Mexico Aims For Inclusivity With New Carbon Norm, But Does It Bring Rigor?

10 August 2015 | The Mexican Carbon Norm, set to come into force on August 14th, aims to bring most of the country’s land-based carbon projects under one umbrella – though it leaves avoided deforestation projects out in the rain. The Norm, known as NMX, will be implemented step-by-step: first through a national carbon accounting system, then by taking stock of all existing land-based projects and creating an independent regulatory body to oversee them. 

“The purpose is to generate a national procedure, a certification, that provides access to uniformed validated credits in a voluntary market,” says Jaime Severino of the Carbon Projects and Markets program within CONAFOR, Mexico’s National Forest Commission. 

Mexico is already a mosaic of struggling conservation efforts – some designed with carbon finance in mind, and others simply aimed at conserving nature. The NMX aims to include those struggling conservation efforts by creating a sort of “forest carbon lite” that say provides a way of attracting funding, but that critics say lacks the kind of environmental rigor that companies and environmental groups demand. 

Central to the NMX is RENE, the national registry of emissions, which will register all domestic carbon projects and all emitting companies with emissions above 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). By October of this year, RENE is supposed to include all emissions data through the last quarter of 2014. 

The registry will validate Mexican projects already certified under voluntary standards, including the Gold Standard, the Verified Carbon Standard, and Plan Vivo. Forest carbon projects in Mexico have sold at least one million offsets over the years to voluntary buyers, for a total value of $9.6 million, according to Ecosystem Marketplace, which has tracked 12 active carbon projects in Mexico through an annual global market survey. 

But some prospective project developers are frustrated by the high transaction costs within the carbon market, especially when demand remains uncertain. While demand for forest carbon offsets grew 17% in 2014 over 2013, average offset prices dropped by more than $2 per tonne globally, with tree-planting and forest management projects reporting values that fell at the very low end of what is needed to sustain project activities, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’ State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2014 report. 

“People are sick of listening ‘your forest has value’ when they do not have money to support their family on daily basis with their intact forests,” says Eduardo Martínez from Investigación y Soluciones Sociambientales A.C.

National Context

Mexico was the first developing country to submit its climate pla to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and it was also the first county to set both a conditional and unconditional goal. The country committed to cut its emissions 25% under the “business as usual” scenario by 2030 without help, or increase the cut to 40% if it receives technical and financial support within the context of the international climate agreement. 

“In order to achieve rapid and cost efficient mitigation, robust global market-based mechanism will be essential,” the climate plan states.

Several Mexican states, including Chiapas, Oaxaca, Jalisco, and the tri-state area of the Yucatan peninsula, are in the process of working on REDD readiness – setting the stage to potentially receive international payments for avoided deforestation. Along with Acre, Brazil, Chiapas signed a memorandum of understanding with the US state of California’s cap-and-trade program, though regulators have not yet set a timeframe for deciding on whether to allow international offsets within the compliance program. 

However, REDD is explicitly excluded from the NMX, which instead focuses on reforestation, forest regeneration, forest sustainable management, conservation, and agroforestry at the project level – leaving REDD under different, jurisdiction-scale processes.

“The way to reduce degradation and deforestation is through a mix of policies that allow a coordinated action with a broad vision, in a broad territorial level, not a project level,” says Severino. 

“I think the mix of initiatives launched through the Mexican Norm is interesting, and that those projects that can’t be accommodated in the Norm, will be included in REDD+,” says Elsa Esquivel-Bazán, who is a project coordinator for AMBIO, a non-profit organization based in Chiapas.

Uncertainty Reigns

The NMX was developed through a three-year stakeholder consultation process that involved NGOs, universities, the National Ecology and Climate Change Institute, and the Federal Office for Environmental Protection. 

During the consultation process, several organizations argued that communities should have the opportunity to work with voluntary markets. NMX therefore maintains the possibility that a project could be certified by CONAFOR without receiving carbon offsets through the Norm – NMX would simply help to quantify those reductions at a national level and avoid double-counting, but the project could continue selling into the voluntary market. 

While the goal of NMX is to streamline and reduce the costs of certification under a national standard and create demand among domestic buyers, experts remain hazy on the details.

“Because there’s no clarity regarding the regulations between the voluntary markets and the new markets that CONAFOR aims to build, there is no incentive for projects at the local level to certify under this Norm if they are able to certify under other voluntary markets standards whose rules are clearer,” says Martínez. The problem, he says, is that by aiming to be inclusive, the NMX may end up being irrelevant. 

NMX provides a foundation for forest carbon projects, says Esquivel-Bazán, but fails in creating demand incentives. Last year, Ecosystem Marketplace tracked just under $200,000 in forest carbon offset purchases by Mexican companies. 

Another potential complication is land rights. While NMX applies to forest owners under any property regime – whether it be ejido ownership, community ownership, private land, or federal property – the Norm specifies that the property must be legitimized according to the civil code of each state. In many cases, the only way to prove ownership is with notarial deeds, and sources estimate that roughly one-third of landowners in some states don’t have the resources needed to obtain these documents, although we have not validated that figure.

Severino explains that the proof of ownership is crucial since the application of the Norm will result in marketable goods (carbon offsets), and it must be clear who the beneficiary is. The procedures for determining land rights under NMX are not unique to the Norm but used in several procedures at the federal level, he says. 

According to CONAFOR, some of the challenges NMX faces are: raising enough interest among landowners and project developers; creating a critical mass of certified carbon offset to create a forest carbon market; and building domestic capacity for project development while still keeping certification costs low. 

This first year will be crucial for developing the infrastructure for NMX and making sure benefits are distributed. NMX seeks to complement other projects that are already underway, such as the Mexican Carbon MéxicoCO2 platform, which was launched last November, and operates within the structure of the Mexican Stock Exchange (BMV).

Seven Questions, Seven Answers: How Can Brazil Achieve Zero Net Deforestation

31 July 2015 | Brazil has reduced its annual greenhouse gas emissions more than the entire European Union has – largely by reducing deforestation a staggering 76%. With less than five months to go before year-end talks in Paris, a new policy brief says that Brazil can achieve “zero net deforestation” by 2020 with international help – or risk backsliding without it. 

Specifically, the brief outlines financing mechanisms, such as green bonds and forest carbon finance, that can be used to bring deforestation to a level just 10% of what it was a decade ago, with that being offset by the country’s pledge to reforest 12 million hectares of degraded land. By definition, zero net deforestation means that any forests lost are replaced. Published jointly by Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends and the Earth Innovation Institute, the policy brief is available for free download here and argues that existing pledges can achieve a 40% reduction in nation-wide emissions while expanding the production of food, fiber and biofuel. 

Indeed, the brief says, the reductions that Brazil has already achieved kept nearly 5 billion tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere and locked up in trees. 

“[This reduction] has made Brazil a global leader in climate change mitigation,” the study days. “But the costs of this feat were borne almost entirely by Brazil alone, and markets for Brazilian agricultural products have been slow to recognize the scale and significance of this achievement.” 

They ask – and answer – seven questions designed to identify way of preventing the country from backsliding: 

  1. Could Brazil achieve zero net deforestation and zero net forest carbon emissions nationally?
  2. Would the decline in deforestation necessary to achieve these targets allow for continued growth of agricultural production?
  3. Would striving for this goal place additional burden on smallholders, who have largely been omitted from the low-deforestation agenda?
  4. If Brazil succeeds in ending illegal deforestation, as promised, will that also slow deforestation?
  5. Could an ambitious INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) help increase market access of Brazil’s agricultural and forestry products?
  6. Could the INDC help Brazil attract the private investment that will be needed to achieve this ambitious agenda?
  7. How could these finance innovations and other interventions help drive Brazil’s transition to an equitable, sustainable, low-emission development model?

Seedlings And Children: Taking Care Of Our Common Future

7 July 2015 | The scene is idyllic: Children scamper across a clearing in a forest, a boy swings a baby into the air, nuzzling the child’s cheek. A girl windmills her arms as she skips to a nearby hammock hung between two enormous trees. A group of women work steadily at making jewelry, staying cool in the shade of one family’s dwelling. The task demands great concentration, as they pound tiny shells into shiny beads, using very large and very sharp knives.
It’s a slice of a day in the life of the Paiter-Suruí, a group of indigenous people in Brazil, where the community is thriving in more than 20 villages straddling the Brazilian states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso, tending their rainforest home and strengthening the centuries-old culture that has sustained them.

But such a scene was greatly endangered after the Suruí’s first prolonged contact with the world beyond the forests surrounding their villages in 1969. Since being almost wiped out by disease, the Suruí gradually have been recovering and building their community to be stronger. Not the least of such efforts involves fighting continued threats from illegal mining, logging, and cattle ranching to their home, the rainforest.

It’s a fight that endangers not only the future of the Suruí and other indigenous peoples who call the rainforest home, like the Yawanawa community in the Brazilian state of Acre, but also the future of our planet. The rainforests of Earth act as enormous sponges, sucking up carbon in our atmosphere and storing it, carbon emissions that would otherwise play a huge part in accelerating climate change.

The statistics are daunting: Settlers illegally log and convert indigenous forests to pasture, often with violence. Cattle ranching is one of the primary drivers of deforestation, constituting 80 percent of the world’s deforestation to date. And in just one year, 2010, the Suruí, expelled 100 logging operations from their lands.

More than a quarter of forests in developing countries are owned and/or managed by indigenous and other forest communities. The maintenance of indigenous peoples’ traditional cultural and customary practices is connected with the conservation of the Amazon rainforest, which in turn is the most important reservoir of carbon stocks globally. In the Brazilian Amazon alone, roughly 27 percent of carbon stocks are found on indigenous lands, representing approximately 13 billion tons of carbon.

 Chief Tashka Yawanawa
Chief Tashka Yawanawa

But the Suruí and the Yawanawa aren’t alone in their struggles as stewards of these valuable swaths of land — they just got some important help in their fight to maintain their forests.

A Partnership on Many Levels

Jonathan Spampinato, head of Communications and Strategic Planning at the IKEA Foundation, explains in a recently released video, “Creating a Better Future for Children in the Amazon,” how the foundation and the international nonprofit Forest Trendsare working with the Suruí and the Yawanawa, leading voices of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin, around the management and protection of their forest lands.

“We’re here to support the Suruí and the Yawanawa tribes to make sure that living near these supply chains is something that they can learn from, but at the same time still protect their ancestral lands, still protect their traditional and family values,” says Spampinato. “But do it in a way that prepares their children for the future.”

The work is part of an innovative partnership called Leveraging Opportunities for Amazonian Indigenous Youth and Women in Brazil. The thrust of the program is to provide ways for the community to thrive through the integrated management of the forests, establishing alternatives to non-sustainable timber extraction and cattle ranching, providing new livelihood opportunities within the Suruí and Yawanawa communities, as well as nourishing their traditional cultures.

The four components of the program are “Women’s Empowerment,” “Agroforestry Training,” “Peer Youth Learning Exchanges,” and “Alternative Energy.”

The program kicked off last year with the opening of a handicrafts store run by Suruí women. The store’s cabinets brim with a rainbow of colors: exquisitely beaded bracelets and necklaces, baskets, and other items. All the profit goes back to the women of the Suruí villages, offering a new and much welcome level of economic independence and empowerment.

The Yawanawa women also sell their handicrafts. “Through this work,” says Julia Yawanawa, a crafts leader in the Mutum village, “we are able to afford basic things that we need. A hammock. A blanket. Soap.”

A New Relationship With the Forest — and an Eye to the Future

A group of Surui men tromp through the forests, carrying heavy loads. Yet they are not loggers with a mission to clear-cut the trees and ship them to be made into expensive furniture. Rather, these indigenous people carry machetes and seedlings. The knives they use to hack large fronds of bananas they have meticulously planted and now will harvest to consume and sell, and the seedlings will be planted with a careful and informed eye to sustainability. The small plants have come from a garden in the communities’ clearing, where clusters of men dig in the dark earth, tending the plants that will replenish the surrounding forests.

Their work is the foundation of the Agroforestry Training part of the program, building on traditional techniques of rainforest maintenance. “We are combining indigenous knowledge with modern science to come up with better ways to provide for the communities’ subsistence, as well as income opportunities,” says Beto Borges, Director of the Communities and Markets Program at Forest Trends. Borges has worked closely with IKEA Foundation to establish this most recent initiative. “We are producing forest products, like Brazil nuts, cocoa, coffee, and bananas, and in this way securing the communities’ diet, as well as producing alternative income to benefit their communities.”

Another aspect of the program is the Peer Youth Learning Exchange. This provides a forum for youth from the Suruí and the Yawanawa communities to come together and exchange ideas and information. In this way, they strengthen their individual communities but also give power to the voice of indigenous people as a whole.

 Surui woman and child

At one such gathering, a group of young people sit in the cool interior of the Yawanawa community center, a large wooden structure. Their faces are solemn and curious, eyes bright. Through meetings like this one, “they can share ideas about the past, but also share ideas about the future. It’s a leadership program for them,” says Spampinato.

“The beauty and power of the youth exchange is that the indigenous kids, the youth, are really being honored and feeling proud of their own culture,” says Borges. “And in that way they can maintain and learn that other youth, non-indigenous youth and the world in general will in time really value and respect their rights.”

This lesson is not lost on the participants, as one young woman explains in the video. “It was important that our cultures met because we have a lot to learn from each other. And it made us stronger and proud of being indigenous, encouraging us to live and protect the culture that we were born into.”

The work of protecting this culture is an example of promising new efforts to protect the Amazon, one of our planet’s most precious resources. These efforts — coming from the people who live there, like the Suruí and the Yawanawa, and from programs like those spearheaded by IKEA Foundation and Forest Trends — reflect a hope and promise that is all too often missing from current discussions of climate change. This work also points to a certain reverence and deep understanding of the forest land of our planet, an understanding held most closely by indigenous people.

“Our culture was almost extinguished,” says Chief Almir Suruí, who has led his community’s recovery, and has great faith in this most recent endeavor. “It is a great honor to be able to contribute to the survival of our culture.”

This Week In Water: A Brazil Matrix And Supply Chain Risk

This month, Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends launched an interactive map and database tracking and categorizing over 2,000 payments for ecosystem services in Brazil called the Brazilian Matrix of Ecosystem Services. In other news, a diverse national water quality trading network released a program-building guide.

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

29 June 2015 | Greetings! Brazil holds more than 12% of the world’s freshwater, but citizens in some parts of the country – most notably Sí£o Paulo – have been suffering unprecedented drought this year, in part because of past failure to appreciate the linkages between forests and water supplies. In some quarters, however, the drought has led to a second look at the interlocking services Brazil’s vast natural resources provide: the carbon that its forests keep locked up as they regulate water and the thousands of species of plants and hundreds of species of birds and freshwater fish in its Canada-sized Cerrado, among others.

Brazil’s incredible natural heritage is the
raison d’íªtre for a boom in innovative market-based mechanisms to preserve the country’s natural capital.
We’re excited to announce a new initiative launching this month from Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends with the support of Brazilian non-profit organization Fundo Vale and the Good Energies Foundation: the Brazilian Matrix of Ecosystem Services (Matriz Brasileira de Serviços Ecossistíªmicos), an interactive map and database of more than 2,000 payments for ecosystem services programs across Brazil categorized by type: water, carbon, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, livestock, and bundled projects.


The Matrix, which has been more than three years in the making, can act as an information and decision-support tool for Brazilian market-makers: “It’s essential for us to understand that all ecosystem services are interconnected if we’re to develop a new and innovative market,” said Mauricio Moura Costa, Executive Director of Bolsa Verde do Rio, an Brazilian organization promoting market mechanisms for environmental compliance.


In other news this month, leaders continue to connect the dots between agriculture, water risk, and supply chains. Start with a look at a new report from Ceres that examines the blind spots between corporations and the farmers in their supply chains. South African Breweries is chipping away at the problem with a new sustainable barley program; meanwhile a new initiative in Gujarat, India, will pay farmers to install solar-powered irrigation pumps in an effort to lessen pressure on groundwater.

Speaking of supply chains, we’re hiring! Ecosystem Marketplace’s Supply Change initiative is seeking a research assistant to help us track corporate commitments to reduce ecological impacts in supply chains.


Finally, water quality trading in the United States got a boost this month with a new publication from the National Network on Water Quality Trading for stakeholders wondering whether and how to build a trading program. The guide breaks down key decision points and design options, bringing much-welcomed clarity to a technical and complicated process. Learn more and get a copy here.


— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please contact


Brazilian Ecosystem Services Matrix Brings Transparency To Environmental Finance

Brazil is not only a hotbed of ecosystem services, it’s also testing grounds for the market-like payments for ecosystem services approach to conserve and manage these natural services. And now, a new initiative launching this month provides a comprehensive way to track, understand and scale these programs using an interactive mapping and database system.

Learn more here.

Mixed Initial Responses To Final US Clean Water Rule

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers finalized their Clean Water Rule in late May. First impressions of the rule, meant to clarify which wetlands and streams are covered under the Clean Water Act, are mixed.

Keep reading at EM.


Murray-Darling Buybacks Funding Sinks Under New Government

Late last month, Australia’s Liberal Party made good on its campaign promise to cap federal spending on buybacks in the Murray Darling Basin. Buybacks, under which the government buys and effective retires water rights to keep water instream in the beleagured river system, will be capped at 1.5 billion cubic meters (m3) out of a total target of 2.75 billion m3. Funds will be redirected to infrastructure improvements – which critics have pointed out cost three times as much per drop of water restored.

Circle of Blue has the full story.

Resistance to New Clean Water Rule Floods Capitol Hill

Earlier this month, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, which would force the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to rewrite their recently finalized Clean Water Rule. The Federal Water Quality Protection Act now goes to the Senate floor.

Learn more from EP Newswire.

California Learns Water Conservation from the Masters

Residents of Tucson, Arizona are rooted in a thrifty water culture, with water cops, water-harvesting systems, natural desert vegetation, and more expensive rates for higher users. Now, nearby states like California, still grappling with the region’s dry conditions, are starting to pay attention.

Al Jazeera America has coverage.

Plans to Make the Great Lakes Region a Vision of Water Sustainability

A Great Lakes interstate agency, the Credit Valley Conservation Authority, is attempting to re-design water management in the region so it captures the efficiencies and benefits of natural water systems. Starting with several pilot projects and leveraging private finance to fund stormwater management, the Authority intends to implement green infrastructure measures, which will build resiliency and sustainability both ecologically and economically, the agency says.


Learn more.

Grenada Rebuilds the Reefs

Grenada’s government in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is embarking on an ambitious initiative to restore coral reefs surrounding the island country. Kerricia Hobson of Grenada’s Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment noted to the Inter Press Service the multiple benefits of reefs, including supporting the tourism and fisheries industry and coastline protection.

Keep reading here.


They Just Wrote the Book on Water Quality Trading

The National Network on Water Quality Trading, a water quality trading-focused coalition of government agencies and environmental and industry organizations, released a reference document meant to promote the effective development of trading programs. It builds on 11 key design components complete with examples and pros and cons of each approach.

Learn more.
Read about it on the USDA blog.
Download the document (pdf).

‘Til the Well Runs Dry

More water was removed than replaced in 21 of the world’s largest 37 aquifers in the last decade, signaling alarming rates of groundwater depletion, a new study using NASA satellite data finds. Researchers hope the study leads to improved groundwater management, but demand for this resource is only increasing as the California drought lingers and densely-populated regions lack alternative water sources.

Read it at the Washington Post.

New Government Web Platform Puts Environmental Markets on Display

The US Department of Agriculture made public a new online platform that showcases its work supporting the growth of environmental markets. The site is full of success stories, the department says, and will continue to be updated with new tools and news on the subject.

Check out the new platform.

A Sunny Solution to Groundwater Depletion and Poverty in India

The International Water Management Institute of Sri Lanka hatched a new scheme that incentivizes Indian farmers to conserve groundwater. Farmers using solar-powered irrigation pumps can sell excess electricity back to the state, an innovative mechanism that reduces groundwater depletion while aiding the rural poor.

Learn more at National Geographic.

Growing a Connected System Of Farmers and Buyers

Few global food companies are assessing water risk in their agricultural supply chains, according to Ceres’ new report, which identifies a lack of good data on water use in farming operations as a major obstacle. The nonprofit recommends a shift away from fragmented supply chains to integrated systems, which it says will help streamline data collection and make collaboration and communication between corporate food buyers and growers easier.

Get coverage at National Geographic.
Download the report.

Canadian Insurance Sector Bullish on Natural Infrastructure

Despite recent high-profile flood disasters in Calgary and Southern Albert, most Canadians can’t get overland flood insurance (a fact that makes Canada unique among G8 countries). Private insurers say they can’t cover costs or even accurately price risk, since the country’s floodplain maps are unreliable and the natural infrastructure that can absorb or redirect flooding isn’t up to the challenge posed by climate change. Now, the insurance sector is helping support the development of a natural infrastructure adaptation program focused on wetlands.

Learn more.

New Mexico Ramps Up Watershed Investment Portion of Infrastructure Package

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez announced an additional $3.5 million in funding for watershed restoration in priority areas on public lands. The funds supplement $6.2 million allocated last year as part of an $89 million capital infrastructure spending law.

KWRG has coverage.

Ecosystem Services: The Secret to Low-Cost Farming?

New research finds that enhancing ecosystem services, like natural pest control and soil health maintenance, in reduce farming costs for agricultural operations. Payments for ecosystem services schemes can play a role in making a shift to sustainable agriculture and then help farmers to maintain these systems.

Read it at Huffington Post.

Water Market Believers Continue to Pitch its Potential in California

Advocates of thriving water markets in California point to Australia’s successful use of the mechanism to survive ten years of drought as a prime example of its potential. Supporters say the drought-prone state already has the necessary infrastructure to move water around which, at the least, supports market-oriented policy if not the massive system the Aussies have implemented.

Keep reading here.

A Difference of Opinion Over the Meaning of Conservation Funds in Florida

Three environmental organizations have sued the Florida legislature over what they say is misuse of funds slated for water protection and land purchases for conservation, claiming lawmakers spent millions of dollars on activities unrelated or loosely related to conservation. The group is seeking a court declaration preventing conservation funds from being used as general revenue.

Reuters covers the suit.

SAB Builds a Better Brew with Sustainable Barley

South African Breweries (SAB) recently kicked off a sustainable agriculture program in the South African city of Taung. The initiative is part of SAB’s Better Barley Better Beer, aimed at supporting green economic development and SAB’s own supply chain management efforts.

Read a press release.



Research Assistant – Supply Change

Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace – Washington DC, USA

As companies commit to reduce the ecological impacts of their commodity supply chains, Supply Change provides transparency to their progress – and tracks commitments that count. The Supply Change project is a transformational resource for businesses, investors, governments, and the civil society organizations that support and hold them accountable; providing real-time information on the extent and value of commitment-driven commodity production and demand.

Learn more here.

