural systems in relation to different climate change scenarios at SBSTA 42 (June 2015) followed by additional issues to be considered at workshops at SBSTA 44 (June 2016).

On the issue of REDD+ non carbon benefits, many parties seek to avoid international guidance and modalities instead seeking that they be identified and defined at the national level only. LDCs however continue to seek international guidance on the issue and it will be further considered at SBSTA 42 in Bonn in June 2015. Many Parties recognize the linkages between NCBs and adaptation and safeguards. (For an analysis of the NCBs outcomes in Bonn see this article written by the Center for International Environmental Law).

Non Market Based Approaches and Joint Mitigation Adaptation REDD+

An In Session Expert Meeting was held on NMBAs with high expectations that the meeting would be informative and assist Parties to reach a decision on this issue before Lima. The Warsaw Framework provides for a mix of policy approaches and sources of finance including market and non-market finance for REDD+ activities.

Many held a view that the expert workshop failed to deliver. Criticisms were raised that it became overly political without any conclusion on how to deal with NMBAs or the approach to joint mitigation adaptation (JMA) as put forward by Bolivia. Some agreed, following the workshop, that a more technical and scientific approach to the issue would be useful.

To contextualise, it is important for a more detailed understanding of the Bolivian proposal. Arising from a concern that REDD+ has become overly focused on mitigation and carbon markets, in 2012 Bolivia put forward an alternative REDD+ policy approach to the now established results-based payments system. The main point of distinction is that the proposal does not allow for carbon offsetting. The proposal involves a more general estimate of carbon sources and sinks as opposed to the high level technical accounting and MRV requirements that are established under the Convention.

The concept goes beyond forests and looks across a landscape incorporating both adaptation and mitigation. It is argued to be a more consistent approach to sustainable land use and indigenous world-views.

This alternative policy approach to REDD+ is proposed to be undertaken through two phases, namely preparation and implementation and has been put forward in both the current SBSTA discussions as well as the ADP approach to forests and land use.

The preparation phase requires evaluation of forest mitigation potential and the preparation of adaptation elements. It seeks a general understanding of mitigation potential without the need for complex inventories. For the adaptation component, it intends to link to current systems such as the NAPs. Needs assessments are undertaken to address priorities, vulnerabilities and financial needs. Finance is provided both ex ante and ex post through mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund.

The implementation phase is supported by a performance-based approach intended to have both mitigation and adaptation outcomes. It is intended that mitigation outcomes be measured through proxies and general criteria be developed to identify adaptation outcomes. The proposal seeks benchmarks rather than safeguards, on the basis that this approach is considered low risk. It is asserted that safeguards are required where there are higher risks.

In addition to the proposal presented by Bolivia, presentations were provided on NMBAs by ASEAN and the United States.

ASEAN define NMBAs as an approach that does not generate carbon credits. REDD+ readiness work is considered to be an example of where such approaches are already happening. Other examples include grants and creating enabling conditions. ASEAN agree that there is a need for greater clarity on joint mitigation and adaptation at the international level.

The US also provided current ongoing examples of NMBAs however did not take the view of a markets versus non-markets situation. The US consider that the approach to REDD+ should be both markets and non markets and the methodologies developed under the Warsaw Framework are designed to do this. They define market as linked to emissions reductions units in carbon markets and non-markets¢ as being everything else associated with REDD+. Alternative approaches used as examples include cancellation of foreign debt, programmes to promote forest mapping and monitoring, and enhancing broader stakeholder engagement.

Confusion reigned as Parties struggled to understand the nature of the discussion. Was it about markets, non-markets, alternative policy approaches to REDD+ and finance, or the development of methodologies concerning synergies between mitigation and adaptation, or non-carbon benefits? And how are these items linked to one another?

Discussion occurred following the presentation with queries related to the difference between phase 1 & 2 finance as non-market finance, and provision of finance to create enabling conditions for REDD+ markets. Strong views were expressed that the Warsaw Framework provides adequate guidance to enable both market and non-market based approaches and that there was no need for ongoing negotiations on the issue. Strong views were also expressed that REDD+ was finalised in Warsaw on the basis that the Bali mandate was limited to mitigation, however many agreed that NMBAs to REDD+ can strengthen adaptation measures in forests. This was echoed by a call for REDD+ funding to be spread across both the adaptation and mitigation windows of the GCF.

There was much disagreement on the way forward throughout the remainder of the Bonn negotiations. Some expressed the view that the issues of JMA and NMBAs should be de-linked and matters of synergies between mitigation and adaptation and alternative policy approaches should be considered under a new agenda item. Confusion reigned as Parties struggled to understand the nature of the discussion. Was it about markets, non-markets, alternative policy approaches to REDD+ and finance, or the development of methodologies concerning synergies between mitigation and adaptation, or non-carbon benefits? And how are these items linked to one another?

The SBSTSA Conclusions took note of the views submitted and the outcomes of the expert meeting and will further consider the matter at SBSTA41 during COP20 in Lima.

An additional issue to complicate matters was that a separate negotiation was happening related to market and non-market approaches more broadly under the Convention. Many REDD+ negotiators felt that this was the more appropriate place for the discussion that there was a need to avoid agreement on anything that could prejudge or contradict the outcome of that discussion.

A dispute has now emerged related to whether alternative policy approaches, such as joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for the integral and sustainable management of forests should become a new agenda item, or whether the issue can be dealt with as a part of the current agenda item 5“Methodological guidance for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+)

The discussion is likely to now move to a debate concerning agenda items and legal technicalities related to mandates at the commencement of the Lima COP20 meeting, which has the potential to take important negotiating time away from other issues including safeguards guidance.

There is an increasingly strong push for no further modalities, guidance or methodologies related to REDD+ and to avoid further negotiations. Some countries are edging closer to the implementation stage, taking measures such as the development of forest reference emissions levels (FRELs) and safeguard systems at the national level. Brazil have taken the significant step to be the first country to submit their FREL for the required technical assessment.

The other side of the argument however is that many LDCs are concerned that there is insufficient guidance and methodologies to enable them to reach phase 3 REDD+ and access results based finance. It has been asserted that the current markets focused approach to REDD+ does not benefit LDCs or SIDS, that it is overly complex and difficult to meet the requirements to access finance. It will be important to find the right balance. Whilst too much detail may create a burden or be limiting, too little may be difficult to interpret and create difficulties in meeting objectives.

The current challenges in the REDD+ negotiations are not isolated to the REDD+ SBSTA. The recent Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Subsidiary Body has recently considered issues related to REDD+ biodiversity safeguards guidance, non market based approaches and similar linkages related to adaptation and mitigation. In that forum Parties again argue that there should be no new requirements and disagreement has prevented outcomes concerning REDD+ at the CBD. The Standing Committee on Finance is undertaking its own process related to coordination and cohesion of forest finance, looking beyond markets and at the linkages between mitigation and adaptation. The GCF will develop phase 3 finance frameworks in coming months and it is expected that discussion will emerge in that forum concerning finance across the mitigation and adaptation windows of the fund and how the fund can contribute to phase 1 and 2 REDD+.

Forests and Climate Finance

A major climate finance milestone was reached in Songdo, South Korea, only weeks prior to the June meeting in Bonn, where the GCF completed its essential elements and put a resource mobilisation process in place for capitalization. The GCF Board and others hope that the fund will become a reality in Lima.

This milestone was a constant point of reference throughout the two weeks of discussions in the ADP and the Subsidiary Bodies. Many calls were made for the fund to be immediately capitalised and for developed countries to urgently scale up finance to ensure meeting the agreed target of US$100 billion by 2020. Some Parties have called for recognition of this target in the Paris Agreement.

Different views were expressed as to how this would be achieved, with some saying there should be no less than US$15 billion contributed to the GCF by 2015, with US$70 billion by 2016 rising to US$100 billion per year by 2020. The UNFCCC has called for US$10 billion by the end of 2014 while the GCF itself is making calls for US$15 billion by the end of 2014. It has been suggested that developed countries provide 1% of their GDP from 2020 onwards.

No concrete finance pledges occurred in Bonn, nor were any announcements made during the first GCF resource mobilisation meeting held in Oslo in late June. Germany has recently made a commitment of a multi-year pledge of up to 750 million with the first payment planned for 2015. There remain high expectations that more countries will be making financial pledges between now and Lima. Finance has now become one of the more critical elements that will determine the success or otherwise of COP20.

Concerns were expressed in Bonn, that current discussions in the GCF do not adequately provide finance for phase 1 and 2 REDD+. The immediate work to be undertaken by the GCF relates to a logic model for results based (phase 3) finance. Uncertainty also remains as to whether project and programme proponents will be entitled to seek access to GCF finance through both the adaptation and mitigation windows. Calls continued to be made by Parties in Bonn for a separate REDD+ window in the GCF.

The Standing Committee on Finance held a meeting immediately following the Bonn session to consider a number of items, including the mandates from Warsaw related to coherence and coordination of finance and forests, different policy approaches, ways and means to transfer payments for results-based actions, and the provision of financial resources for alternative approaches.

There was some reluctance to move the item forward due to the sensitive ongoing negotiations in the REDD+ SBSTA. Committee members sought additional time to consult with colleagues on the relevant issues and requested the Secretariat to undertake further work to inform the Standing Committee. This further information will enable decisions to focus its soonest possible forum on issues related to finance for forests as required by the Warsaw mandate, and whether the SCF requires further guidance on the issue from the COP in Lima.

It is suggested that all relevant entities currently engaged in REDD finance come together at the 2015 Standing Committee on Finance Forum, including the Global Environment Facility, United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), REDD+ Partnership, UN-REDD as well as major donors engaged bilaterally. Having regard to the extent of fragmentation across forest finance, the Standing Committee on Finance will consider coordination and coherence. It intends to look beyond REDD+ across adaptation finance insofar as forests are concerned.

In addition to the above, a process was agreed in Warsaw concerning coordination of support for the implementation of activities in relation to mitigation actions in the forest sector by developing countries, including institutional arrangements. This process is intended to strengthen and enhance good practices; identify needs and gaps in coordination of support; and to share information concerning finance and enhance efficiency. The first substantive meeting as a part of this process will occur in Lima.

During the Bonn session, the first of these meetings was held. The key focus was on implementation, due to growing frustration amongst developing countries about access to REDD+ finance. The meeting, amongst Parties and observers was intended to map out a way forward for the process. Many suggested that a more interactive meeting should be held in Lima, moving away from the usual processes of negotiations around a table. Wide participation was sought including financing institutions and UNFCCC finance experts, indigenous peoples, REDD+ practitioners, private sector, civil society and multilateral donors. It is hoped that the Peruvian Government will engage with the meeting and Parties are currently undertaking the process to identify national focal points.

El Camino hacia Lima

The road to Lima: It seems highly likely that reducing emissions from forests and land use together with forests and adaptation will remain an ongoing area of negotiations for some time to come. Photo by ceetap

Although it remains early, there are signs emerging within the ADP of increasing cooperation amongst Parties, a decrease in technical time wasting arguments, and completion of important institutional arrangements such as the GCF. The scientific and political windows to put in place adequate international climate policies are rapidly closing. World-leading experts are consistently warning that now is the time to deal with climate change. The emphasis on pre-2020 ambition remains critical to this process, as efforts undertaken before 2020 will determine potential for both adaptation and mitigation post-2020.

It was unfortunate that the SBSTA was left without any substantive outcomes. New issues are emerging and although the Warsaw Framework is in place, it seems highly likely that reducing emissions from forests and land use together with forests and adaptation will remain an ongoing area of negotiations for some time to come. The resistance to guidance or modalities concerning NCBs and NMBAs may also provide some insight to the upcoming safeguards discussion to be held in Lima. The issue of NMBAs and JMA will be a major issue of contention at the commencement of the next SBSTA.

Recognition of the links between adaptation and mitigation has been argued for inclusion in the Paris Agreement and it can be expected that the discussion will be ongoing into the October ADP inter-sessional (ADP 2-6) and COP 20. Further, the non-paper released by the ADP Chairs following the session identifies Party positions on the linkages, such as defining the relationships between mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage as well as potential for institutional linkages between the two as mutually supportive notions.

The Co Chairs of the ADP have also now issued a new reflections note on progress, a draft decision on pre-2020 ambition and a draft decision on INDCs to assist Parties between now and the next ADP intercessional in October.

Several Parties mentioned that a failure in Lima will guarantee a failure in Paris. As things move forward, all Parties will need to consider whether another major climate summit failure is something that the world can afford.

 

Stephen Leonard is a legal practitioner and climate policy analyst.

Examples, Dialogue And Clearer Policy Needed In Biodiversity Offsetting

 

15 July 2014 | On the third and fourth of June, 280 individuals from 32 countries met in London at the To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond conference to discuss how to ensure that development is planned to achieve no net loss or preferably a net gain in biodiversity. They explored international experience and policy on no net loss and a net gain of biodiversity, and everyone was searching for practical solutions to reconcile development with environmental protection and social fairness.

Hosted by Forest Trends, the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP), the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) at ZSL, the representatives came from companies in the extractive, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, forestry and retail sectors, from governments and intergovernmental organizations, from financial institutions, NGOs, civil society, universities, research organizations and from consultancies and small businesses.

“There is a real genuine interest in the topic of no net loss of biodiversity now,” says BBOP Director, Kerry ten Kate. “People want to discuss it and share ideas and hear different perspectives from around the world.”

Many useful lessons were shared throughout the two days and recommendations sprang from every session. However, a number of cross-cutting, key issues emerged as major themes from the two days’ discussions, as summarized below:

  • Strengthen protection: Activities, policies and frameworks to mitigate impacts on biodiversity, including those related to biodiversity offsets, must strengthen and not weaken biodiversity protection. Improving the application of the mitigation hierarchy and working towards no net loss and a net gain of biodiversity is intended to ensure greater rigour and a better outcome for conservation than under current systems, and not to undermine them.
  • Clear policy: For NNL/NG to become a realistic prospect in a country, clear and unambiguous policy requirements that establishes high standards are needed.  Many participants doubted whether voluntary systems are enough to encourage a big enough proportion of developers to plan for no net loss, nor landowners to invest in conservation activities as offsets. All participants accepted that government has a critical role to play, levelling the playing field, reducing uncertainties for business, ensuring good outcomes for people, and keeping standards high.
  • Biodiversity offsets in context: There is general recognition that biodiversity offsetting can be challenging and controversial, but that when offsets are used, they must be discussed and included within the broader mitigation framework, and not raised as an isolated issue.
  • High standards: In any impact mitigation programme (including biodiversity offsets), in order to enable good outcomes for biodiversity and people, it is critical to apply the mitigation hierarchy consistently according to high standards, such as those reflected in the BBOP Standard and IFC Performance Standard 6. In the course of negotiations with governments and companies over the design of a mitigation programme, emphasis should be placed first on discussions related to avoidance, minimization and on-site restoration. Flexibility in the approaches taken to achieve no net loss was encouraged, but clarity on the biodiversity outcome was felt to be important. Standards need to strike a balance between being too prescriptive to be practicable and being too flexible to be credible or to offer assurance of outcomes.
  • Landscape level planning: Assessing proposed project development and mitigation of impacts in the context of spatial plans undertaken at a landscape or national scale is important to support sound land use decision-making. For instance, it informs where development should or should not take place. No net loss planning should be integrated within broader planning and policy frameworks. Where possible, guidelines to identify “no-go” zones and areas of high biodiversity value suitable for conservation efforts through offsets should be identified as a matter of policy and not relegated to case-by-case decisions.
  • Capacity building and training:   There is a shortage of people with the right expertise to understand and to undertake the assessments and planning needed for no net loss, and to interpret and use the results.   This is an important limitation and needs to be corrected by training of staff from government agencies, companies, consultancies and civil society and research organisations. Certification of trained individuals would help build confidence that professionals are using high standards.
  • Examples: More examples of best practice with successful approaches and outcomes are needed to build confidence in the concepts of no net loss, net gain and the quality of mitigation measures, including biodiversity offsets. Examples that are independently verified against agreed international standards would be the most convincing.
  • Monitoring, verification and enforcement: These are vital for the quality and integrity of mitigation measures including offsets, and have often been neglected in the past.
  • More dialogue: International, multi-stakeholder discussion involving people with very different opinions about the merits of mitigation measures and biodiversity offsets is needed in order to reach and promote wide societal agreement on the necessary standards for mitigation measures and associated land-use planning. Even those with apparently opposing positions were able to move a little closer through an exchange of ideas during the conference and such dialogue should be continued.

The final conference report is available here and provides a summary of discussions at the conference.

 

Videos of the Event

Highlights of the To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond’ conference

Official Welcome and Opening Plenary

Reflections and Experiences with No Net Loss

Plenary Debate Opportunity or Peril

Session 2 Establishing a NNL System – Design

Session 3B Net Loss and Net Gain on the Ground

Session 5 Establishing a NNL System – Implementation

Session 6B – No Net Loss and Net Gain on the Ground

Day 2 Opening Plenary – Keynote by Gabon M. of Environment

Government Roundtable

Business Roundtable

Session 7 Safeguards and Tools

Session 9 – Implementation Mechanisms

Session 10 Learning from Global Standards

Session 12 – Challenges for impact assessment practitioners

Sessions 13, 14 and Concluding Remarks and Next Steps

This Week In Biodiversity: Global Summit On No Net Loss In London

Natural capital accounting is generating a lot of attention lately with a new report warning companies of the perils of ignoring natural capital risk while the World Bank-led WAVES initiative is noting some advancements in the space. And BBOP is back from the London Zoo with feedback on the no net loss of biodiversity summit.

This article was originally published in the Mit Mail newsletter. Click here to read the original.

13 June 2014 | Greetings! We’re back from London, where earlier this month Forest Trends, the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme, the Zoological Society of London, and Defra hosted an overflow crowd at the To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond summit.

Offsetting has been more than a little controversial in the UK and elsewhere, and that debate was front and center at the meeting in London. In advance of the summit, a counter-workshop was organized nearby by environmental groups. And inside the conference, a special session was organized to give critics a chance to air their views.


There are still a lot of questions on how best to move forward on offsetting (with some preferring not to move forward at all), but at the summit we saw efforts to find a middle ground. At an ‘Opportunity or Peril’ debate, signs of agreement started to surface by the end of the discussion. Most panelists reiterated that good planning and the mitigation hierarchy were of primary importance. In fact, one audience member pointed out that perhaps “biodiversity offsets” were receiving the brunt of what was probably much broader discontent with weakening in land planning and environmental protection – in England at least. There was also agreement that success requires that the mitigation hierarchy be reinforced with clear legislation and strong enforcement, as seen in the German and US systems. Some skepticism remained that offsets in isolation could be positive, and would not lead to easing of protections and even corrupt environmental NGOs with a dependence on destruction-based funding.


Of course, design matters just as much as implementation does. As Morgan Robertson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wetlandia blog told the counter-workshop, “You get what you measure in offsetting, and usually you are measuring the wrong thing.”

Biodiversity offset pilots in the UK and a proposed national framework offer an opportunity to “seize this moment of measurement,” and have a robust debate that clears up misconceptions and addresses legitimate concerns about offsets. A piece in the Guardian wonders whether the UK government and other stakeholders have the appetite to continue that conversation. We hope so. One place to start is the current consultation on an EU-level No Net Loss Initiative that recently opened, seeking public input on introducing a continent-wide mitigation hierarchy to reverse ongoing biodiversity decline – including whether to utilize offset mechanisms.

Other conference highlights included sessions on designing and implementing national or regional ‘No Net Loss’ frameworks, stacking and bundling of ecosystem services, and an incredible quantity of experience shared by practitioners from around the world. Stay tuned for video interviews and other conference footage – they’re in the editing room and will be made available soon at Ecosystem Marketplace.