Climate Scientist, Climate & Energy Program

Union of Concerned Scientists – Washington DC, USA

The Washington, DC based Climate Scientist will carry out research and analysis, outreach, and media activities in support of the Climate and Energy Program. In particular, this position will serve as a resource to the UCS media team by providing robust, timely, accessible, and policy-relevant information on climate science with an emphasis on impacts and adaptation.

Learn more here.

Program Manager – Climate Change and Sustainability

Environmental Science Associates – Northern CA, USA

ESA’s Sustainable Communities Group helps clients navigate the increasingly complex and interconnected needs of business, environment, and society, as climate change and other stressors increase the need for informed decision making and effective stakeholder communication. We serve public and private sector clients, offering planning, technical assistance, and policy expertise in climate change, energy, water, transportation, solid waste, and resource conservation. ESA is seeking an experienced and creative Planner/Program Manager to work under our Sustainable Communities Program Director assist with business development, manage projects, provide technical direction, and forge internal (cross-practice) and external partnerships that will lead to successful outcomes for a diverse range of projects.

Learn more here.


6th SER World Conference on Ecological Restoration

SER (Society for Ecological Restoration) 2015 in Manchester aims to be the major restoration event of the year. Building on recent successful world congresses and regional meetings such as SER Europe 2013 in Finland, we hope to attract a large number of academics and practitioners who will share good practice and network successfully in one of the homes of the industrial revolution. The title: “Towards resilient ecosystems: restoring the urban, the rural and the wild” should provide something for everyone, whether working in highly urbanised, ex-agricultural, or natural wild environments. We mean this conference to be as inclusive as possible and are keen to showcase not only the important scientific developments, issues and solutions, but also the cultural, educational and artistic aspects of restoration ecology. We are hosting a wide range of different types of events during the conference period, with pre-conference training workshops, conference symposia posters, workshops, and oral presentations, as well as half day field trips to see landscapes at first hand. 23-27 August 2015. Manchester, United Kingdom.

Learn more here.

EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets

USDA and EPA are cosponsoring a National Workshop on Water Quality Markets. This event is hosted by the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska and coordinated by The Conservation Fund. The Workshop will highlight recent progress in water quality trading across the country with an emphasis on policy, resources, and tool development. The Workshop will provide EPA and USDA with an opportunity to lay out their vision for the role of water quality markets in advancing conservation and water quality goals, and provide you with the tools to engage in water quality markets. 15-17 September 2015. Lincoln NE, USA.

Learn more here.


We are a network of heart-centered investors, entrepreneurs, and social impact leaders who believe in an inclusive and socially responsible economy to address the world’s toughest challenges. Since 2008, SOCAP has created a platform where social impact leaders can connect and present their ideas to a global audience. Our annual flagship event in San Francisco is the largest conference for impact investors and social entrepreneurs and has drawn more than 10,000 people. 6-9 October 2015. San Francisco CA, USA.

Learn more here.

8th ESP World Conference: Ecosystem Services for Nature, People and Prosperity

The 8th World ESP conference’s central theme is ‘Ecosystem Services for Nature, People and Prosperity’. The conference will pay special attention to the public and private sector dialogue on how the ecosystem services concept can be used to support conservation, improve livelihoods and engage the business community. We especially encourage delegates from businesses to attend the ESP conference in order to discuss challenges and opportunities in using the concept of ecosystem services to achieve conservation and sustainable use of our ‘natural capital’ within a market-context. The conference will provide an excellent platform to engage with experts who can generate solutions to these challenges and start making a difference in practice. 9-13 November 2015. Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Learn more here.

FLARE Network Conference

IFRI is developing a Community of Practice, Forests & Livelihoods: Assessment, Research, and Engagement (FLARE) network which aims to advance the state of knowledge regarding forest-based livelihoods. By bringing together representatives of key stakeholders – donor organizations, environmental and social NGOs, development agencies, and research organizations – we will build on and leverage existing expertise and efforts to share and advance cutting edge knowledge and conversations on forest-based livelihoods. Ultimately, the goals of FLARE are to generate usable information and methodologies for collecting it; develop, promote and share the findings of the group; and implement such tools, knowledge, and methods to improve monitoring efforts and, ultimately, the efficacy of forest-dependent livelihood interventions around the world. 27-30 November 2015. Paris, France.

Learn more here.


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

Indigenous People Build Fund For Direct Access To Climate Finance, Push For More Active Role In Proceedings

24 June 2015 | BONN/BARCELONA | Indigenous leader Juan Carlos Jintiach says he was ecstatic when governments around the world pledged $1 billion to end deforestation at last year’s climate summit in New York. He especially liked Norway’s pledge of $20 million per year to help indigenous people secure their rights. But he also knew what would happen next, as NGOs around the world quickly submitted proposals, and Norway issued a short-list of 53 finalists.

“In the end, only five indigenous organizations were invited to present final proposals,” says Jintiach, who at the time had just stepped down as Director for Economic Development of pan-Amazonian indigenous federation COICA.

“That’s how it always is,” he says. “We’ll be talking to governments directly, and asking them why they always have these bilateral government-to-government discussions, and then we’ll see $100 million change hands, and we’ll say, ‘What’s that for?’, and they’ll say, ‘That’s for indigenous people.'”


Left-to-Right: Juan-Carlos Jintiach (COICA), Jorge Furagaro Kuetgaje (COICA), Josien Tokoe (COICA), and Estebancio Castro Diaz (International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of Tropical Forests) at climate talks in Bonn.

Chris Meyer of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) says that at least $50 million in funding linked to reduced deforestation or “REDD+ finance” has already been allocated for indigenous people, but it’s in limbo, scattered among the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, the UN-REDD Program, and the Forest Investment Program – and that’s after he deducts 20% for administration and overhead.

“It’s not that the programs are doing anything nefarious,” he says. “It’s just that they’re bureaucratic and need to see a lot of things happen before they can release money.”

“I understand their reasoning,” says Jintiach. “They can’t just dump a bunch of money on us – I understand the need for accountability – but I think we can deliver that accountability.”

The Birth of the Indigenous Amazon Fund

In the last few years of his tenure, Jintiach had a front-row seat at the “grant games”, as COICA teamed up with NGOs like EDF, Woods Hole Research Center, and even Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends to secure direct funding from large donors like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is supporting COICA and a consortium of NGOs (including Forest Trends) under a program called AIME, which among other things helps indigenous people position themselves for REDD+ finance.

Current COICA director Edwin Ví¡squez Campos has been working to ready the organization and its members for REDD+ finance, and at mid-year climate talks in Bonn, COICA’s head of Environment, Climate Change and Biodiversity, Jorge Furagaro Kuetgaje, announced the creation of an Indigenous Amazon Fund, which is the brainchild of COICA consultant Roberto Espinoza and is designed to act as a kind of central bank for indigenous people across the Amazon.

Two weeks later, Campos announced that COICA would also seek to establish a more forceful presence in multilateral organizations like the Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Task Force, which is a network of subnational governments and governors working to address climate-change multilaterally.

At the GCF annual meeting in Barcelona, COICA was joined by Central America’s AMPB, the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests.

“We’re at the Table”

“We believe we share many common characteristics and core beliefs with the jurisdictions represented in the GCF,” the AMPB declaration stated. “We actively participate in the region´s REDD+ processes, emphasizing the importance of community forest rights, and offering our experiences as key lessons and cornerstones for addressing deforestation in our jurisdictions.”

COICA’s statement was more prescriptive and called for active indigenous participation in the development of national climate action plans, or INDCs (Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions), and asked for a signed agreement with the GCF recognizing COICA participation in strategic planning and implementation.

The Evolution of the Amazon Indigenous Fund

Jintiach, who now is an analyst in COICA’s Economic Development Cooperation, says the Indigenous Amazon Fund is being created based on feedback from donor nations and with support from EDF and other NGOs.

“Juan Carlos raised this issue with us last year, when we were working with him on the indigenous mapping project [which was announced at climate talks in Lima],” says EDF’s Meyer. “He’s been working with us ever since to see how we implement it, and also talking to donors to get a better feel for what they look for.”

The fund proposal will be refined at a series of COICA meetings, beginning in August, but Jintiach and Meyer both say some basic ground-rules have already been established.

“One thing is clear: COICA won’t be running it,” says Jintiach. “We’re spearheading it, but we’re not a bank, and we don’t want to become one, and donors won’t want that, either.”


The Indigenous Amazon Fund is designed to be an independent entity answerable to an outside board of directors.

Based on donor feedback, COICA and others are now suggesting the creation of a non-profit entity, with an independent board of directors as well as an advisory board, says Meyer.

“This is still nebulous and to be determined, but there is this window in the next six months for indigenous leaders to consult among themselves and figure out what they want,” he says. “With COICA, we need to help to build a lot of capacity to understand how these administrative mechanism funds work, based on existing intermediary funds like Funbio (the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund), and we can then help them create a proposal that’s hopefully good enough for Norway to say, ‘OK, we’re going to put whatever is left [of the $100 million pledged] directly into this indigenous fund, and hopefully get other countries to contribute to it as well.'”

“Once the fund exists, if donors want to give to indigenous peoples, we can say, ‘Here is a fund for indigenous peoples,'” says Jintiach. “If they need to see transparency, we can say, ‘Here are the books.'”

Beyond REDD+

Although REDD+ finance was the impetus for creating the fund, it’s ultimately designed to handle banking, loans, and other financing operations.

“Something like Canopy Bridge, which is a platform for indigenous producers to market their products, could be supported through the fund,” says Meyer.

“Exactly,” adds Jintiach. “In Ecuador, we developed an indigenous cacao cooperative, but the benefits go to intermediaries, because the banks, they ask for lots of requirements that we as indigenous people find difficult.”

He says an Indigenous Amazon Fund would better be able to assess indigenous programs for their viability because it would be run by people who understand indigenous business practices.

“We need a financial institution that understands how our economies work on the ground,” he says. “Our people need to develop their own economies.”

Jintiach expects to have a formal proposal by the end of August, and Meyer estimates the start-up costs at less than $1 million.

“This is really for the next generation,” says Jintiach. “For my generation, this kind of finance was all new to us, but kids today understand its importance. They’re the ones who will move this forward.”

Additional Resources

Read COICA’s statement (Spanish) to the GCF here.

This Week In Biodiversity: Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Teeters Between Cooperation And Conflict

Greater sage-grouses living in the US West received good news with Colorado announcing new voluntary conservation measures and the Bureau of Land Management rolling out landscape-level protection strategies. However, a new funding bill in the Senate aims to block a listing decison for another year. And on a separate note, Brazil passed a law granting easier access to Amazonia’s natural resources.

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

22 June 2015 | Greetings! On the US plains, the spring mating season for the Greater Sage-Grouse is winding down. Meanwhile, the humans sharing turf with the grouse can’t decide whether to make love or war over the bird.

An order by Colorado governor John Hickenlooper to establish a sage-grouse habitat exchange represents hope that cooperation will be enough to keep the bird off the Endangered Species List. Members of Congress are being a little more bellicose, with a proposed military bill that would block listing of the bird on national security grounds and a rider in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s new funding bill for the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency that blocks a decision on sage-grouse listing (currently scheduled for September) for another year.


Meanwhile, ten Western states have developed resource management plans (RMPs), creating high quality, science-based conservation in sagebrush ecosystems. In late May, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in partnership with the US Forest Service (USFS) rolled out their amendments. Following a three-month review process, the finalized plans will serve as governing guides for sagebrush ecosystems that fall on BLM and USFS lands.

“The RMPs require mitigation, which is a key piece of developing the market demand needed for conservation banking,” Theo Stein of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) tells Ecosystem Marketplace. Conservation banks for the greater sage-grouse are already starting to appear in Wyoming and Nevada, a sign that the ‘cooperation’ camp may be winning. As summer heats up, may the cooler heads (and workable solutions) prevail.


Last month also saw passage of a controversial law in Brazil allowing businesses easier access to Amazonia’s natural resources, even in indigenous areas, and cancelling $70 million in “bio-piracy” violations for a state-owned agriculture research firm. The government’s brushed off worries about fair compensation for indigenous people. India, meanwhile, has a law on the books requiring companies making use of biological resources for pharmaceuticals and other products to pay a biodiversity fee. But as the Hindu reports, the law is largely ignored.


We’re hiring! Ecosystem Marketplace’s Supply Change project, which tracks corporate commitments to reduce ecological impacts in commodity supply chains, needs a research assistant. Click the link to learn more and apply.



—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team


If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at


Mixed Initial Responses To Final US Clean Water Rule

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers finalized their Clean Water Rule in late May. First impressions of the rule, meant to protect US waterways from various sources of pollution through clearer definitions of which wetlands and streams are covered under the Clean Water Act, are mixed.

EM has coverage.


Market-Based Species Conservation Gets Boost From US Gov Land Management Plans

The US Bureau of Land Management late last month released its final environmental reviews of land-use plans containing greater sage-grouse habitat. As the plans make use of compensatory mitigation, those in the mitigation space are viewing the strategy as a potential driver to increase demand for market mechanisms like habitat exchanges and conservation banks.

Keep reading here.


Opinion: Rivaling Gold – Ecological Assets Outperform Traditional Commodities

After completing a price trend comparison between environmental products and traditional commodities, a long-time analyst of ecosystem markets says compensatory credits for wetland and species conservation are outperforming commodities like corn and farmland and even gold – giving a more literal meaning to the term ‘green gold.’

Read it here.


Brazilian Ecosystem Services Matrix Brings Transparency To Environmental Finance

Brazil is not only a hotbed of ecosystem services, it’s also testing grounds for the market-like payments for ecosystem services approach to conserve and manage these natural services. And now, a new initiative launching this month provides a comprehensive way to track, understand and scale these programs using an interactive mapping and database system.

Learn more here.


REDD+ And Green Supply Chains: The Yin And Yang Of Saving Forests

Companies worth more than $4 trillion have promised to reduce their impact on the world’s forests, and more than one-third of the new pledges came just last year, which more than doubled 2013’s total. Now comes the hard part: keeping those promises honest, and helping smaller suppliers adjust to the new demand. Here’s how public finance for forest protection can help.

Get the full story from Ecosystem Marketplace.

Queensland’s Offset Program: Waste of Time or Valuable Mitigation?

Australia’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection in Queensland is promoting an environmental offsets program that would generate a revenue stream for landowners willing to conserve parcels of land on their property, which will serve as mitigation for development impacts. However, the offset has to deliver a net-benefit to the environment – and ranchers remain skeptical the program will amount to anything.

ABC News has coverage.


US Nearing Peak Sage-Grouse Mania

Last month Colorado governor John Hickenlooper ordered the state to establish a habitat exchange to buy and sell conservation credits for the Greater Sage-Grouse, a move designed to stave off federal intervention to protect the bird through an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing.


Meanwhile in Washington, an alternative strategy to keep the Greater Sage-Grouse off the ESA – a $612 billion military bill that would block listing of the bird on national security grounds – has given Congress something new to fight over.

Read more from the Pueblo Chieftain about Colorado’s habitat exchange.
The New York Times has coverage of the sage-grouse fight in Washington.


Wolfensohn and Eko Asset Announce Merger

Wolfensohn Fund Management, a private equity fund focusing on developing-world finance and clean energy founded by former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, recently announced a merger with environmental markets investment management and advisory firm Eko Asset Management Partners. The new firm, dubbed Encourage Capital, aims to make the most of growing interest among high-net worth individuals in impact investment. Adam Wolfensohn and Jason Scott will serve as co-managing partners and Ricardo Bayon as chief impact and innovation officer.

Bloomberg has the story.


A Permitting System to Keep the Land and Sky Safer for Birds

After a year of consideration, the US Fish and Wildlife Service released a notice of intent to create a permitting system for unintentional bird kills related to development. As birds are often killed when they collide with power lines or land in oil and gas operations, the FWS says a permitting system could create a regulatory mechanism that delivers meaningful compensatory mitigation after impacts have been avoided or minimized.

Read more at E&E News.


EU Designs Biodiversity Offset System for Continental Use

Biodiversity offsetting is considered a necessary part of the European Union’s biodiversity strategy and recently, the International Conservation Fund, in association with experts and another conservation organization, published a report highlighting proper design and implementation measures for offsets. The study noted flexibility as key while identifying the maintenance of long-term benefits as critical.

Learn more here.


Can Biodiversity and Mining Co-Exist in Namibia?

Because the central portion of the Namib Desert in Namibia is rich in both uranium and biodiversity, several stakeholders collaborated to form the Strategic Environmental Management Plan, a public-private initiative aimed at coexistence between the development and conservation needs of the region.

All Africa has coverage.


New Law Opens Brazilian Amazon… to What?

Brazil’s president passed a controversial bill into law allowing businesses easier access to Amazonia’s natural resources, even in indigenous areas, and cancelling $70 million in “bio-piracy” violations for a state-owned agriculture research firm. The government, however, claims the law simply intends to promote development and indigenous people will be compensated fairly.

The Latin American Herald-Tribune has the story.


Biodiversity Fees Go Unpaid in India

Few companies are complying with national Biodiversity Act requirements that companies or individuals pay a fee for use of biological resources, according to the Hindu. The state-level Telangana State Biodiversity Board has issued more than a thousand notices but signed only two agreements with companies agreeing to pay biodiversity fees. The Gujarat Board has had slightly better luck, with 47 agreements signed.

Learn more at the Hindu.


Asking for the Right Kind of Biodiversity Offset in Britain

Two papers out of Britain note the key role biodiversity offsets could play in reconciling natural resource development with conservation, but also emphasize the absolute necessity that they are implemented correctly in a transparent process grounded in science. One study highlights potential risks of an offsets program lacking in these qualities.

Read the papers here.


US Wildlife Experiences Connectivity Issues

Large public lands designated for conservation like national parks are an important part of conserving biodiversity but they aren’t enough, according to two recent studies. Current conditions are too small and fragmented, report authors say, while what is needed are large conservation corridors that link ecosystems together allowing wildlife to flourish.

Get details here.


Ecosystem Services: The Secret to Low-Cost Farming?

New research found enhancing ecosystem services, like natural pest control and soil health maintenance, in agriculture operations can reduce farming costs with payments for ecosystem services schemes playing a role in making this shift to sustainable agriculture systems and enabling farmers to maintain such systems.

Learn more at the Huffington Post.


Scaling Up Fisheries Certification

A new report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) examines barriers to scaling up Marine Stewardship Council certification in the developing world. It’s a significant challenge: only 8% of currently certified fisheries are in developing countries, and an even smaller share of small-scale fisheries are certified.

Learn more and download the report here.





Supply Change Research Assistant

Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace – Washington DC, USA

Forest Trends is an international not-for-profit environmental conservation organization based in Washington, D.C. that works to achieve sustainable forest management and conservation by capturing the value for ecosystem services, and expanding the value of forests and other natural ecosystems to society. The Ecosystem Marketplace is an initiative of Forest Trends that works to link practitioners and decision-makers and advises companies, governments and other NGOs on voluntary carbon/forest carbon market developments, transparency, social and environmental co-benefits and other mechanisms.


We are seeking a research assistant for the Supply Change project. As companies commit to reduce the ecological impacts of their commodity supply chains, Supply Change provides transparency to their progress – and tracks commitments that count. The Supply Change project is a transformational resource for businesses, investors, governments, and the civil society organizations that support and hold them accountable; providing real-time information on the extent and value of commitment-driven commodity production and demand.


Initially, the work will span a 3-month period, with potential for extension for an additional three months. This is a temporary full-time assignment.

Learn more here.


Sustainable Investing Associate

World Resources Institute – Washington DC, USA

The Associate II will lead development of a sustainable investment research agenda for WRI and partner with WRI’s CFO to implement the WRI endowment sustainable investment strategy. While the position is a short-term position, the ambition is that the Associate will have created a robust strategy with an associated fundraising plan that would enable conversion to a full-time permanent position. WRI’s Sustainable Finance Center works with public and private financing institutions, investors, governments, civil society, businesses, and project developers to increase the volume of capital flowing to sustainable activities in developing countries by redirecting investments away from unsustainable activities. To achieve this vision both public and private actors will need to leverage each other’s capital and competencies and, more importantly, find common ground that results in financial flows moving towards sustainable activities and away from environmentally and socially harmful activities.

Learn more here.


Blue Carbon Intern

Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs – Massachusetts, USA

The Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program (MassBays) seeks an intern with strong organizational, research, and writing skills to contribute to a joint project to quantify carbon sequestration potential of eelgrass in Massachusetts near-shore habitats. The project is led by MassBays; partners include the Office of Coastal Zone Management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 1, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s SeaGrant Program, and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. The intern will have the following responsibilities:


  • Complete a literature review on blue carbon/carbon sequestration and seagrass. This review will include the identification and compilation of peer-reviewed literature on the topic matter.
  • Complete a review of historical records of eelgrass distribution in Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay. Sources of information include nautical charts, peer-reviewed literature, gray literature, state shellfish reports, aerial photographs, local knowledge, and other sources as available and relevant.
  • Assist in field collection of samples and site visits for sea level rise analysis. Intern will visit one or more sites in Gloucester, Nahant, Cohasset, and Sandwich.

Learn more here.






The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) is proud to team up for the first time with Agropolis international and the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB) to host the 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) and the 4th European Congress for Conservation Biology (ECCB). The joint meeting brings together our international community of conservation professionals to address conservation challenges and present new findings, initiatives, methods, tools and opportunities in conservation science and practice. It’s also a marvelous opportunity to welcome scientists and conservationists from around the world to Europe. Scientists, students, managers, decision-makers, writers, and other conservation professionals across the globe are invited to participate in this event. 2-6 August 2015. Montpellier, France.

Learn more here.


6th SER World Conference on Ecological Restoration

SER 2015 in Manchester aims to be the major restoration event of the year. Building on recent successful world congresses and regional meetings such as SER Europe 2013 in Finland, we hope to attract a large number of academics and practitioners who will share good practice and network successfully in one of the homes of the industrial revolution. The title: “Towards resilient ecosystems: restoring the urban, the rural and the wild” should provide something for everyone, whether working in highly urbanised, ex-agricultural, or natural wild environments. We mean this conference to be as inclusive as possible and are keen to showcase not only the important scientific developments, issues and solutions, but also the cultural, educational and artistic aspects of restoration ecology. We are hosting a wide range of different types of events during the conference period, with pre-conference training workshops, conference symposia posters, workshops, and oral presentations, as well as half day field trips to see landscapes at first hand. 23-27 August 2015. Manchester, United Kingdom.

Learn more here.



We are a network of heart-centered investors, entrepreneurs, and social impact leaders who believe in an inclusive and socially responsible economy to address the world’s toughest challenges. Since 2008, SOCAP has created a platform where social impact leaders can connect and present their ideas to a global audience. Our annual flagship event in San Francisco is the largest conference for impact investors and social entrepreneurs and has drawn more than 10,000 people. 6-9 October 2015. San Francisco CA, USA.