In other news this month, an historic ecosystem services compensation law has finally passed in Peru, while in Queensland, Australia a new Offsets Act promises to streamline offset approvals.


Natural capital accounting has also been in the news a lot recently, with a new review of the World Bank-led WAVES (Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services) Partnership citing some recent achievements in implementing natural capital accounting at the country level (like in the Philippines) and engaging the private sector. Businesses ignore natural capital at their peril, warns a new report that finds a bevy of challenges – unsustainable profit levels, cash flow problems, supply chain risk and reputational damages – for firms that fail to account for natural capital.

 

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


EM Exclusives

Peruvian Congress passes historic ecosystem services law

Six years in the making, Peru’s new Ecosystem Services Law passed last week, providing a comprehensive legal framework for the sticky issue of payments for ecosystem services. It is one of the most advanced pieces of legislation of its type, but had been stuck in committee for five years. Peru’s National Congress passed the country’s ground-breaking Payments for Ecosystem Services Law (Ley de Mecanismos de Retribucií³n por Servicios Ecosistémicos) with 83 votes in favor and none against, with no abstentions, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Environment.

 

The law provides a legal framework to support a diverse range of ecosystem services – including greenhouse gas emissions reductions, biodiversity conservation and the preservation of natural beauty. Investments in watershed services (IWS), an already popular water management method in the country, have also been incorporated into the proposal.

 

There are two parties involved in the compensation process that the law lays out. The first are land stewards – farmers, indigenous peoples, landowners and individuals involved in ecotourism, who act as the receivers of ecosystem services. The other group – mostly civil society, businesses and municipalities – are the payers. They compensate the land stewards to practice sustainable land-use. These sustainable practices ensure businesses and cities will have the ecosystem services, like clean water and air, that they need to survive and thrive.

 

The government will be responsible for identifying the payers and also for administering the compensation process.

Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace.

The water-energy-food nexus: Interlinked solutions for interlinked challenges

Ecosystem Marketplace is launching a series of stories leading up to the State of Watershed Payments 2014 report release date that looks at global challenges related to the nexus and the various approaches businesses, government and the world as a whole are taking to address this issue.


In the latest article in the series, we take a look at how our demands for energy, food and water all drive each other, and how we can prevent them from driving in the wrong direction. We examine cases from India to California to sketch out what, exactly, the “nexus challenge” is, and how we can meet it. (Hint: it involves putting nature in the nexus.)

Keep reading.


Mitigation News

 

 

EM Exclusives

Peruvian Congress passes historic ecosystem services law

Six years in the making, Peru’s new Ecosystem Services Law passed last week, providing a comprehensive legal framework for the sticky issue of payments for ecosystem services. It is one of the most advanced pieces of legislation of its type, but had been stuck in committee for five years. Peru’s National Congress passed the country’s ground-breaking Payments for Ecosystem Services Law (Ley de Mecanismos de Retribucií³n por Servicios Ecosistémicos) with 83 votes in favor and none against, with no abstentions, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Environment.

 

The law provides a legal framework to support a diverse range of ecosystem services – including greenhouse gas emissions reductions, biodiversity conservation and the preservation of natural beauty. Investments in watershed services (IWS), an already popular water management method in the country, have also been incorporated into the proposal.

 

There are two parties involved in the compensation process that the law lays out. The first are land stewards – farmers, indigenous peoples, landowners and individuals involved in ecotourism, who act as the receivers of ecosystem services. The other group – mostly civil society, businesses and municipalities – are the payers. They compensate the land stewards to practice sustainable land-use. These sustainable practices ensure businesses and cities will have the ecosystem services, like clean water and air, that they need to survive and thrive.

 

The government will be responsible for identifying the payers and also for administering the compensation process.

Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace.

The water-energy-food nexus: Interlinked solutions for interlinked challenges

Ecosystem Marketplace is launching a series of stories leading up to the State of Watershed Payments 2014 report release date that looks at global challenges related to the nexus and the various approaches businesses, government and the world as a whole are taking to address this issue.


In the latest article in the series, we take a look at how our demands for energy, food and water all drive each other, and how we can prevent them from driving in the wrong direction. We examine cases from India to California to sketch out what, exactly, the “nexus challenge” is, and how we can meet it. (Hint: it involves putting nature in the nexus.)

Keep reading.


Mitigation News

Queensland trims the fat with new offset law

Queensland’s new Environmental Offsets Act, passed in late May, will replace five separate existing offset policies in the state with a single framework. It also tightens the conditions under which an offset can be required. Under the new Act, an administering agency may not impose offset conditions for areas where an offset is already required by the Commonwealth (i.e. the national government), or where the Commonwealth has determined an offset is not required. Proponents also now have a choice between delivering their own offset, making a financial settlement, or a combination of the two. The new legislation has supporters in both the public and environmental spheres, who are heartened by the prospect of a more efficient offsetting process. The Act is expected to take effect in mid-2014.

Read legal analysis from Clayton Utz at Lexology.
Get coverage of the Act’s reception here.

Is private money the missing link for coastal restoration?

Private investment could fill in the funding gap for conservation and wetland restoration activities. That’s being demonstrated in southeastern Louisiana where $181 million of private money was invested into the East Orleans Land Bridge project. The project area, which includes a wetland mitigation bank, will dredge sediment and rebuild marshes. And with private investors, the restoration process should be speedier than when dealing with government funding.


America’s Wetland Foundation is promoting the private investment strategy and involved in coastal restoration projects that connects investors with private landowners. “There are large investment funds that are looking for this kind of investment,” Val Marmillion, the foundation’s managing director, told the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation last week.

Read more at the New Orleans Advocate.

European Commission seeks input on a No Net Loss initiative

A European Commission consultation has opened seeking public input on achieving ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity on the continent. Despite a range of policy measures protecting biodiversity on the continent, ecosystems and species continue to decline. An EU-level ‘No Net Loss’ initiative, envisioned as part of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, would enshrine a mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimize, then mitigate) in planning. The consultation is open until September 26th.

Read a press release.
View the consultation.

Natural capital accounting receives high marks on progress report

Natural capital accounting (NCA) is taking off, it seems, with the World Bank-led WAVES (Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services) Partnership seeing potential for it to influence environmental policy and reach new corners of the globe. WAVES recently released its Annual Report 2014 and notes some key achievements. Among them are the inclusions of three new core implementing nations (Indonesia, Guatemala and Rwanda) and a rise in private sector engagement. Partnerships that helped spread awareness and individual progress reports on several countries are also highlighted. The goal of WAVES is to promote sustainable growth by mainstreaming NCA and integrating it into economic policy and development planning.

Learn more.
Read the Annual Report 2014 here (pdf).

The Philippines assess natural capital with help from WAVES

In order for a nation to continue to grow and prosper, its economy must be based on sustainable practices. Activities that degrade ecosystems and the natural services they provide, like clean water and forests products, leave nations vulnerable to environmental risks and an uncertain future. To gain a better understanding of how the natural world contributes to national wellbeing, the Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is examining natural capital accounting (NCA). While the effort is still in preliminary stages, NEDA says it will allow them to better understand impacts from development and opportunities to replenish natural capital. The Philippines is participating in the WAVES (Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services) Partnership – a World Bank-led initiative aiming to integrate NCA into policy planning – and will continue to collect data and learn more as case studies in the Philippines and other countries unfold.

WAVES is an international partnership specifically aimed at delivering sustainable natural resource management to policymakers in terms they can understand. It is a collaborative worldwide project that uses applied research to better understand the loss of ecosystem capital and the implications those losses have on people.

Business World Online has coverage.

A case for habitat banking in Colombia

Recent studies from Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the UN Programme for Development (UNDP) suggest that industrial growth in Colombia is outpacing environmental protection. Coal mining permits grew by 87 percent between 2004-2008, for example. Land included in mining applications amounts to more than a third of the country’s area. Rules for compensation and environmental penalties exist, but they are poorly tracked and enforced.


A new report from NGO Fundepíºblico proposes a path toward no net loss, through the introduction of habitat banking in Colombia. “In Colombia there are enough areas with clear title that are inappropriate for agriculture, and could be used for protection and conservation,” Mariana Sarmiento, author of the report, tells Semana Sostenible. “Banking has a clear record in other countries. It is a viable solution for Colombia and it’s important to begin this discussion,” she says.

Read the article and learn more about Fundepíºblico’s report at Semana Sostenible (in Spanish).

Ignoring natural capital risk means big losses for business

“If we continue operating ‘business as usual,’ by 2030 it is estimated that we will need the natural capital equivalent of two planets to sustain ourselves,” says a recent report authored by a collaboration of institutions, including the Natural Capital Coalition. But most businesses don’t account for their natural capital as they do for their financial assets. This is dangerous because the report found that companies that do nothing face unsustainable profit levels, cash flow problems, risks to their supply chains and damage to their reputations.


There are several well-known companies taking initiative, however. Coca-Cola, for instance, has pledged to replenish back to the Earth as much water as it uses by 2020, and Dow Chemical Co. is piloting a project in Brazil meant to assess the economic value of ecosystem services. And it’s not just businesses with direct impacts that need to play a bigger role. Accountants have a responsibility to integrate natural capital accounting into their organization. The report laid out recommendations for accountants to achieve this. They include framing risks and opportunities in business terms, and embedding natural capital into corporate decision-making.

Read more at Bloomberg.

Oregon ranchers seek ways to conserve Greater Sage-Grouse habitat

The greater sage-grouse is a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act and one of several animals the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will make a listing decision on in the near future. For the greater sage-grouse, the decision will come in the fall of 2015. In the meantime, many of the eleven states that contain the bird’s habitat are going ahead with conservation plans in an attempt to prevent an endangered or threatened status.


One of these states is Oregon. The state holds some of the best remaining grouse habitat but that same territory also supports vast ranching operations. Those operations contribute heavily to Oregon’s economy. Because of this contradiction the state is attempting to establish Candidate for Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) in Oregon’s largest county, covering over a million acres of private land. Under the agreements, landowners agree to voluntarily manage their property in sage-grouse friendly ways. In return, they won’t be subject to future regulatory requirements if the bird is listed. For the most part, reaching agreements and implementing CCAAs has gone smoothly between private landowners and FWS officials. That success has helped officials branch out across the state, introducing CCAAs for sage-grouse in other Oregon counties.

Outdoor Life has the story.

“Green” EU agricultural reforms are bad news for biodiversity, say experts

New Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) “greening” reforms are not so green, say experts. A new study published in Science shows that 80-90% of farmers could be exempt from new environmental requirements, and that budgets to encourage voluntary conservation are shrinking. Rules for environmental measures, while in theory a positive step, “are so vague as to be useless,” as the BBC puts it. “The new greening measures will not work,” co-author Dr Lynn Dicks of the University of Cambridge tells Agriland. “They simply promote the establishment of grass monocultures. Yes, reference is made to the planting of hedges. But no encouragement is given, so as to ensure that new hedging is managed properly. It’s all pretty self-defeating.” And the reforms do little to protect grasslands, the continent’s most endangered habitat. The report estimates that under the new rules five percent of grassland will likely be lost.

Keep reading at BBC News.

New book makes the case for PES

Degraded landscapes, endangered species and depleted oceans indicate that the Earth is in need of care, but finding the funds in order to deliver the care is difficult. A new book, Global Biodiversity Finance: The Case for International Payments for Ecosystem Services, proposes new global markets for ecosystem services that could finance and deliver conservation. The book argues the current spending on global conservation – which primarily comes from NGOs and government – is just not sufficient to maintain healthy ecosystems. The private sector must play a role here, the book says, by sustainably managing their natural assets. Moreover, recognizing humanity’s dependence on ecosystem services and initiating a transparent and publicly-accountable supply of conservation projects will increase funding flowing toward conservation work.

Read all about it at the Forbes blog.

A guide to building blue carbon projects

The Abu Dhabi Blue Carbon demonstration project recently released an introductory guide to building blue carbon projects. “Blue carbon” – the carbon sequestered by marine and coastal ecosystems like mangroves, saltwater marshes, and seagrass meadows – is both a highly efficient climate mitigation strategy, and (potentially) the key to saving these rapidly disappearing ecosystems. The authors stress that the report is not a step-by-step guide: blue carbon is a relative newcomer in the world of climate mitigation projects and much remains to be learned in terms of both the science and best practices. The report, however, does identify basic project phases and some key considerations. It also discusses elements of project success, lessons to be learned from REDD+, and how a ‘ridges to reefs’ approach could enhance resilience and productivity of coastal and marine systems.

Download the report (pdf).

The roundup

Finally – a few brief items from around the web:

 

EVENTS

 

Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration

CEER is a Collaborative Effort of the leaders of the National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER) and the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER). It will bring together ecological and ecosystem restoration scientists and practitioners to address challenges and share information about restoration projects, programs, and research from across North America. Across the continent, centuries of unsustainable activities have damaged the aquatic, marine, and terrestrial environments that underpin our economies and societies and give rise to a diversity of wildlife and plants. This conference supports SER and NCER efforts to reverse environmental degradation by renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats for the benefit of humans and nature. CEER is an interdisciplinary conference and brings together scientists, engineers, policy makers, restoration planners, partners, NGO’s and stakeholders from across the country actively involved in ecological and ecosystem restoration. 28 July – 1 August 2014. New Orleans, LA.

Learn more here.

16th Annual BIOECON Conference: Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability

The BIOECON Partners are pleased to announce the Sixteenth Annual International BIOECON conference on the theme of “Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability”. The conference will be held once again on the premises of Kings College Cambridge, England on the 22nd -23rd September 2014. The conference will be of interest to both researchers and policy makers working on issues broadly in the area of biodiversity, ecosystem services, sustainable development and natural capital, in both developed and developing countries. 21-23 September 2014. Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Learn more here.

ACES 2014 Conference: Linking Science, Practice, and Decision Making

ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services represents a dynamic and growing assembly of professionals, researchers, and policy makers involved with ecosystem services. The ACES 2014 Conference brings together this community in partnership with Ecosystem Markets and the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP), providing an open forum to share experiences, methods, and tools, for assessing and incorporating ecosystem services into public and private decisions. The focus of the conference is to link science, practice, and sustainable decision making by bringing together the ecosystem services communit

Additional resources

Carbon Market Participants: We Must Raise Awareness, Spark Private-Sector Demand

 

ClimateCare’s Hanrahan: We Need to be Creative

12 June 2014 | Ed Hanrahan last week praised the  German Development Bank’s commitment to finance forest carbon emissions reductions in the Brazilian state of Acre, but he cautioned project developers against getting too excited about such public sector per-tonne “payments for performance” – which varies slightly from traditional carbon offsetting but achieves the same end result.

“It’s great to see direct investment like we saw in Acre,” said Hanrahan, who is  CEO of project developer ClimateCare. “But government support would be a lot more effective if it came in an indirect fashion, which would make it worthwhile for corporates to take responsibilities for their residual emissions and offsets.”

Jason Patrick, Investment Director of the BioCarbon Group, agreed.

“Unless you believe that governments not only will take sufficient action but have the dollars to do so, then we need to have private sector engagement,” he said. “The offset market is clearly a critical part of that.”

Both were speaking at a sneak preview of the latest  Ecosystem Marketplace State of Voluntary Carbon Markets report, which was offered at  Carbon Expo  last week in Cologne, Germany. The full report will be released later this month, but last week’s numbers showed that corporate demand for purely voluntary carbon offsetting went slightly south in 2013 (down 5%). That this market fall wasn’t more dramatic demonstrates resiliency in a difficult market  – as well as loyalty from companies that have long offset their emissions and continued to do so, but it also reflects the market’s failure to engage new buyers, despite a rising number of green pledges.

“Large corporates have little incentive to take full responsibility for their emissions, because there is no pressure from customers at the moment, and there is limited pressure or incentive from government,” said Hanrahan.

Patrick divided corporates into two broad categories: those that have no interest in being green unless someone pushes them and those that are making serious efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Of the latter, he says, most stop at reducing emissions internally and fail to offset what they can’t eliminate.

“We see a lot of companies buying renewable power or implementing efficiency programs,” he said. “That sort of thing puts firm dollars to work internally, and we should applaud that, but our message ought to be that’s clearly not going to be enough. There’s almost no firm that can, via direct action, offset sufficiently to handle its entire footprint. We as an industry need to keep firms focused on the idea that offsets have a real place in their sustainability portfolio – not as way to avoid making internal reductions, but as a way to offset what they can’t reduce.”

Hanrahan criticized the sector at large for failing to get that message out earlier.

“We should have been able to catch the imagination of more than we have,” he said, calling  for more engagement with existing efforts like the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

“We have organizations like the CDP, and they do great work in bringing corporates together and identifying emissions, but the offset community and the carbon market community pretty much sit outside their sphere of interest,” he said. “There’s very little validation given to what we’re doing here, as a source of reducing emissions.”

Both also welcomed US President Barack Obama’s plan to impose emissions limits on the US power sector and to allow cap-and-trade for some reductions, but they said they’d like to see government interventions built based on available options rather than political expediency.

“When governments are considering their appropriate mitigation actions, they ought to focus on where the reductions and investments are today – not just where they’ll be after some programmatic activity that might take two or three years,” said Patrick. “For example, there is a lot of focus in the forest carbon programs today on jurisdictional [i.e. regional] programs, and that’s fantastic – they’re conceptually sound – but the problem is that outside of Acre, there are no jurisdictional programs.  So, unless you think, we’re going to put off our actions for the two or three years that it takes to develop these programs in five, 10, or 20 jurisdictions around the world, we should look at what already exists.”

He also encouraged project developers to look at new sources of buying, such as impact investors.

“One of the key success stories we’ve started to see is in the impact investment market, which is completely different from the voluntary carbon market,” he said. “But a lot of the objectives of that market are starting to tally on a line with the original objective of the voluntary carbon market and with what has been achieved here. So, I think we as a market would do very well to tie ourselves in much more closely with that market instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Additional resources

Biodiversity Summit On No Net Loss Will Be Streaming Live From London

The “To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond” summit, hosted by Forests Trends and the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme among others, will be streamed live. The event, which takes place at the London Zoo, starts tomorrow and runs through June 4.

2 June 2014 | Due to the overwhelming demand for seats at the To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond event at the London Zoo that couldn’t be accommodated, the conference hosts will be live streaming the sessions in the two largest rooms of the conference to the web. By clicking on these links during the conference hours you should be able to follow along:

Sessions held at the Huxley Auditorium will be live streaming here

Session held in the Prince Albert Suite will be live streaming here.

This gathering in London will be the first global conference on approaches to avoid, minimize, restore, and offset biodiversity loss.

The aim of the event is to explore how companies, governments, banks and civil society can chart a course to demonstrate ‘No Net Loss’ and preferably a ‘Net Gain’ of biodiversity in the context of development projects, plans and policies. It will bring together 300 experts and professionals from oil and gas, mining, infrastructure, hydro, wind, house-building, utility, forestry and agriculture, manufacturing and retail companies, from governments, financial institutions, NGOs, civil society and research organizations, and intergovernmental institutions.

Additional resources

The BioCarbon Group: Playing Both Sides

The BioCarbon Group is a major investor in cookstove and forestry emissions reduction projects for both the voluntary and regulated carbon markets in Europe and North America. Jason Patrick, Investment Director for the BioCarbon Group, talked with Gloria Gonzalez about a recent evolution in the corporate social responsibility world and its impact on the voluntary carbon markets.

21 May 2014 – The BioCarbon Group is playing both sides: that is, developing projects for both the voluntary and regulated carbon markets in Europe and North America.

In 2013, the investor announced several major transactions aimed at both voluntary buyers who purchase emissions reductions for reasons related to corporate social responsibility (CSR), ethics, and reputational or supply chain risk, as well as compliance buyers who surrender offsets for compliance as part of a regulated carbon market. Projects that distribute highly-efficient cooking stoves to households in Africa were a major theme for the group in 2013. The organization also announced a recent investment in the Lower Zambezi community forest conservation project in Zambia.