Learn more here.


8th ESP World Conference

The Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) is a worldwide network, founded in 2008, to enhance the science and practical application of ecosystem services. To facilitate the needed dialogue between scientists, policy makers and practitioners ESP organises an annual international conference in different parts of the world. The central theme is ‘Ecosystem Services for Nature, People and Prosperity’. The conference will pay special attention to the public and private sector dialogue on how the ecosystem services concept can be used to support conservation, improve livelihoods and engage the business community. 9-13 November 2015. Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Learn more here.

Additional resources

Amazon Governors, NGOs Slam Brazil Feds And Demand More Active, Participatory Role In Developing REDD+

11 June 2015 | BONN | Germany | Even before climate negotiators here signed off on the last stubborn bits of text needed to complete the REDD+ package under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), governors of the states comprising Brazil’s portion of the Amazon warned that economic pressures and poor governance were endangering the country’s stunning 70% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It’s an argument they’ve made before, but this time they have the backing of more than 30 environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The governors made their case on May 29, on the eve of mid-year climate talks began in Bonn, when the nine-member Forum of Governors of the Legal Amazon (Fórum de Governadores da Amazônia Legal) issued the “Cuiabá Letter,” which will be delivered to President Dilma Rousseff this month.

The letter calls for direct state access to international funds for REDD+, recognition of the stock-flux approach for sharing REDD+ benefits in Brazil, and more state participation in the construction of the National REDD+ Strategy, which has been in limbo since 2010.

Then, on June 10, the penultimate day of the Bonn talks, the Brazilian Climate Observatory (Observatório do Clima / OC) – a coalition of 30 NGOs – threw its support behind the governors and issued a scathing attack on Brazil’s REDD+ strategy. The OC’s statement – headlined “Brazil, a Role Model for Redd+… Not!” – was broader in scope than the governors’ letter, but it also warned that the country’s stunning reduction in deforestation was in danger of backsliding if its approach to REDD+ isn’t overhauled.

Both documents praise Brazil’s 70% reduction in emissions from deforestation, which the documents attribute in part to participation in and anticipation of early-start, voluntary REDD+ programs funneled through the Amazon Fund.

“The Brazilian leadership on REDD+, as well as the fate of its accomplishments in the Amazon, is in jeopardy, for a number of reasons,” said the OC release. “President Dilma Rousseff’s administration is doing a poor job on safeguarding forests, on protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities, on allowing cash flows to subnational governments and on ensuring transparency and accountability in REDD+ rules.”

We’ve Done Our Part, Now Show us the Money!

The Cuiabí¡ Letter is subtitled “Pact For The Valuation of the Forest and Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation (REDD+) in the Brazilian Legal Amazon,” and it was signed by representatives from nine states: six governors – Tií£o Viana of Acre, Pedro Taques of Mato Grosso, Waldez Gí³es of Amapí¡, José Melo de Oliveira of Amazonas, Marcelo de Carvalho Miranda of Tocantins and Maria Suely Silva Campos of Roraima – and three deputy governors: Carlos Brandí£o of Maranhí£o, Daniel Pereira of Rondí´nia and José da Cruz Marinho of Parí¡.

It echoes the 2009 Cuiabí¡ Declaration, which preceded the Copenhagen climate talks that enshrined REDD+ in the UNFCCC. That Declaration was also signed by all the governors of the Amazon states, and it also called for a more decentralized approach to REDD+ governance. But REDD+ did not yet exist under the UNFCCC at the time.

Much of the letter focused on Fundo Amazí´nia (the Amazon Fund), to which the government of Norway has already committed US$1 billion this year, with additional money coming from the German Government and Petrobras. Of the Norwegian money, US$882 million has already been disbursed to finance emission reductions, using a default value of US$5 per tonne, or roughly 206 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), which the letter said is the equivalent of just 4.9% of total REDD+ generated in the Amazon.

The Missing REDD+ Strategy

Both the governors and the OC said the federal government was blocking participation in the creation of a national REDD+ Strategy.

“It has been promised three times by the government since 2010, and the last draft of such strategy was leaked to civil society in December 2012,” the OC’s statement said. “Since then it has not seen the light. The government plans to launch it as a Federal Decree without any previous public consultation.

Without the national strategy (dubbed “ENREDD+”), the summary of information on safeguards becomes little more than a piece of paper, with low technical consistency according to UNFCCC rules, it continued. “Without ENREDD+, public officers can pick and choose among actions to be evaluated on REDD+ safeguards. Government programs that cause deforestation, such as road and dam building in the Amazon, can be comfortably left outside scrutiny. How’s that for a safeguard?”

On to Manaus, By Way of Barcelona

This was the first time the Forum of Governors has met since 2009, but several of the governors will also be attending a meeting of the Governors’ Climate & Forests (GCF) Task Force in Barcelona next week. The GCF is a global association of states in larger nations that have committed to reducing GHG emissions, largely by saving forests. The governors also agreed to reconvene later this month in Manaus, but a date has not been set.

The governors’ meeting was preceded by a morning meeting of the state secretaries of environment. During that meeting, Secretary Ana Luiza ívila Peterlini set the tone by reiterating both the accomplishments and the cost of these efforts.

“The Brazilian Amazon has made a significant contribution to the reduction of deforestation in their forests,” she said. “But we have not obtained financial compensation equivalent to our efforts.”

Mariano Cenamo, director of environmental NGO organization IDESAM (Institute for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Amazonas/Instituto de Conservaçí£o e Desenvolvimento Sustentavel do Amazonas), speaking on behalf of GCF, said REDD+ finance for Brazil could reach R$135 billion.

“The country has been a global player in REDD+,” he said. “It reduced emissions by more than 4.2 billion tons of CO2 in eight years (2006-2013), but these efforts were not rewarded as the Amazon Fund raised only 5% of the potential generated by REDD+ – somewhere around R$3 billion.”

The letter points out that those 4.2 billion tonnes of CO2 are locked in 8.7 million hectares of forest that the states protected from development – in accordance with a federal decree, and in anticipation of REDD+ funding.

“This [emission-reduction] mark surpasses the reduction of any country – developed or developing, with or without binding targets,” the letter said. “Achieving these reductions is expensive, and currently these costs are being paid almost exclusively with public funds from local, state and federal governments, as well as individual efforts of farmers, traditional communities and indigenous peoples of our Amazon region.

“However, we have reached the ceiling in our budget investment capacity, particularly in the current Brazilian economy,” the letter continued. “The logic of creating the Amazon Fund was to raise funds through the REDD + mechanism to compensate positive results in emission reductions by developing countries.”

The Math

The letter states that, based on emission reductions already received, the country should be receiving roughly R$61 billion (US$20 billion) already, and more to come.

“Basically, they generated 4 billion tons and could sell only 200 million to Norwegians,” said Cenamo. “We still have potential of 95% of the whole amount, and the states want to find a way to sell it or get compensated for it. So if we’re not getting better performance with the Fundo Amazonia, they want to find ways to reach donors.

“If we can achieve the goal of reducing deforestation by 80% in the Amazon by 2020, we should generate additional emission reductions of 5 billion tons, totaling roughly R$135 billion by 2020,” the letter said. “We understand that the raising of funds to achieve this potential should come from a joint effort between individual states and the federal government, to maximize our chances of success and new partnerships and means of receiving financial rewards for our efforts.”

Members of the Brazilian delegation to Bonn said they were not authorized to comment on either letter.

Specific Demands

Here is a list of the specific demands featured in the governors’ letter:

  1. Adopt the stock-flow methodology to allocate the reductions of avoided deforestation among the Amazon states and the federal government, proposed by the Forum of Environment Secretaries of the Brazilian Legal Amazon, in the context of the National REDD+ Strategy discussion, delivered to the Civil House of the Presidency and the Ministry of Environment at a meeting held at the Presidential Palace on 19/09/2012,
  2. Define, urgently, the National REDD+ Strategy together with the Amazon States, as this process has been stalled since 2012;
  3. Support the fundraising of external resources by the Amazon states to reduce deforestation and to protect the forest;
  4. Promote the modification of art. 1 of the Decree 6.527/2008 authorizing the BNDES to operate the Amazon Fund, replacing the word Amazon Biome with “Legal Amazon”, since the mobilization of financial resources from the Amazon Fund is supported by the reduction of deforestation monitored by PRODES/INPE, which are produced in the Legal Amazon and not in the Amazon Biome;
  5. Develop support programs and economic, fiscal and financial incentives for consolidation and maintenance of protected areas in the Amazon states;
  6. Create mechanisms to compensate the Amazon States that have more than 50% of its territory under protected areas and indigenous lands.

This article has been updated with exact translations from Portugues to English of text from the Governors’ letter.


Additional resources

Brazilian Ecosystem Services Matrix Brings Transparency To Environmental Finance

5 June 2015 | Brazil holds more than 12 % of the world’s freshwater, but citizens in some parts of the country – most notably Sí£o Paulo – have been suffering unprecedented drought this year – in part because of a failure to appreciate the linkages between forests and water supplies. That failure, however, has led to a renewed appreciation of the interlocking services its vast natural resources provide: the carbon that its forests keep locked up as they regulate water and the thousands of species of plants and hundreds of species of birds and freshwater fish in its Canada-sized Cerrado, among others.


The Brazil Ecosystem Services Matrix lets users track ecosystem service programs across all of Brazil..

The country is also home to thousands of programs that use payments for ecosystem services (PES) to fund conservation by recognizing the value of those services. In Brazil, the best-known form of PES is REDD – an acronym for programs that conserve endangered forest by harnessing carbon finance to “Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation”, but the most advanced programs cover water – often by restoring forests that regulate rivers.

For such programs to deliver on their potential, decision-makers have to know what works and what doesn’t – but until recently, that information was scattered in isolated pockets across the country. It changed last week when Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends unveiled the Brazilian Matrix of Ecosystem Services (Matriz Brasileira de Serviços Ecossistíªmicos), with the support of Brazilian non-profit organization Fundo Vale and the Good Energies Foundation. The Matrix is a database of more than 2,000 PES programs across Brazil categorized by type: water, carbon, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, livestock, and “multiple”. The “multiple” category refers to those that bundle several ecosystem services into one payment plan or embed the service cost into a product price such as certified timber.

“The most visible aspect of the Matrix is the interactive map, which we call the ‘visualizer,’” says Beto Borges, who spearheaded the effort within Forest Trends. “We also summarized the key findings in a booklet called ‘Economic Incentives for Ecosystem Services in Brazil’ (Incentivos Econí´micos para Serviços Ecossistíªmicos no Brasil), and we made them available on a poster, which you can find if you go to the Matrix home page and click on ‘documentos’, but it’s really huge.”

“It’s essential for us to understand that all ecosystem services are interconnected if we’re to develop a new and innovative market,” said Mauricio Moura Costa, Executive Director of Bolsa Verde do Rio, an Brazilian organization promoting market mechanisms for environmental compliance, speaking at the event. “The concept of the Matrix is what distinguishes the work that’s been developed by Forest Trends.”

Makings of the Matrix

Fundo Vale first approached Forest Trends after seeing Ecosystem Marketplace’s Global Matrix, a similar database of ecosystem markets, but on a worldwide scale. The two organizations developed the Brazilian Matrix jointly over more than three years, with support from the Good Energies Foundation.


Beto Borges (left) introduces the Brazil Matrix of Ecosystem Services in Sí£o Paulo.

Developers plan a second phase, which will include work with the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund, a non-profit organization, and possibly government ministries as well.

Although designed as a decision-making tool for use within the country, the Matrix can also provide an opportunity for people outside the country to understand the country’s rich blend of programs – and not just the isolated few that have received international attention, says Borges.

Acre is not the only thing happening on PES, and the Surui REDD project isn’t the only carbon project,” he says. “Water is actually more developed than carbon.”

Fulfilling a Need

The Matrix was primarily created to fill the knowledge gaps and gain a deeper understanding of ecosystem services and the payment mechanisms meant to protect them. Developers of the tool intend to address issues such as social benefits, scale, effectiveness, challenges and opportunities.

And with Brazil’s vast ecological assets combined with the country’s heavy involvement in innovative compensation programs, potential for PES is huge.  In an early proposal document, Borges said these practices – PES – can drive significant investments for a true green economy that alters the existing paradigm which promotes development at the cost of the environment.

As the landscape of ecosystem markets is constantly changing, an ultimate objective of the Matrix is establishing a roadmap for stakeholder engagement, according to the 2012 proposal document – which also describes the tool as a ‘living’ database that evolves with the market but its inclusive analysis can provide stability and guidance. The matrix creates a simple and direct way to visualize and follow global and regional trends of environmental markets in Brazil, the web page reads.

A Joint Public Private Effort

Cristina Maria do Amaral Azevedo, Deputy Secretary of Environment for the State of Sí£o Paulo, said the initiative could reduce transaction costs and draw in the private sector.

“With government resources alone, it will not be possible to make viable any PES public policy” she said. “Dialogue and cooperation among the private sector, civil society and governments will provide the answer for how to advance with PES in Brazil at scale.”

The information the Matrix provides offers a bridge between the public and private sectors. PES can harness private dollars for conservation in a sustainable way and fill the funding gap that exists currently as conservation activities are largely publicly funded. The Matrix allows for a healthy progression and incorporation of compensation schemes into land-use strategies and regulatory development, the booklet reads.

The accompanying report was authored by environmental researchers Carlos Eduardo Frickmann Young and Leonardo Barcellos de Bakker, who note that PES doesn’t let government off the hook. Instead, they say, it requires strong environmental policy that supports sustainable development. Government must still enforce protection on protected areas as well as other environmental regulation, they say. The Matrix simply makes everyone’s role more visible and transparent.

“The Matrix developed by Forest Trends allows not only the acceleration of the decision-making process, but also provides an opportunity for convergence between the private sector, the public sector and civil society,” said Walter Lazzarini,  President of the Environmental Council at FIESP (Federation of Industries of Sí£o Paulo/ Federaçí£o das Indíºstrias do Estado de Sí£o Paulo).

Impact on Legislation

The matrix identifies strengths and weaknesses of existing PES projects while also analyzing synergies among the various entities and best approaches for them to work together. Comments streaming in regarding the Matrix note the growing belief that the tool could influence a more comprehensive national PES law in Brazil. The nation has an existing law that defines ecosystem services and mentions PES.

“The discussion of payments for environmental services has not yet led to a consensus in Brazil,” said Francisco Gaetani, Executive Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment. “The Brazilian Matrix developed by FT can contribute to the drafting of a law that’s denser, more robust, and more likely to succeed, because it reflects the reality of more than 2,000 field initiatives.”


Additional resources

Choco Darien: What Forest Carbon Can (And Cannot) Achieve

1 June 2015 | Five young men are cutting their way through dense rainforest in the northernmost part of Colombia, each wearing a sweat-drenched t-shirt colorfully emblazoned with the word “COCOMASUR” – an acronym distilled from “Consejo Comunitario de Comunidades Negras de la Cuenca del Rí­o Tolo y Zona Costera Sur, which means “Council of the Black Communities of the Tolo River and Southern Coast” in Spanish.

At the head of the line is Frazier Guisao, a young Afro-Colombian whose ancestors settled along the Tolo River after the abolition of slavery in 1851. His brother Eusebio follows a few steps behind, along with three other community members – all of whom spent their youths in exile after fleeing in the late 1990s, when mercenaries hired by rich land owners ruled the region through torture and murder.

Today, police and army soldiers patrol both the streets and the countryside, but former mercenaries still live in town. Yet the Tolo River crew is not afraid to perform the forest patrols. They go for their daily perimeter checks, armed only with cameras and GPS-enabled cell phones, looking for evidence of illegal logging. When they find what they’re looking for – a recently-cleared patch of forest, or logging tracks – Ferney Caicedo photographs it and records the coordinates. The slender 21-year-old recently completed a professional forestry course, and aims to make this his life’s work.

sitting at the edge of the community forest.” src=”×226.jpg ” />

Frazier Guisao, member of the Tolo River forest patrol sitting at the edge of the community forest.

“This wood is worth around three million pesos ($1,500 USD),” says Frazier, gesturing toward a smaller tree in front of him and applying the knowledge he learned when he first came home – when he was forced to earn his living chopping the forest he now protects.

All of these men could easily make more money as loggers, but they’ve chosen to protect the forest instead – a choice made possible by the Chocí³-Darién Forest Conservation Project, a trailblazing REDD project that began coalescing in 2005, when community leader Aureliano Cí³rdoba took advantage of a critical provision in the 1991 Constitution that allowed indigenous and Afro-Colombian forest communities to claim their ancestral lands. By securing collective title to the land for his people, Cí³rdoba was able to begin rekindling the attachment to the forest that many of his people lost while in exile.

“I used to be afraid,” says Cí³rdoba. “But no more. I have 1,500 people behind me now. If something happened to me, the entire community would stand to defend me.”

“Our only defense is that we are organized and determined enough to seek our rights,” says Eusebio.

The Downside of the Peace Dividend

With civil war hostilities waning and his people in clear possession of title to their land, Cí³rdoba began to look for ways to create jobs as his community recovered. He initially explored logging, but soon found that his people weren’t the only ones flooding into the territory after the danger subsided – outside loggers were coming for trees, and cattlemen along the perimeter were quietly expanding their ranches illegally.

Instead of just harvesting the forest, Cí³rdoba realized, he should be saving it if his people were going to maintain their quality of life – but how? His own people needed to make a living, and many were either logging or working on cattle ranches, which were owned by wealthy and well-connected businessmen.

To address the challenge, he developed – and won support for – a long-term sustainability strategy that would help his own people meet their needs by harvesting non-timber forest products and working at peripheral ranchers, but he also needed to keep the outside ranchers and loggers at bay.

The Genesis of REDD

In 2008, Cí³rdoba met an anthropologist from Stanford University named Brodie Ferguson, who was studying the civil war’s impact on indigenous people and Afro-Colombian communities. Both Cí³rdoba and Ferguson had heard about REDD, which at the time functioned only in voluntary carbon markets but was gaining traction in global climate talks as something to be used on a wider scale. Ferguson had asked members of the indigenous Arhuaco for their opinion, and got a surprising answer.

“Do we want to be paying the youth of our community to conserve the forest?” asked Danilo Villafaí±e, an Arhuaco chief. “Shouldn’t they be doing this anyway out of appreciation for the forest and the community traditions … just because it’s the right thing to do?”

It was a question that went to the heart of Ferguson’s PhD research, which showed that forest people, whether indigenous or immigrant, don’t want to chop the forest beyond what they needed to survive – but in the face of displacement and armed struggle, they often find themselves losing their connection to the forest. At the same time, for many of them, paying people to conserve is akin to buying a child’s affection: it turns a profoundly spiritual experience into a financial transaction.

The Economics of REDD

But Ferguson had looked into the economics of REDD, and he knew that income from selling carbon offsets couldn’t compare to any of the alternative ways to use their land: cattle ranching, cacao plantations, and gold mines. A recent study estimated that only a price above around $30 USD per ton of carbon dioxide could make a forest more valuable standing than cleared, and even then, only in some circumstances. From Ferguson’s perspective, REDD wasn’t an incentive to save forests; it was an enabling mechanism that, when done right, could bring in enough money to jump-start new activities that could take the pressure off the forest for the long term.

“It should be spent on things like education, creating environmental awareness, improving healthcare, empowering women,” he says. “Even if 100 percent of the profits go to the community – the best- case scenario – if they are not spent the right way, we are not achieving what we should be.”

Cí³rdoba realized that, in Ferguson, he had a kindred spirit.

“We don’t want the money so we can get rich,” Cí³rdoba says. “We want to develop organizationally. That way we can protect our territory, maintain peace, and improve our lives.”

Illegal Deforestation and the Myth of the Carbon Cowboy

Both men had heard horror stories of ruthless “carbon cowboys” scouring the planet in search of forests to commandeer, but most of those stories revolved around one man: a serial swindler named David Nilsson, who tried to con indigenous people in Peru by masquerading as a project developer. Most of the indigenous people he targeted, however, wouldn’t sign with him; and the contracts he did sign were declared invalid. He was roundly ignored by everyone who knew anything about conservation-based climate solutions, and he’s been rightly barred from ever entering Peru again, according to media reports.

But the mythic hordes of speculators decending on the region to gobble up forest for their carbon content turned out to be just that: myths, and for a variety of reasons.


Men from a nearby town transporting locally logged timber for construction. (Photograph: Tanya Dimitrova).

To begin with, there were the lessons of early pilot programs, which underlined the importance of involving indigenous people in a successful REDD program. Then there were the emerging carbon standards, which required the “Free, Prior, and Informed Consent” (pronounced “F-Pic”) of indigenous people before a program could proceed. And, finally, there were the economics: anyone ruthless enough to commandeer a forest wouldn’t settle for the little bit of money he could earn by saving it; he’d chop it up – as, in fact, loggers and cattlemen were already doing across the Amazon – in part because it was so cheap and easy to do so.

In countries where land is expensive and property rights are enforced, ranchers keep cows in relatively small spaces and feed them “silage” – fermented fodder produced from grass and maize – which lets them raise up to three animals per hectare, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

But in Colombia, ranchers average just one cow per hectare of land. That means the cows always have waist-high grass on which to graze, but only because ranchers illegally clear and fence off small plots near the edge of the forest. Global demand for commodities like palm oil, soybeans, and cattle is driving deforestation all around the world – and nearly half of that deforestation is illegal, according to a 2014 Forest Trends report called Consumer Goods and Deforestation: An Analysis of the Extent and Nature of Illegality in Forest Conversion for Agriculture and Timber Plantations.

Cí³rdoba was leery of antagonizing the cattlemen who provided jobs for so many of his people, but he also knew the ranchers could easily double their production without gobbling up more forest. He ultimately concluded that the ranchers needed workers as much as the workers needed ranchers.

REDD, he concluded, could provide a bulwark against illegal deforestation by providing money for forest patrols, with any profit going into a general fund for education and health care.

The two men then agreed to build a REDD project together.

Carbon Standards

First, they had to decide which carbon standard they wanted to use. Standards dictate everything from how you measure the carbon captured in trees to how you determine which parts of the forest are truly in danger to how you treat the people living there.

They chose the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), which was then called the Voluntary Carbon Standard, and the CCB Standard, intended for carbon projects with exceptional benefits for wildlife and communities.

To get the ball rolling, Ferguson sold his condo and created a company called Anthrotect to act as project developer.

Free, Prior, and Informed Consent

FPIC requires disclosure, discussion and agreement – a process involving far more than just a few meetings between community leaders and a project developer.

FPIC means that project developers must offer information to the community, ensure they understand it through a feedback loop, allow them time for private discussions, hold meetings to answer questions, and organize focus groups to gather women’s or youth’s perspectives. It is an expensive process, involving sociologists or anthropologists, and it can take years.

Although new research from the World Resources Institute and the Rights and Resources Initiative indicates that REDD programs tend to strengthen the rights of forest people, that is not a foregone conclusion, and many forest peoples lack the legal protection that the Tolo River community enjoys. In many other countries, forest dwellers do not own the land or the forest they have lived in for centuries.


Jorge Vergara milking a cow with the help of a local boy. (Photograph: Tanya Dimitrova).

From the beginning, Cí³rdoba aimed to exceed even the stringent requirements of FPIC and to involve the whole community in the design of the project — an approach that he believed would ultimately strengthen the project by making it more attuned to the needs and desires of his people, and therefore more likely to succeed. In that spirit, he put his neice, Everildys Cí³rdoba, in charge of explaining the process to the community.

“I had to take a complex subject and try to make it simple,” she says. With the remainder of the community now on board, the Tolo River people turned their attention to measuring the carbon stored in their forests.

Measuring the Carbon Content

Ferguson sold his condo and borrowed money to bring in outside consultants like biometrician Kyle Holland of Ecopartners LLC and ílvaro Cogollo from the Medellin Botanical Garden, whose team spent three months in the Tolo River community forest studying the biodiversity and carbon it contains. They selected random plots, identified the tree species within them, and then measured their height and circumference. Using allometric equations, they calculated that one acre of the communal rainforest could contain up to 300 tons of carbon – multiples of the average carbon content in one acre of an Amazonian forest.

Since much of a forest’s carbon is found in the leaf litter and soil, the team also took soil samples and analyzed their carbon content. The samples had to be shipped to the United States, because there were no laboratories in Colombia equipped to carry out the analysis. The team then repeated the process for trees and soil in cattle pastures in order to know how exactly much carbon is left in the landscape after ranchers clear forests for pasture.

The Reference Level

After estimating the carbon stocks in the forest, the team had to ascertain how much carbon would be released if business continued as it was going. First, they looked at the trend in historical rates of deforestation to see how much of their forest would likely be chopped down for pasture if business continued as usual. Then, using satellite imagery, they compared the forest with other unguarded forested areas nearby and concluded about 170 hectares per year (5,000 hectares total) would be lost to cattle ranching, agriculture, and selective logging if defensive actions weren’t taken immediately.

Referring back to the species composition of the forest and the trees’ average height and width, they team pegged the total greenhouse gas emissions from encroachment by ranchers at 2,800,000 tons of carbon dioxide over the next 30 years. This is equal to about 90,000 tons of carbon emissions per year.

The data collection and the analysis took the better part of 2011, and then they wrote up their analysis in a Project Description (PD) and submitted it to the VCS for a rigorous process of peer-review known as “validation” – the phase in which the VCS determines if a project’s design is, in fact, valid.

If they passed that, they’d have to then go through a process of verification – meaning they had to show they were actually taking the steps outlined in their project’s plan.

Verifying the Results

In July 2012, Pablo Reed, an independent third-party auditor, came to the Tolo River community forest to verify the carbon offsets. Reed was working for the international certification firm Det Norske Veritas (DNV), and had special experience in land-use carbon projects such as REDD+.

(Photograph: Tanya Dimitrova)” src=”×300.jpg ” />

Ferney Caicedo (right) and another forest patrol member resting at the buttress roots of a giant almendro tree. (Photograph: Tanya Dimitrova)

Reed recalls that just getting to the GPS-marked forest plots in the Tolo River community was an adventure, involving a charter flight, a boat ride, a motorcycle, a horseback ride — and then finally a trek on foot into the forest following the patrol. Reed observed Caicedo and other trained community members perform the tree measurements and then compared the numbers to what they had measured in the initial inventory.

After a reviewing the project’s documents and visiting the site, Reed and his team concluded that the forest patrols and other project actions had saved more than 500 hectares of at-risk forest. Had the forest been cleared for pasture, it would have released more than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, or the equivalent of 20,000 cars.

Finally, in December 2012, the Verified Carbon Standard authorized the issuance of 104,000 verified emissions reductions (VERs) for listing in the Markit Environmental Registry, which is a global database of carbon projects created to ensure that offsets aren’t counted twice.

Plans for the Money

Revenue from the first tranche of credits was used to cover the cost of setting up the project as well as administrative and operating expenses like the forest patrols.

As in most community projects, the Tolo River People do not receive individual cash payments from the sale of carbon credits. “Giving out money to not cut the forest makes people lazy,” says Frazier Guisao.

Instead, they plan to use future revenue to improve the community healthcare services, send young people to universities, and strengthen the community organization, with some kept in reserve for emergencies. Beyond that, the proposals are endless.

One recent day after a morning patrol through the forest, the crew relaxed under the shade of a sun shelter that Guisao built from palm trees, waiting for the afternoon heat to pass.

“We should fix up the village school and offer professional courses for adults,” suggested one member.

“We should build an aqueduct to pipe down clean water from the hills to the village,” another offered.

Some want to use the money to subsidize struggling farmers, while others want to improve the dirt road to the village, and still others want a cell phone tower to enhance phone service in this remote region. One person mentions start-up funds for a food-delivery service by a women’s collective. Another dreams about building a community center.

In any case, as has been true throughout this particular project’s journey, the entire community is involved in how any profits will be spent.

When Deforestation Moves Down the Street

Isolated REDD projects have been used to rescue endangered patches of forest around the world, but often the loggers and cattlemen who are denied access in one location simply move down the road – an activity that carbon accountants call “leakage.” Project developers do account for it, and in theory they subtract the leakage from their total offsets, but the only way to eliminate leakage is to spread carbon accounting and control across entire states or countries.

“That’s how it was always supposed to be,” says Dan Nepstad, Executive Director and Senior Scientist at the Earth Innovation Institute. “No one ever wanted all these scattered, isolated projects dotting the forest, and even in the 1990s, it was a given that we needed jurisdictional programs to have a real impact.”

Many indigenous REDD programs are, in fact, built on a jurisdictional model – but more importantly, they are also built on an indigenous model. Like the people of Tolo River, indigenous people across the Amazon have been developing formal plans for their forest. Just as REDD was a means to an end – rather than an end in itself – for the Tolo River people, so is it for indigenous people across the Amazon. Most have spent decades developing long-term development plans called “Life Plans”, and most are finding them difficult to get off the ground. Is REDD the answer?

Tanya Dimitrova holds a masters degree in energy and resources from University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Texas and works as a freelance science and environmental journalist.
For Further Reading

This story has been adapted and condensed from a four-part series by Tanya Dimitrova. You can view the full series here:

Part One: How The Tolo River People Of Colombia Harnessed Carbon Finance To Save Their Rainforest provides an overview of the project.

Part Two: The Forest, The Farms, And The Finance: Why The Tolo River People Turned To Carbon Finance examines the drivers of deforestation in and around the Tolo River Community.

Part Three: The Tolo River Community Project: The Importance of Inclusion follows the development of the project itself – its conception, its implementation, and its challenges.

Part Four: Getting Down To Business: The Tolo River People Shift From Building Their Carbon Project To Selling The Offsets tells the surprisingly challenging story of finding and cultivating offset buyers.

Jurisdictional REDD: Long Deferred, Soon Delivered

1 June 2015 | Roughly 2,500 years ago, people of the Amazon Basin started blending charcoal with pottery to create a thick, rich soil called terra preta (dark earth) – evidence of a now-lost system of sustainable agriculture that enhanced rather than depleted the soil. The practice eventually spread across the continent, and it appears to have sustained indigenous civilizations for centuries.

Terra preta began disappearing shortly after Europeans arrived in the Amazon 500 years ago – an arrival that sparked migration and conflict well beyond their early coastal and river settlements.

Chief José Maria’s knows little of this ancient history, but he knows that by the time his people, the Shawí£dawa, were officially contacted by Brazilian authorities in the 1900s, they’d abandoned their ancient practices in favor of migratory slash-and-burn agriculture. After contact, decimated by war and disease, they became dependent on modern farming methods that kill the forest, deplete the soil, and poison the rivers.

In 2008, Chief José Maria heard that the government of Brazil’s state of Acre wanted to learn his people’s ways and the ways of neighboring people like the Ashaninka and Yawanawa. The government’s goal was to re-create the long-lost practices that worked so well for so long, and to support them through a legal framework called the System of Incentives for Environmental Services (Sistema de Incentivos a Serviços Ambientais / “SISA”).

SISA, he learned, would even pay his people to improve the way the forest functioned – the way it filtered water, captured carbon, and fortified the soil. It would pay them, in other words, to keep Acre’s agricultural system functioning for centuries to come.

In 2011, he began participating in workshops designed to implement SISA and its “Payments for Ecosystem Services” (PES), but by late 2013, he was tired of talking and anxious to get to work.

“When will PES arrive?” he asked wearily. “We’ve held about five different meetings …”

The answer came in early 2014, when the state paid R$3.6 million ($1.6 million) to the Acre Association of Indigenous Agroforestry Agents (Associaçí£o do Movimento dos Agentes Agroflorestais Indí­genas do Acre/AMAAIAC) to reverse decades of degradation caused by the shift from forestry to cattle farming and other practices that destroy the forest.

“PES is difficult to understand, but it is not rocket science,” says Charamaxa Huni Kuin of the Huni Kuin people. “These are the things that indigenous agroforestry agents have been doing, and the work is getting stronger.”

In April of last year, the government put up an additional R$3 million ($1.34 million) to support and implement indigenous Life Plans across the state. Deployment was delayed until later in the year because of anti-corruption laws that prevent big payouts too close to an election, but money is now being doled out in payments ranging from as low as R$50,000 ($22,390) to as high as R$210,000 ($94,000), and it’s being used for a broad range of activities – from strengthening land management to promoting associations and communities to generating income for women.

It’s all part of the world’s first large-scale “jurisdictional REDD” program.

What is “Jurisdictional REDD”?

In some ways, a jurisdictional REDD program is a lot like an individual REDD project, but scaled up to cover an entire jurisdiction – which could be an entire country, or a state within a country, or a region, like Ghana’s cocoa-producing area.

The basic concept is the same as a project: buyer and seller haggle over how much forest would be lost if business continued as usual, and they agree on a “reference level” that represents a business-as-usual scenario. Then the buyer agrees to pay for activities that reduce deforestation below that reference level.

From a carbon-accounting perspective, the biggest challenge is getting enough random samples over a long enough period of time to offer carbon-stock estimates that are 95 percent certain, which is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends. That can be costly, because, despite all the advances in satellite and even drone technology, it still requires sending teams out into the forest with tape-measures. Then someone in the jurisdiction – usually in the forestry department – has to blend those findings with satellite images going back decades to document the jurisdiction’s land-use change over time – how much forest has been converted to field and then to farm, and sometimes back again.

Once a jurisdiction has this, it’s actually more straightforward to establish a reference level for an entire jurisdiction than it is for a small patch of land – even if that jurisdiction is a hodgepodge of palm trees, maple trees, farmers’ fields, and gulfs and valleys. That’s because things average out over a large scale, so a jurisdiction can use its prevailing rates of deforestation as is reference level – a practice that climate negotiators enshrined in the REDD Rulebook in Warsaw at the end of 2013, after eight years of haggling.

The Indigenous Component

Although the basic concept of payments for reduced emissions is the same the world over, every jurisdiction has its own challenges and its own philosophy about how to combat deforestation – which means that each state has a different philosophy about how to spend the money.

In Acre, the money goes into a fund administered by the state, which has promised to funnel at least 70 percent of it to people it defines as providers of environmental services, including rubber-tappers and indigenous groups.

Like Igarapé Lourdes, most of Acre’s indigenous territories currently have little or no deforestation. But while Igarapé Lourdes sits on the Arc of Deforestation, many of Acre’s territories are so isolated that they’d find it hard to prove they’re endangered under classic REDD carbon mechanisms – despite illegal incursions by loggers that have left several indigenous leaders dead. Here, indigenous impacts can more accurately be measured in terms of habitat conservation and water management, with carbon stocks being a byproduct. SISA, in this case, acts as a conduit between international REDD+ payments and local payments for watershed improvement, riverbank restoration, and scores of other activities.

“International REDD+ payments come into the state denominated in carbon, but the state distributes the money internally via payments for watershed services, payments for habitat restoration, and payments for any number of other actions that are consistent with SISA,” says Rebecca Anzueto, a former Program Manager with the Communities and Markets Initiative at Forest Trends. “As long as the state meets its REDD+ emissions-reduction targets, the REDD+ payments should continue to flow.”

The projects are being selected by the government according to a criteria established by SISA’s Indigenous Working Group (GT-Indí­gena).

“GT-Indí­gena was created to guide the implementation of the indigenous component of SISA, to figure out, for instance, how to distribute funds and other benefits to local indigenous communities – to answer questions like, ‘How will money strengthen land tenure rights? How will this money strengthen the management and governance of territories that have been demarcated?’” says Beto Borges, who heads the Forest Trends Communities and Markets Initiative and sits on the board of GT-Indí­gena.

“We’re talking about 2.4 million hectares of forest being managed by indigenous peoples,” he says. “That’s 15 distinct ethnicities dispersed among 35 indigenous territories. Their traditional territories have been demarcated. They’re official. Now, the new funding from SISA will strengthen the management and conservation of their forests.”

Who Pays?

For Acre, the German government stepped up with R$50 million ($24.2 million) through 2018 in exchange for the state taking actions designed to save xx hectares of forest and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by xx tonnes, but the state has several other options for the future.

The state has Memorandums of Understanding with the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sí£o Paulo, and it’s a founding member of the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), which then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger created in late 2008. The GCF launched with linkages among states in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, and Indonesia in a worldwide, sub-national, emission-reduction network. It’s since expanded to include states in Nigeria, Spain, and Peru.

Last year, GCF members signed the Rio Branco Declaration, formalizing their commitment to reducing deforestation by 80% by 2020 – but reiterated that the commitment is contingent on adequate funding. Such a reduction would prevent four billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (tCO2e) from entering the atmosphere.

“It’s basically saying, ‘Listen, we did what we said we’re going to do … we’ve brought emissions down more than 3 billion tons’ – that’s bigger than any nation has been able to accomplish,” says Dan Nepstad, Executive Director and Senior Scientist at the Earth Innovation Institute. “Hidden in those words is the idea, though, that we can’t sustain this agenda forever unless there’s some recognition and finance flowing into our states and provinces. [The Declaration] has got to be seen as the beginning of a process of negotiation and alignment … we can’t do it alone.”

Members of the Yawanawa People at a SISA
workshop in their territory.
Photo: Laura and Tashka Yawanawa

Through the GCF, individual REDD projects within Acre may one day be able to sell offsets to emitters under California’s cap-and-trade program – and, because they’re embedded in a jurisdictional program, they won’t have the sticky problem of leakage that isolated project face when a tree-chopper just moves down the road.

Members of the Yawanawa People at a SISA workshop in their territory. Photo: Laura and Tashka Yawanawa Members of the Ashaninka People take stock of their natural capital at a workshop in their territory. Photo Credit: Flavia Cunha


By embedding individual projects in a jurisdictional program, project developers can avoid the sticky issue of leakage – or what happens when deforestation just moves down the road. To do so, however, they need to carefully document the emission-reductions that their projects create and differentiate them from emission-reductions that would have happened anyway.

Members of the Ashaninka People take stock of their natural capital at a workshop in their territory.
Photo Credit: Flavia Cunha

This is a process called “nesting,” and Acre is piloting VCS’s Jurisdictional Nesting REDD+ (JNR) framework. Released in 2012, the JNR offers the only comprehensive framework for jurisdictional accounting and verification at this point.

As a state, Acre must also nest its reductions in those of Brazil – which has vowed to slash deforestation 80 percent by 2020, and has been tapping the Amazon Fund to do so.

“When we talk about setting an integrated approach for REDD+ for the Amazon states that is nested at the national level, it might seem difficult, but it’s actually much simpler than trying to set the baseline for a project or smaller area,” says Pedro Soares, Climate Change Program Coordinator for Manaus-based NGO Instituto de Conservaçí£o e Desenvolvimento Sustentí¡vel do Amazonas (IDESAM), which was recently hired by the Brazilian state of Rondí´nia to help it advance a jurisdictional REDD program there.

The Brazil Advantage

Most developing countries are still struggling to develop carbon inventories, but Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, “INPE”) has been tracking the Amazon from the sky since the 1970s, and its state forestry departments have measured millions of trees. As a result, Acre can document that it lost an average of 0.30 percent of its forest annually from 2000 to 2013, and it can also convert that to carbon stocks with 95 percent certainty.

For Acre to earn REDD income, it had to come up with a plan to get its deforestation rate below 0.30 percent, then it had to find a buyer who believed in their plan and committed to it, and finally, it had to execute the plan – and prove that it did so.

This is essentially the same sequence that jurisdictions around the world are following, although most jurisdictions aren’t anywhere near as advanced as Brazil. They’ve done no carbon inventory, which means they don’t know how much carbon is in their forests, and they don’t really know the rate at which their forests are being converted to farms and fields.

“REDD Readiness”

Now that the REDD Rule Book exists, countries interested in using REDD finance know exactly what’s required of them to get ready for REDD. The Norwegian government has spent billions of dollars on REDD readiness round the world, but the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) has created a formal process for doing so. A country that wants to go through this process begins by submitting an Emission Reductions Program Idea Note (ER-PIN) to the FCPF’s Carbon Fund, which gives them the money they need to take stock of their carbon flows and create an Emission Reductions Program Document (ER-PD), which is the equivalent of a PDD in the voluntary carbon world, but much less rigorous. At that point, “readiness” ends, and “performance-based payments” like Germany’s payments to Acre begin. Under the World Bank program, buyer and seller execute an Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement (ERPA) with the Carbon Fund.

At this point, no countries have gone all the way through the World Bank’s process, but Norway, the United States, and the United Kingdom have launched a financing mechanism for jurisdictional REDD initiatives that support commodity-certification programs at the Warsaw climate talks. This program works by leveraging REDD to link initiatives on the ground with emerging efforts to attack the ultimate drivers of deforestation: us, the global consumers of beef, soy, and palm oil.

This story has been adapted from:

Jurisdictional REDD: Getting to Scale, which appeared in Ecosystem Marketplace on March 24, 2015,
Millions Of Dollars Now Flowing To Indigenous Ecosystem Service Programs In Brazil
, which appeared in Ecosystem Marketplace on May 6, 2014
Acre and Goliath: One Brazilian State Struggles To End Deforestation, which appeared in Ecosystem Marketplace on May 5, 2014.


Getting Down To Business: The Tolo People Shift From Building Their Carbon Project To Selling The Offsets

After three years of preparation and four years of development, the Tolo River community of Colombia in 2013 began earning carbon offsets for saving their endangered rainforest. For the project to deliver on its potential, they must now sell the offsets and manage the income.

12 May 2015 | “I feel pain when the forest is hurt,” says Eusebio Guisao, who is part of the Tolo River community in Colombia. “We are born here, and we love nature the way we love our grandchildren.”

Guisao and the others in his community are not the only ones who suffer “when the forest is hurt.” By developing their REDD project – technically known as the Chocí³-Darién Forest Conservation Project – the Tolo River community are keeping neighboring ranches from converting half of their ancestral community rainforest into cattle pastures. That means they’re preventing about 2.8 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from going into the atmosphere over the next 30 years – and earning 2.8 million offsets in the process.

In climate terms, it’s as if they’d prevented 15,000 railcar-loads of coal from being incinerated, but financially the community doesn’t earn those offsets all at once. Instead, offsets are released as their actions and impacts are verified over the 30 years of the project. Even after all that, the project won’t translate into income if they can’t sell their offsets – a job that has fallen mostly on Brodie Ferguson, whose company, Anthrotect, acted as project developer.

An anthropologist by training and a natural people person, Ferguson says he nonetheless underestimated the challenge of becoming a salesman.

“When we got the verification in late 2012, we thought we could just make a few phone calls and sell the issued credits,” he says. “But we found it was a lot more work than that.”


Like any good salesman, Ferguson began with his Rolodex. He sought advice from Colombian mentors and colleagues from the days of his doctoral research on land tenure and conflict, especially Manuel Rodriguez at the University of the Andes, who served as Colombia’s first Environment Minister in the 1990s.

“The first thing we did was reach out to everyone and say, ‘We hit these milestones. We’ve got these credits for sale – if there’s anyone you know, let us know. It’s a great project,’” Ferguson says. “You start spreading the word, and eventually people get back to you and say, ‘It sounds interesting; send me more info.’”

But the only “info” he had was a stack of technical documents that they’d created as part of the verification process, and those were dense reading even for experts. So he distilled the essentials into brief project profiles that were easier to digest.

“Most decision-makers would only give us a few minutes to summarize what amounted to two to three years of work, and we’d only move on to the details once they showed an interest,” he says. “If they were interested, the process was more straightforward: setting up calls, meeting face-to-face whenever possible – we learned to be ready to present the project on a moment’s notice.”

For larger sales, and especially tenders, you’ll be asked to write up a formal proposal.

“It can feel like a never-ending process,” he says. “A colleague might put you in touch with a company that’s looking to offset. The Sustainability Director gets excited and wants your help pitching it to the Vice President. Then you support the management as they present it to the Executive Board. Later there are the accountants, the lawyers, the shareholders, and the consumer. We have to find ways to streamline these processes if we’re going to have an impact at a global scale.”


Tolo River people’s leadership: from left to right: Eusebio Guisao, Ferney Caicedo, Everildys Cordoba, Aureliano Cordoba. Photo Credit, Tanya Dimitrova.

What Buyers Want

One thing he learned quickly enough: companies that aren’t already thinking of their climate impacts won’t give offsetting a second glance.

“Companies usually purchase offsets as part of a broader sustainability strategy that starts with measuring and reporting their carbon footprint before reducing and offsetting,” he says. “You can present an amazing project to them with a very compelling story, but if they haven’t made the decision to measure their [carbon] footprint, then you’re out of sync with them.”

The Pitch

Once it was clear that a buyer was serious about their carbon emissions and at least vaguely understood offsetting, Ferguson would shift the story to the Tolo River community and what the project meant to them.

“Being one of the first REDD+ projects in the world gave us an edge, but it’s really the community engagement that sets the project apart for our buyers,” he says. “It’s so difficult to live and work in a remote, neglected place like the Chocí³, that most youth end up leaving. The REDD+ project has allowed one community to reverse that dynamic and put the conflict behind them, and that’s very important for the Colombian organizations that support our project.”

Independence Drilling

Their first buyer was a Bogota-based, family-owned oil services company called Independence Drilling. The company had launched a sustainability strategy in 2012 that included measuring its carbon footprint. It began reducing its emissions by shifting to electric drilling machines, but that still left it with over 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions for 2013. Juan Camilo Padilla, sustainability officer at the time, understood the role offsets could play and contacted Ferguson.

“I had been in touch with Juan Camilo previously about a reforestation project when he reached out from Independence,” says Ferguson. “I was impressed with their sustainability work and their ambition to really lead their sector.”