Ahead of next week’s release of Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2014 report, Jason Patrick, New York-based Investment Director for the BioCarbon Group and a panelist at the launch of the report at Carbon Expo 2014 in Cologne, Germany on May 28th, spoke to Gloria Gonzalez about how the organization is operating in both markets and how committed European buyers are to voluntary carbon offset purchasing as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives compared to their US counterparts.

Gloria Gonzalez: How would you characterize the voluntary carbon market in 2013?

Jason Patrick: I would say that the voluntary market, especially in the US and a bit in Canada because of the linking of those two markets, has changed because of changes in the CSR world. There’s more work and attention and initiative than ever in the world of CSR today in the US, but I would say relatively less of that CSR activity is focused on voluntary offset purchases compared to a few years ago.

GG: Is it in relation to their budgets for CSR? Do they have limited dollars for these types of initiatives so they move on to other things or are there non-financial reasons that would cause them to shift their attention elsewhere?

JP: People like to focus on the new hot issue, which is a non-financial issue. But there are financial reasons too. In the US, there are still lingering impacts from the financial crisis of a few years ago. And when somebody in a sustainability department can implement initiatives that will make the operations of a company more efficient – thereby saving dollars – or put dollars to work by, for example, buying renewable energy, a lot of firms believe – and I’m not saying that I think this point of view is correct –that that is a better use of their money than purchasing offsets, even though they recognize the quality of offsets and the high positive impact that the purchase of offsets can have, especially in developing countries.

GG: Aside from the big players that we know about, are other companies starting to look at international offsets versus domestic offsets? JP: There are definitely some. We hear about the Disney’s when they do it. I would say it’s a little bit more common for the European firms to support international projects. I feel like the US firms and the Canadian firms are much, much more likely to want to purchase projects that are tied to their operations. Now there are exceptions. But it seems to be more likely for the US firms to opt to do that.

GG: For your projects in particular, what was the focus in 2013 and what types of projects are you focusing on this year and going forward?

JP: We have a new agroforestry project in Africa. That’s one that we’re marketing to voluntary buyers. We have another already in the books in Latin America. That started issuing last year in November. We also moved forward over the last year with a couple of cookstove projects in developing countries that we’re marketing to compliance buyers in Europe and successfully so. Projects such as cookstoves and agro-forestry projects are easy to get behind because of the co-benefits at the village level such as health impacts. We’re developing our projects with compliance buyers in mind simply because there’s more volume and a better price point. Voluntary buyers will pay a very high price for cookstove projects, but the volume is typically so small that it doesn’t really matter.

GG: Have you noticed any impact from a voluntary perspective from things that are happening on the compliance side?

JP: Yes, not so much in what I call the pure voluntary market – CSR buyers who only buy for that purpose – but (Ecosystem Marketplace) in your analysis is capturing pre-compliance buyers, voluntary projects that people believe will have value in a compliance program in the future that do not qualify today. There’s definitely been some activity around project types that probably will be approved by the regulator in California. I haven’t seen much activity in new project types with the European market in mind given the oversupply in that market.

GG: Any similar trends in Europe and North America?

JP: Sustainability work in Europe is a little bit deeper. Offsetting as part of voluntary CSR work in Europe is more common than in the US.

GG: Any legislative or regulatory factors that could propel offsetting going forward?

JP: The one in the US, of course, is the promulgation of regulations by the (US Environmental Protection Agency) for new and existing power plants. There are some people who think offsetting will be an option for firms covered by the regulations, that EPA will essentially allow an offset program as part of that regulatory development. I think most of that talk is wishful thinking by US-based offset project developers. It’s possible, but we don’t have any clear indication from the EPA that that is going to occur.

I do believe there will be consolidation of developers because there were some firms set up years ago in anticipation of widespread international compliance markets. Of course, those markets haven’t come to pass. For those firms to survive, they need to see more international demand.

UK’s Woodland Carbon Code Hangs “For Sale” Sign For Future Offsets

Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2013 report tracked a miniscule number of forestry offsets transacted under the UK’s Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) program in 2012. That could change now that the WCC has started listing future offsets available for sale on the Markit Registry.

5 March 2014 | For the first time, potential buyers of carbon offsets generated by forestry projects under the UK’s Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) program can see future offsets available for sale, allowing them to make long-term offsetting plans.

The UK Forestry Commission launched the WCC in 2011 to spur local forestry projects that generate carbon offsets by growing trees to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2). Under the voluntary domestic program, companies can establish woodlands on their own land or buy the rights to the carbon sequestered in woodlands established by others.

Since April 2013, UK companies have been required to report their gross CO2 emissions. However, UK regulators allow companies to support projects under the WCC program and count the offsets against their annual emissions reporting requirements. The UK is only one of two national governments that allow voluntary carbon offsets to count against a mandatory emissions reporting requirement – the other being Japan.

To continue reading this story for free, please visit the Forest Carbon Portal

To respond to Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets and State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2014 reports, please click on the following links:

Previous respondents

New respondents

 

This Week In Water: Landscapes Thinking In Action

Ecosystem Marketplace is taking an up-close look at the landscapes approach to nature and conservation starting with two Katoomba Meetings this spring, which will help prompt cross-sector collaboration. Meanwhile, EM monitors landscapes thinking activities in Yorkshire, England and the US.

This article was originally posted in the Water Log newsletter. Click here to read the original.

28 February 2014 | Environmental finance has always been something of a double-edged sword.

Mechanisms like species banking, forest-carbon crediting, and investments in watershed services draw finance into conservation, based on the fundamental recognition that our civilization depends on clean air, clean water, and resilient ecosystems. On the other hand, focusing efforts (and finance) on specific ecosystem values favors those that can be measured and verified, which means we run the risk of leaving a whole symphony of ecosystem services unaccounted for and unsupported.

Scientifically, that never made sense. Forests feed rivers, which feed farms, which feed us. It all links together. But our economic and regulatory systems weren’t designed with nature in mind. Landscapes thinking aims to fix this flaw by nurturing our planet’s living ecosystems holistically rather than in their component parts.

 

But creating sustainable landscapes requires the cooperation of major agriculture players, policy makers, and financial institutions, as well as scientific experts in deforestation, water, and biodiversity. Two upcoming global Katoomba Meetings – the first to be held in Brazil in March followed in April by one in Lima – demonstrate that principle in action, bringing together diverse stakeholders together as part of an ongoing effort to accelerate this change.

 

Landscape approaches are a recurring feature in this month’s Water Log as well.

 

We have stories about a $30 million dollar effort to manage forested watersheds in the US for multiple functions: drinking water protection, carbon sequestration, habitat, and resilience to wildfire and other disasters. In Yorkshire, a water company is working with local farmers, hunters, business and government to restore moorlands to health, selecting strategies that benefit local wildlife, protect downstream areas from flooding, sequester carbon, and naturally filter water.

 

We think stories like this are important. A ‘landscape approach’ sounds nice (or all “motherhood and apple pie,” as they might say in Yorkshire) but the average observer might wonder what, exactly, investing in nature at a landscape scale looks like in practice.

 

We suggest taking a look at coverage of a recent WRI/IUCN effort to collect lessons about successes and failures in forest landscape restoration, inventorying more than 20 examples from countries spanning the globe. We also have coverage of a powerful new tool for real-time, landscape-scale monitoring: the Global Forest Watch, a project of Google and the University of Maryland. With ‘landscape approaches’ becoming the latest buzzword at global climate talks, 2014 may be a big year for projects like these.

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please contact newsletter@ecosystemmarketplace.com


EM Headlines

GENERAL

Google Offers a View into Forest Growth—or Loss—in Real Time

If a tree falls in the forest, not only can you hear it, now you can actually see it in real time, thanks to a new, freely accessible tool called Global Forest Watch.


The world has lost 230 million hectares of tree cover from 2000 to 2012, according to data compiled by the University of Maryland (UM) and Google. In an effort to reverse this “spiral of destruction,” a coalition of more than 40 partners – led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and including UM and Google – have jointly launched Global Forest Watch, a new online forest monitoring and alert system that utilizes the most recent satellite data available.

 

“This will be a revolution in global forest management,” said Felipe Calderí³n, former President of Mexico, at a February 20 launch event at the Newseum in Washington DC.

Read more at Watershed Connect.

Latin American Katoomba Meetings Aim To Turbocharge Climate Talks

There’s always been a sense that a more formalized holistic approach would deliver better benefits than splitting conservation finance into narrow streams like carbon, biodiversity offsets, or watershed investments. That philosophy took center stage at climate talks in Warsaw late last year.

 

2014 is the 20th year that climate negotiators under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will be meeting to try and end global warming, and Peru will host this year’s talks. As a run-up, it’s also hosting the 20th Katoomba Meeting in April – one of two Katoombas taking place in Latin America this year.

 

The March meeting will take place on the 19th and 20th at Iguazíº Falls, on the border of Brazil and Argentina, under the banner Scaling Up Sustainable Commodity Supply Chains. The April meeting will take place in Lima, Peru, over four days – from the 22nd through the 25th – and its working motto is Climate, Forests, Water, and People: A Vision for Alignment in Tropical America.

Here’s a preview of these two meetings and how we’ll be covering them.

Keys To Launching Successful Forest Landscape Restoration

In 2011, WRI, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and research partners published Landscapes of Opportunity, the first global assessment of where forest landscape restoration might be possible. This map helped build momentum toward the Bonn Challenge, a global commitment to start restoring 150 million hectares—an area three times the size of Spain—of lost and degraded forests by 2020.

 

Since then, several nations―ranging from the United States to Rwanda―have made Bonn Challenge restoration pledges, with pledges from others on the way. What some nations are asking now isn’t “what” restoration is or “where” it is possible, but “how” can it be done successfully?

 

To help answer this question, WRI and IUCN assessed more than 20 examples from around the globe of forest landscape restoration over the past 150 years, including both relative successes and failures. Lessons from these countries can not only provide insights into what works, but also inspire others to restore.

Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.

Writing About Food Security? Say It With Pictograms!

Food security is a critical yet complex issue, and CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) has issued a new set of pictograms designed to help people who need to communicate it do so with pictures.

 

Big Facts is an open-source, online library of pictograms designed to illustrate the nexus of climate change, agriculture and food security. It is intended to provide a credible and reliable platform for fact checking amid the range of claims that appear in reports, advocacy materials and other sources. Anyone is free to download, use and share the facts and graphic images.

Visit the Big Facts library.
Learn more about the project.

In The News

POLICY UPDATES

Will Louisiana’s Plan for Reviving the Gulf Be Enough?

In a sharp contrast to the strategy used to manage runaway nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, which relied on setting strict caps on pollution at federal and state levels, officials are taking their own approach to similar problems in the Gulf of Mexico. State of Louisiana officials say that river diversion projects can help remove nitrogen and phosphorus from the waters draining into the Gulf. The state will also fund voluntary programs to encourage farmers to manage their fertilizer use and control animal wastes.


Environmental groups say that heavy reliance on engineered diversions will mean a long wait for results: “We’re looking at five, ten, fifteen, twenty years out for multiple large-scale diversions to be in place, and we need to be doing something about the dead zone long before that,” says Matt Rota, a spokesman for Gulf Restoration Network.


Critics also charge that the plan fails to engage upstream states, which are the source of the majority of pollution. Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, noted that Louisiana lacks the authority to induce upstream states to control nutrient pollution, though Louisiana is exploring the possibility of a nutrient credit trading system with upriver states. In the absence of federal intervention, as in the Chesapeake (which would be sure to meet fierce opposition), Graves says voluntary efforts are the way forward.

The Times-Picayune has coverage.

Commonwealth-NSW Ink a Deal on the Murray-Darling

A new deal signed between the Australian Commonwealth and the state of New South Wales will deliver $80 million AUD ($71.7 USD) for water infrastructure projects and restore 1500 gigalitres of water to the Murray-Darling river system over the next eight years through water entitlement buybacks by the Commonwealth. New South Wales has previously taken issue with the maximum cap on buybacks, citing concerns about impacts to farmers.

Learn more at Circle of Blue.

Water Rights Buybacks Helped Australian Farmers, Study Says

A chief criticism of the Australian federal government’s efforts to buy and retire water rights in the Murray-Darling River system has been that buybacks would hurt farmers. A new study, forthcoming in the journal Agricultural Water Management, suggests that the opposite may be true. Sale of water entitlements were found to be linked to farmers’ reducing their debt, modernizing operations, and increasing productivity. The catch: these benefits take some time to appear. About one-fifth of farmers in the basin have sold surplus water entitlements to the government, which set a goal to restore 3200 gigalitres of water to the severely overdrawn river system by 2012. Of those farmers who sold entitlements, 60% were still farming, 30% had left the sector, and 10% had replaced the sold entitlement with water from other sources or switched to dryland farming.

Get the full story.

World Bank Throws its Weight Behind Nexus Thinking

The World Bank recently announced its newest initiative, “Thirsty Energy,” which seeks to support tools and management frameworks that address linkages between water and energy security. Water-for-energy is the entry point: the World Bank says it will work to increase awareness among decision-makers about the water requirements of energy development choices, and promote integrated planning around water and electricity.

Visit the Thirsty Energy website.

GLOBAL MARKETS

Restoring US Lands – One Forest at a Time

As carbon emissions increase, healthy forests are needed to counter those effects, says Robert Bonnie of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). And it’s the reason why the USDA – under President Obama’s climate action plan to cut carbon pollution – is spending $30 million on forest restoration projects this year. They’re starting with restoring the watershed that provides Helena, Montana with its drinking water supply, by reducing forest fuels (such as pine beetle-killed trees). That effort will cost $865,000. Altogether, the Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership will support projects in twelve states aiming to reduce the threat of wildfire, protect water quality and improve wildlife habitat. Funds will come from a mix of Forest Service budget (for efforts on public lands) and Farm Bill appropriations (for work with private landowners).

Learn more at the Helena Independent Record.

Nairobi Business Task Force Aims for Water Collaboration, Not Conflict

In Nairobi, water risk is making collaborators out of former competitors. East African Breweries’ subsidiaries’ operations in Nairobi face increased insecurity around water supplies in the Tana catchment. Other businesses in Nairobi, including BASF, British American Tobacco, Coca-Cola Nairobi Bottlers and Chandaria Industries, had the same problem. These companies, along with government officials, the German development department GIZ, and other stakeholders, in 2013 formed a task force to collectively address problems in the watershed.

 

The effort is in early stages, but members have agreed to share best practices and jointly commit to specific interventions to protect the watershed. “We realised we couldn’t do it on our own and that to make a real difference in the broader watershed, businesses will have to work together with new partners, many of whom we hadn’t worked with before,” Michael Alexander, global head of environment for Diageo (East African Breweries’ parent company), tells the Guardian.

Read more from the Guardian.

Ohio River Basin States Take the Lead on Water Quality Trading

Next month, three states in the Ohio River Basin will move forward with the first interstate water quality credit trade. Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky make up what is currently the world’s biggest nutrient trading agreement. The plan includes 46 power plants and hundreds of wastewater facilities along with 230,000 farmers in the basin. Interstate trading has been a key issue slowing down progress in other regions, particularly the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay is one of the most polluted watersheds in the country, but the six states and the District of Columbia bordering the Bay have yet to agree on what comprises a credit.

Keep reading here.

Yorkshire Water Invests in Pennine Moorlands

In the moorlands of Yorkshire, a water company is making major efforts to protect and restore the moors, helping to improve downstream water quality, control flooding, and protect wildlife habitats. Yorkshire Water has financed fencing to keep grazing animals out of sensitive areas, and this spring will replant 75 hectares with native vegetation. Work is being carried out through the Moors for the Future Partnership, a collaboration between Yorkshire Water, Natural England, local livestock producers, Calderale Council, rural regeneration company Pennine Prospects, and a local grouse shoot. Natural England will cover agri-environmental payments to land managers as compensation for their help in rehabilitating the moors.

Learn more.

Water Quality Trading Alliance aims to Spur Programs and Advance Effectiveness

In the US, law firm Troutman Sanders LLP has founded the Water Quality Trading Alliance (WQTA) to give trading the proverbial shot in the arm. The WQTA plans to work alongside the US Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture, acting as a platform to advance the science and effectiveness of water quality trading, while supporting new and existing markets. “This group will fill a breach at the national level by bringing together leaders who are committed to advancing the integrity, scientific rigor and defensibility of water quality trading,” says Brooks Smith of Troutman Sanders.

WaterWorld has coverage.

Businesses Realize Value of Nature with Online Resource

The Nature Conservancy and the Corporate Eco Forum are behind a new online resource for businesses called the Natural Capital Business Hub. It’s designed to help companies integrate the value of ecosystem services like clean water, into their bottom line, and adopt sustainable practices. “The natural capital of our earth is at risk. The Natural Capital Business Hub helps companies share good practice in new ways of working and designing infrastructure,” says Rupert Thomas of Shell. “It is important for me that we at Shell can share our experiences with green infrastructure solutions that can lower costs and carbon emissions while building up critical ecosystems, and also learn from others.” The Hub includes tools, case studies, implementation assistance, opportunities for collaboration and networking.

Read more here.

Trading in Grey for Green Spaces in London

Central London’s Victoria District is set to be one of the most sustainable and biodiverse places in the city. A £4bn (USD $6 billion) revitalization strategy for the area includes plans to create more than 25 hectares of green roofs and enhance other green infrastructure elements, like rainwater collection systems and planted “living walls”. Efforts build on a comprehensive green infrastructure audit that began in 2010, the first to be carried out by a business improvement district; other districts in London have since followed suit. “The creation of new areas of public realm, the enhancement of existing green assets and the progression of new environmental initiatives will soften the streetscape and make Victoria a place to linger rather than just hurry through from A to B,” the report explains. “In Victoria, the importance of green infrastructure in making the area a more pleasurable space to visit, live and work in is fast being recognised.”

 

Learn more.

A Wetland Park Spawns Green Growth in Los Angeles

A wetlands park in Los Angeles has earned the highest rating under the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s (ISI) Envision standard for capturing and reducing local urban runoff, while revitalizing the neighborhood with green spaces. The South L.A. Wetland Park used a series of best management practices regarding stormwater management, like capturing water from storm drains to sustain the wetlands. It also was designed to be resilient to the effects of climate change, adapting to extreme flood or drought conditions. “The South L.A. Wetland Park is a good example of an integrated engineering solution that successfully built consensus, captured and improved local urban runoff, and created a new neighborhood-revitalizing amenity,” said Sean P. Vargas, Psomas Principal, Director of Sustainability, and Envision Sustainability Professional and Envision Verifier at an award presentation ceremony.

Learn more.

Make a New Glacier, or Save the Old One?

Scientists in Chile, facing widespread retreat among the country’s 3100 glaciers, are trying a new tactic: making new ones. Glaciologist Cedomir Marangunic, of the University of Chile, is leading experimental techniques to encourage glacier formation through spreading detritus, adding barriers to encourage snow accumulation, or covering glacial surfaces with geotextile sheets to reduce the loss of surface ice. 82 percent of Chile’s fresh water reserves are in glaciers, but legal protection of glaciers lags behind neighboring Argentina. And questions about ownership status of glaciers on private land and assessing responsility for impacts fairly (for example, should the city of Santiago be penalized for air pollution that contributes to glacier melt?) remain.

 

Meanwhile, the head of Greenpeace Chile sounds skeptical: “I don’t doubt the good intentions of those [behind the studies],” says Matí­as Asun. “The urgent thing now is not to wait thousands of years to reproduce a glacier, to see if it works, but to protect what is already there.”

Tierramérica has coverage.