The forest patrollers take rest in the buttress roots of a giant tree. Photo credit, Tanya Dimitrova.

But he still faced a tough negotiating process before the deal was done.

“There was a lot of back and forth over volume, pricing, and the terms of the contract itself,” he says. “It was a good three or four months of presentations, negotiations, and review before we signed the deal.”

After months of discussions, company president Rose-Marie Saab signed off on the agreement to offset their annual emissions, and Independence became the first carbon-neutral company in the Colombian oil-and-gas sector, at least for that year.

Brokers vs. Sales Force

The Independence commitment would only cover about 20% of the total annual credits generated by the project, so Ferguson set out to build a network of salespeople and brokers to sell the remainder.

“Individual sales associates are good for bringing in potential buyers, but they don’t save as much time as you’d like since the project management and the community still need to accompany the sale,” he says. “Brokers, on the other hand, can be very effective – with the downside that you may not always know who your end buyer is.”

Ferguson says community sales associates can also be part of the solution.

“Two of our recent sales were led by Everildys and her team in Acandí­,” he says. “They always have all the info they need to present the project, and they can tell the story from a first-hand perspective.”

Stand for Trees: Retail Delivers

A recent development for the Choco-Darien REDD project has been its participation in a group called Stand for Trees, which is a retail sales platform through which individual consumers – not companies – support forest conservation by buying carbon credits. Consumers can choose which particular project to support – including that of the Tolo River community. Ferguson found Stand for Trees through Code REDD, a marketing organization that supports REDD projects.

Ferguson is cautiously hopeful about the future of sales. “Stand for Trees has a lot of potential. The forest carbon market is still tiny, maybe 250 million a year. Stand for Trees could help us reach the million or so in revenue that our project needs each year, and help give REDD projects more visibility overall.”

Now, the project is gearing up for auditors to verify a second lot of nearly 200,000 tonnes that correspond to the project’s activities from 2012 to 2014. “We’re almost sold out of the first batch of 104,000 tonnes that were verified in 2012,” Ferguson says. “That means we’re only now seeing the revenue for activities we carried out over three years ago. This is the enormous challenge we’ve had to face.”


The forest patrol team at work. The men are armed with nothing more than a GPS and the t-shirt with the community organization name. Photo credit, Tanya Dimitrova

Plans for the Money

As in most community projects, the Tolo River People do not receive individual cash payments from the sale of carbon credits. “Giving out money to not cut the forest makes people lazy,” says Guisao, who now works as a forest ranger. Instead, the group’s communal funds can only be used for jointly-decided projects or emergencies – which means some tough decisions have to be made.

One recent day after a morning patrol through the forest, the crew relaxed under the shade of a sun shelter that Guisao built from palm trees, waiting for the afternoon heat to pass.

“We should fix up the village school and offer professional courses for adults,” suggested one member.

“We should build an aqueduct to pipe down clean water from the hills to the village,” another offered.

The proposals are endless, and range from using the money to subsidize seeds for struggling farmers, improve the dirt road to the village, and get a cell phone tower to enhance phone service in this remote region. One mentions start-up funds for a food-delivery service by a women’s collective. Another dreams about building a community center.

“We could hire a rural nurse and buy some medical supplies,” says Guisao, whose son was born by C-section 25 years ago – a procedure that today would require evacuation to a larger city after public services in the region collapsed in the 1990s.

No roads exist between this part of Chocí³ and the rest of the country. Most people would take the boat to the nearest city – three hours of turbulent bouncing in the Caribbean Sea, which may even prove fatal for a sick patient. If the family could afford it, one could take a 45-min charter flight to the regional capital, but few Tolo River community members have this option. The airfare costs more than the monthly salary of a forest patroller. The community fund could pay for emergency medical evacuations.

“We feel like the central government doesn’t think we are part of Colombia,” says Guisao. Without government support for social services, many of the locals feel they are completely on their own.


The former logger Frazier Guisao, Eusebio’s brother, taking a break at the edge of the forest. It takes daily effort to prevent that field from expanding into the pristine rainforest habitat. Photo credit, Tanya Dimitrova

“Power to the People”

The forest conservation project has improved the lives of Tolo River community members in many ways unrelated to the carbon savings and climate benefits to the world. In addition to the jobs it has directly created, it has helped them protect their natural resources for the generations to come and secure their pristine water supply. It has provided them with a renewed sense of place, of land ownership and a community. They hope that soon it will also provide them with means to fund their own development in a direction they choose.

“Our organization gives power to the people, not cash,” says Everildys Cí³rdoba, the project coordinator. “I wouldn’t work in it if we were distributing money instead of information.”

By “information,” she is talking about community members’ legal rights. A few years ago, before the REDD project started, her brother hurt himself while walking through the forest one day. A branch snapped back and gravely injured his eye. He had to be evacuated by boat and needed surgery to save his vision. But the doctors ignored him for more than a week and he lost the eye.

When a person knows his rights – in this case, the right to medical care — he can press for medical attention, says Cí³rdoba, and insist on the proper level of care. “How much power is in the simple question, ‘Why?’” she says.

The greatest benefit of this forest conservation project, according to Cí³rdoba, is that it teaches people how to demand their rights, such as successfully defending their land tenure against expanding cattle ranchers, as the Tolo River community has done.

And such empowerment is not the sole social benefit of forest conservation. Running such a project requires a strong and well-organized management team; Cí³rdoba and her colleagues have received training and experience in administering the community organization, handling international investment and dealing with legal issues. In a region where until recently violence was a part of daily life, being part of a strong organization can make all the difference in the world.

In the 1990s – the worst years of social unrest for Chocí³ – everyone lived in fear. Paramilitaries – mercenaries hired by rich land owners – ruled the region through torture and murder. If you were caught on the street after curfew or in the forest, they would accuse you of supporting FARC, Colombia’s rebel organization, and simply kill you. National law enforcement was non-existent.

Even worse, they would come to your home, kidnap and kill your children and force you to sell your land, Tolo River community members recall. Hundreds of people went in exile, or “displacement.” Everyone lost family members.

In the past decade, life has improved a lot in Chocí³. Today police and army soldiers patrol both the town streets and the countryside. But the former paramilitaries still live in town.

Yet the Tolo River crew is not afraid to perform the forest patrols. The Guisao brothers, young Ferney Caicedo and the others go for their daily perimeter checks, not carrying weapons, ready to face whomever they may come across.

“I used to be afraid,” says Cí³rdoba. “But no more. I have 1,500 people behind me now. If something happened to me, the entire community would stand to defend me.”

“Our only defense is that we are organized and determined enough to seek our rights,” says Eusebio.


Ferney Caucedo marking GPS coordinates during a forest patrol Photo credit, Tanya Dimitrova

The Forest Is Its Own Reward

For Guisao and his brother, Frazier, the REDD project has already delivered tangible benefits: both are now employed as forest rangers, and both say you can’t put a price on the value of the forest itself.

“The forest is like a precious mine,” says Eusebio Guisao, describing the ecosystem services provided by the forests. “It gives us water, food, regulates our climate. If we destroy it, we can’t get these things out of it.”

Indeed, the Tolo River community forest harbors an astounding natural richness. A carbon inventory performed two years ago revealed that a plot of just 1,000 square feet could contain as many as 20 distinct tree species. Botanists on the inventory team identified hundreds of different trees, many of them new to science. In addition, the forest is home to unique birds, mammals and insects, such as the critically endangered cotton-top tamarin and the Baird’s tapir, listed as “vulnerable” in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

In addition to being a sanctuary for wildlife, the Tolo River forest plays a critical role for both the community and the surrounding cattle ranches: it provides them with a steady supply of clean stream water through the Tolo River and its tributaries. Community members, cattle ranchers and scientists are unanimous in attributing water security to the standing trees.

“We are really happy here as a community,” says Guisao. “If we could show this to others, they would understand that it’s not money that resolves problems. It’s self-determination.”

Tanya Dimitrova holds a masters degree in energy and resources from the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Texas and works as a freelance science and environmentalist journalist. This piece was edited by Ann Espuelas.

Lima To Invest $110 Million in Green Infrastructure And Climate Adaptation

30 April 2015 | LIMA, Peru | The alpacas of Peru are prized for their soft, fluffy wool, and farmers have been raising them on the steep puna grasslands high in the Andes above Lima for millennia. Alpacas also have soft, padded hooves; the bottoms of their feet are more like house slippers than like street shoes, which means they can plod around on the grass without stampeding the absorbent dirt into an impenetrable hard surface. Cows and sheep, however, are a different animal completely: their hard hooves compress the dirt, and when they graze, they yank the grass out of ground rather than snipping it with their teeth the way alpacas do. This all results in grasslands that repel water rather than absorb it, contributing to a feast-or-famine cycle in Lima, which is the world’s second-largest desert city after Cairo.

In the wet season, the rivers that flow down from the Andes break their banks, while in the dry season, they slow to a trickle – and those cows and sheep are one reason for that. On top of that, the soils are carbon-rich, and as they’re degraded, carbon is released into the atmosphere.

Then there are the natural swamps and bogs that, like the soils, have traditionally absorbed water in the wet season and released it in the dry season. Over the last century, they’ve been drained so animals can graze, and that makes the downstream wet seasons wetter, and the dry seasons even drier.

Earlier this month, the city’s water utility, SEDAPAL (Servicio de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de Lima), announced it would funnel nearly 5% of the water fees it collects from users into addressing this issue. Some of the money will go into programs that help farmers better manage their livestock – in part by rotating their animals, but also by keeping fewer – but fatter – cows. Other funds will go to close the drainage ditches so that wetlands can replenish their stored volumes, and deep infiltration of surface water regulation processes will recover, while some will go to restore pre-Incan “amunas” that siphon water off high-altitude streams in the wet season and funnel it into the mountain itself, where it filters down through the rocks over several months and emerges from springs in the dry season. Of the activities, restoration of amunas will likely provide the greatest impact and at the lowest cost, according to a cost-curve analysis carried out by Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends and Consorcio para el Desarrollo Sostenible de al Ecorregií³n Andina (CONDESAN).


The restoration of amunas will provide nearly half the dry-season water increase. Source: Forest Trends and CONDESAN.

“As the regulatory agency of Water and Sanitation in Períº, it is our responsibility to protect and preserve the river basins,” says Fernando Momiy Hada, President of national water regulator SUNASS (Superintendencia Nacional de Servicios de Saneamiento). “‘Gray infrastructure tools,’ like pipes and sewers, have their place, but we need to restore and protect the watershed, and re-grout the amunas to preserve and increase the quality and the quantity of water in the river basins.”

The funds will be divided between two activities: 1% of the total water tariff, or PEN 70 million (USD 23 million), will go explicitly to green infrastructure; while 3.8%, or PEN 266 million (USD 89 million) will be used for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction more generally.

The PEN 70 million investment is more than any other Latin American city or water utility has ever committed to green infrastructure.

Lima’s challenges are far from unique. Due to extreme water shortages, California is imposing dramatic water use reductions and, as a result of an extreme drought, Sí£o Paulo, Brazil, the world’s fourth-largest city, is contemplating similar measures. The water crisis is front page news every day these days – and Lima is taking a very important and big step into the right direction.

“Latin America is a hotbed of innovation when it comes to tackling the global water crisis, and Peru is a leading country in Latin America,” says Michael Jenkins, President and CEO of US NGO Forest Trends, which conducted the cost-curve analysis. “This is exactly the kind of leadership and creativity we need if we’re going to confront similar challenges around the world.”

SUNASS tentatively approved the proposal on March 26 followed by a public hearing that took place this month. Based on the public hearing, SUNASS anticipates it will be approved next month with no changes to green infrastructure and climate change adaptation funds.

Lima’s water utility, SEDAPAL, had submitted a proposed budget that included a plan for investing PEN 12 million (USD 4 million) in green infrastructure for the city. The approved budget is nearly six-fold that proposal.

This Week In Forest Carbon: REDD Gets Sweeter

The Tambopata REDD, based in Peru, aims to pair carbon finance with sustainable cocoa production with help from a $7 million investment by Althelia Climate Fund. Rather than rely on carbon finance long term, the project is designed to use offset sales as the start-up capital to set up the sustainable cocoa production – which over time will become the main revenue stream for farmers.

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


17 April 2015 | “You have two options for avoiding deforestation,” said Paul Ramirez. “One is to put fences and rangers to keep people out – this option in the long-term is not sustainable. The other, which is actually the good one, is to work with people to change their practices.”

Ramirez is a project manager at the Peruvian NGO Asociacií³n para la Investigacií³n y Desarrollo Integral (AIDER) that is working in the buffer zone of a national reserve in Madre de Dios, known as the “Biodiversity Capital” of Peru. There, the Tambopata National Reserve and the Buhuaja-Sonene National Park provide habitat for threatened species such as the black caiman, harpy eagle, and giant otter.


But, despite its protected status, the forest itself is threatened by migratory agriculture and illegal logging, both of which accelerated when construction of a new highway through the region began in 2006. An estimated 1,189 hectares are being chipped out of the 570,000-hectare protected area every year.


AIDER aims to change this by pairing carbon finance with sustainable cocoa production. Fueled by a $7 million investment by Althelia Climate Fund, the organization helped found a farmer’s cooperative focused on harvesting, processing and commercializing fine aromatic cocoa. This year, the cooperative is starting with 300 planted hectares, with plans to scale up to 4,000 hectares by the end of the decade. The cooperative aims to produce 3,200 tonnes of cocoa each year – enough to create annual revenues of nearly $10 million, if cocoa prices hold at 2014 levels.

Until then, the Tambopata REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests) project will lean on revenues from carbon offset sales. Four Dutch companies – development bank FMO, carpet maker Desso, and energy competitors Eneco and Essent – have provided early carbon finance, as has the Peruvian insurance company Pací­fico Seguros.


Farmers receive financing “on the condition that they won’t deforest anymore and that a share of revenues will go to investors,” Ramirez explained.


The REDD offsets are used as collateral against Althelia’s loan. Rather than rely on carbon finance long term, the Tambopata project is designed to use offset sales as the start-up capital to set up the sustainable cocoa production – which over time will become the main revenue stream for farmers.


Althelia’s Latin America Director Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar also sees carbon finance as a gateway for companies to begin thinking more holistically about the impact of their supply chains.


“For example, Desso today makes carpets and tomorrow probably they will be sourcing – I hope – some materials, for example latex, from reforestation projects,” he said. “For companies to start buying offsets is important for the offset itself, but also for the contacts with the projects and the business opportunity it brings.”

The Tambopata REDD project has issued 108,335 offsets to date under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and is expected to avoid the emission of 4.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over its lifetime.


The full story in Ecosystem Marketplace is here. And more news from the forest carbon marketplace is summarized below, so keep reading!

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team


If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at


Call for reviewers

Ecosystem Marketplace is seeking a panel of expert reviewers to offer insight for our upcoming State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2015 report. The review entails two rounds of feedback: one on the draft figures for the report and one on the draft text. Reviewers must be active in the voluntary carbon market, have responded to our annual survey, agree to maintain confidentiality, and offer comments in a timely manner. Please send expressions of interest to Allie Goldstein ( by Friday, April 17.


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Ecosystem Marketplace is seeking support for our forest carbon research. Our plans for 2015 include a joint report with REDDX bringing together new research from both initiatives to offer a comprehensive picture of forest carbon finance in 2015, to be released ahead of the United Nations (UN) climate negotiations in Paris. We’re also diving into new research tracking the beyond-carbon impacts of land-use carbon projects – in particular how co-benefits are verified and how they influence demand. Our in-depth journalism will continue to cover major project and policy developments while exploring emerging topics such as indigenous REDD, carbon rights, and the connection between sustainable commodities and avoided deforestation. See our Forest Carbon Sponsorship Prospectus for more information.



Two more years!

Indonesia will again extend its ban on forest clearing following a two-year moratorium originally set under a $1 billion climate deal with Norway in 2011. The ban was extended for two years in May 2013, meaning that, without another extension, it would expire next month. But an advisor to Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment indicated the policy would “certainly continue.” On the ground, the battle to save tropical rainforests in the province of Aceh recently meant dismantling 3,000 hectares of palm oil plantations illegally sited in protected areas. Aceh contains the Leuser Ecosystem, the last place on Earth where the Sumatran rhino, elephant, tiger and orangutan coexist in the wild.


A less than taxing proposition

Australia is scheduled to hold its first Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) auction on Wednesday – the first test of the policy that replaced its carbon tax. Existing projects developed under the Carbon Farming Initiative will be incorporated into the auction, through which the government will submit a benchmark price and then select offset projects that bid in below this threshold. Market participants fear that the AU $2.6 billion ERF will not spur new project development. “The way Australia has implemented the ERF is not using markets so much as just using government money, which can provide support to some projects, but is not fully harnessing the market and directing private capital into markets,” said Jerry Seager, Chief Program Officer for the VCS.



A second Genesis?

In 2008, Hyundai announced that it would offset the emissions from driving its Genesis sedans by investing in a REDD project in the Brazilian Cerrado, a biodiverse grasslands ecosystem covering two million square kilometers. The Ecological Institute proposed the Genesis Forest Project to reforest a barren cattle ranch. But the project failed after auditors raised concerns about low-carbon storage in a landscape regularly burned by wildfires. However, recent research out of the University of Brasí­lia shows the Cerrado may actually store large quantities of carbon in its soil. The Ecological Institute is now taking a different approach to carbon finance, working with 14 ceramics factories in the region to generate carbon offsets by fueling their kilns with rice husks rather than native wood.


North Carolina, c’mon and raise up

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) last week issued 608,000 offsets to seven projects. The majority of offsets – 394,000 tonnes – were issued to the Mattamsuskeet Ventures forestry project in North Carolina. Another 180,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) were issued to three livestock projects and one ozone-depleting substances destruction project operated by Environmental Credit Corp. The remaining issuances went to small-scale livestock projects in Arizona developed under early action protocols recognized by the ARB. California’s compliance offset program now includes 70 early action and 40 compliance projects for a total supply of 18.8 million offsets.


Nonstop to neutrality

JetBlue will purchase 500,000 tCO2e from Foundation to offset the emissions from all of the airline’s flights in April. The offsets will be sourced in part from an avoided deforestation project in Brazil as a part of the airline’s “One Thing That’s Green” annual campaign. JetBlue has worked with for the past seven years, and its customers have offset 158,000 tCO2e to date. JetBlue’s head of sustainability Sophia Mendelsohn notes that jet fuel is still crucial to the airline’s operations, so emissions cannot be completely eliminated. “Protecting existing forests is a logical way to fund emissions absorption and helps us all adapt to a changing climate,” she said.



The best idea since Doritos Locos Tacos

Yum! Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, recently announced a zero deforestation policy for its palm oil sourcing. Yum! says it will ban plantation development in high carbon stock areas, setting December 2017 as the target date for establishing safeguards for palm oil sourcing. Greenpeace, which campaigned against the company’s pulp and paper sourcing practices in 2012, said the policy was a “good sign” but the company needs to do more to define terms like high carbon stock. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) also noted that the commitment does not cover third-party vendors that provide baked goods and sauces that commonly include palm oil.


Holding out for a forest hero

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), one of the world’s largest commodity suppliers, plans to release a no deforestation policy at its May 7th annual meeting. The policy will include an assessment of impacts on forests and high conservation value areas, with a particular focus on the Brazilian Amazon and other critical forests in South America. The company plans to work with nonprofit The Forest Trust to map its supply chain. Forest Heroes, a coalition of environmental advocacy groups, commented on the policy: “ADM has shown that they can boost soy production by focusing expansion on degraded land and yield improvement, instead of sacrificing forests.”



Head in the clouds

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and Norway have signed a NOK 35 million agreement (about US $4.5 million) to improve the capacity of developing countries to monitor and report on changes in forest area. The project will facilitate access to satellite imagery, as well as a platform for analyzing the data, using cloud-based software that avoids the need for outdated computers to download data in areas with poor Internet connections. FAO’s Open Foris Initiative developed the software, which can be used without expensive licenses. The technology will be implemented in 13 countries developing activities under the UN REDD program.


Beefing up deforestation

Agricultural subsidies worth at least $486 billion annually dwarf the $8.7 billion total that developed countries have pledged to halt deforestation in tropical regions, according to new research by the Overseas Development Initiative. The working paper delved into subsidies in Brazil and Indonesia, which have been pledged 40% of the REDD funding committed to date but also have dozens of subsidies in place for commodities associated with deforestation: beef, soy, palm oil, and timber. The authors of the study suggest that REDD could be used as an opportunity for phasing out agricultural subsidies that incentivize deforestation.

That’ll cost you

Former Brazilian President Luí­s Iní¡cio Lula da Silva spent more than $2 billion on combating deforestation in the Amazon during his 2007 to 2010 term, while current President Dilma Rousseff spent $570 million on the cause from 2011 to 2014, according to a new report by InfoAmazonia. The lower spending was accompanied by a weakening of the Forest Code, the construction of hydroelectric dams, and a slowing in the demarcation of indigenous territories. Deforestation “only garners attention when it is facing a crisis,” said Mauro Oliveira Pires, former director of the Department of Deforestation at the Ministry of Environment, so as deforestation rates in Brazil dropped in the early 2000s, the issue “started to lose political importance.”



Anatomy of a commitment

The story of how Wilmar came to make a no deforestation commitment is not one of NGOs campaigning against companies, but rather a story of individuals. A recent piece in Grist anatomizes the 48 hours preceding Wilmar’s historic commitment in December 2013. It began, in some ways, with a letter from Kuok Khoon Hong, Wilmar’s CEO, to Glenn Hurowitz, founder of Forest Heroes, following an interview Hurowitz gave on Bloomberg. “I saw potential in that letter,” Hurowitz said. “I could see there was a seriousness and an openness to him. You know, Wilmar did what they set out to do well. The environment just hadn’t been their top concern. But they didn’t ideologically embrace deforestation.”



Droning out deforestation

Oxford-based BioCarbon Engineering plans to plant one billion trees per year using drones. The technology will use unmanned aerial vehicles to map terrain, design appropriate planting patterns, and then plant up to 36,000 seeds per day. (In comparison, two human planters could do about 3,000 seeds per day.) BioCarbon Engineering is collaborating with the Brazilian NGO Imozen, with plans to kickstart the planting in either Brazil or South Africa within the next year. The organization won a $1 million United Arab Emirates Drones for Good competition. “We believe that industrial-scale deforestation can only be countered with industrial-scale reforestation,” said Susan Graham, an engineer for BioCarbon Engineering.


The naked North

Boreal forests in Russia and Canada lost significant tree cover in 2013, according to new data from Global Forest Watch. Russia lost 4.3 million hectares and Canada lost 2.5 million hectares, in part due to fires increasing in frequency and intensity as the climate warms. Because boreal forests maintain vast carbon stocks in their soils, their loss could facilitate an influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The data revealed other top deforesters by area as Brazil (2.2 million hectares), the United States (1.7 million hectares), and Indonesia (1.6 million hectares), though Indonesia’s loss was the lowest in nearly a decade.


The biggest zeros

The UCS has released its 2015 Palm Oil Scorecard that rates major companies on their commitments (or lack thereof) to source palm oil sustainably. Nestlé, Danone, Kellogg’s, Unilever, ConAgraFoods, PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, P&G, and L’Oreal all earned scores of 80 or higher, with many brands making significant gains from their 2014 ranking. However, a dozen companies – including The Clorox Company, CVS, Walgreens, Target, and others – earned a ‘0’ score for no commitment to end tropical deforestation. “The scorecard looks behind savvy marketing campaigns and feel-good branding to uncover the environmental impacts these companies condone when they fail to ensure their inputs aren’t harming the environment,” said Lael Goodman of UCS.


In the public disinterest

Monoculture plantations continue to drive illegal deforestation in Peru, according to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). The investigation finds that Grupo Romero is currently the largest palm oil actor in Peru and its planned plantations would result in 25,055 hectares of illegal deforestation. Meanwhile, the Melka Group has requested at least 96,192 additional hectares of public land from the government after having already established 7,000 hectares of illegal plantations. “Procedural loopholes and violations of national law are facilitating palm expansion in the Peruvian Amazon,” the report finds. Peru has announced a potential for at least 1.5 million hectares of palm oil development, but the report finds that this potential is based on an “illogical definition” of suitable land.



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Connecting To Sacha Inchi And Beyond: A Database For Products Of The Amazon

10 April 2015 | In the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, indigenous people are harvesting sacha inchi — as they have been for 3,000 years. And on screens around the world, Dr. Oz, among others, touts the nut-like seed for its high nutritional value and delicious flavor. It’s fast becoming a grocery store favorite: roasted, covered in chocolate, tamari-flavored, or pressed into oil.

Three thousand years, however, is a long time to wait for anything, especially in a global market hungry for the next “super food,” the next quinoa. And for many similar products from the Amazon, the wait is getting a lot shorter, thanks to a project called “Putting Amazon Indigenous Producers on the Map.”

The online database aims to connect indigenous farmers of sustainable natural products with buyers (like food or cosmetic companies), investors, and donors. “Putting Amazon Indigenous Producers on the Map” comprises a catalog and interactive map of community enterprises, ranging from the production of well-known commodities like cacao, coffee, Brazil nuts, and palm hearts to products new to the global market, like Peruvian sacha inchi and camu camu, an Amazonian fruit that contains 30 to 60 times more vitamin C than an orange.

Four organizations — Forest Trends (publisher of Ecosystem Marketplace), the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), EcoDecision, and the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA) — are developing the catalog and the map to help improve access to markets and finance for Amazonian indigenous communities, making it easier for buyers, funders, and other allies to find suppliers and products.

Across the Amazon, indigenous communities have long harvested non-timber forest products and cultivated traditional crops, both for their own consumption and for sale. Responsible trade in this vast array of products can have profound impact on two fronts. First, such transactions can make a significant contribution to indigenous communities working to conserve their forests and generate alternative sources of income. The conservation efforts of these communities have impact far beyond the forests in mitigating climate change, as a study released jointly by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) revealed last year. The report found that indigenous people in forest communities and their management of these forests are critical to controlling and eventually diminishing carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

Second, more investors and donors are looking to provide finance to these communities and are seeking viable ways to do so. Plus, for buyers of products like sacha inchi, such trade aligns with a growing body of corporate commitments to deforestation-free sourcing. (For further information on these commitments and other sustainability and supply-chain issues, go to

This kind of far-reaching success can be found in the relationship between the Yawanawa people of Brazil and the beauty company Aveda. Since Aveda started sourcing the pigment of the urukum plant — commonly known as annatto and once used as war paint — from the Yawanawa more than 20 years ago, it has been a win-win situation for both. For the Yawanawa, the income and support from Aveda has enabled them to reestablish and strengthen their traditional culture, which had been nearly wiped out from the devastation wrought by rubber plantations, the influence of missionaries, and old-world diseases against which the native Americans had no resistance. The community is now thriving, working toward sustainability and economic independence. For Aveda, working with indigenous communities has become a central link in its supply chain, as well as a key part of its brand identity.

For many companies seeking to follow such a model, however, the initial hurdle of even connecting with a producer can be a challenge. Often, companies have difficulty identifying and evaluating partners for investment and sources of supply because community enterprises can be small scale, dispersed, and relatively inexperienced in using the Internet and other tools to enhance their visibility. That’s where “Putting Amazon Indigenous Producers on the Map” comes in, making that vital first connection.

The database and interactive map includes information gleaned from direct contact with Amazon indigenous producers, with input from Amazon indigenous organizations belonging to COICA, from development partners across the region, and from a unique crowd-sourced mapping tool ( The database includes:

  • The characteristics and contact information for producer organizations
  • A listing of products (linked to the online platform
  • A profile of producers’ capacity and experience
  • A description of how enterprises contribute to conservation objectives.

The first phase of “Putting Amazon Indigenous Producers on the Map” includes data collection through August 2015, with database information to be available on a searchable, map-based platform online as well as through detailed profiles of producers on the platform.

Support for “Putting Amazon Indigenous Producers on the Map” comes from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of a 5-year program called Accelerating Inclusion and Mitigating Emissions (AIME), involving a partnership of nine environmental and indigenous organizations, led by Forest Trends. The AIME program supports empowerment of forest-dependent communities to more fully contribute to and directly benefit from climate-change mitigation efforts.

So even as sacha inchi flies off the shelves of Whole Foods, this kind of investment points to a much bigger picture, more far reaching than simply providing a tasty snack for adventurous eaters. The global market for Amazonian products could have powerful impact on some of the most pressing issues of our time, like fighting climate change and women’s empowerment.

Just ask the people at the Association of Waorani Indigenous Women of Ecuador, a cooperative in the Ecuadorian Amazon. They stopped selling bush meat – which placed unsustainable pressure on the community and the environment – and started growing cacao in 2010. Since then, they have revitalized their community. Their sustainable farms – all run by women — have restored the jungle cover and the animal population that was destroyed by bush meat production. The Waorani now have better access to health, education, and housing resources, with women especially benefiting. The cooperative aims to build a bridge between Waorani traditional ways and the contemporary world.

Thanks to the database “Putting Amazon Indigenous Producers on the Map,” it may get a lot easier for you to enjoy their chocolate — and support this community.


Ann Espuelas is a writer for Forest Trends.

Where Chocolate Meets Carbon: One Peruvian Project Finds The Sweet Spot

9 April 2015 | Last November, a group of Dutch business leaders found themselves far away from their desks, standing damp but happy in the Peruvian rainforest. Representatives from development bank FMO, carpet maker Desso, and energy competitors Eneco and Essent were visiting the forest they’d paid to save.

A visit to Madre de Dios in December 2014 brought representatives from Dutch companies to the middle of Sandoval Lake inside the Tambopata National Reserve. | Photograph by Aldo Ramirez

The trip brought them to a 570,000-hectare protected area spread across the Tambopata National Reserve and the Buhuaja-Sonene National Park in the Madre de Dios region, known as the “Biodiversity Capital” of Peru. It earns its nickname by providing critical habitat to threatened species such as the black caiman, harpy eagle, and giant otter. A recent government census puts the human population of Madre de Dios at just under 110,000 – more than 20 times what it was in the 1940s, when gold mining began to draw migrants from the South Andes.

Though they are technically government-protected areas, the forest cover in Tambopata and Buhuaja-Sonene is dwindling, with an estimated 1,189 hectares lost every year. The construction of the South Interoceanic Highway, which started in 2006, has accelerated gold mining, wood extraction, and slash-and-burn agriculture. Migration to the region has also increased, with the city of Puerto Maldonado swelling.

An informal gold mining camp near the Reserve. | Photo credit: Ecotierra Inc

“What is so depressing is I came to Puerto Maldonado 31 years ago,” said Mark Meyrick, who heads Eneco’s carbon desk. “That town has not changed materially in terms of development in that time. It’s still pretty dusty, still pretty rundown, still doesn’t have much going for it, and yet there has been a huge amount of environmental damage done in that area and I ask myself, to what end? Who has got rich on this? And it’s very difficult to see that anybody has.”

Meyrick’s company has invested in a program that might not make people rich, but will at least help them make ends meet while taking pressure off the valuable forest: the Tambopata REDD project.

Enter REDD

REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests, and the Tambopata REDD project aims to spur economic activities that are based on the forest’s conservation rather than its destruction – activities such as cocoa production, chestnut harvesting, small-scale fish farming, and low-impact logging.

The Tambopata REDD project is expected to avoid the emission of 4.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. | Photo credit: Ecotierra Inc

The project took about three years to get off the ground. Project developers first had to identify which portion of the forest was in danger and calculate the deforestation that would occur with and without intervention. They created a detailed project design document that underwent an audit to ensure it met the requirements of the Verified Carbon Standard, the body that would eventually issue offsets, each representing a tonne of carbon dioxide kept out of the atmosphere (delineated as tCO2e).

“Our goal is to avoid the deforestation of almost 12,000 hectares in both natural protected areas in the first 10 years of the project, and contribute to biodiversity conservation and socioeconomic development in the buffer zone,” said Paul Ramirez, the project manager.

But generating the offsets is only the first step. Then they have to sell them.

The market for REDD offsets is currently valued at around $100 million per year, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’s 2014 State of the Forest Carbon Markets report. Governments are currently negotiating how avoided deforestation might be including in an international climate change agreement, but until then the REDD market is entirely dependent on voluntary buyers. Though REDD offset sales are growing, prices are dropping, and last year project developers reported taking home less than 70% of the revenue they needed to keep projects afloat long-term.

A Lifeline

The Althelia Climate Fund had an idea: Why not use REDD offsets as collateral against loans but also design projects to produce deforestation-free products, therefore creating multiple revenue streams? The Fund has raised more than 100 million euros to date from private investors and has attracted the attention of the US Agency for International Development, which last year announced it would guarantee Althelia up to $133.8 million to de-risk avoided deforestation projects.

The Tambopata REDD project was first conceived in 2010, when Althelia was just an idea. Ramirez, then a business manager at the Peruvian sustainable development NGO Asociacií³n para la Investigacií³n y Desarrollo Integral (AIDER), met Christian del Valle and Sylvain Goupille on a scoping trip to Paris to meet with companies interested in carbon finance. At the time, del Valle was the Director of Environmental Markets and Forestry at the French bank BNP Paribas, while Goupille was BNP’s Head of Carbon Finance.

A year later, the pair left BNP to start Althelia.

Althelia’s first investment was in Wildlife Work’s Taita Hills project in Kenya. But soon after, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar, who did a brief stint at AIDER before becoming Althelia’s Latin America Director, started advocating for the project in Peru.

In September 2014, Althelia announced its $7 million investment in the Tambopata REDD project as part of a $12 million initiative. The Peru-U.S. debt swap fund “Fondo de las Americas” committed another $2 million in co-financing.

No Fences Around This Forest

While dozens of avoided deforestation projects are currently being developed around the world, Tambopata is among a subset of REDD projects that explicitly builds sustainable commodities into its business model.

Slash-and-burn migratory agriculture is the major driver of deforestation in the region. | Photo credit: Ecotierra Inc

“You have two options for avoiding deforestation,” explained Ramirez. “One is to put fences and rangers to keep people out – this option in the long-term is not sustainable. The other, which is actually the good one, is to work with people to change their practices.”

SERNANP, the national protected areas authority of Peru, awarded AIDER a 20-year contract to manage Tambopata and Bahuaja-Sonene – an agreement that allows the non-profit to attract private investment for conservation. Through the REDD project, AIDER aims to work with 1,100 farmers in 19 villages around the buffer zone of the protected regions. These farmers practice migratory agriculture, moving from plot to plot over time and sometimes clearing sections of the Reserve. AIDER seeks to break this cycle by helping them intensify agricultural production on land outside of Tambopata and Bahuaja-Sonene, as well as by planting crops that are lucrative enough that farmers can earn a long-term livelihood from a finite land area.

The NGO helped to form a farmer’s cooperative called Tambopata Candamo, founded in October 2014 with an original 21 members. The cooperative is focused on harvesting, processing and commercializing cocoa, with a goal of maintaining 4,000 hectares of fine aromatic cocoa trees. With AIDER’s help, they’ve invested in infrastructure such as warehouses, dryers and fermentation facilities, and trucks that will transport the processed product to market. Between the chocolate trees, farmers will also plant other cash crops such as bananas and beans.

Porfirio Garate Uscachi poses in front of the cocoa nursery. | Photo credit: Ecotierra Inc

AIDER is starting small, with a goal of planting just 300 hectares in this first year of the project – a proof of concept that they hope will convert skeptics. The biggest challenge so far has been communicating the concept of payment for performance to local farmers, according to Ramirez.

“It’s [hard] to make them understand that this is not a donation project, because they are used to NGOs coming with projects as grants and they don’t have to give anything back,” he said. “I think that’s why many projects don’t have the impact that they should have: Because people have machines and they don’t take care of the thing because it didn’t cost them. So this is a different project. It’s not a grant project, it’s a business project.”

Business Means Business

Farmers receive financing “on the condition that they won’t deforest anymore and that a share of revenues will go to investors,” Ramirez explained.

In exchange for that promise, the project will pay to get them up to speed for certification by Fairtrade, which ensures fair labor practices and establishes a floor price of $2,000 per tonne of cocoa. Ecotierra, a Canadian-Peruvian company, supports the cooperative with finding a “route to market” – helping overcome the most common barriers facing cocoa farmers in Peru. The real money, however, will come on the back-end.

Victor Cordoba displays a cocoa fruit. | Photo credit: Ecotierra Inc

The cooperative will receive the majority of the revenues from what AIDER hopes will eventually be at least 3,200 tonnes of cocoa produced each year, certified as both organic and Fairtrade. AIDER expects farmers to earn a $500 premium over the market price because of their organic and Fairtrade certifications.

Premium or not, though, the cocoa industry in Peru is booming. Exports reached $146 million in 2013 and were forecast to rise 20% by 2014, according to the USDA’s Food and Agricultural Service. If cocoa prices hold at 2014 levels of $3,100 per tonne and if the project achieves 3,200 tonnes of annual cocoa production, this would translate into estimated revenues of almost $10 million per year for the cooperative.

The goal for the Tambopata project is to create a roughly equal split between the revenue streams from cocoa and carbon. But the project may lean more heavily on carbon sales in the beginning as the cooperative slowly expands its cocoa production and undergoes the organic and Fairtrade certification processes. Cocoa trees usually take three years to produce their first fruit and eight years to reach peak production. In the meantime, the revenue from the carbon offset sales begins to repay Althelia’s investors.

7_Tambopata_cocoa growing
The beginning of a new revenue stream. | Photo courtesy of Paul Ramirez

“We are entering into a mechanism which is like any other business,” Gonzalez Aybar explained. “So for the first time, we actually have carbon finance working. You have a carbon asset which is pledged for collateral for a loan and then you have companies that are buying the carbon from the project which serves to pay back the loan – and to make profits on top of that which are shared among the partners.”

The Tambopata REDD project has issued 108,335 offsets to date under the Verified Carbon Standard and is also validated under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard. In addition to the Dutch companies that visited Tambopata last November, a Peruvian insurance company, Pací­fico Seguros, has also purchased offsets from the project, which is expected to avoid the emission of more than 4.5 million tCO2e by 2020.
Today, Carbon. Tomorrow, Commodities?

The trip to Madre de Dios left an impression on the representatives from the Dutch companies.

“I’ve been in the carbon market for 11 years now and the whole reason I came into it in the first place was because of my concern about the loss of biodiversity in the world,” Meyrick said. “So being able to actually get involved in a real project that protected some really key area of the world to me was absolutely massive.”

Gilberto Santa Rosa Vera, AIDER’s chief agronomist, speaks to the group of visitors. | Photograph by Aldo Ramirez

Gonzalez Aybar admits that a company buying 100,000 carbon offsets “won’t change the world” – nor will it fully support the Tambopata project. But he sees carbon offset purchases as a gateway for companies to begin thinking more holistically about their supply chains and their impact on the environment.

“For example, Desso today makes carpets and tomorrow probably they will be sourcing – I hope – some materials, for example latex, from reforestation projects,” he said. “For companies to start buying offsets is important for the offset itself, but also for the contacts with the projects and the business opportunity it brings.”

The Althelia Climate Fund is set to mature in 2021, at which point investors will be repaid and cocoa production is projected to be in full swing.

“We really try to set up projects where we can catalyze a change into sustainable land use so that when we exit, when we are not there anymore, the project is self-sustainable,” said Edit Kiss, Director of Business Development and Operations at Althelia. “In the case of Tambopata, we estimate that from year six the project will have enough revenues from the cocoa and the carbon revenues will be much less needed, and we really hope that it’s going to be very successful.”


The Tolo River Community Project: The Importance Of Inclusion

30 March 2015 | For Everildys Cí³rdoba, it was one of the biggest days in her life.

Her uncle, Aureliano Cí³rdoba, had championed the Tolo River community’s foray into carbon finance, and she’d spent three years working to educate her people on its complexities. She’d answered questions about protecting the trees and selling the offsets; she’d explained that nobody would lose access to the wood for building their homes; and on this notable Sunday, she and 100 other community representatives from surrounding villages gathered at the central square in Peí±aloza, the largest of the community’s nine villages in Chocí³ Province, Colombia.

The date was October, 9, 2010, and they were meeting for a General Assembly of their small Afro-Colombian community organization, COCOMASUR (Black Communities of the Tolo River and South Coast). If they voted for the project, she believed, they would save their forest. If they voted against it, the forest would be gone.

Free, Prior, and Informed Consent

The plan was to save their forest and earn offsets for the carbon captured in trees under a financing mechanism know as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), but REDD project standards require a “Free Prior and Informed Consent” (FPIC, pronounced “F-pic”) by the local people, a measure that requires disclosure, discussion and agreement – a process involving far more than just a few meetings between community leaders and a project developer.

FPIC means that project developers must offer information to the community, ensure they understand it through a feedback loop, allow them time for private discussions, hold meetings to answer questions, and organize focus groups to gather women’s or youth’s perspectives. It is an expensive process, involving sociologists or anthropologists, and it can take years.

From the beginning, Aureliano aimed to exceed even the stringent requirements of FPIC and to involve the whole community in the design of the project — an approach that he believed would ultimately strengthen the project by making it more attuned to the needs and desires of his people, and therefore more likely to succeed. In that spirit, he put Everildys in charge of explaining the process to the community.

“I had to take a complex subject and try to make it simple,” she says.

A Child of the Forest; a Woman of the World

Everildys’s entire life is closely related to this community. She was born and grew up in Peí±aloza, but in 1995 paramilitaries forced her to flee to the South. She was only 26, with two young daughters, and she spent the next 15 years in exile raising them on her own. When the violence subsided, she moved back to Chocí³ to help her community recover.

“When you have a difficulty in life, you have two choices,” she says. “Sit down and cry that things are bad or get busy fixing them. I am of the second type of person.”

Long before that Sunday meeting, Everildys’ determination and positive attitude had gone far in achieving the kind of community involvement and consensus necessary on a REDD project like the one Aureliano envisioned.

Sunday’s vote was a long time coming: In the case of the Tolo River community, FPIC took three years.

A Cause for Celebration – For Some

After lengthy deliberations that day, the General Assembly voted to approve a forest conservation project that would ban commercial logging and the clearing of forest for cattle pasture. The day ended with food, music, and dancing.

But not everyone was celebrating. Not long before, just a mile down the dirt road from Peí±aloza, another young woman, Johanna, was sitting in the shade of a beautiful white mansion. The house overlooks hundreds of cows grazing on the surrounding 10,000-acre cattle farm, one of the largest ranches bordering the Tolo River community forest. It belongs to Amado Willes, a wealthy businessman who lives in the capital for most of the year. In his absence Johanna’s husband manages the business.

Johanna explained that in the past couple of years, the ranch has not been able to clear more forest for pasture and expand. “All of this land is now a reserve,” she said, waving her hand toward the forested hills in the distance—Tolo River community land.

Johanna’s not alone in thinking that land is better used for raising cattle than letting it stay forested. Global demand for commodities like palm oil, soybeans, and cattle is driving deforestation all around the world—and nearly half of it illegal, according to research by Forest Trends.

In Chocí³, deforestation rates are higher than they’ve ever been — which spurred Aureliano and others to turn to the prospect of developing their own conservation project — and to consider a finance mechanism like REDD as their structure.

The Eyes of the Forest

After the General Assembly’s decision, Everildys and the rest of the Tolo River community members got busy. On October 18, a few days after the meeting in Peí±aloza, the forest patrol started its work, an ongoing part of the project. Frazier Guisao, an ex-logger, was one of the first men hired full-time by the community organization to perform daily perimeter checks in the forest and ensure no clearing for pasture or commercial logging took place. Community members are still allowed to harvest timber for building their houses but not for selling it.

Nine other men work with Guisao, patrolling the forest always in teams of at least four. They are not armed. The only evidence or announcement of their authority is the colorful printing of “COCOMASUR” on their T-shirts. Their only tools of the trade, handheld GPS devices and small digital cameras.

“The forest patrol is the eyes of COCOMASUR,” says Guisao. “When we encounter somebody doing something they should not be, we simply ask them who gave them authorization to be there. We inform them that this is our territory.”

They look for cut-off trees or newly cleared areas, take photos, record the coordinates, and then report them back to the community office for investigation. Ferney Caicedo, a slender 21-year-old, works with Guisao on the forest patrol. Caicedo, born and raised in Peí±aloza, has completed a professional forestry technician course and is an expert in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). After every forest patrol, he uploads the GPS coordinates of the patrol route and logs any incident from that day on the office computer.

Tackling VCS: Establishing Carbon Credits

In addition to the forest patrol, the REDD project required the community to begin the lengthy and complicated process of earning certification and validation from the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), the leading carbon standard on the voluntary carbon market. The team followed a protocol based on the carbon calculation methodology established by the VCS.

First, the team had to ascertain how much carbon would be released if they continued business as usual. Specifically, they looked at historical rates of deforestation to see how much of their forest would likely be chopped down for pasture, and then they started measuring the amount of carbon in their forest and in pasture land – using methods that had, ironically, been developed and perfected by timber merchants.

Measuring the Carbon in the Forest

With help from a conservation biologist from the region’s capital, the team began by randomly selecting 10 forest plots of 1,000 square feet each, and counting all the trees within them. Then the team identified the tree species, measured their circumference and used allometric equations to calculate how much carbon was contained in each plot. The team also took soil samples and analyzed their carbon content in the ecology lab. The team did the same for cattle pastures, which is what the forest would have become without the patrol

Caicedo and the forest patrol, along with a conservation biology team from the Medellin Botanical Garden and anthropologist Brodie Ferguson, spent months in the forest.