EVENTS

Nexus 2014: Water, Climate, Food and Energy Conference

The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and collaborators will host the Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference on March 5-8, 2014 to examine the thoughts and actions related to a nexus approach. The co-Directors of the Conference are Jamie Bartram, Director of The Water Institute, and Felix Dodds, Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute, with support from an International Advisory Committee. The Conference will bring together scientists and practitioners working in government, civil society and business, and other stakeholders focusing on the questions of how and why the nexus approach is, and can be, used on international and local levels. 5-8 March 2014. Chapel Hill NC, USA.

Learn more here.

Conference on Innovations for equity in smallholder PES: bridging research and practice

What are the best ways to make schemes that compensate protectors of natural resources fairer and more inclusive? IIED’s conference on Innovations for equity in smallholder PES: bridging research and practice aims to explore the latest thinking on the issue from researchers, policy makers, funders and practitioners, and to share lessons learned. 21 March 2014. Edinburgh, Scotland.

Learn more here.

2014 Water Policy Conference

An impressive slate of legislators and policymakers have joined the lineup for AMWA’s 2014 Water Policy Conference in April. Key members of Congress and Administration officials will share their insights on national developments that will affect the nation’s water utilities in months and years to come. Attendees will also have the opportunity to share their views with the speakers. 6-9 April 2014. Washington DC, USA.

Learn more here.

Groundwater Summit 2014

This annual meeting will focus on “10 years of moving research to solutions.” Participants will have the opportunity to model, explore, characterize, bank, inject, extract, treat, and predict all subsurface needs with everything groundwater related. 4-7 May 2014. Denver CO, USA.

Learn more here.

2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

The only national conference that brings together key players in this industry, and offers quality hands-on training and education sessions and important regulatory updates. Learn from & network with the 400+ attendees the conference draws, offering perspectives from bankers, regulators, and users. 6-9 May 2014. Denver CO, USA.

Learn more here.

3rd Symposium on Urbanization and Stream Ecology

The Symposium on Urbanization and Stream Ecology is a meeting of stream ecologists held approximately every five years aiming to further the scientific study of stream ecosystems in urban landscapes. In 2014, the third symposium will be held in Portland in the days preceding the joint meeting of the Society for Freshwater Science (SFS) and the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO). The theme of SUSE3 will be mechanisms: both in the broad sense of landscape-scale drivers of ecological change and in the detailed sense of small-scale drivers of in-stream biotic response. At the broad scale, the symposium aims to further our understanding of variation in dominant mechanisms in different regions of the globe. 15-17 May 2014. Portland, OR.

Learn more here.

CONTRIBUTING TO ECOSYSTEM MARKETPLACE

Ecosystem Marketplace is a project of Forest Trends a tax-exempt corporation under Section 501(c)(3).The non-profit evaluator Charity Navigator has given Forest Trends its highest rating (4 out of 4 stars) recognizing excellence in our financial management and organizational efficiency.

Additional resources

Last Chance To Register For Thursday’s Webinar On UK Biodiversity Offsets

The United Kingdom has expressed interest in the offsetting mechanism which could help the nation deliver on no net loss of biodiversity. BBOP’s upcoming webinar will discuss challenges and opportunities for an offsetting initiative specific to the UK’s coastal regions.

11 February 2014 | Last year, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) released a paper on the concept of biodiversity offsetting and the role engineers play in delivering a no net loss of biodiversity in the United Kingdom’s coastal regions. The paper found that if offsetting is going to be the method used to reduce biodiversity loss in coastal areas, then coast-specific challenges must be met. The paper explains how a carefully implemented offsetting initiative could address these problems.

A Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) webinar this Thursday will draw from this paper when discussing the challenges and opportunities specific to coastal offsets in the UK. The UK has widely discussed a biodiversity offsetting system. In 2013, Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) published a consultative paper of this system as six pilot schemes participating in a voluntary offsetting initiative.

But it largely overlooked coastal regions and by doing so overlooked critical differences between these ecosystems and the terrestrial environment.

BBOP’s webinar will instead focus on the coast drawing from both Defra’s paper and the ICE’s. Jan Brooke of ICE’s Maritime Panel initiative will explore these issues during the webinar.

The webinar is on Thursday, the 13th, at 10am US Eastern time (3pm GMT). Visit Species Banking for details on how to participate.

Additional resources

Conservation Banking Becomes A Reality In Spain

Spain’s new Environmental Assessment Act, passed late last year, has big implications for conservation banking. David Alvarez Garcia of the Spanish organization, Mercados de Medio Ambiente, which focuses on market based biodiversity conservation solutions, briefly explains his take on the new rule.

8 January 2014 | A meeting of the Spanish Congress late last year was short but meaningful. At the end of it, the legislature approved a new Environmental Assessment Act and for the first time, conservation banking was included.

Conservation banking is a tool where developers pay into a bank that conserves and preserves a species that is impacted by unavoidable development activities. Developers of infrastructure projects purchase credits from a land conservation bank to ensure there is a no-net loss of species from their activities and offset the unavoidable impacts of their development. So now in Spain, conservation banking can be used to offset unavoidable impacts to species.

How it will Work

Spain is an environmentally wealthy nation rich in ecological diversity. Because development was a looming threat to this wealth, interest arose in conservation banking as a potential tool to preserve it. The Environment Act not only increases interest in conservation banking, but it presents it as part of the remedy for challenges like environmental monitoring and impact measurements.

Under Spain’s Act, the banking credits are called environmental titles. The Spanish Environment Ministry will oversee the industry approving banks and determining where these ‘titles’ will be used. The credits will then be traded in a free market with a single registry.

While the Act won’t achieve total incorporation of conservation banking into Spain’s environmental policy, it provides guidance on how to develop or become involved in a conservation banking scheme. However the new rule does ensure that the natural areas the banks create or conserve must continue to be preserved. It also initiates development of new environmental rules where conservation banking can play a larger role.

Conservation banking is not a new idea. The space has been growing in the US for the last 30 years and is also used in Australia.

Building a path toward responsible development

This is just the beginning for conservation banking in Spain. The tool should be part of a regulatory framework on compensatory mitigation in order to reverse negative impacts and achieve a no net loss of species. An important step in its progress will be engaging the social aspect-the communities and organizations that care and stand to benefit.

Throughout this year the Spanish legislature should work to build a rule on conservation banking that will eliminate doubt while establishing its deliverables and limits. This, along with its proven abilities in other parts of the world, will demonstrate conservation banking as an effective tool suitable for use in Spain.

David ílvarez Garcí­a is the Executive Director of Ecoacsa Reserva de Biodiversidad and promoter of the initiative in Spain Mercados de Medio Ambiente.
Additional resources

Deutsche Post DHL: Neutral If You Choose

Deutsche Post DHL
  • Program: GoGreen
  • Timeframe: 2006-present
  • Motivation: engage customers around carbon neutral option; climate leadership in the logistics industry
  • Process: use a tender process to select projects
  • Offset project types: reforestation, wind power, water purification, household biogas, efficient cookstoves
  • Cost: the cost of shipping a parcel carbon neutral differs by country, either as a fixed fee or a small percentage of the overall shipping cost; in Germany, for instance, it’s up to 10 euro cents (~USD$0.13) extra to ship a parcel carbon neutral
  • Volume: 180,000 tCO2e in 2012 (representing offsets associated with 2.4 billion shipments), up from 1,000 tCO2e when the program started in 2006

Deutsche Post DHL is a major player in the logistics industry which means it’s also a big contributor to global carbon emissions. To account for its environmental impact, the business has initiated an emissions reductions program based on carbon offsets and efficiency that will cover the company’s large indirect sources of emissions.

17 December 2013 | When you think of globalization, you might think of a South African using an iPad; an Italian drinking Guatemalan coffee; a Canadian eating a mango in February. All of these things are made possible by the logistics industry, and Deutsche Post DHL is one of the sector’s biggest players. Headquartered in Germany, DHL ships to 220 countries and delivers 65 million letters and 3 million parcels every day. The company’s emissions amounted to 28 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (tCO2) in 2012 – roughly equivalent to the emissions of Puerto Rico. The bulk of these were so-called “Scope 3” or indirect emissions from the subcontractors that actually transport DHL’s shipments. (Scope 1 refers to direct emissions from any fuel DHL combusts and Scope 2 refers to emissions from the energy DHL uses in their buildings.)

Globalization is indeed taking its toll on the atmosphere: the logistics industry overall contributes a fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Carbon emissions are the main environmental impact of our business,” says Daniela Spießmann of DHL’s GoGreen program. GoGreen was created in 2006 to address a difficult question: How do you reduce carbon emissions when burning fossil fuels to move goods from here to there is the essence of your business model?

Some transportation sector companies are using offset purchases as part of their answer to this question, which is why transportation buyers held 11% of market share for forest carbon offsets in 2012, according to our State of the Forest Carbon Markets report.

Because so many of its emissions are from “Scope 3” activities, DHL has approached emissions reductions through a kind of burden-sharing model: The company has committed to reducing its emissions, but its employees are also engaging customers around internalizing the environmental costs of their shipments. On the company side, DHL has a binding target for all business divisions and across all three scopes to improve carbon efficiency 30% by 2020, using 2007 emissions as the baseline. As of last year, it was already more than halfway there.

On the customer side, DHL’s GoGreen program offers businesses several levels of CO2 reporting, from simple data to a customized ‘carbon dashboard’ that uses ‘what-if’ scenarios to show customers how to optimize their supply chains – by packing in more parcels per vehicle, taking more direct routes, etc. For those customers that want to go to the next level, DHL offers a carbon neutral option that uses offset purchases to cancel out the emissions of a shipped parcel entirely – the bulk of which are scope 3 emissions from transporting the good from sender to receiver. The GoGreen campaign is additional to the carbon intensity target, meaning that the offset purchases are not included in the 30% emissions reduction goal, but rather go beyond it.

The opt-in model of customer offsetting is common in the transportation sector, and it has some distinct advantages. From the customer perspective, offsetting is simple: DHL vets high-quality offset projects through a tender process, handles the contracts, and provides GoGreen branding materials. From DHL’s perspective, the offset program engages customers around the company’s sustainability goals while passing off the majority of the cost of the actual offset purchases to them. It’s a win-win.

The cost of sending a parcel carbon-neutral differs by country – in some it’s a set fee while in others it’s a small percentage of the overall cost of the shipment – but in Germany, cancelling out the emissions of shipment costs customers under 10 euro cents (about USD$0.13) extra for a parcel. A critical question in any opt-in program is how many customers are going to ‘check the box’ to pay that premium. At first, the GoGreen carbon neutral program saw almost exponential growth. In 2006, DHL offset about 1,000 tonnes on behalf of its customers. By 2010, that number had jumped to 80,000 tonnes, and reached 180,000 tonnes in 2012. Now, the growth seems to be plateauing, to around 200,000 tonnes in 2013. The shape of the opt-in curve over time may be indicative of whether there is a ‘glass ceiling’ on interest in voluntary carbon offsetting – perhaps only a certain subset of customers will ever be interested.

The opt-in model also reveals customer preferences around the varying ‘charisma’ of different carbon project types. In part because its program is customer-facing, DHL looks for both diversity and human connections in choosing offset projects: “We’re pushing for projects that are linked to local populations and local families,” Spießmann says. “We try to bring in different technologies and different regions as well.”

As a result, the GoGreen offset projects are spread across the globe, from wind power projects in China and Nicaragua to a landfill gas project in Turkey to efficient stoves in Lesotho and water purifiers in Cambodia. DHL has a single forestry project in their portfolio – a reforestation project in Uganda that incentivizes small groups of subsistence farmers to plant trees.

Spießmann says that DHL for a while regarded forestry projects with skepticism since public acceptance has been low. All of its other projects were certified as Gold Standard in addition to verification as Verified Emissions Reductions (or Certified Emissions Reductions under the Clean Development Mechanism). But Gold Standard certification was not available for forestry projects until this year, so DHL avoided forestry projects altogether for a while.

DHL's GoGreen Climate Project Map

However, the progression of standards such as the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard that can be “stacked” onto carbon verification to certify co-benefits gave the shipping company more confidence in forestry. Two years ago DHL added the Uganda reforestation project to their portfolio. They joined many other buyers in demanding certification of co-benefits: In 2012, 12.2 million of the forest carbon offsets transacted – nearly half of the market – achieved both Verified Carbon Standard and CCB certification.

DHL also surveyed its customers about what project types they preferred, and forest projects rated well. “When you’re promoting carbon offsets to customers, often you simply don’t have much time,” Spießmann says. Marketers explaining the GoGreen offset products frequently find that forestry projects are among the simplest to explain: “A tree is planted and you bring down the emissions” is a straightforward pitch.

DHL’s preference for Gold Standard projects (which overall sold at an average of $9/tonne in 2012) demonstrates its willingness to pay a little more for high-quality offsets. The company makes a Goldilocks-like decision when looking for offset prices: they want to keep the projects affordable for customers, but too-low prices make them skeptical that a project may be overselling its impact. Generally, though, high standards and well-selected projects are linked to higher costs. “Customers expect us to find the balance,” Spießmann says.

Spain’s New Environment Policy Opens The Door To Conservation Banking

Late last month, the Spanish government ratified a new Environmental Assessment Act. Among the changes is the inclusion of conservation banking as a compensatory tool to ensure the country can achieve a no-net loss of species from development projects and other land-use impacts.

9 December 2013 | On November 28, Spain’s legislature approved a nationwide bill that is meant to simplify and streamline environmental policy. Included in the legislation is the use of conservation banking for species conservation purposes.

Ultimately, the tool creates a compensatory system where some development can happen but not at the cost of species or their habitat. Developers pay into a bank that conserves and preserves the species. Developers of infrastructure projects purchase credits from a land conservation bank to ensure there is a no-net loss of species from their activities and offset the unavoidable impacts of their development. This space has been growing in the US for the last 30 years.

It’s a new technique for Spain, however, and one that wasn’t incorporated into earlier versions of their Environmental Assessment Act. That could be because this form of conservation is often viewed with suspicion where either the development or environmental space is being favored. But those suspicions are usually the result of misunderstandings about the banking process.

David Alvarez Garcia of the Spanish organization, Mercados de Medio Ambiente, which focuses on market mechanisms to conserving biodiversity, says a regulatory framework that includes compensatory measures like conservation banking is necessary in order to achieve a no-net loss of species.

Other changes to Spain’s environmental policy include evaluation procedure alterations and a unification strategy that will help align and coordinate existing rules.

Additional resources

Dutch Platform Turns Landscapes Talk Into REDD Reality

COP 19 Coverage

We covered the COP from beginning to end, with a narrow focus on REDD and those issues still under discussion. Here is the bulk of our coverage, with a few breaking stories omitted.

Demand For Forest Carbon Offsets Rises As Forestland Under Carbon Management Grows sets the stage for Warsaw with a deep dive into the state of forest carbon markets around the world.

REDD, CDM Likely To Find A Place In New Climate Agreement: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres offers hope that the troubled CDM market and REDD projects will be included in the international climate deal expected to be finalized in 2015.  

Understanding Carbon Accounting Under The UN Framework Convention is a work in progress designed to explain in simple terms the complexity of carbon accounting under the emerging “REDD Rulebook”.

Indigenous Leaders Stand Up For Active Role In REDD relates what indigenous leaders expect from forest-carbon finance

REDD Reference Levels Share Stage With Broader Land-Use Issues In Warsaw outlines the issues on the table at the beginning of the talks.

In Warsaw As In California, Forest Carbon Carrot Needs Compliance Stick  explores the need for compliance drivers to boost demand for forest carbon offsets.  

Forest, Ag Projects Can Combine Adaptation And Mitigation: CIFOR Study  highlights the missed opportunities to link multiple benefits in projects that aim to tackle the impacts of climate change.  

Dutch Platform Turns Landscapes Talk Into REDD Reality examines a new platform unveiled in Warsaw that could serve as a model for future public-private partnerships for financing REDD+ projects.  

The REDD Finance Roundtable: A Quick Chat With EDF, WWF, and UCS takes stock of the talks on the eve of the final REDD agreement.

For REDD Proponents, No Regrets  examines the early success of REDD pilot projects despite sluggish progress made in securing policy and financial support at the national and international levels.  

US, UK, Norway Launch Next-Stage REDD Finance Mechanism Under World Bank examines a financing mechanism designed to support performance-based payments down the road.

After the talks, we began digging into the decisions and themes of the two-week talk, and will be rolling these stories out as they take shape.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part One: The Institutional Arrangements explores the last-minute deal that lays rules for governing REDD finance through 2015.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part Two: Recognizing The Landscape Reality explores the thinking behind the growing emphasis on “landscape thinking” in climate finance.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part Three: COP Veterans Ask, ‘Where’s The Beef?’ explores the reaction of carbon traders to the Warsaw outcomes and offers a peek into the year ahead.

Further stories in this series will explore the impact of individual decisions within the rulebook, the role that the rulebook can play in helping existing projects nest in jurisdictional programs, and the impact of the rulebook on the private sector.

The REDD theme in Warsaw this week was “landscapes” – paying not only to save forests, but to do so by protecting biodiversity and supporting communities. That’s where private conservation finance has been heading for years, and now a coalition of Netherlands-based corporates and the Dutch government has launched an initiative that makes it explicit.

20 November 2013 | WARSAW | The Netherlands has long been a leader on international environmental issues, and now the Dutch government, together with some of the country’s largest corporations, have shown that all the landscapes talk here in Warsaw doesn’t end with words with the launch of a new public-private partnership model for financing REDD+ projects.

The idea for the Platform BEE REDD+ Initiative – BEE stands for Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Economy – emerged from recommendations issued by the country’s Taskforce on Biodiversity and Natural Resources in 2011, one of which was to explore the possibility of REDD+ for the private sector under a platform that included civil society, the government and the private sector.

“One of the outcomes was that REDD+ sounds interesting because we can actually do something about climate, biodiversity, communities and we can do all of that in the context of climate action,” said Jan Willem den Besten, Senior REDD+ Programme Officer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature National Committee of the Netherlands (IUCN NL), which is working alongside the Confederation of the Netherlands Industry and Employers and the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the Netherlands on the initiative. “Of course, the idea was that there would be a compliance market pretty soon so a lot of companies were very interested because they thought ‘we can gain pre-compliance experience’.”

After the task force completed its work, it became clear that there would not be a compliance market for REDD, he said. “But still, several companies thought that they did want to do something, get their hands and boots dirty to see how it works because in the future there will probably be a REDD+ mechanism after 2020 and also simply because they believe in it,” he said.

The Ministry set up and financed the platform to support the green economy and support the private sector in finding opportunities for more sustainable production and supply chains, he said. As part of that platform, the BEE REDD+ Initiative was established, with four Dutch-based corporates joining forces to support REDD projects: carpet manufacturer Desso, energy competitors Eneco and Essent, and development bank FMO, which had previously invested in a REDD+ fund.

“Each of these companies has a strong internal policy to reduce their impact on climate change,” he said. “Each of these (energy) companies is trying to prepare for a landscape where we don’t depend on coal as a means to use electricity.”

In the preliminary discussions, the companies asked about whether this initiative could be a mechanism to address their biodiversity impacts. The four companies are all members of the IUCN NL’s Leaders for Nature coalition – a network of 20 multinationals and major Dutch companies working together on greening the economy and focusing on biodiversity and ecosystems as part of wider sustainability and business policies – and are starting to see how they can map the impact of their operations.

“They’re all trying to grapple with this issue: how can we reduce our impact on natural capital?” he said. “Climate is part of it, but also biodiversity. The idea that you could do something about your biodiversity impact, even though REDD is not a mechanism to offset biodiversity, was an interesting component.”

The Burning Season

For Mark Meyrick, head of Eneco’s carbon desk, preservation of biodiversity is personally important to him and the main driver of his involvement in the carbon markets and the development of projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He and his colleagues were shocked and deeply affected by the film The Burning Season, a 2008 documentary about the burning of rainforests in Indonesia featuring Dorjee Sun, CEO of Carbon Conservation.