The data collection and the analysis took the better part of 2011. The results yielded a certain number of carbon offset credits, to be submitted for approval and certification.

Finally in July 2012, Pablo Reed, an independent third-party auditor, came to the Tolo River community forest to verify the carbon offset credits. Reed works for the multinational consultancy company DNV, specializing in certifying emissions reduction projects such as REDD.

Verification and Validation

Reed recalls that just getting to the GPS-marked forest plots in the Tolo River community was an adventure, involving a charter flight, a boat ride, a motorcycle, a horseback ride—then finally a trek on foot into the forest following the patrol. Reed observed Caicedo and other trained community members perform the tree measurements and then compared the numbers to what they had measured in the initial inventory.

As a result of Reed’s report, Verified Carbon Standard issued 100,000 carbon offset certificates and listed them in a public registry.

Next Steps: The Sale

Armed with the offset certificates, the community now just needed to find someone to purchase them. They found a buyer in a family-owned company that chose to go carbon-neutral: a Colombian oil services firm called Independence. Its business is drilling and managing oil wells as a sub-contractor for fossil fuel corporations such as BP, Occidental, and Petrogas. It is in charge of 30 percent of the oil production in Colombia, which recently reached 1 million barrels of oil per day.

“Of course it’s a contradiction,” says Gaelle Espinosa, the company’s environmental coordinator, from the 19th floor of her modern office in downtown Bogotí¡, referring to the company’s core business and its interest in being carbon-neutral. “But we as a single company cannot be responsible for everything in the industry or in the world. So I think we move with the market.” Espinosa used to work at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Colombia and considers herself an environmentalist.

As part of the company’s sustainability strategy, Independence first measured its own carbon footprint — 90 percent of the emissions came from burning diesel to operate the machinery on the rigs. The second step was to reduce these emissions as much as possible, and the company renovated the drill engines with more fuel efficient ones.

The third step was to offset whatever emissions they could not reduce, which amounted to 10,000 tons of carbon for 2012. So “move with the market” they did, purchasing the Tolo River community’s credits.

The years of hard work of achieving FPIC and VCS validation were paying off, it appeared. The Tolo River community’s REDD project was viable. But more work lay ahead, as credits were sold and the community began to make tough decisions about where their new revenue would go.

This piece was editied by Forest Trends writer Ann Espuelas. Tanya Dimitrova just graduated from University of California, Berkeley, with a masters degree in energy and resources. She lives in Texas and works as a freelance science and environmental journalist.

Mexico Becomes First Developing Country To Post Climate Action Plan

This article was originally posted on the AnthropoZine. Click here to read the original.

30 March 2015 | Mexico and Norway last week submitted their “Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions” (INDCs) to the United Nations web site. Mexico’s is available here, and Norway’s is here. All submissions are being posted to the UN’s INDC page, which you can find here, and they are also being summarized on the World Resource Institute’s CAIT Paris Contributions Map (see below) in a way that’s designed to offer comparability and transparency.

Praise for Mexico

Like Indonesia and several other emerging countries, Mexico isn’t using a baseline year, but instead proposes to reduce its emissions to a level 25% below a “business as usual” scenario by 2030, with that target increasing to 40% below business as usual if it receives technical and financial support within the context of a global agreement.

“Mexico’s leadership in making this announcement confirms that we are in a new era, in which all nations have a role to play in the collective fight against climate change,” said Nathaniel Keohane, Vice President for International Climate at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “Since the Copenhagen conference in 2009, there has been a lot of talk about ‘bottom-up’ climate action — but nobody has really known what that looks like. Now the contours of the ‘bottom-up’ world are beginning to come into focus: Countries are taking on ambitious national commitments, supported by bilateral and regional ties — such as the strong relationship between the US and Mexico.”

“While the devil is in the details, Mexico’s plan to peak its emissions by 2026 is particularly encouraging and should inspire others to follow a similar course, said Jennifer Morgan, Global Director, Climate Program, World Resources Institute. “As a country that enacted a groundbreaking, comprehensive climate change law in 2012, Mexico clearly understands the threat of climate change and the economic benefits of smart action for its citizens and is now going further.

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Jurisdictional REDD: Getting To Scale

This article was originally posted on The AnthropoZine. Click here to read the original.

24 March 2015 | When the Tolo River People of Colombia wanted to save their forest, they used a financing mechanism known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) to fund their conservation by generating carbon offsets for the carbon sequestered in their trees. When the rubber tappers of the Rio Preto Extractivist Reserve (Reserva Extrativista Rio Preto) wanted to stave off deforestation in the Jacundí¡ National Park (Floresta Nacional de Jacundí¡), they also tapped the carbon markets – and they soon hope to join roughly 40 other community-based forest carbon projects identified in the latest State of the Forest Carbon Markets report, which found hundreds of projects globally, covering enough forests to fill the entire country of Vietnam.

REDD is a massive conservation success – arguably the biggest of all time; but it’s nowhere near big enough to halt the soaring greenhouse-gas emissions from deforestation. To really fix the mess, we must attack both demand and supply: we must, in other words, stifle our own ravenous appetite for consumer goods that drive deforestation, and we must create an environment on the ground to ensure that commodities are harvested legally and sustainably.

REDD has proven effective on the supply front, but can it be scaled up? And if so, what aspects of “project-based” REDD can work at the “jurisdictional” – or statewide level?

The Limits of Project-Based REDD

Isolated REDD projects have been used to rescue endangered patches of forestat around the world, but often the loggers and cattlemen who are denied access in one location simply move down the road – an activity that carbon accountants call “leakage”. Project developers do account for it, and in theory they subtract the leakage from their total offsets, but the only way to eliminate leakage is to spread carbon accounting and control across entire jurisdictions.

“That’s how it was always supposed to be,” says Dan Nepstad, Executive Director and Senior Scientist at the Earth Innovation Institute. “No one ever wanted all these scattered, isolated projects dotting the forest, and even in the 1990s, it was a given that we needed jurisdictional programs to have a real impact.”

Jurisdictional REDD: A Dream Deferred

REDD was on the United Nations agenda as early as the First Conference of the Parties (COP 1) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Berlin in 1995, but it had a different name: Avoided Deforestation, or “AD”.

The premise, however, wasn’t much different than it is now: Governments would first measure their historic rates of deforestation across their entire jurisdiction, then they’d negotiate agreement on which actions impact it, and they’d come up with a way to pay for reduced deforestation across the entire jurisdiction, with individual projects “nesting” within those jurisdictions to test new methods that work and reward early action.

The basic science was already there too, because timber companies and foresters had been using allometric equations to estimate the amount of wood in a forest for decades, and it wasn’t a big leap to extrapolate the amount of carbon. The fuzzy part, scientifically, was calculating the “carbon flows” over time and determining reference levels for deforestation and then figuring out which actions could be rewarded for changing it. Socially, there were fears that sudden flows of money into the forest would accelerate rather than counter the land-grabs that were pushing indigenous people aside, or that indigenous people would be frozen out of traditional hunting grounds while cattlemen continued to chop forests at will.

To say there were loose ends is an understatement, but climate talks were there to tie them up. Yet, when the Kyoto Protocol emerged from COP 3 in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, REDD was off the UN table and relegated to voluntary markets, where it continued to evolve under real-world conditions. Over the next 15 years, carbon accounting proved to be incredibly robust, and standards like those developed under the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance emerged to ensure indigenous rights. At the same time, forest communities that embraced REDD found themselves able to earn income from their stewardship of the land.

As a result, and in response to calls for pilot initiatives, individual projects proliferated – with valuable patches of forest, often at the frontiers of deforestation, being saved as swathes were being destroyed to make way for palm-oil plantations and cattle grazing.

The Return of Jurisdictional REDD

Within the UNFCCC, REDD stayed on ice until Papua New Guinea wrangled it back onto the agenda at the 2005 Climate Talks in Montreal (COP 11) – but even then, talks languished. In 2010, REDD was the sole bright spot in the otherwise dismal Copenhagen Accord, and by 2011, governments around the world were harvesting the lessons of the voluntary carbon markets to launch jurisdictional REDD initiatives which allowed for individual nested projects within them – a process that’s relatively easy from a carbon-accounting perspective.

“When we talk about setting an integrated approach for REDD+ for the Amazon states that is nested at the national level, it might seem difficult, but it’s actually much simpler than trying to set the baseline for a project or smaller area,” says Pedro Soares, Climate Change Program Coordinator for Manaus-based NGO Instituto de Conservaçí£o e Desenvolvimento Sustentí¡vel do Amazonas (IDESAM), which was recently hired by the Brazilian state of Rondí´nia to help it advance a jurisdictional REDD program there.

The UNFCCC and World Bank, however, steered clear of anything involving offsets and drifted towards purely jurisdictional approaches that left individual projects in the lurch.

Then, at the 2013 climate talks in Warsaw, the UNFCCC finally agreed on a REDD Rulebook for jurisdictional REDD that had substantially less rigor than that of voluntary markets, opening the door to a renewed interest in nesting. Also in Warsaw, the US, UK, and Norway launched a financing mechanism for jurisdictional REDD initiatives that support commodity-certification programs.

For more on nested REDD, read Peruvians Hope Nested Approach Today Will Halt Deforestation Tomorrow

For more on Acre’s jurisdictional REDD program, read Acre and Goliath: One Brazilian State Struggles To End Deforestation

For more on the interplay between palm oil and forest carbon, read How A Primatologist, An Industrialist, And An Ecosystem Entrepreneur Took On Big Palm Oil And Won

Since then, nesting has come back, at least in theory. The Indonesian government, for example, said last year it was exploring the possibility of acting as a buyer of last resort for REDD offsets, which it may aggregate and sell them on the market with a state guarantee, although that program is on hold as the country restructures its REDD regime.

Brazilian States Move Forward

Back in Brazil, Rondí´nia’s neighbor, Mato Grosso, has slashed its deforestation rates 90% and created the country’s most advanced regime for keeping track of REDD payments.

By far the most innovative, however, is Acre, which has completely reinvented the jurisdictional REDD concept, with a comprehensive program that is involving indigenous people across the state. Today, nearly 90 percent of Acre’s forest cover remains intact, thanks to its innovative approaches to forest management. But success moving forward for Acre will mean diminishing its dependence on an ever-expanding beef industry.

According to a 2012 study, more than 80 percent of Acre’s deforestation is driven by the beef and dairy sectors, and these industries aren’t going away. Beef and ranching alone supply 92 percent of the state’s total export revenues, and they are expected to grow even further in the years to come thanks to efforts to intensify activities on the existing land footprint.

But Acre also became the first Brazilian state to fully implement a management plan – which divided the entire land base into geographical zones that restrict specific extractive activities; at the same time the state government supported the growth of natural rubber, furniture, flooring, and Brazil nut processing industries.

A number of forces pushed Acre into action. As reported in Ecosystem Marketplace, the 1980s saw marginalized rubber tapper communities losing their lands to ranchers and logging interests, but forest leader Chico Mendes pushed for the establishment of reserves to maintain the forest economy. His actions cost him his life in 1988, but in his absence, a movement lives on in his name.


Acre is conducting a massive experiment in jurisdictional REDD – one through which the state receives payments for reducing deforestation across its entire jurisdiction, but then distributes the money as payments for other ecosystem services – such as river maintenance – or simply to support sustainable land-use practices once common among indigenous people.

Driving it is the 2010 SISA (Sistema de Incentivos para Servicos Ambientais) legislation, which established the foundation for financing the maintenance and restoration of environmental services across the state, including a framework to establish linkages with emerging markets for environmental ecosystem services. This framework means indigenous people, rubber tappers, and small farmers can earn Payments for Environmental Services (PES) by practicing sustainable agriculture and protecting endangered rainforest. For indigenous people, SISA explicitly aims to support traditional methods of farming and forest management that have proven to be more suitable for the rainforest than are the western methods brought by the newcomers.

In 2012, the German REDD Early Movers Programme (REM) made in its first transaction – paying cash to “retire emission reductions” from avoided deforestation in Acre. Commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the KfW Development Bank and the Gesellschaft fí¼r Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the REM program promotes forest conservation and is designed to strengthen performance-based payments for demonstrated emission reductions – providing “bridging finance” for countries engaged in mitigating climate change.

A REDD Financing Solution for Pristine Igarapé Lourdes?

What makes the concept of PES so promising is that it provides a potential, albeit less lucrative avenue to bring funding into an indigenous territory where the people have been good stewards to the land. Take the Igarapé Lourdes territory in Rondí´nia, where the prospects of earning carbon offsets are murky given that there is little actual deforestation, but where indigenous people have a proven history of maintaining the forest. Prior to the November election, Rondí´nia ‘s State Secretary of Environment launched a series of meetings in four separate municipalities to introduce the concepts of climate change, REDD+, and the potential to implement state-level regulations for REDD+.

“The former governor of Rondí´nia was re-elected in November, which is really good for REDD and climate issues, because he supported the Surui project,” says Pedro Soares.

It’s still early days for jurisdictional REDD across the rest of the Amazon states of Brazil. The first step will be to figure out how to establish, for each state, a baseline and a benefit-sharing mechanism and monitoring strategy that will fit under the national requirements.

“Under a state level law, the Igarapé Lourdes is going to receive a certain amount of credits by their forest area, and by their forest area condition,” says Pedro Soares.

What that means here is that they may not have significant deforestation pressure, but they will be able to secure some REDD funding to develop their life plan, the roadmap from which their forest-sustaining economy of the future can begin.

“How we can push money into the indigenous areas, and how can we how we lead this to the market, and how will it be applied?” asks Soares. “These are the questions we are most concerned about.”

Discussions about implementing jurisdictional REDD at the state level in Brazil could lead to something much bigger. A plan currently exists, led by NGOs like IDESAM, to implement a “jurisdictional” REDD system across the entire Brazilian Amazon, with a vision to eventually nest both individual REDD projects and state-level REDD within the Brazilian national government’s Brazil’s National Climate Change Plan, which is part of a national policy that established official Amazon deforestation targets of 80 percent by 2020. The ultimate goal is to create an integrated approach for REDD+ for the Amazon states that is nested at the national level.

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What Do A Seed And A Website Have To Do With Stopping Climate Change?

Sustainably produced forest products have the potential to mitigate climate change, preserve biodiversity and enhance local livelihoods. But their value is underappreciated. Now, an online network called CanopyBridge, which brings together the sustainable sellers with interested buyers, is bringing these products to global markets.

This article was originally posted on Huffington Post. Click here to read the original.

16 March 2015 | Deep in the tropical rainforests of Latin America, a seed the size of a marble grows in abundance. Amid the many visual splendors of the rainforest, neither the tree from which the seed comes, Brosimum alicastrum, nor the seed itself seem of particular note. Indeed, though the seed (and leaves, sap, and wood) have been critical to the survival of people who have lived in the forest for years, it has been largely ignored outside of its native habitat.

Yet this seed–like other products of the rainforest–may be central to a shift in the universal understanding of how we fight climate change.

The thin, citrus-flavored skin of the seed covers an edible, highly nutritious “nut.” Known as the Maya Nut, this “superfood” was once a diet staple of forest dwellers, and in recent years, the Maya Nut Institute has been working to bring this ancient food back to prominence, and its production has already greatly improved the livelihoods and the health of forest dwellers.

The Maya Nut, like myriad other products of the world’s rainforests, has the potential for even greater impact, however, particularly for the value it adds to the world’s perception of the forests in which they grow–namely, that a forest is worth more alive than dead.

The forests of our planet, on the frontlines of climate-change mitigation because of their ability to store massive amounts of carbon, are in real danger from deforestation and degradation. But what if it were known, on a global level, that these forests contained value not just because of their timber, but because they contained sustainable and marketable products that could greatly impact lives–and keep the forests healthy and alive?

The Long Road to Market

Because it is harvested exclusively in the wild–deep in the forest–the Maya Nut, however, has a long way to go before gaining the global acceptance enjoyed by other superfoods like quinoa.

Making that journey a bit easier is CanopyBridge, an online global network that connects sellers of sustainable, wild-harvested products with international buyers. The site “allows members from around the world to list, describe, discover and learn more about natural products and the people behind them.”

The site aims to bring together small-scale producers–such as the Maya Nut Institute–and businesses looking to source such unique products and make the transaction process between them easy and transparent. “The world has about 400,000 plant species, but 90% of our food comes from only about 100 of these,” says Jacob Olander, director of EcoDecision, an environmental consultancy, and a founder of CanopyBridge. “There’s this vast storehouse of diversity and local traditions still waiting to be discovered, and there are literally millions of local producers whose livelihoods depend on finding better markets for their products. But it’s still really difficult to connect that potential supply with demand–both for buyers looking for new sustainably sourced products and for producers trying to reach broader markets.”

The Maya Nut Institute joins a long list of sellers connecting with buyers, such as restaurants looking for innovative menu items, boutique chocolatiers looking for single-origin cocoa beans, people looking for the next acai, or perhaps someone developing a new power bar. Smaller producers–many in the rainforest, for example–simply don’t have the advocates or the funds to go to an international trade fair and make the connections necessary to bring their products to a global market.

“We’ve got producers of alpaca fibers on the site,” says Olander. “We’ve got people who are purchasing ingredients for energy drinks. Then we’ve got Shea nut producers from West Africa. The idea is really that there’s a vast world of possible ingredients out there that should be discovered, and we want to create a space where you can find all that.”

Olander and Marta Echavarria founded EcoDecision, a company based in Ecuador, in 1995. EcoDecision is a pioneer in the emerging markets of ecosystem services. These markets work on the premise that natural ecosystems generate more value alive than dead. A swamp, for example, filters water and acts as a floodplain, while a forest sucks carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and mangroves protect the coasts. All ecosystems, meanwhile, support biodiversity–and all of these services are lost when swamps are drained for farming, forests are cleared for timber, and mangroves become pricey resorts.

Some products can still be harvested from the forest without destroying it, and it was in their exploration of the non-timber values that a forest could provide that Olander and Echavarria hit upon the idea for CanopyBridge, an offshoot of EcoDecision.

“We were looking at the products coming out of projects that are related to conservation in some way, where additional income from sustainable crops or wild-harvested ingredients can make the financial difference between keeping or clearing a forest,” says Olander. “And we realized that the process of sustainability-minded buyers and sellers finding each other was really inefficient.

“We realized that if you’re a business and you’re looking to source these products, there is no easy way to find these things. There’s no community out there that somehow brings buyers and sellers committed to conservation together. Finding your market or finding your supplier still largely depends on personal contacts, word of mouth and chance.”

Of course there’s Google, Olander explains, and “the Internet in all of its breadth and depths,” but if you were looking for sustainable products, across a range of certifications and around the world, and if you needed to know the origins of the product, such a site did not exist. CanopyBridge was born of this need, and they settled on the name to communicate “the idea of building a connection between the sheltering forest, the forest canopy, and all that it contains, and building a bridge between the producers there and buyers who are using these products around the world.”

The products on CanopyBridge reflect these original goals in that they are produced in such a way that they protect nature and foster healthy communities. Runa, a Brooklyn, N.Y., and Ecuador-based seller on the site, makes energy drinks from the guayusa leaf, and is certified organic, Fair Trade, non-GMO and kosher, and the company itself is a B Corp.

“We’re huge fans of Runa, and we’re proud that they’re on our site,” says Olander. “We think they’re a great example of a company that’s working with one of the literally hundreds of thousands of potential ingredients that are out there in these natural ecosystems in the tropics that’s had a traditional use, and using it in a way that brings it to a new market, and at the same time reinforces its traditional value within the communities where they work.”

To use the site, buyers and suppliers create a profile for free, which provides detailed information about the product being sold or the potential selling venue. Although CanopyBridge does not require its members to hold a specific certification or follow a certain standard, it looks for users with a strong commitment to sustainability who are open and transparent about their products or services.

“Behind each of these products are wonderful stories,” says Echavarria. “Both from a human standpoint, but also from a biological standpoint.”

Focus on Food

The emphasis at CanopyBridge is on ingredients for either foods or cosmetics, or with medicinal and supplemental uses. With its focus on food, CanopyBridge is tapping into the burgeoning connection being made between conservation groups and the food industry. Superstar chefs like Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, of ímaz and Malabar restaurants in Lima, Peru, are sourcing and cooking with unusual and delicious ingredients from the Amazon, many of which are listed sellers on CanopyBridge. This kind of work is pushing the envelope on modern cuisine–and taking a big step in the preservation of the planet’s biodiversity.

“There are some fantastic ingredients out there,” says Olander. “You’ve got this wild fruit called camu camu, which makes this beautiful pink juice and grows on the river banks [of the Amazon]. It’s one of the world’s highest, most concentrated sources of vitamin C. Sacha inchi or Inca peanut from Peru is a great source of Omega-3s and protein. From Indonesia, several varieties of palm sugar, sweeteners that are not available or commonly used yet that I think have a huge potential. Baobab is coming into its own as an antioxidant superfruit from southern Africa. The list just goes on and on.”

CanopyBridge presents a tremendous opportunity for valuing biodiversity–these products are now given explicit market value–with potential for significant livelihood benefits for the producers of rainforest products as well as along the value chain.

Small Site With Far-Reaching Potential

As with the Maya Nut seed, the implications of what CanopyBridge is doing may not at first be apparent. But CanopyBridge is far more than simply a “” type site bringing vendors and producers together. By bringing sustainable, scalable products out of the forest into a global market, CanopyBridge is making an enormous ripple in the pond of biodiversity conservation, local livelihoods, and climate change mitigation. And according to Jacob Olander, such a ripple is vital.

“I got my start with non-timber forest products years ago, researching the potential for new ornamental plants from the rainforests of Costa Rica when I was in grad school,” says Olander. “There’s all this great stuff out there, these products that complement these other objectives of valuing nature and keeping communities healthy and prosperous. Paying for watershed services alone or paying for carbon alone is never going to get us [to climate-change mitigation].”

“If you start to look at how much the economy is already moving in these other kinds of sustainable products, it’s an astounding volume of trade, probably greater than the total amount of development aid globally. [CanopyBridge] just seemed like a really logical fit while we were looking for new ways to finance the protection of ecosystems. If we can bring all the pieces together–farmers, forest peoples, companies and consumers committed to sustainability–that’s a really, really powerful combination.”

Both in the forest and in business, big things grow from a single seed.

Ann Clark Espuelas is a writer for Forest Trends.

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Coalition Of 600 Defends Paiter-Surui, Questions Reporting Of Critics

The Amazon Working Group, a grassroots network of 600 associations representing smallholder farms, fishermen, rubber-tappers, and indigenous people, on Friday became the latest association of forest people to criticize Brazil’s powerful Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), which it accuses of fomenting division among indigenous people to undermine projects it disagrees with, including Surui REDD.

This article originally appeared on The AnthropoZine. Click here to read the original.

9 March 2015 | The statement sliced through the world of nuance and dimplomatic doublespeak like a Jimi Hendrix solo in the Sistine Chapel.