“We thought at that time trying to get involved with REDD was going to be very, very difficult and actually not a great value proposition in terms of time and money because in those days CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) still had some decent value and was easier to do,” he said. “We wanted to do it because it really fit in with the belief system that is endemic within Eneco.”

The energy company, which has several gas-fired power plants, tries to reduce its emissions as much as possible and offsets what it cannot reduce such as business travel and power usage, Meyrick said. “We really wanted to encourage those businesses within Eneco that were offsetting their footprint to instead of using Gold Standard VER projects to look at REDD as well and see the value they brought, both in terms of the offset credit they could produce, but also those wider benefits that a REDD+ project could produce. It was very much important to us to tell the good story of whatever REDD+ project we got involved in.”

The company supported the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project in Kenya by purchasing the first 50,000 issued credits from the project and is a member of the CODE REDD coalition. Eneco is also working on a project in Mexico that has some great biodiversity aspects to it.

“It is a little bit of a case with REDD projects of that old fairy tale about the frog and the prince, you do kiss a lot of frogs in this business before you find your prince,” he said.

In 2011, Eneco developed a Code of Conduct with IUCN and the World Wildlife Fund to encourage best practices for private sector engagement in REDD+ for both voluntary and potential compliance markets, with full recognition that some environmental NGOs do not like REDD, he said.

“We wanted to make ourselves, as much as possible, NGO proof, because I’ve sat inside offices with climate demonstrators outside against a particular project we might have been involved in,” Meyrick said. “We certainly didn’t want people banging on our door saying ‘look at what Eneco’s doing.’ It was really important to develop as robust a code of conduct for our activities in this area as possible, which we did.”

However, Meyrick said he has real questions about demand and whether sufficient value can be generated to defeat the alternative land uses that take place in many forested areas. “Were you to put REDD into any kind of compliance regime, you open yourself up to many of the issues that beset the CDM,” he said. “Beyond that, I don’t think we can really rely on the voluntary sector to inject the necessary value to do what’s needed. But that being said, doing something for us is better than doing nothing so we hope this initiative will be a great success.”

The Floor is Yours

Carpet manufacturer Desso is trying to move as much as possible to an environment that is sustainable and REDD is part of the company’s vision, said Managing Director Roland Jonkhoff. Even though it is a small company, Desso has been asked to talk about its approach to REDD+ to some of the world’s largest corporations so its participation in the initiative was a logical fit, he said.

Christian del Valle, head of the recently-closed $80 million Althelia Climate Fund which will work with the initiative to find a pilot REDD project, praised the long history of leadership of the Dutch government and companies on environmental and social issues, with platform BEE being further evidence of that commitment.

“We certainly would be a big supporter of BEE even if Althelia weren’t involved,” he said.

The initiative is also proof that meaningful action can be taken now to address deforestation, resource depletion, biodiversity, and conservation issues, with the private sector at the forefront of many of these efforts, del Valle said.

“Markets are driving deforestation today,” he said. “It’s absolutely the case that private sector activity is at the heart of the problem. The leadership shown by Desso and Eneco and the other signatories warms my cold heart.”

The Specifics

The organizers set a target to have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the initiative completed by February 2014, but finalized the MOU with Althelia October 31. The MOU specifies that the companies intend to invest in REDD projects, with due diligence recently completed on a few projects and the first project likely located in either Ethiopia or Indonesia, according to current thinking. The investment will be made within a year and the first credits could be available in 2015 or earlier. The initial investment is not yet set in stone, but likely around $700,000 or more.

“Some of the leading corporates have gotten behind this and there’s room for a lot more participation going forward,” del Valle said. “The convening power of government, in between these COPs, has got to mobilize. We’d like to see Platform BEE REDD+ Initiatives across the EU.”

The companies would also like to use the initiative to engage and influence discussions with the government on ways that policy can be more supportive of REDD+ projects such as, for example, offsetting travel-related emissions through REDD+ rather than restricting offsetting to Gold Standard or CDM-equivalent offsets. “It’s interesting to see how a public-private partnership can work that way,” said den Besten.

One of the advantages of joining the coalition is that the companies can take risks and learn lessons about REDD+ collectively, he said.

“I think working as a group made it possible for the companies to come out of that zone of being careful and not knowing exactly how to test the waters,” he said. “The companies are ready to step out and do something new. Because it is a group, you feel stronger to do something out of the normal.”

REDD Reference Levels Share Stage With Broader Land-Use Issues In Warsaw

The REDD Rulebook

The “Rulebook” is actually a collection of seven decisions that together provide guidance on how countries can harvest available data to create reliable snapshots of their forests over time and to use these snapshots to create deforestation reference levels that will be recognized by the UNFCCC.

The decisions govern, among other things, modalities for monitoring national forests, addressing the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and measuring, reporting and verifying activities designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s still, however, not clear what sort of payoffs that data will yield long-term, and for that there’s a work program for developing results-based finance in support of REDD and a new set of arrangements between the COP and the Green Climate Fund. The decisions also include a mechanism for helping developing countries deal with loss and damage from climate change.

The final decision reached is the one covering institutional arrangements for REDD finance moving forward.

COP 19 Coverage

We covered the COP from beginning to end, with a narrow focus on REDD and those issues still under discussion. Here is the bulk of our coverage, with a few breaking stories omitted.

Demand For Forest Carbon Offsets Rises As Forestland Under Carbon Management Grows sets the stage for Warsaw with a deep dive into the state of forest carbon markets around the world.

REDD, CDM Likely To Find A Place In New Climate Agreement: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres offers hope that the troubled CDM market and REDD projects will be included in the international climate deal expected to be finalized in 2015.

Understanding Carbon Accounting Under The UN Framework Convention is a work in progress designed to explain in simple terms the complexity of carbon accounting under the emerging “REDD Rulebook”.

Indigenous Leaders Stand Up For Active Role In REDD relates what indigenous leaders expect from forest-carbon finance

REDD Reference Levels Share Stage With Broader Land-Use Issues In Warsaw outlines the issues on the table at the beginning of the talks.

In Warsaw As In California, Forest Carbon Carrot Needs Compliance Stick  explores the need for compliance drivers to boost demand for forest carbon offsets.

Forest, Ag Projects Can Combine Adaptation And Mitigation: CIFOR Study  highlights the missed opportunities to link multiple benefits in projects that aim to tackle the impacts of climate change.

Dutch Platform Turns Landscapes Talk Into REDD Reality examines a new platform unveiled in Warsaw that could serve as a model for future public-private partnerships for financing REDD+ projects.

The REDD Finance Roundtable: A Quick Chat With EDF, WWF, and UCS takes stock of the talks on the eve of the final REDD agreement.

For REDD Proponents, No Regrets  examines the early success of REDD pilot projects despite sluggish progress made in securing policy and financial support at the national and international levels.

US, UK, Norway Launch Next-Stage REDD Finance Mechanism Under World Bank examines a financing mechanism designed to support performance-based payments down the road.

After the talks, we began digging into the decisions and themes of the two-week talk, and will be rolling these stories out as they take shape.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part One: The Institutional Arrangements explores the last-minute deal that lays rules for governing REDD finance through 2015.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part Two: Recognizing The Landscape Reality explores the thinking behind the growing emphasis on “landscape thinking” in climate finance.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part Three: COP Veterans Ask, ‘Where’s The Beef?’ explores the reaction of carbon traders to the Warsaw outcomes and offers a peek into the year ahead.

Further stories in this series will explore the impact of individual decisions within the rulebook, the role that the rulebook can play in helping existing projects nest in jurisdictional programs, and the impact of the rulebook on the private sector.

 

12 November 2013 | WARSAW| Poland | Developed countries have set aside billions of dollars to help rainforest nations save their forests by earning credits for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). They won’t start spending it in a big way, however, until they see trustworthy reference levels that tell them both how much carbon is captured in the recipient countries’ forests, farms, and prairies and how that carbon content is changing.

Developing countries, on the other hand, are reluctant to invest time and effort in creating reference levels until they know the money will flow. Some of them, most notably Brazil, are also adamantly against third-party verification, which they see as a violation of sovereignty.

These and other issues are a central focus of talks today, as the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) works to crystallize existing principles for the creation of reference levels into concrete guidelines that will be shared with the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) tomorrow.

The general expectation here is that a text will be finished and approved by the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWG-ADP) by the end of the week. It then gets handed up to the high-level negotiators – the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC – next week.

The Knowledge and Finance Gaps

By issuing clear guidance, the UNFCCC aims to help close the knowledge gap, which will help close the finance gap next year. This week’s guidance, however, will still leave a massive hole in the general understanding that forestry practitioners have of terrestrial carbon accounting.

Several efforts are underway to correct this, chief among them being an intensive month-long course in advanced terrestrial carbon accounting that the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched at UCSD’s La Jolla campus this summer. We participated in that program, and are in the process of harvesting our notes for a detailed primer on carbon accounting, which is under development here.

Wider Agriculture

Tangential to the talks, SBSTA also held a workshop earlier today to explore the technical and scientific aspects of helping agriculture adapt to climate change. While efforts to use carbon finance to promote climate-safe agriculture have not proven economical, they have increased yields enough to make the practices worthwhile. Carbon finance may help by funding education and other efforts in support of agriculture.

The weekend in the middle of the talks is traditionally reserved for “Forests Day”, but this year it’s been replaced with “Landscapes Day”, which is designed to explore the interconnected drivers of land-use change.

 

Additional resources

In Warsaw As In California, Forest Carbon Carrot Needs Compliance Stick

COP 19 Coverage

We covered the COP from beginning to end, with a narrow focus on REDD and those issues still under discussion. Here is the bulk of our coverage, with a few breaking stories omitted.

Demand For Forest Carbon Offsets Rises As Forestland Under Carbon Management Grows sets the stage for Warsaw with a deep dive into the state of forest carbon markets around the world.

REDD, CDM Likely To Find A Place In New Climate Agreement: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres offers hope that the troubled CDM market and REDD projects will be included in the international climate deal expected to be finalized in 2015.

Understanding Carbon Accounting Under The UN Framework Convention is a work in progress designed to explain in simple terms the complexity of carbon accounting under the emerging “REDD Rulebook”.

Indigenous Leaders Stand Up For Active Role In REDD relates what indigenous leaders expect from forest-carbon finance

REDD Reference Levels Share Stage With Broader Land-Use Issues In Warsaw outlines the issues on the table at the beginning of the talks.

In Warsaw As In California, Forest Carbon Carrot Needs Compliance Stick  explores the need for compliance drivers to boost demand for forest carbon offsets.

Forest, Ag Projects Can Combine Adaptation And Mitigation: CIFOR Study  highlights the missed opportunities to link multiple benefits in projects that aim to tackle the impacts of climate change.

Dutch Platform Turns Landscapes Talk Into REDD Reality examines a new platform unveiled in Warsaw that could serve as a model for future public-private partnerships for financing REDD+ projects.

The REDD Finance Roundtable: A Quick Chat With EDF, WWF, and UCS takes stock of the talks on the eve of the final REDD agreement.

For REDD Proponents, No Regrets  examines the early success of REDD pilot projects despite sluggish progress made in securing policy and financial support at the national and international levels.

US, UK, Norway Launch Next-Stage REDD Finance Mechanism Under World Bank examines a financing mechanism designed to support performance-based payments down the road.

After the talks, we began digging into the decisions and themes of the two-week talk, and will be rolling these stories out as they take shape.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part One: The Institutional Arrangements explores the last-minute deal that lays rules for governing REDD finance through 2015.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part Two: Recognizing The Landscape Reality explores the thinking behind the growing emphasis on “landscape thinking” in climate finance.

Unpacking Warsaw, Part Three: COP Veterans Ask, ‘Where’s The Beef?’ explores the reaction of carbon traders to the Warsaw outcomes and offers a peek into the year ahead.

Further stories in this series will explore the impact of individual decisions within the rulebook, the role that the rulebook can play in helping existing projects nest in jurisdictional programs, and the impact of the rulebook on the private sector.

11 November 2013 | WARSAW | Farms and forests loom large as year-end climate talks kick off here today. Negotiators are expected to agree on methods for measuring existing rates of deforestation in developing countries, and that will set the stage for clarity on how hundreds of millions – and, eventually, billions – of dollars in performance-based funding will flow to halt deforestation and promote climate-smart agriculture under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

But while global talks have yet to agree on ground rules for how to handle carbon emissions from forestry, voluntary markets are already delivering hard results. Indeed, Ecosystem Marketplace’s most recent State of the Forest Carbon Markets report showed that voluntary carbon projects are supporting an area larger than all the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo combined and are poised to keep 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over the next five years.

There is, unfortunately, a catch – and it’s a big one. The 1.4 billion-ton reduction that private conservationists have undertaken will only come to fruition if developers can keep their projects going, and developers can only keep their projects going if investors step up to buy millions of tons of reductions. That translates into a multi-billion dollar cash infusion, up to ten times more than all the money that’s flowed into voluntary forestry projects to-date.

Project developers concede that a significant proportion of this demand will have to come from compliance markets like California’s and public-sector purchases from donor countries and UN agencies. With land-use front-and-center in Warsaw, common sense would dictate a simple solution: simply incorporate the existing projects into emerging frameworks. Politics, however, dictates otherwise.

“A lot of bilaterals and multilaterals on the donor side are uncomfortable with having a direct relationship with projects,” said Naomi Swickard, manager of Agriculture, Forestry, and Land Use at the Verified Carbon Standard, quoted in the State of the Forest Carbon Markets report.

“We need to define structures that can reward emissions reductions at different scales within that type of relationship,” she added.

Those structures have come to be known as “nesting” – a general term for the various ways that existing projects can somehow be woven into emerging national accounting programs.

The Nesting Option

Donor countries like Norway and UN agencies like the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) will be sending billions to developing-world countries over the next few years, but most of that money is targeted to “readiness” initiatives that build up carbon accounting. Performance-based funding is part of the equation as well, but that won’t start flowing until much later – and isn’t likely to end up in existing projects.

That’s partly because voluntary projects follow rigorous methodologies developed for very specific instances. They have reference levels based on local factors, and their start dates aren’t tied to national strategy. That makes it difficult for donors to actually purchase offsets outright.

What they can do, however, is support the creation of national accounting mechanisms that make it easier to calculate leakage (which is what happens when a project reduces deforestation in one region only to see it move someplace else) and that also creates a trusted regulatory framework within which existing projects can “nest”.

“Nesting can create new opportunities for projects to access different types of finance from different sources of demand,” said Swickard.

Regional Markets

Meanwhile, regional programs such as those in Australia and in California can promote the use of forest carbon offsets, which would drive the demand needed to prevent the programs already underway from backsliding. Buyers in both locations sought forest carbon offsets in 2012 in preparation for domestic compliance regulations, with these credits often receiving above-average pricing, according to the report.

While California’s compliance cap-and-trade market launched in January, regulatory delays in releasing the offset program guidelines meant that many potential forestry projects found themselves in a holding pattern, an impact that would have been more noticeable in the North American region had it not been for significant volumes traded in the Chicago Climate Exchange’s offset program, according to Ecosystem Marketplace Co-Director Molly Peters-Stanley. Meanwhile, the future of Australia’s carbon price is uncertain, with new leadership pledging to ax the country’s carbon tax.

The lack of a compliance market that fully embraces forestry projects remains the fundamental problem in raising capital for such projects, said Eric Bettleheim, CEO and Founder of Floresta Group, speaking to attendees of the 2013 State of report launch last week.

“We need a market with real demand, demand that is measurable, demand that is driven by large commercial players needing to comply,” he said. “This has eluded us again and again. It eluded us in the EU ETS. It eluded us most recently in Australia. It may even elude us in California, which I think would be a tragedy.”

“Until we have a compliance market, we’re going to continue to struggle to find a financing model which is robust and consistent,” Bettleheim added.

Following California’s Lead

California’s program currently allows improved forest management, avoided conversion and urban forestry offsets and the regulations have placeholder language that would allow international forestry offsets to become eligible. But California legislators could renew a push to prevent the state program from becoming the first compliance market to welcome REDD offsets, particularly amid vocal opposition to REDD by certain environmental and indigenous groups.

Bettleheim implored stakeholders to pressure key decision makers in California to ensure that the market works. “The real problem with carbon markets is that because it’s a legal regime, it attracts political interference,” he said. “That repeated interference causes enormous stress, particularly on an early-stage market.”

The US state, as well as other second-generation markets developing in China, Japan and South Korea, have learned from the mistakes of the EU ETS and are better designed than the programs put forth by the first movers in the carbon markets.

“My fear is that if California doesn’t work, nobody is going to follow,” Bettleheim said. “That the first generation of markets wasn’t properly designed is hardly surprising. Hopefully one of (the second-generation markets) will actually take forest credits as part of the system. I think the nearest and most impressive political and most important globally is California. Where California goes, the rest of the states go. Where (the United) States goes, a lot of the rest of the world will go.”

California has a memorandum of understanding with the Mexican state of Chiapas and the Brazilian state of Acre, with Acre seen to be further along in the quest to become the first jurisdiction-scale program to deliver REDD compliance offsets based on its use of the Verified Carbon Standard’s (VCS) jurisdictional nested REDD guidance. Between 60-95 MtCO2e of VCS REDD credits are rumored to be coming from Acre soon.

“It’s a big number,” said Alfred Evans, CEO, investor Climate Change Capital. “However, the government there is pretty sophisticated. They know what happens when you flood a market. I don’t think you’ll see millions and millions of tons suddenly transacted.”

Evans objected to the notion that the carbon markets have collapsed, citing the implementation or efforts to implement carbon markets in California, China and Rio de Janeiro and continued trading in the EU ETS, albeit at much lower prices than in previous years. Even the Australian carbon pricing program, now under threat from newly elected lawmakers, may shift from a tax to a market-based mechanism, he said. Policymakers continually return to markets as a potential tool to mitigate GHG emissions in their geographies, Evan said.

“Carbon markets have not gone away. In fact, they have proliferated,” he said. “The EU ETS hasn’t collapsed as of the last time I checked since we trade it every day. What has happened is the price has come down. But that tells us the market is working. It’s sending a signal that reflects supply and demand. It’s telling us that the design of the market might need to be addressed. It is a carbon market and it is highly relevant. And if you look around the world, it is one of many.”

Drawing in the Private Sector

Recent funds that have closed are not raising money from private equity investors, some of whom have either been burned by or lost confidence in the carbon markets, Bettleheim said. “Private investors are not here and the few that are there are very anxious and they don’t bet on carbon,” he said. “They want to know there is a hard asset that they actually can take away when the whole thing goes bust. They want downside protection.”

The problem for financing forestry projects is that these investors are stewards of private capital and they have to protect their returns, Evans said. His firm is in relatively advanced discussions around some forestry projects with other revenue streams such as agroforestry, tropical hardwoods and Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, with carbon seen more as peripheral revenue stream rather than guaranteeing a good return on investment.

“Impact investors want a financial return and the carbon market won’t give them that,” he said.

This has led to an increasing focus on measuring and quantifying the non-carbon benefits and impacts of forestry projects, the report found. In 2012, the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards (CCB Standards) and the VCS introduced a joint project approval and offset issuance process, with the CCB Standards supplying the criteria for evaluating land-based projects’ community and biodiversity co-benefits.

“It’s really difficult to monetize the different impacts that forestry projects have, but for a lot of projects it’s very important to address these different impacts besides carbon,” said Kars Riemer, Consultant for NGO Face the Future.

 

Gloria Gonzalez is the Senior Associate in Ecosystem Marketplace’s Carbon Program. She can be reached at ggonzalez@eocsystemmarketplace.com.

Steve Zwick is Managing Editor of Ecosystem Marketplace. He can be reached at szwick@ecosystemmarketplace.com

Registration Closes For London Launch Of State Of Forest Carbon Market Report

After weeks of frantic typing Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets report officially launches today in London. The number of registrants is now above capacity, but anyone who confirmed before close of business yesterday is guranteed entry. We will still try to accomodate anyone who still wants to sign up today, but it may be tight.

6 November 2013 | COP19 is just around the corner. Whether you’re traveling to wintery Warsaw or just want a refresher on the world of forest finance, join Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace as we unveil our most recent State of the Forest Carbon Markets report on November 6, 2013. The report will be freely available for download on our website on and after this date.

In 2012, the State of the Forest Carbon Markets report was Ecosystem Marketplace’s most widely-accessed research product. This year’s edition explores topics ranging from global market activity; to the time-cost of the project cycle; to the changing dynamics of forest finance. This year’s report is supported by more data points and representing projects in more locations than ever before.

Join us to learn about the results first-hand at our London launch event! Hosted by Ecoinvest Services/Bunge Environmental Markets, we will host a panel of experts to present and discuss report findings from 4:30-6pm, followed by cocktails. The number of respondents is currently above capacity, but feel free to contact Steve Zwick (SZwick@ecosystemmarketplace.com) if you want to attend and have not registered.  

You’re Invited: 2013 State of the Forest Carbon Markets Report Launch, London

When: 4:30-6pm

Where: Bunge Environmental Markets/Ecoinvest (in the Norton Rose building)
  3 More London Riverside SE1 2AQ
  London, United Kingdom

Who
: The panel will be moderated by Christopher Webb, Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers; and includes: Alfred Evans, CEO, Climate Change Capital; Eric Bettleheim, CEO and Founder, Floresta Group; Kars Riemer from Face the Future; and the 2013 report authors.

Ecosystem Marketplace wishes to thank our 2013 report Premium Sponsors: The Program on Forests (PROFOR), the World Bank BioCarbon Fund, Face the Future, and New Forests; Sponsors Althelia Ecosphere and Baker & McKenzie; and additional support from the UK Forestry Commission’s Woodland Carbon Code; all of which enable Ecosystem Marketplace to explore developments on the frontier of ecosystem service finance.

 

A Changing Climate: Implications For Business

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and an European initiative working to curb climate change has produced a summary of the IPCC’s report that came out last week and confirmed man’s influence on the changing climate. Directed at the business community, the summary is perhaps more easily readable than the report while remaining scientifically accurate.

4 October 2013 | “Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system,” said Thomas Stocker of the IPCC, when releasing the first installment of the panel’s Fifth Assessment Report on Friday, 27 September in Stockholm.

The IPCC’s report Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis is the most detailed assessment of climate science ever. Over 2,000 pages of scientific consensus make clear that climate change is real, that it is happening now and that human influence on the changing climate is more certain than ever.

The impacts of climate change will present growing challenges for the governments of the world – and unforeseen risks for the global business community. Rising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, disappearing glaciers and acidifying seawater will all have direct impacts on many industrial sectors.

A Document for Business

To help the business community better understand the implications of climate change for their business model, the European Climate Foundation, which promotes energy and climate policy that reduces carbon emissions in Europe, have produced a digestible summary of the IPCC report.

Published by the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School and the Programme for Sustainability Leadership and supported by the ECF, Climate Change: Actions, Trends and Implications for Business distils the key findings of the report into an easily readable, but non-the-less scientifically accurate document.

Encouraging industry to act on ‘the challenge of the century’

The ECF have circulated this document across a variety of industrial sectors, but need more help to disseminate it further. By spreading this document as far and wide as possible, they hope to create a common understanding of the climate threat among the business community, thus encouraging industry to act on what world leaders refer to as the most significant challenge of the 21st century.

Share this open-source publication with business networks, post them online or use them for presentations and at events.

The full guide and infographic are available for download here.

Registration Closes For London Launch Of State Of Forest Carbon Market Report

After weeks of frantic typing Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets report officially launches today in London. The number of registrants is now above capacity, but anyone who confirmed before close of business yesterday is guranteed entry. We will still try to accomodate anyone who still wants to sign up today, but it may be tight.

6 November 2013 | COP19 is just around the corner. Whether you’re traveling to wintery Warsaw or just want a refresher on the world of forest finance, join Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace as we unveil our most recent State of the Forest Carbon Markets report on November 6, 2013. The report will be freely available for download on our website on and after this date.

In 2012, the State of the Forest Carbon Markets report was Ecosystem Marketplace’s most widely-accessed research product. This year’s edition explores topics ranging from global market activity; to the time-cost of the project cycle; to the changing dynamics of forest finance. This year’s report is supported by more data points and representing projects in more locations than ever before.

Join us to learn about the results first-hand at our London launch event! Hosted by Ecoinvest Services/Bunge Environmental Markets, we will host a panel of experts to present and discuss report findings from 4:30-6pm, followed by cocktails. The number of respondents is currently above capacity, but feel free to contact Steve Zwick (SZwick@ecosystemmarketplace.com) if you want to attend and have not registered.  

You’re Invited: 2013 State of the Forest Carbon Markets Report Launch, London

When: 4:30-6pm

Where: Bunge Environmental Markets/Ecoinvest (in the Norton Rose building)
  3 More London Riverside SE1 2AQ
  London, United Kingdom

Who
: The panel will be moderated by Christopher Webb, Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers; and includes: Alfred Evans, CEO, Climate Change Capital; Eric Bettleheim, CEO and Founder, Floresta Group; Kars Riemer from Face the Future; and the 2013 report authors.

Ecosystem Marketplace wishes to thank our 2013 report Premium Sponsors: The Program on Forests (PROFOR), the World Bank BioCarbon Fund, Face the Future, and New Forests; Sponsors Althelia Ecosphere and Baker & McKenzie; and additional support from the UK Forestry Commission’s Woodland Carbon Code; all of which enable Ecosystem Marketplace to explore developments on the frontier of ecosystem service finance.

 

This Week In Biodiversity:
Firsts For US Wetland Banking; UK Ponders A National Offsets Program

The UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has released a green paper on nationwide biodiversity offsets, although the paper has met with criticism from environmental groups arguing offsets should only be used as a last resort after other options have been exhausted. In the US, a land swap in Minnesota between the government and an environmental investment firm could create the country’s largest wetland mitigation bank.

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

12 September 2013 | Greetings! In the US mitigation world, we have a few big headlines this month. A land swap between Ecosystem Investment Partners and Minnesota state and county government would create the country’s largest wetland mitigation bank in St. Louis County. Pennsylvania just got its first commercial bank, while Connecticut finally has an in-lieu fee program. And Restoration Systems is getting into the conservation banking game, with a new partnership with Common Ground Capital recently announced.

Last week, the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released a green paper on using biodiversity offsets nationwide, asking for public comment. The proposal is based on two years of pilots and extensive review of offset program design, including an Ecosystem Markets Task Force recommendation noting that offsets could restore and protect 300,000 hectares in the UK over the next two decades.  

Still, the green paper’s been met with a wave of bad press. Environmental groups say that offsets could equate to a “license to trash,” and that Defra’s creating a “market ripe for abuse.” But at the less hyperbolic end of the spectrum, many of the greens’ concerns – that offsetting should be a last resort after options to avoid or minimize impacts are exhausted, and that offsets should take place as close to the original impact as possible – are widely-accepted principles of effective offsets, and discussed in Defra’s green paper. (The mitigation hierarchy itself is actually already embedded in the National Planning Policy.)

 
Defra says it’ll only move forward with offsetting if the mechanism can be shown to deliver net gains for biodiversity, streamline planning, and not put economic burdens on business. The consultation period will end on November 7th.

 

Happy reading,

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


EM Exclusives

In The Colorado Delta, A Little Water Goes A Long Way

For years, scientists assumed the Colorado River delta – where a young Aldo Leopold once paddled his canoe through “a hundred green lagoons” abounding with life – was a dead ecosystem. For years, virtually no water was left for environmental health after seven US states and Mexico took their share. The Colorado, over-allocated by sixteen percent, hasn’t reached the sea in fifteen years. Nine-tenths of the original wetlands are gone. Much of the delta has become desert.


But a coalition of non-governmental organizations spanning the US-Mexico border think they can bring the delta back. “This as an ecosystem with high resiliency, and we have learned that with a little bit of water we can achieve significant restoration,” says Osvel Hinojosa, Pronatura Noroeste’s Water and Wetlands program director. Using water rights markets, recaptured wastewater, and a groundbreaking new federal deal, the Colorado River Delta Water Trust is breathing new life into an ecosystem widely assumed to be gone forever.

Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Mitigation News

UK Government Seeking Comments on Biodiversity Offsets Plan

The UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), recently released a document for public comment on how they expect to implement biodiversity offsets. This consultation paper stems from priority recommendations made in the Ecosystems Market Task Force report, Realising Nature’s Value, which was published in March 2013. Through the proposed program, net biodiversity gains are expected by providing an opportunity for farmers and landowners who create or restore wildlife habitats to sell conservation credits to developers who need to offset their environmental impacts. The current proposal builds on lessons learned from other countries and six pilot projects currently underway in England.

 

The program is being presented to the public as a means for achieving environmental goals and economic development in rural areas. So far, the proposed program has received support from industry and environmental groups although some claim that biodiversity offsets are a license to destroy wildlife. The consultation will last for nine weeks and conclude in early November.

Get the full story here.

Offsets for the Great Barrier Reef: A Double-Edged Starfish?

A $40 million conservation trust fund directed towards the Great Barrier Reef is being proposed by the Australian government to manage the negative effects of Crown of Thorns starfish and runoff from agriculture. The money for the proposed trust fund would come partly from biodiversity offsets payments, resulting from the environmental approval process for projects that adversely affect the reef under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and the associated Biodiversity Offsets Policy. Projects already approved under the Act will require some AUD $185 million in offsets – so this could mean a big source of finance for the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Therein lies the worry for some: that this arrangement will result in approval decisions for development projects based on cash flow needs, and it will result in government disinvestment in conservation initiatives. There’s also some concern over lack of clarity around methods used to calculate offset requirements.

Learn more about the issue at The Conversation.

In the UK, A Biodiversity-Friendly Solar Project

A five-megawatt solar project in England, Tavells Lane Farm, has demonstrated that solar panels and biodiversity can mix well. While this farm used to be a brownfield used as a quarry-cum-landfill site, today solar panels and chamomile flowers have covered the grounds. Research by independent ecologists commissioned by Lightsource Renewable Energy, the developer of the site and the UK’s largest solar energy firm, has confirmed that leaving areas of land passive and fallow for solar farms boosts local biodiversity. Lightsource believes that the moving and turning of the ground during the installation phase, followed by five months of inactivity has created the perfect habitat for the flowers without any planting or seeding. According to this developer, solar farms can be excellent habitat in the sense that once the panels are installed, the property is for the most part. It’s a bright spot of news in an often-contentious relationship between renewable energy and wildlife protection. The full study will be released this autumn.

Read more at the Green Building Press.

Location, Location, Location

The town of Gramalote in Colombia has become one of the first examples in the world where natural ecosystems have played a central role in the town’s relocation planning process. This is a town that has been destroyed by heavy rains and mudslides three times in the last two centuries. After the 2010 mudslide, 6,000 of Gramalote’s inhabitants had to be relocated to nearby villages. Today, the new Gramalote is being designed on a site that was chosen based on the most robust models available for understanding ecosystem services in tropical and mountainous conditions, including FIESTA/WaterWorld, Costing Nature, and Tremarctos. Actual construction is expected to begin in 2014 and inhabitants will move in 2015.

Keep reading.

Textile Industry Not Happy About India’s Biodiversity Tax

The Indian central government through the Biological Diversity Act (2002) and Rule (2004) has imposed a tax on industries where they have to pay 2% amount of their annual income to the state biodiversity board. Funds will then be invested in environmental conservation activities lead by civic entities. However, industry groups and state governments are resisting the central government tax. The textile industry for example, said that the Act did not apply to them because they use ginned cotton instead of raw cotton. In the State of Madhya Pradesh, the industry minister, Kailash Vijayvargiya has asked industries not to comply until the State cabinet sings its approval. At stake is the potential for collecting Rs 5,000 per year from businesses.

Get the story from the Times of India.

Restoration Systems and Common Ground Capital Announce Partnership

Wetland and stream banking firm Restoration Systems LLC announced this month that it will partner with Edmond, Oklahoma-based Common Ground Capital LLC (CGC). The partnership sets the ground for Restoration LLC, which manages more than 50 banks around the US, to expand its activities in the conservation banking world. CGC has already begun developing Prairie Chicken conservation banks across 86,000 acres of habitat in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

 

“I’m excited about having an experienced partner in Restoration Systems to complement our valued relationships with our landowners. We are building a responsible business that implements large-scale conservation projects while delivering meaningful net benefits to the habitat and the wildlife we seek to protect, preserve or restore in the future,” said Wayne Walker, Principal of Common Ground Capital, in a press statement.We are having great success restoring prairie ecosystems in Texas and think our land management skills and financing will contribute to CGC’s efforts across Southern Plain states and beyond.” added George Howard, Restoration Systems’ Co-Founder and CEO.

Read a press release at the WSJ’s MarketWatch.

NatCap Index To Be Launched in 2014

The 2014 edition of the State of Green Business report is going to tackle a new topic: natural capital. GreenBiz and Trucost say the report will include a new Natural Capital Leaders Index. Trucost has developed a methodology allowing comparison for both direct and supply chain impacts across sectors, broken out into carbon, water, and waste impacts. The index will capture companies that have “effectively have decoupled the growth from environment impact,” says Richard Mattison, Trucost’s CEO. “In other words, while they’re growing their revenues, their environmental impact and their dependency on natural capital — and therefore their risks of that natural capital not being available, or being degraded — are minimized. So, really what we’re doing is we’re highlighting resource-efficient businesses.”

Read more at GreenBiz.

‘Mountains to Markets’ Project Aims at Biodiversity-Friendly Products in Pakistan

A new GEF/UNDP project in Pakistan, ‘Mountains and Markets’ will build both demand and capacity for biodiversity-friendly products in the country. IUCN Pakistan and the Pakistan government’s Climate Change Division inked the deal last week during the GEF Global Environmental Facility Steering Committee meeting. The project will support voluntary certification of biodiversity-friendly non-timber forest products (NTFP). Biodiversity threats in the region are exacerbated by limited opportunities for sustainable livelihoods; the projects aims to establish 50 biodiversity community enterprises and invest in collaborative forest management approaches, access to technical and financial services, and other capacity building.

Read a press release.
Learn more about the project.

Primer for Coastal Managers on the Blue Carbon

Two new tools from Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) are designed to help coastal managers assess their own “blue carbon” opportunities. A briefing document, Coastal Blue Carbon as an Incentive for Coastal Conservation, Restoration and Management: A Template for Understanding Options, explains the science, management, and market mechanisms behind blue carbon. Wetlands’ carbon sequestration capabilities can make forest carbon look like pretty small beer; but land managers may as yet be unaware of ways to capture blue carbon values. RAE is leading a technical working group developing wetland carbon protocols under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). A video on evaluating blue carbon opportunities is also available.

Download the brief (pdf).
Watch the video.

Mitigation Roundup

Some news and notes from the wetland mitigation world this month:

 

  • Pennsylvania welcomed its first-ever commercial mitigation bank recently, with the approval of Resource Environmental Solutions LLC’s Upper Susquehanna River Mitigation Bank Phase 1. The Bank covers the Upper Susquehanna River sub-basin.
  • A land swap between St. Louis County/the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Investment Partners would create the largest wetland bank in the US in St. Louis County, MN. EIP would acquire and restore 22,000 acres of drained swamplands in exchange for upland forest property – precise acreage and location TBD. The Conservation Fund is acting as a broker. The deal’s expected to be approved by the county this week.
  • There’s a new in-lieu fee program in Connecticut, with the National Audobon Society acting as a partner to the Army Corps of Engineers. Previously, only permittee-responsible mitigation has been possible in the state.

 

EVENTS

 

Third Meeting of the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity

The third meeting of the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity, organized jointly with the Canadian Business and Biodiversity Council (CBBC), will provide a platform to strengthen the engagement of business and the private sector, as well as the mainstreaming of biodiversity into sustainable development (Decision XI/22), aligning with the ongoing consultations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developed at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). The meeting’s objectives include: provide businesses and other stakeholders with concrete information and case studies related to CBD COP decisions and sector-specific issues, thereby encouraging and facilitating mainstreaming of biodiversity in their general activities; provide businesses and other stakeholders with a forum for feedback and recommendations for future CBD COPs; and strengthen the Global Partnership by bringing together national and regional initiatives. 2-3 October 2013. Montreal, Canada.

Learn more here.

10th World Wilderness Congress

WILD10, the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WWC), is the most recent in what has become the longest-running, international, public conservation project. It is a two-three year process of collaboration between many groups, governments, experts in all fields, community representatives, businesses, scientists, artists and more. Clearly, wild nature is under threat all over the world, and human society needs to change if we are to solve the issues in front of us. There are also good stories to tell, ones that tell us who we are, and where we need to go. We can do it! What makes the WWC…and WILD10…different and effective? First, it is not just a “conference,” rather it is a process of collaboration aimed towards practical results for wild nature and people; using a positive, inclusive approach to problem solving; emphasizing intergenerational solutions; recognizing that culture is equally as important as good policy, effective resource management, and state-of-the-art science; and involving a great diversity of people and professions who understand the importance of wild nature to a healthy and prosperous human society — from tribal communities to heads of state, Nobel Laureates to local activists, scientists and artists, and more. When the 10th WWC actually convenes, part of it may look like a conference, but if the process works then it is much more, and the practical results and outcomes will be matched by a sense of inspiration, hope, and action. 4-10 October 2013. Salamanca, Spain.

Learn more here.

Biosymposium 2013: Biodiversity Resilience

The annual Biodiversity Institute Symposium this year will tackle the subject of Biodiversity Resilience. Factors leading to the loss of resilience in social-ecological systems are the focus of many excellent on-going research programmes and symposia. However, this two-day symposium aims to highlight the other side of the resilience research agenda – namely factors that promote and lead to resilience of biodiversity. The symposium will showcase ongoing research that examines the biotic and abiotic processes and mechanisms responsible for biodiversity resilience (ranging from genomics to landscape-scale), through to policies and management that ensure resilience of biodiversity now and in the future. 2-3 October 2013. Oxford, UK.

Learn more here.

Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development

The Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development will bring together business leaders, NGOs and policy-makers from around Southeast Asia to discuss commitments and policy recommendations to increase sustainability across seven sectors – agriculture & forestry, palm oil, consumer goods, mining, financial services, building & urban infrastructure and energy.The forum will discuss the transformational journey to the green economy and offer practical ways to accelerate business solutions and policy frameworks for a more sustainable world. 18-19 November 2013. Singapore.

Learn more here.

World Forum on Natural Capital

The inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital will be the first major global conference devoted exclusively to turning the debate on natural capital accounting into action. It will build on the enormous private sector interest shown at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio in June 2012 and the many developments that have taken place since. The World Forum on Natural Capital will bring together world-class speakers, cutting edge case studies and senior decision makers from different sectors, in order to turn the debate into practical action. Lively plenaries and interactive breakout sessions in four conference streams will explore the risks and opportunities for business, allow access to the very latest developments and provide an opportunity to help shape the debate through dialogue between policymakers, business leaders and prominent experts in the field. 21-22 November 2013. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Learn more here.

2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

The only national conference that brings together key players in this industry, and offers quality hands-on training and education sessions and important regulatory updates. Learn from & network with the 400+ attendees the conference draws, offering perspectives from bankers, regulators, and users. Submit proposals for panels and presentations online by October 1st! 6-9 May 2014. Denver, Colorado.

Learn more here.

Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration

CEER is a Collaborative Effort of the leaders of the National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER) and the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER). It will bring together ecological and ecosystem restoration scientists and practitioners to address challenges and share information about restoration projects, programs, and research from across North America. Across the continent, centuries of unsustainable activities have damaged the aquatic, marine, and terrestrial environments that underpin our economies and societies and give rise to a diversity of wildlife and plants. This conference supports SER and NCER efforts to reverse environmental degradation by renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats for the benefit of humans and nature. CEER is an interdisciplinary conference and brings together scientists, engineers, policy makers, restoration planners, partners, NGO’s and stakeholders from across the country actively involved in ecological and ecosystem restoration. Dedicated session proposals are due August 30th! 28 July – 1 August 2014. New Orleans, LA.

Learn more here.

JOBS

 

Director of Conservation

The Nature Conservancy – Alaska, USA

The Director of Conservation oversees all aspects of conservation planning, applied science, land protection and stewardship and community and partner relations for the Alaska Program of The Nature Conservancy. Provides scientific leadership and support for TNC’s conservation planning work and establishes overall conservation priorities within the context of the strategic plan for Alaska. Supplies strategy, technical and program support to Conservancy field operations. S/he serves as the principle contact to government agencies, other conservation organizations, and the academic community. Serves as a core member of the Alaska Leadership Team. The Director of Conservation also assists the State Director in representing Alaska issues in regional and global programs of The Nature Conservancy.

Learn more here.

Senior Program Officer for Climate Change Adaptation

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Washington DC, USA

World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world’s leading conservation organization, seeks a Senior Program Officer for Climate Change Adaptation. Under the supervision of the Managing Director, plans, manages, communicates and implements activities to promote climate change adaptation and disaster risk management, including providing technical support to WWF US programs and WWF field offices to conduct vulnerability assessments and guidance on mainstreaming climate change and disaster risk considerations into conservation strategies.

Learn more here.

Conservation Programs Assistant

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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

EM Exclusives

In The Colorado Delta, A Little Water Goes A Long Way

For years, scientists assumed the Colorado River delta – where a young Aldo Leopold once paddled his canoe through “a hundred green lagoons” abounding with life – was a dead ecosystem. For years, virtually no water was left for environmental health after seven US states and Mexico took their share. The Colorado, over-allocated by sixteen percent, hasn’t reached the sea in fifteen years. Nine-tenths of the original wetlands are gone. Much of the delta has become desert.


But a coalition of non-governmental organizations spanning the US-Mexico border think they can bring the delta back. “This as an ecosystem with high resiliency, and we have learned that with a little bit of water we can achieve significant restoration,” says Osvel Hinojosa, Pronatura Noroeste’s Water and Wetlands program director. Using water rights markets, recaptured wastewater, and a groundbreaking new federal deal, the Colorado River Delta Water Trust is breathing new life into an ecosystem widely assumed to be gone forever.

Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Mitigation News

UK Government Seeking Comments on Biodiversity Offsets Plan

The UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), recently released a document for public comment on how they expect to implement biodiversity offsets. This consultation paper stems from priority recommendations made in the Ecosystems Market Task Force report, Realising Nature’s Value, which was published in March 2013. Through the proposed program, net biodiversity gains are expected by providing an opportunity for farmers and landowners who create or restore wildlife habitats to sell conservation credits to developers who need to offset their environmental impacts. The current proposal builds on lessons learned from other countries and six pilot projects currently underway in England.

 

The program is being presented to the public as a means for achieving environmental goals and economic development in rural areas. So far, the proposed program has received support from industry and environmental groups although some claim that biodiversity offsets are a license to destroy wildlife. The consultation will last for nine weeks and conclude in early November.

Get the full story here.

REDD+ Finance: Lessons From The US

Previous Coverage

Last year, we launced another series built on the findings of REDDX alone. Learn more about the initiative HERE

Part One: Tracking REDD+ Finance: Separating The Payers From The Posers provides an overview of the project and laysout its objectives.

Part Two: REDD Funding: The Horror Story That Isn’t examines the cumbersome accounting behind international aid in general and REDD finance in particular.

Part Three: Germany Beats Fast Start Finance But Sees Need For More Scale reviews the results of Germany’s Fast Start Finance period and reasons why they failed to meet their REDD+ commitment targets but succeeded in other areas.

Part Four: REDD+ Finance Leaves Pilot Projects In Limbo tells the story of a Ghanaian businessman seeking to launch a pilot project but is struggling to find funding from both international donors and private investors.

Part Five: The World Bank And The UN-REDD: Big Names, Narrow Focus provides a detailed overview of the biggest funding efforts of REDD+ as well as their interactions with each other.

Part Six: The Congo Basin Forest Fund Steps Up For REDD+ Piloting in DRC describes how the Congo Basin Forest Fund functions, who are the funders and lessons learned.

Part Seven: Brazil, Indonesia, And DRC Cooperate On Deforestation, See Future In REDD takes a high-level view of the impact of multilateral financing efforts on Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to date, and examines the prospects for REDD moving forward.

Every government agency, it seems, has a different way of accounting for REDD+ financing. That’s true for countries, and it’s even true for agencies within the same country. Here a quick look at how the United States does it, with a glance at Norway and the UK.

8 August 2013 | The Tropical Forest Group has been tracking the REDD+ finance flowing from the U.S. in its U.S. REDD+ Finance Database (USRFD). This contains more than 800 data points for REDD or sustainable forestry reported by United States agencies with data transcribed from public documents. Although it is not linked to the US government, the USRFD is the only centralized way to assess US REDD+ finance from USAID, the Treasury Department and the US State Department.

Different US agencies have different reporting styles and different ways for classifying expenditures, which presents a challenge when synthesizing and analyzing reports in the data base. For a variety of reasons, theTreasury and State Departments are required to provide detailed reports and a list of expenditures by country, while USAID provides more general overviews even though it often dispenses more money. Further, since finance flows from multiple agencies, redundancies are common and estimates can be revised after they have been posted. Rarely is there a comparable picture of what is being spent.

Still, we can draw general conclusions. Data from 2008 to 2011 shows US REDD+ finance focused on forest nations with large forests and relatively high GDP and the smallest overall capacity gaps for executing national forest monitoring systems that can link with an international REDD+ framework.
Several factors are likely to influence spending, but the trends may be because the US has focused its support on countries that can implement projects and there can be more certainty on the return.

While big picture trends emerge from spending, it is very difficult to link finance to impact. Tracking REDD+ finance would be much more effective if donor nations would strive to:

  • Report in specific line items with explicitly stated goals
  • Provide summary information and links to reports that show where and how the climate funds were or are being used;
  • Work with recipient countries in reporting

The Global Challenge

The US situation is hardly unique, and pinning down what REDD+ finance is can be tough given its variety of forms no matter which donor country you are examining. REDD+ finance might be channeled toward strengthening partnerships between local people and forest governments in one instance, and developing methods and technologies for forest carbon inventory and mapping in another.

This creates difficulties as many readiness activities are not fundamentally different from activities funded historically in forest conservation. Actors therefore count different things as REDD+ finance. Pulling apart what is REDD+ finance or how much finance can be attributed to any one activity is complex as much funding arrives with multiple objectives, or as part of national country programs.

Multiple Channels

Finance for REDD+ is also delivered in many different ways. Some countries, such as Norway, have a number of high value bilateral agreements and also tend to focus on emission-reductions as an outcome, such as for the Amazon Fund. The UK, in contrast, funds REDD+ mostly through multilateral REDD+ funds such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility or Forest Investment Program. The instruments through which finance is delivered can also differ, including: grants, loans, equity, loan forgiveness, insurance, and private investments, which affects the way finance is accounted for (is a grant the same value as a loan?).

These channels don’t all converge to a central point in country either. Forest, environment, or agriculture ministries, international or local NGOs, and other various intermediaries can be engaged as intermediaries and in implementing REDD+ projects. Where centralized reporting does not exist or function effectively, it is hard to establish the total amounts of REDD+ finance arrive in recipient countries as no one is counting everything.

Why it Doesn’t Always Add up

Aside from making aggregate figures on REDD+ finance elusive, variety in activities, channels and reporting of REDD+ finance, leads to discrepancies between contributor and recipient countries. The Voluntary REDD+ Database of the REDD+ Partnership, for example, reports US$3.35 billion from contributor countries through bilateral flows, while recipients report only US$1.44 billion. This occurs because the Voluntary REDD+ Database receives information from both bottom-up and top-down, whereas, most other initiatives seek just one data source.

While there may be political motivations for contributors to report significant amounts of spending, the differences are also likely to be a function of large bureaucracies not speaking the same language or following the same reporting process. There is also, often, a significant time-lag that exists between when a contributor country declares money spent (typically when it is allocated) and when a recipient nation recognizes it’s delivery (typically when it lands in a bank account). The regularity with which it is reported in a REDD+ finance database also comes into play. This makes it difficult to square reports across nations at any given time. Countries’ different fiscal years compound the problem.

Despite formidable challenges, the ability to more accurately track climate finance is critical to moving REDD+ forward. Being able to accurately track REDD+ finance also enables us to link expenditures to actual impacts so we can assess the effectiveness of a particular strategy, something critical to evolving REDD+ at this relatively early stage in the game. Ultimately, REDD+ finance, as well as climate finance more generally, will depend on trust and accountability. Without a way to accurately measure progress against commitments, neither is on solid footing.

REDD Infographic


This series of blogs on REDD+ finance intends to create a forum for debate and exchange of ideas, this blog reflects the opinions of Jeff Metcalfe of the Tropical Forest Group, and should not be understood to reflect the views of ODI, Forest Trends, REDDX or Climate Funds Update.

This Week In Biodiversity:Firsts For US Wetland Banking; UK Ponders A National Offsets Program

The UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has released a green paper on nationwide biodiversity offsets, although the paper has met with criticism from environmental groups arguing offsets should only be used as a last resort after other options have been exhausted. In the US, a land swap in Minnesota between the government and an environmental investment firm could create the country’s largest wetland mitigation bank.

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

12 September 2013 | Greetings! In the US mitigation world, we have a few big headlines this month. A land swap between Ecosystem Investment Partners and Minnesota state and county government would create the country’s largest wetland mitigation bank in St. Louis County. Pennsylvania just got its first commercial bank, while Connecticut finally has an in-lieu fee program. And Restoration Systems is getting into the conservation banking game, with a new partnership with Common Ground Capital recently announced.

Last week, the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released a green paper on using biodiversity offsets nationwide, asking for public comment. The proposal is based on two years of pilots and extensive review of offset program design, including an Ecosystem Markets Task Force recommendation noting that offsets could restore and protect 300,000 hectares in the UK over the next two decades.  

Still, the green paper’s been met with a wave of bad press. Environmental groups say that offsets could equate to a “license to trash,” and that Defra’s creating a “market ripe for abuse.” But at the less hyperbolic end of the spectrum, many of the greens’ concerns – that offsetting should be a last resort after options to avoid or minimize impacts are exhausted, and that offsets should take place as close to the original impact as possible – are widely-accepted principles of effective offsets, and discussed in Defra’s green paper. (The mitigation hierarchy itself is actually already embedded in the National Planning Policy.)

 
Defra says it’ll only move forward with offsetting if the mechanism can be shown to deliver net gains for biodiversity, streamline planning, and not put economic burdens on business. The consultation period will end on November 7th.

 

Happy reading,

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


EM Exclusives

In The Colorado Delta, A Little Water Goes A Long Way

For years, scientists assumed the Colorado River delta – where a young Aldo Leopold once paddled his canoe through “a hundred green lagoons” abounding with life – was a dead ecosystem. For years, virtually no water was left for environmental health after seven US states and Mexico took their share. The Colorado, over-allocated by sixteen percent, hasn’t reached the sea in fifteen years. Nine-tenths of the original wetlands are gone. Much of the delta has become desert.


But a coalition of non-governmental organizations spanning the US-Mexico border think they can bring the delta back. “This as an ecosystem with high resiliency, and we have learned that with a little bit of water we can achieve significant restoration,” says Osvel Hinojosa, Pronatura Noroeste’s Water and Wetlands program director. Using water rights markets, recaptured wastewater, and a groundbreaking new federal deal, the Colorado River Delta Water Trust is breathing new life into an ecosystem widely assumed to be gone forever.

Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Mitigation News

UK Government Seeking Comments on Biodiversity Offsets Plan

The UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), recently released a document for public comment on how they expect to implement biodiversity offsets. This consultation paper stems from priority recommendations made in the Ecosystems Market Task Force report, Realising Nature’s Value, which was published in March 2013. Through the proposed program, net biodiversity gains are expected by providing an opportunity for farmers and landowners who create or restore wildlife habitats to sell conservation credits to developers who need to offset their environmental impacts. The current proposal builds on lessons learned from other countries and six pilot projects currently underway in England.

 

The program is being presented to the public as a means for achieving environmental goals and economic development in rural areas. So far, the proposed program has received support from industry and environmental groups although some claim that biodiversity offsets are a license to destroy wildlife. The consultation will last for nine weeks and conclude in early November.

Get the full story here.

Offsets for the Great Barrier Reef: A Double-Edged Starfish?

A $40 million conservation trust fund directed towards the Great Barrier Reef is being proposed by the Australian government to manage the negative effects of Crown of Thorns starfish and runoff from agriculture. The money for the proposed trust fund would come partly from biodiversity offsets payments, resulting from the environmental approval process for projects that adversely affect the reef under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and the associated Biodiversity Offsets Policy. Projects already approved under the Act will require some AUD $185 million in offsets – so this could mean a big source of finance for the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Therein lies the worry for some: that this arrangement will result in approval decisions for development projects based on cash flow needs, and it will result in government disinvestment in conservation initiatives. There’s also some concern over lack of clarity around methods used to calculate offset requirements.

Learn more about the issue at The Conversation.

In the UK, A Biodiversity-Friendly Solar Project

A five-megawatt solar project in England, Tavells Lane Farm, has demonstrated that solar panels and biodiversity can mix well. While this farm used to be a brownfield used as a quarry-cum-landfill site, today solar panels and chamomile flowers have covered the grounds. Research by independent ecologists commissioned by Lightsource Renewable Energy, the developer of the site and the UK’s largest solar energy firm, has confirmed that leaving areas of land passive and fallow for solar farms boosts local biodiversity. Lightsource believes that the moving and turning of the ground during the installation phase, followed by five months of inactivity has created the perfect habitat for the flowers without any planting or seeding. According to this developer, solar farms can be excellent habitat in the sense that once the panels are installed, the property is for the most part. It’s a bright spot of news in an often-contentious relationship between renewable energy and wildlife protection. The full study will be released this autumn.

Read more at the Green Building Press.

Location, Location, Location

The town of Gramalote in Colombia has become one of the first examples in the world where natural ecosystems have played a central role in the town’s relocation planning process. This is a town that has been destroyed by heavy rains and mudslides three times in the last two centuries. After the 2010 mudslide, 6,000 of Gramalote’s inhabitants had to be relocated to nearby villages. Today, the new Gramalote is being designed on a site that was chosen based on the most robust models available for understanding ecosystem services in tropical and mountainous conditions, including FIESTA/WaterWorld, Costing Nature, and Tremarctos. Actual construction is expected to begin in 2014 and inhabitants will move in 2015.

Keep reading.

Textile Industry Not Happy About India’s Biodiversity Tax

The Indian central government through the Biological Diversity Act (2002) and Rule (2004) has imposed a tax on industries where they have to pay 2% amount of their annual income to the state biodiversity board. Funds will then be invested in environmental conservation activities lead by civic entities. However, industry groups and state governments are resisting the central government tax. The textile industry for example, said that the Act did not apply to them because they use ginned cotton instead of raw cotton. In the State of Madhya Pradesh, the industry minister, Kailash Vijayvargiya has asked industries not to comply until the State cabinet sings its approval. At stake is the potential for collecting Rs 5,000 per year from businesses.

Get the story from the Times of India.

Restoration Systems and Common Ground Capital Announce Partnership

Wetland and stream banking firm Restoration Systems LLC announced this month that it will partner with Edmond, Oklahoma-based Common Ground Capital LLC (CGC). The partnership sets the ground for Restoration LLC, which manages more than 50 banks around the US, to expand its activities in the conservation banking world. CGC has already begun developing Prairie Chicken conservation banks across 86,000 acres of habitat in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

 

“I’m excited about having an experienced partner in Restoration Systems to complement our valued relationships with our landowners. We are building a responsible business that implements large-scale conservation projects while delivering meaningful net benefits to the habitat and the wildlife we seek to protect, preserve or restore in the future,” said Wayne Walker, Principal of Common Ground Capital, in a press statement.We are having great success restoring prairie ecosystems in Texas and think our land management skills and financing will contribute to CGC’s efforts across Southern Plain states and beyond.” added George Howard, Restoration Systems’ Co-Founder and CEO.

Read a press release at the WSJ’s MarketWatch.

NatCap Index To Be Launched in 2014

The 2014 edition of the State of Green Business report is going to tackle a new topic: natural capital. GreenBiz and Trucost say the report will include a new Natural Capital Leaders Index. Trucost has developed a methodology allowing comparison for both direct and supply chain impacts across sectors, broken out into carbon, water, and waste impacts. The index will capture companies that have “effectively have decoupled the growth from environment impact,” says Richard Mattison, Trucost’s CEO. “In other words, while they’re growing their revenues, their environmental impact and their dependency on natural capital — and therefore their risks of that natural capital not being available, or being degraded — are minimized. So, really what we’re doing is we’re highlighting resource-efficient businesses.”

Read more at GreenBiz.

‘Mountains to Markets’ Project Aims at Biodiversity-Friendly Products in Pakistan

A new GEF/UNDP project in Pakistan, ‘Mountains and Markets’ will build both demand and capacity for biodiversity-friendly products in the country. IUCN Pakistan and the Pakistan government’s Climate Change Division inked the deal last week during the GEF Global Environmental Facility Steering Committee meeting. The project will support voluntary certification of biodiversity-friendly non-timber forest products (NTFP). Biodiversity threats in the region are exacerbated by limited opportunities for sustainable livelihoods; the projects aims to establish 50 biodiversity community enterprises and invest in collaborative forest management approaches, access to technical and financial services, and other capacity building.

Read a press release.
Learn more about the project.

Primer for Coastal Managers on the Blue Carbon

Two new tools from Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) are designed to help coastal managers assess their own “blue carbon” opportunities. A briefing document, Coastal Blue Carbon as an Incentive for Coastal Conservation, Restoration and Management: A Template for Understanding Options, explains the science, management, and market mechanisms behind blue carbon. Wetlands’ carbon sequestration capabilities can make forest carbon look like pretty small beer; but land managers may as yet be unaware of ways to capture blue carbon values. RAE is leading a technical working group developing wetland carbon protocols under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). A video on evaluating blue carbon opportunities is also available.

Download the brief (pdf).
Watch the video.

Mitigation Roundup

Some news and notes from the wetland mitigation world this month:

 

  • Pennsylvania welcomed its first-ever commercial mitigation bank recently, with the approval of Resource Environmental Solutions LLC’s Upper Susquehanna River Mitigation Bank Phase 1. The Bank covers the Upper Susquehanna River sub-basin.
  • A land swap between St. Louis County/the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Investment Partners would create the largest wetland bank in the US in St. Louis County, MN. EIP would acquire and restore 22,000 acres of drained swamplands in exchange for upland forest property – precise acreage and location TBD. The Conservation Fund is acting as a broker. The deal’s expected to be approved by the county this week.
  • There’s a new in-lieu fee program in Connecticut, with the National Audobon Society acting as a partner to the Army Corps of Engineers. Previously, only permittee-responsible mitigation has been possible in the state.

 

EVENTS

 

Third Meeting of the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity

The third meeting of the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity, organized jointly with the Canadian Business and Biodiversity Council (CBBC), will provide a platform to strengthen the engagement of business and the private sector, as well as the mainstreaming of biodiversity into sustainable development (Decision XI/22), aligning with the ongoing consultations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developed at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). The meeting’s objectives include: provide businesses and other stakeholders with concrete information and case studies related to CBD COP decisions and sector-specific issues, thereby encouraging and facilitating mainstreaming of biodiversity in their general activities; provide businesses and other stakeholders with a forum for feedback and recommendations for future CBD COPs; and strengthen the Global Partnership by bringing together national and regional initiatives. 2-3 October 2013. Montreal, Canada.

Learn more here.

10th World Wilderness Congress

WILD10, the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WWC), is the most recent in what has become the longest-running, international, public conservation project. It is a two-three year process of collaboration between many groups, governments, experts in all fields, community representatives, businesses, scientists, artists and more. Clearly, wild nature is under threat all over the world, and human society needs to change if we are to solve the issues in front of us. There are also good stories to tell, ones that tell us who we are, and where we need to go. We can do it! What makes the WWC…and WILD10…different and effective? First, it is not just a “conference,” rather it is a process of collaboration aimed towards practical results for wild nature and people; using a positive, inclusive approach to problem solving; emphasizing intergenerational solutions; recognizing that culture is equally as important as good policy, effective resource management, and state-of-the-art science; and involving a great diversity of people and professions who understand the importance of wild nature to a healthy and prosperous human society — from tribal communities to heads of state, Nobel Laureates to local activists, scientists and artists, and more. When the 10th WWC actually convenes, part of it may look like a conference, but if the process works then it is much more, and the practical results and outcomes will be matched by a sense of inspiration, hope, and action. 4-10 October 2013. Salamanca, Spain.

Learn more here.

Biosymposium 2013: Biodiversity Resilience

The annual Biodiversity Institute Symposium this year will tackle the subject of Biodiversity Resilience. Factors leading to the loss of resilience in social-ecological systems are the focus of many excellent on-going research programmes and symposia. However, this two-day symposium aims to highlight the other side of the resilience research agenda – namely factors that promote and lead to resilience of biodiversity. The symposium will showcase ongoing research that examines the biotic and abiotic processes and mechanisms responsible for biodiversity resilience (ranging from genomics to landscape-scale), through to policies and management that ensure resilience of biodiversity now and in the future. 2-3 October 2013. Oxford, UK.

Learn more here.

Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development

The Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development will bring together business leaders, NGOs and policy-makers from around Southeast Asia to discuss commitments and policy recommendations to increase sustainability across seven sectors – agriculture & forestry, palm oil, consumer goods, mining, financial services, building & urban infrastructure and energy.The forum will discuss the transformational journey to the green economy and offer practical ways to accelerate business solutions and policy frameworks for a more sustainable world. 18-19 November 2013. Singapore.

Learn more here.

World Forum on Natural Capital

The inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital will be the first major global conference devoted exclusively to turning the debate on natural capital accounting into action. It will build on the enormous private sector interest shown at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio in June 2012 and the many developments that have taken place since. The World Forum on Natural Capital will bring together world-class speakers, cutting edge case studies and senior decision makers from different sectors, in order to turn the debate into practical action. Lively plenaries and interactive breakout sessions in four conference streams will explore the risks and opportunities for business, allow access to the very latest developments and provide an opportunity to help shape the debate through dialogue between policymakers, business leaders and prominent experts in the field. 21-22 November 2013. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Learn more here.

2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

The only national conference that brings together key players in this industry, and offers quality hands-on training and education sessions and important regulatory updates. Learn from & network with the 400+ attendees the conference draws, offering perspectives from bankers, regulators, and users. Submit proposals for panels and presentations online by October 1st! 6-9 May 2014. Denver, Colorado.

Learn more here.

Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration

CEER is a Collaborative Effort of the leaders of the National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER) and the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER). It will bring together ecological and ecosystem restoration scientists and practitioners to address challenges and share information about restoration projects, programs, and research from across North America. Across the continent, centuries of unsustainable activities have damaged the aquatic, marine, and terrestrial environments that underpin our economies and societies and give rise to a diversity of wildlife and plants. This conference supports SER and NCER efforts to reverse environmental degradation by renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats for the benefit of humans and nature. CEER is an interdisciplinary conference and brings together scientists, engineers, policy makers, restoration planners, partners, NGO’s and stakeholders from across the country actively involved in ecological and ecosystem restoration. Dedicated session proposals are due August 30th! 28 July – 1 August 2014. New Orleans, LA.

Learn more here.

JOBS

 

Director of Conservation

The Nature Conservancy – Alaska, USA

The Director of Conservation oversees all aspects of conservation planning, applied science, land protection and stewardship and community and partner relations for the Alaska Program of The Nature Conservancy. Provides scientific leadership and support for TNC’s conservation planning work and establishes overall conservation priorities within the context of the strategic plan for Alaska. Supplies strategy, technical and program support to Conservancy field operations. S/he serves as the principle contact to government agencies, other conservation organizations, and the academic community. Serves as a core member of the Alaska Leadership Team. The Director of Conservation also assists the State Director in representing Alaska issues in regional and global programs of The Nature Conservancy.

Learn more here.

Senior Program Officer for Climate Change Adaptation

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Washington DC, USA

World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world’s leading conservation organization, seeks a Senior Program Officer for Climate Change Adaptation. Under the supervision of the Managing Director, plans, manages, communicates and implements activities to promote climate change adaptation and disaster risk management, including providing technical support to WWF US programs and WWF field offices to conduct vulnerability assessments and guidance on mainstreaming climate change and disaster risk considerations into conservation strategies.

Learn more here.

Conservation Programs Assistant

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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

EM Exclusives

In The Colorado Delta, A Little Water Goes A Long Way

For years, scientists assumed the Colorado River delta – where a young Aldo Leopold once paddled his canoe through “a hundred green lagoons” abounding with life – was a dead ecosystem. For years, virtually no water was left for environmental health after seven US states and Mexico took their share. The Colorado, over-allocated by sixteen percent, hasn’t reached the sea in fifteen years. Nine-tenths of the original wetlands are gone. Much of the delta has become desert.


But a coalition of non-governmental organizations spanning the US-Mexico border think they can bring the delta back. “This as an ecosystem with high resiliency, and we have learned that with a little bit of water we can achieve significant restoration,” says Osvel Hinojosa, Pronatura Noroeste’s Water and Wetlands program director. Using water rights markets, recaptured wastewater, and a groundbreaking new federal deal, the Colorado River Delta Water Trust is breathing new life into an ecosystem widely assumed to be gone forever.

Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Mitigation News

UK Government Seeking Comments on Biodiversity Offsets Plan

The UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), recently released a document for public comment on how they expect to implement biodiversity offsets. This consultation paper stems from priority recommendations made in the Ecosystems Market Task Force report, Realising Nature’s Value, which was published in March 2013. Through the proposed program, net biodiversity gains are expected by providing an opportunity for farmers and landowners who create or restore wildlife habitats to sell conservation credits to developers who need to offset their environmental impacts. The current proposal builds on lessons learned from other countries and six pilot projects currently underway in England.

 

The program is being presented to the public as a means for achieving environmental goals and economic development in rural areas. So far, the proposed program has received support from industry and environmental groups although some claim that biodiversity offsets are a license to destroy wildlife. The consultation will last for nine weeks and conclude in early November.

Get the full story here.

German Carbon Dealers Create One-Stop Forest-Carbon Shop For Buyers Across Europe

Forest Carbon Group and Forest Finance Group have decided to pool their sales operations to market their forestry-based emission-reduction projects to commercial and private customers across Europe, with a portfolio of products verified under the Gold Standard and the Verified Carbon Standard.

24 June 2013 | Germany’s forest-carbon market is fairly small compared to the market for renewable energy offsets, and people from Frankfurt-based Forest Carbon Group and Hamburg-based Forest Finance Group found themselves not only bumping into each other at conferences, but referring clients to each other as well, says Michael Sahm, FCG’s Director of Strategic Marketing and External Affairs. After a while, they figured it might make sense to join forces and offer project options to their clients together. The result is a formal marketing agreement between FFG subsidiary CO2OL and FCG announced June 6.

CO2OL is a division of the Forest Finance Group and offers eight projects, mostly reforestation and afforestation, in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Germany. It has a broad client base in several industries, including events/trade fairs, hotels, transportation/mobility and individual company projects that combine climate impact with green investment.

Forest Carbon Group offers five forest-carbon projects that are a blend of African projects that save endangered forests and reduce emissions from deforestation and deforestation (REDD) mechanism and North American projects that offer improved forest management (IFM). It has a strong focus on buyers in the energy, transport and manufacturing sectors.

Manufacturing companies were the leading buyers of offsets in 2012, when they transacted 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), according to the State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2013 report published by Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace. Energy utilities, primarily those based in Europe, were next in line, transacting 7.2 MtCO2e. The transportation sector – particularly aviation – was behind another 4 MtCO2e of transacted offsets.

Prominent buyers in these sectors included Chevrolet, Qantas, Allianz, Germany utility HSE Entega, and US-based utility Entergy.

“Some companies really want to walk the talk and offset their product emissions,” Sahm says. “They need large volumes.”

The European private sector, including offset retailers and regulated energy utilities, was the market’s biggest voluntary buyer by region – contracting 43 MtCO2e of offsets even in the face of significant challenges to Europe’s mandatory carbon market, the report notes.

Forest Carbon Group has developed its projects jointly under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) standard, while CO2OL has developed three forest-carbon projects certified under the CarbonFix standard as well as a landfill project that is certified under the Gold Standard and a handful of projects certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The CarbonFix projects will be transitioned to the Gold Standard, says Dirk Walterspacher, Managing Director of Carbon Business. Projects must undergo a one-month public comment period since the CarbonFix standard projects are not automatically converted to Gold Standard. The transition process started in September 2012 and will hopefully be finished in late 2013 or early 2014, he says.

Offset projects certified to the Gold Standard continued their steady market ascent, with voluntary buyers contracting a total volume of 10 MtCO2e from Gold Standard voluntary projects in 2012, according to the report. Ecosystem Marketplace will likely add forestry to the roster of Gold Standard-supported project types in its next report following the standard’s expansion into land use carbon offset certification due to its 2012 CarbonFix Standard acquisition for afforestation/reforestation projects.

“I think it’s a great thing [Gold Standard is] evolving into the land use space because I think it’s necessary,” Sahm says. “The remaining question is what is going to happen with the buyers, to what extent they accept that there are two standards.”

Buyers will be able to choose to buy offsets from projects certified to the new Gold Standard or the VCS + CCB standards, depending on which standard they prefer.

“We want to offer the best comfort zone for the clients,” Sahm says. “If they feel comfortable with Gold Standard, they should get Gold Standard. If they feel comfortable with VCS + CCB, they should get that.”

“From a sales point of view, it would be nice to have one globally accepted standard, which is not the case,” he adds.

Offsets certified to CarbonFix or Gold Standard commanded the highest average prices ($10.7/tCO2e and $10/tCO2e, respectively) in 2012, though both average prices were slightly to significantly lower than 2011 levels, according to the report.

Sahm says CCB is a good standard and company officials thought that Gold Standard had accepted not being in the land use space. But the Gold Standard’s announcement that it was entering the land-use space created some confusion for clients, although most clients would defer to Forest Carbon Group on the quality of the standard, he notes.

The sustainable forest management sector has competing standards that have managed to maintain market share, Sahm noted. “As long as the cake is big enough and growing, that shouldn’t be a problem,” he says.

Asia is not a major stronghold for either company as it is not a focus for their European clients, but Forest Finance does offer one project in Vietnam that Forest Carbon Group can offer to its clients, Sahm says. But projects in Africa and Latin America are “very popular” with many of Forest Carbon Group’s larger clients, who want to attach their offsetting programs to product lines in these countries, he says.

Forest Carbon Group’s large clients generally tend to prefer to diversify their portfolios, with forest offset comprising a portion of their overall offset portfolios, with orders for significantly large forestry transactions occurring about once a year, Sahm says.

“They want to be on the safe side,” he says. “It’s very rare that someone says ‘give us a million forestry offsets.’ That’s paradise, but it doesn’t happen often. Those big corporate moves are still rather rare.”

Efficiency has been the preferred project type in Germany, due in large part to pushback against forestry projects from NGOs, but that is starting to change. “It gives us a much, much better footing in the market and shows the issue of forest carbon/land use carbon has found a much better acceptance,” Sahm says.

“Offsetting was always perceived with a bit of mistrust and suspicion,” he adds. “The idea of offsetting has been seen as much more positive.”

Gloria Gonzalez is the Senior Associate in Ecosystem Marketplace’s Carbon Program. She can be reached at ggonzalez@ecosystemmarkeptlace.com.
Additional resources

Habitat Banking In Spain:
Moving Towards The Future

Spain has a shortage of public funds for nature and an overabundance of environmentally valuable land in private hands. It could, therefore, benefit greatly from conservation banking if the legal landscape can be adapted to recognize it. Here’s a look at the landscape and its pitfalls.

18 June 2013 | High Biological Value sites are regions where a wide variety of ecosystems concentrate, and Spain may have more of them in private hands than any other European country.

Most of the money dedicated to the conservation of natural areas in Spain, however, comes from public funding sources, and these sources are dwindling rapidly. It is, therefore, necessary to explore new ways of funding the land management activities that owners develop in rural areas and encourage them towards the conservation of nature. Habitat banking is one logical alternative.

Habitat Banking

The concept of Habitat Banking, as recently used in Spain, is a mechanism that can bring many new features to the Spanish environmental landscape, as it has done in other countries. However, understanding of the concept is limited, not only among the general population, but also in those specific sectors that are involved in its development.

Confounding this is a general confounding of habitat banking with more standard Command and Control models.

In addition, the lack of an agreed-on name for such mechanisms also helps to create confusion regarding the habitat banking concept. Even here, we will use different terms for different iterations of the same concept: mitigation banking and conservation banking, or even, as shown later in this article-biodiversity banking.

The Origin of the Concept of Habitat Banking in Spain

We must have a look back over the last few years to find some reference about habitat banking in Spain. This concept appeared in Spain as a result of the transposition of an EU environmental liability directive in 2007. The new regulatory framework provided the possibility of new instruments for the compensation of environmental damages signaling significant changes. The new framework established for the first time a mechanism that quantified damages requiring full reparation of environmental damage in ecological terms, leaving compensation in economic terms only for a little number of cases, in which ecological restoration is not possible.

At the same time, the European Commission entrusted a full study to examine the feasibility of introducing habitat banking existing in the European environment, according to both legal and environmental objectives and its compliance. Meanwhile, simultaneously, in Europe, market-based policies directed at the conservation of the natural environment are beginning to be promoted, such as the development of the European trade emission allowances (European Trading Systems , EU ETS).

The introduction of these changes showed up in references to habitat banking in Spain. The new legal framework aims to introduce this concept under the regulatory implementation of the new legislation as a mechanism to allow the repair of environmental claims. In early 2008, one of the provisions included in the draft read as follows: “…may be used to realize the compensation for the damage caused to the environment, market mechanisms previously made of natural resources. In this sense, Habitats Banking will be established.”

For various reasons, habitat banking lost the chance to appear in Spanish legislation. However, looking at it from a much more hopeful point of view, the door to debate over the preservation of our natural areas has been opened. This debate continues today, and also has been reinforced by the interest of the administration in order to protect habitat banking in a Spanish legal framework.

Interest in New Mechanisms Begins

The need for a larger debate on market-based mechanisms for conservation-like payments for environmental services-as well as on habitat banking was revealed at the 10th National Environmental Congress in Spain in November, 2010. At this meeting, possibly the most relevant forum in Spain related to the environment, the Forestry, environmental services and market mechanisms working group was formed. This working group brought together many of the top professionals in Spain to reach agreements and draw conclusions on the matter, awakening interest in these mechanisms.

Almost simultaneously, the first publication in Spain dedicated exclusively to innovative financial mechanisms saw the light. This publication, edited by EUROPARC-Spain, showed several alternative market-based mechanisms for conservation, protection and improvement of the environment, including habitat or conservation banking.

Subsequently, forums between stakeholders in development, land stewardship entities, professionals from different areas (finance, insurance, securities, legal …) and the Spanish government were held to launch a development proposal. This included events organized by the Engineers College, held in June 2011, regarding the prospects of habitat banking in Spain.

These developments culminated with two important events. First, in November 2011, the International Conference of Territorial Governance and Adaptive Management of Global Change brought together the main stakeholders along with international experts from the United States, the Netherlands and Germany to discuss the most crucial aspects in developing habitat model banks. This meeting generated rich discussions and diverse opinions. This allowed for the formation of a working group to develop needed tools.

The second milestone was the conclusion in the last and latest edition of the National Congress of Environment (CONAMA 2012), highlighting the technical session named Land Stewardship and Financing Mechanisms for Nature Conservation: Habitat Banking. This session analyzed the implementation phase of habitat banking, adding a new aspect to the debate: new sources of additional demand damage compensation, because of the economic adjustment that is taking place in Spain nowadays. The concept of biodiversity banking arises from this.

Furthermore, in the mentioned session, the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment presented a proposal to include habitat banking in Spanish legal framework. Moreover, a Spanish region proposed the inclusion of habitat banking in its regional policy, under the concept of biodiversity banking. It’s also likely that later this year, the concept “conservation banking” will come to the fore in a modification of the Environmental Impact Assessment National Act. That’s what we are working for.

Some companies have examined developing habitat banking in the Spanish scenario. According to the tool, Mercados de Medio Ambiente (Environmental Markets), some publications, such as Bancos de hí¡bitat: Una solucií³n de future, ( Habitat Banking: a solution for the future) have been launched according to specific habitat banks.

The Situation Today

Everyone knows about the economic dififculties in Spain today. Despite signs of recovery in the coming years, progress will be slow, especially when it comes to the growth of habitat banking. Natural demand of habitat banking is mainly determined by the need to offset impacts and damages from infrastructure and new urban development. These needs have been reduced almost completely making it necessary to find a new scenario that will promote new conservation strategies.

It is also necessary to develop the appropriate valuation tools in order to ensure the ecological and economical worth of the environment into the future. These tools will be necessary in creating a regulatory framework that covers habitat banking.

Practice Will Guide You…

Meanwhile, the stage is perfect for developing the methodology and operations required.

Governments are putting in their two cents as well. At Ecoacsa, we are trying to implement pilot experiences that make the model viable. Ecoacsa acquires knowledge and experience from models developed in other countries allowing them to learn from mistakes and develop an agile, effective, coherent and constructive model.

… and Help us to Move Into the Future

Habitat banking faces many challenges. Disclosure of these mechanisms is critical and necessary to generate a social agreement that will support a commitment to new conservation tools. We need a change in the current paradigm that allows everyone to quantify environmental impacts in ecological terms and not in economic terms but with little ecological effectiveness. In Europe, some countries have already laid the foundations with recognized experiences mostly led by governments. However, most countries still don’t have a regulatory framework.

But the right settings to present biodiversity legislation needs to be in place. Habitat banking will be, without a doubt, an essential aid to comply with the requirements imposed by the new European initiative in the field of “net biodiversity loss”, as envisaged for 2015 in the Europe 2020 strategy.

We are now at a turning point for the evolution of this mechanism in Spain. We will continue discussing the advances that occur, which helps to improve Spain’s conservation models.

David ílvarez Garcí­a and Isabel Gonzalez Alcalde are Executive Director and Director of business development of Ecoacsa Reserva de Biodiversidad and promoter of the initiative in Spain “Mercados de Medio Ambiente”