In surprisingly stark language, the Amazon Working Group – a network of 600 small nonprofits generally known by its Portuguese acronym, “GTA” (for “Grupo de Trabalho Amazonico”) – on Friday accused the powerful Indigenous Missionary Council – known as “CIMI” (for “Conselho Indigenista Missioní¡rio”) – of slandering elected indigenous leaders who disagree with it, often through the mouths of unelected individuals acting on CIMI’s behalf.

“The GTA Network hereby declares its repudiation of the slanders that have been published by CIMI, the Indigenous Missionary Council, through the newspapers Porantim and Nortí£o,” the statement began. “We reject the declarations because they are lies created for the sole purpose of promoting conflict among indigenous peoples.”

It issued the unusually blunt statement after CIMI transported roughly 40* indigenous people to the Brazilian Capitol to speak before the Federal Indigenous Agency (FUNAI) and to present a document purporting to identify problems with the Surui Forest Carbon Project. But CIMI’s coverage of the event contained several inaccuracies, and it also rehashed accusations that had already been debunked by the elected Paiter-Surui leadership (who also acknowledged legitimate critiques and vowed to correct them).

GTA traces its origins to the forest campaigns of Chico Mendes, whose 1988 assassination at the hands of cattle ranchers had the unintended consequence of forging solidarity among the disparate forest movements of the Amazon. Today, the GTA Network represents more than 600 small and regional non-profits serving not just indigenous people, but also smallholder farms, fishermen, and rubber-tappers across the Brazilian Amazon. Several indigenous organizations and individual leaders across the Brazilian states of Rondí´nia and Acre leveled similar criticisms of CIMI’s activities last week, but GTA’s words carry more weight because they reflect the sentiment of a broader range of forest people.

Why the Fuss?

In its statement, GTA said that inaccuracies in the coverage* were part of an orchestrated disinformation campaign built on exploiting “a small group of indigenous people who were manipulated and deceived by promises of financial gain into participating in the theft of wood from the Sete de Setembro Indigenous Territory,” a reference to the Paiter-Surui territory, which is under threat from illegal logging.

The two most prominent of the indigenous people who CIMI brought to Brasilia were Henrique Surui and Antenor Karitiana. The coverage, however, falsely identified Henrique Surui as the overall chief of the Paiter-Surui, which he is not. It also implied that Antenor Karitiana was a member of the Surui, which he is not. Furthermore, they claimed that “all chiefs and leaders of the Suruí­” wanted to end the project, which they do not.

A solid majority of the Paiter-Surui have repeatedly voted to support the project, but Henrique Surui, a village chief along an entry point known as Line 14, has been a strong advocate of illegal logging on the indigenous territory – an activity that the carbon project was created to end.

Much of the criticism that GTA and other organizations have leveled at CIMI revolves around allegations that CIMI undermines indigenous autonomy by selecting those indigenous individuals it chooses to work with and then promoting them in the outside world as duly-elected leaders, while at the same time steamrolling or ignoring organizations created by indigenous people themselves. The document that CIMI delivered, for example, also claimed that the neighboring Cinta Larga wanted to end an alleged forest carbon project on their territory – prompting an angry response from the Patjamaaj Association, which is the association elected to speak on behalf of the Cinta Larga in the outside world.

“The article…dated February 23, 2015, contains several lies, and the planners and perpetrators of these documents do not represent us,” they wrote. “The Patjamaaj-Coordination of Indigenous People’s Organizations Cinta Larga, which is the legal representative of the Cinta Larga People, neither participated in nor was informed about these documents. In addition, representatives of other ethnic groups should not represent the Cinta Larga without the consent of Patjamaaj.”

CIMI’s coverage said the Cinta Larga had already begun a carbon project, but the Patjamaaj statement said the Cinta Larga are simply undertaking a feasibility study to see if REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) finance could work on their territory, and it accused CIMI of trying to prejudice that exploration. It also accused Henrique Surui and Antenor Karitiana of colluding with CIMI to undermine their collective efforts, and of recruiting vulnerable members of the Cinta Larga to circumvent elected officials.

“We also inform you that three indigenous Cinta Larga were manipulated to participate in these accusations, led by Henrique Surui and Karitiana Antenor,” they wrote. “We denounce CIMI for promoting conflict between indigenous people and using Henrique Surui and Karitiana Antenor to make false accusations about indigenous projects.”

The Patjamaaj statement went on to correct several other errors in CIMI’s coverage – including the misspelling of almost every NGO that the Surui contracted to support them in the carbon project (Disclosure: Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends is among the NGOs contracted by the Paiter-Surui to support the project, although CIMI referred to it as “Forest Trand”). The statement then took CIMI to task for “criticizing Kanindé, ECAM and IDESAM (other NGOs that supported the Surui project), when CIMI itself – instead of helping us as equal partners, like these NGOs do – is promoting conflicts between indigenous people. We will not allow CIMI to continue its maneuvers and manipulations that promote conflict between our people to prevent us from establishing our autonomy and improving our quality of life.”

Earlier in the week, Chief Tashka Yawanawí¡ also criticized CIMI’s coverage in an open e-mail to indigenous leaders.

“It is sad and unfortunate when ‘pro-indigenous’ organizations seek to gain advantage by dividing indigenous people instead of empowering them to practice their inalienable right of self-determination,” he wrote. “It is unbelievable when these organizations capitalize on existing weaknesses to divide a people and ruin a project that could benefit those people – while at the same time receiving money and resources on behalf of indigenous peoples – only to maintain their own status as NGOs who describe themselves as being in favor of indigenous people. It is sad when indigenous people are used as pawns to serve the interests of others. We must never allow our people and our organizations to be used in such a way.”

Delson Gavií£o, head of the Padereehj Association that represents the Gavií£o and Arara people, issued a similar condemnation in December, after CIMI had also attacked his own exploration of REDD finance.

“These are lies aimed at harming indigenous people and damaging projects that are running correctly and helping to protect indigenous lands from the advance of illegal logging and the destruction of the forest,” he wrote. “We reject the comments of Henrique Surui, which were published by CIMI, because neither he nor they have been on our land to discuss the projects we’re executing, much less done anything to address the problem of illegal logging on indigenous lands.”

Who is CIMI?

CIMI was created in 1972 by the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops to “help build the autonomy of Indians as peoples who are ethnically and culturally different, and to contribute to the strengthening of their organizations and alliances in both Brazil and the continent.” By all accounts, they were incredibly effective – in part because they proved adept at bringing indigenous people out of the forest and into the limelight.

They were instrumental in helping indigenous people secure official demarcation of their territories, and even today, indigenous leaders take great pains to express their gratitude for the work that CIMI did in the past – and in many respects, continues to do. Indeed, many of the letters of condemnation issued in December and January also urged CIMI to preserve its legacy by abandoning its current tactics.

But CIMI remains unabashedly opposed to all aspects of the emerging green economy, and it has dismissed efforts to promote sustainable agriculture as “neocolonialist tools”. While the younger generation of indigenous leaders talks of economic and political autonomy, CIMI often writes of a need to keep indigenous people pure – and to spread that purity among the rest of us.

“We need to regain the memory of humanity on our links with nature, expressed in Sumak Kawsay (Live Well),” they wrote in the December 2014 issue of their flagship publication, Porantim. “The environment, and the cultures living in harmony with it, should be the basis for human development and societies; not an item of the market economy.”

But in January, an organization called Questí£o Indí­gena posted a more cynical take on CIMI’s opposition to the green economy. A generally pro-business site, they see CIMI’s motives as being driven less by ideology than by economics, pure and simple.

“Basically, CIMI is targeting the independence of the Indigenes,” they wrote. “Almir Surui Narayamoga became a subversive when he started negotiating his people’s projects directly with international foundations, without the intermediation of indigenist organizations.”

In Questí£o Indí­gena’s view, the green economy is simply bad for CIMI’s business, because self-sufficient and autonomous Indigenes don’t need the services of an all-powerful benevolent protector.

“Narayamoga threatens a billion dollar business that supports NGOs,” they concluded.

* CORRECTION: We initially reported the number of people brought to Brasilia as “roughly a dozen”, but a CIMI statement put the number closer to 40. We also referred to coverage in Porantim and Nortí£o as “CIMI’s coverage.” Porantim is an official CIMI publication, but Nortí£o is not, although the author of the Nortí£o reporting is listed on CIMI’s site as a board member.


Additional resources

Surui Outline Management of Carbon Funds for Community Projects

25 February 2015 | The Metareilí¡ Association, which is the community organization that oversees the Surui Forest Carbon Project, has offered a detailed overview of project activities to-date and criticized the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) for posting what it says are false accusations about the project on its web site.

In a statement posted in Portuguese here and translated unofficially to English here, the association said that money raised from the sale of forest carbon credits is already flowing to roughly 20 initiatives, most of which were laid out in the 50-Year Management Plan that the carbon project was created to support.

According to CIMI, indigenous people should be shielded from all aspects of the market economy. CIMI’s complaints about the Surui project were based on an interview with a Surui member who is involved in the sale of illegally harvested timber from the Surui territory.

Disbursements of project funds are disbursed and monitored by the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (FUNBIO), an independent, environmental fund manager based in Rio de Janeiro. The Surui Forest Carbon Project is currently undergoing an audit to verify compliance with provisions of the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standards.

While defending the carbon project, the Metareila statement does acknowledge the need for improvements. “Despite the project management efforts so far, it is necessary to achieve greater flow of information in the villages on collective financial management, on the management of local associations, on benefit distribution mechanisms, and on the time it takes a community project to mature and produce results,” it said.

This Week In Water: The Water Stewards At The Bottom Of The Pyramid

4 February 2015 | Okay, so 2015 may have started on a low note, as the global impacts of water crises hit number one on the World Economic Forum’s list of global risks in 2015.
But this year holds the promise of real progress as well. In New York this fall, world leaders will decide on post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the expiring Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs set out a roadmap for improving the lives of the poor without, as Circle of Blue puts it, “torching the environmental foundation” of this planet.

In this month’s Water Log, the link between environmental degradation and poverty looms large. We take a look at using microfinance – providing financial services, including loans, to the poor who have historically lacked access to banking or credit – to support payments for ecosystem services (PES). While microfinance models have been hugely successful on a global scale in providing the means for people to escape extreme poverty, they are still rarely used to finance PES. According to Ecosystem Marketplace’sState of Watershed Investment 2014 report, only three active watershed investment projects use some sort of credit mechanism: one in Brazil, one in Costa Rica and one in Nepal. The latter two each use revolving loan funds to finance restoration activities that repair damaged watersheds.


Yet micro-lending could in theory deliver additional finance for conservation as well socio-economic benefits for communities.Access to credit also has the potential to attract more investors. The steady cash flow required to attain credit would demonstrate to institutional investors that a watershed restoration project, for instance, is worth backing. So far, tapping microfinance is mostly still an idea. But potential for growth is there, microfinance groups and conservationists agree.


Thinking small is also paying off in Bolivia, where where more than 90 per cent of carbon credit revenues under a proposed REDD mechanism were forecast to have gone to just five per cent of the population. Instead, the country has pursued an alternative strategy that focuses on rewarding good behavior – protecting forests and engaging in forest-friendly enterprise – while punishing bad behavior through taxes and fines. This so-called “Bolivian mechanism,” explains Lykke Andersen of the Institute for Advanced Development Studies in Bolivia, results in a “much fairer distribution of the benefits, helping the poor while hurting the big deforesters.”


Keep reading to learn more about what’s happening in the watershed investment world in the early days of 2015 – and chins up!

The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please

EM Headlines


The Environmental Mortgage: Connecting The Dots Between Microfinance And Ecosystem Services

All around the world, we see that environmental degradation and poverty go hand in hand as do sustainable land-use and wealth. This link builds a case for using microfinance – providing financial services, including loans, to the poor who have historically lacked access to banking or credit – to support payments for ecosystem services (PES).


Yet while microfinance models have been hugely successful on a global scale in providing the means for people to escape extreme poverty, they aren’t often used to finance PES projects that offer many poverty alleviating benefits. Despite it being risky and costly, both sectors see potential in working together on a larger scale.

Keep reading here.

Putting A Price On Nature Can Benefit The Poor If Done Right

You don’t have to go far in Bolivia to find treasure. It’s everywhere: in the vast Amazonian forests; in Lake Titicaca, which lies nearly four kilometres above sea level in the Andes; in the peaks and rain-gathering waterways of the Andes mountains; or in Bolivia’s 2,000 animal species.


And to call all this treasure is hardly romantic because, to some, Bolivia’s natural environment is worth a lot of money.


Bolivia is not alone on that front. Program that pay people to sustainably manage environmental assets= are increasingly popular, especially in the global South. But questions about the money’s impact on efforts to reduce poverty and inequality have persisted for decades. Does the cash help poor or indigenous people living in valuable ecosystems? Or is it more likely to benefit rich landowners? In Bolivia and elsewhere, research is beginning to show that these two goals environmental protection and poverty reduction  need not be mutually exclusive.

Keep reading.

Colorado Shrinks The Risk Of Wildfire With Investments In Watershed Services

The late 1990s and early 2000s saw two fires that together burned 150,000 acres of forestland and dumped 40 years’ worth of sediment into Colorado’s Strontia Springs Reservoir. Strontia Springs is a key source of water. It helps supply the 1.3 million customers of Denver Water, a water provider, with clean water. The cleanup effort from those fires cost Denver $26 million on water quality, restoration, reclamation and sediment drainage beginning in 1996 after the first fire-Buffalo Creek Fire.


Fire suppression has made wildfire intensity that much worse. But fire isn’t the only threat Colorado’s watersheds are facing. Bark beetle and flooding plus a changing climate all pose a risk to Colorado’s forests and the water that runs through them.


Because of these threats – among others – various Colorado water providers have paid over $13 million in watershed investments and forged partnerships to identify and address problems plaguing the state’s forest ecosystems. These activities were highlighted last month during a webinar that showcased findings from Ecosystem Marketplace’s latest State of Watershed Investmentsreport.

Learn more.

Water, Energy, Food: Nexus Thinking Catches On, But Nexus Spending Lags

Brewing giant MillerCoors recently slashed the amount of water and energy it uses to produce barley for its beer, and it did so without losing yields. How? In part by planting vegetation alongside streams and restoring wetlands, which saved them the cost of filtering water before discharging it


They’re hardly alone. All around the world, companies and even cities are learning that the wetlands, dunes and sea grass they once took for granted act as natural buffers against hurricanes, enhance water quality, and save energy and resources that would otherwise be spent to construct and operate gray infrastructure. In the new lingo of resource management, they’re recognizing thewater-energy-food nexus and the important role nature œ and, more specifically, natural infrastructure  plays in this nexus.


Unfortunately the success stories are the exception that proves the rule, as investment in green infrastructure to solve nexus challenges often falls short of its potential, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of Watershed Investment 2014 report. The survey tracks global investment in watershed services (IWS), and it finds investment lagging potential except in those cases that address interrelated issues such as reducing water use and pollution in agriculture or in increasing resilience to flooding and wildfires.

Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.

In The News


Des Moines Sues Over Nitrates, Wants Drainage Districts Regulated as Point Sources

Des Moines Waters Works notified three neighboring upstream counties that it plans to sue over nitrate pollution from agriculture in the city’s drinking water supplies. If successful, the suit would have enormous consequences. Essentially, Des Moines is arguing that agricultural drainage districts – those pipes and tiles that drain water from fields across much of the Midwest – should be regulated as point sources, just like a sewage treatment plant or factory that discharges polluted water.


Some lawyers think that’s a stretch. The Environmental Defense Fund suggested that rather than picking a fight, the city should look to voluntary incentives to address pollution. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said that Des Moines had“declared war on rural Iowa. But Des Moines says it had no choice: voluntary methods aren’t working, and seasonal surges in nitrates concentrations in the city’s drinking water are requiring its utility to spend $4,000 a day on additional treatment.

Get full coverage from Circle of Blue.

New Stormwater Suit Means NRDC, EDF and EPA Are At It Again

Eleven years after suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over their stormwater regulation, two environmental advocacy groups are heading back to court. In 2003, the lawsuit was over strengthening a finalized 1999 rule on regulating stormwater pollution. This time, the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Resources Defense Council are requesting compliance with the 2003 regulations. They’re arguing the EPA continues to fail to regulatestormwater runoff – one of the US’s biggest sources of water pollution – in cities with a population under 100,000. The lawsuit is also pushing for a decision on whether stormwater from forest roads should be regulated – a provision the two organizations claim was covered under the 2003 ruling.

Bloomberg BNA has coverage.

Nearly $2B Is A Lot, But Is It Enough?

Passage of Proposition 1, California’s $7.5B water bond, gives the state the opportunity to rethink and transform its complicated water system, says the deputy director of California’s Water Foundation. Some of that transformation could come in the form of investments in ecosystems like wetlands that filter and store water, and the forests where the bulk of the state’s water originates. While the lion’s share of the funds will flow toward storage projects, $1.9B is allocated for watersheds and flood management – a sum with the potential to help supply long-term water security to an area that badly needs it.

Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

Making the Water Quality Grade Proves Difficult in Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation graded Chesapeake Bay health recently. And while it wasn’t failing, the grade wasn’t good either. The nonprofit gave the Bay a D+ saying bordering states had made progress in terms of water quality but much of the watershed remained heavily polluted. States surrounding the Chesapeake are under a federal mandate to clean up the waterway, and risk losing federal funding if majority of cleanup projects aren’t in place by 2017. Progress on this front is being made, however slow. Virginia’s nutrient trading system, for instance, has received high praise from the federal government and is viewed as a model for other states.

Learn more about the report here.


WQT Finds Itself the Cool Kid in Class

Water quality trading is having a big month. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) just won the US Water Prize for its Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Project. Meanwhile, trading is being touted in watersheds across the country as a potential solution to mounting water quality problems: we find reports of interest in a state-wide market in Florida (see next story) and proposed markets in Iowa’s Catfish Creek Watershed, Wisconsin’s Lower Fox River Watershed, and in the Mississippi Gulf region (backed by oil & gas industry concerned about their water risks!).


Scaled-Up Trading Proposed to Clean Waterways in the Sunshine State

Water quality trading continues to intrigue Florida as a potential cure to its water pollution problems. While the state has a regional pilot project, officials are contemplating going statewide. They say such a program is cost-effective and can be a shot in the arm for the normally slow and expensive cleanup process. Right now, a statewide program is just an idea: the state is holding workshops, though officials are unsure of how well it will be received. But supporters are finding encouragement in the programs’ success in other states and the fact that many states have ongoing pilot projects. As a lawyer involved in Virginia’s program puts it, “It can be a very elegant solution to a complex problem.”

Read more at the Orlando Sentinel.

US Environmental Water Markets Estimated at $56M in 2013

A new brief on US environmental water markets from WestWater Research found the environmental sector accounting for 40% of volume and 7% of total value traded in all water markets from 2003-2012. That activity amounted to 6.2M acre-feet and $562M in trading values. Leases continue to make up most of the sector’s volume. As for pricing, the purchase cost has increased consistently with the greater market, although prices dipped during the economic downturn from 2008-2009. And these prices have been declining steadily-by nearly 70% as of 2012. But overall, the market has continued to grow with activity varying with region: the Northwest leads while the Rocky Mountain region lags.

Read the report here.

For Want of $1.8 Billion, The Reef Was Lost

To save Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, someone needs to pony up more than $1.3B (AUD$1.8B) according to recent analysis by the resource groups managing the reef catchment. The reef, battered by agricultural pollutants and coral-eating starfish, has lost half its coral cover in recent decades. The funding gap for funding agricultural best management practices, stormwater control, and infrastructure upgrades will exceed $300 million just for the next five years.


The report’s authors suggest that current government initiatives are inadequate; although government-funded programs have cut nitrogen loads by 10% and pesticides by 28% since 2008, that may not be enough to meet long-term goals of a 60% reduction in pesticides and 90% compliance with best practice by farmers in the region.

The Guardian has coverage.

The Private Sector Dives Into Colorado Watershed Protection

Communities living along Colorado’s Front Range are receiving help from some major corporations in securing a clean source of water. MillerCoors, Pepsi and the Wells Fargo Foundation are collectively donating $1 million to The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) restoration work in Colorado’s forests. The funds will help TNC build and implement projects designed to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire – caused primarily by drought and fire suppression – with prescribed burning and fuel treatments among other activities. Restoring the forests that catch snowpack and replenish rivers will increase water security for Colorado folks.

Get coverage here.

Heineken’s Track Record in Sustainability Leaves More Than Beer Drinkers Impressed

Brewery giant Heineken is raising the sustainability bar for big corporations with its water-saving initiatives and commitments to slash carbon emissions. And much of Heineken’s work is happening at a community level. After beer-producing operations left regions water-stressed, the company is implementing water stewardship projects in places like Indonesia, giving back on a local level while also ensuring its own sustainability. Activities include planting bamboo trees in Indonesia to halt erosion and digging narrow troughs full of compost material to slow snowmelt and reduce flooding. The brewery was recently rewarded for its efforts with the Water Management award at the Sustainable Business Awards Singapore 2014.

Eco-Business has the story.


GreenBiz Forum – 10% discount through Ecosystem Marketplace

GreenBiz Forum from February 17th to 19th in Phoenix, Arizona brings together an unprecedented partnership between GreenBiz Group, The Sustainability Consortium and Arizona State University to give attendees an unparalleled in-depth look at the key challenges and opportunities facing sustainable business today. Framed by GreenBiz’s State of Green Business report, the high-wattage stage presentations, workshops and networking opportunities make GreenBiz Forum an unforgettable event. Save 10% with Ecosystem Marketplace’s discount code GBF15EM. 17-19 February 2015. Phoenix AZ, USA.

Learn more here.

Nexus 2015: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference

The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and collaborators are hosting the Nexus 2015: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference on March 15-17 in Chapel Hill, NC, USA. The Conference brings together scientists and practitioners working in government, civil society and business, and other stakeholders to focus on how and why the nexus approach can be used on local and international levels. 15-17 March, 2015. Chapel Hill NC, USA.

Learn more here.

2015 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

The 2015 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference, scheduled for May 5-8, 2015, in Orlando, Florida is the only national conference that brings together key players in this industry, and offers quality hands-on sessions and training as well as important regulatory updates. Proven to be “the” place to gain insights, explore new markets and learn from sessions, the 2015 Conference will continue its focus on educational content both advanced and basic sessions as well as moderated exchanges and a variety of mini workshops that help to connect bankers, regulators, users and others involved in this industry. Pre and post- event workshops include Primer 101, Stream Banking, Long-Term Stewardship, Financing & Valuation and more. Hear perspectives from bankers, regulators and users, get updated on regulations, legislation and legal challenges, participate in field trips and benefit from the many opportunities to network! With a high attendance this past year, we anticipate a record attendance in Orlando and encourage you to make plans to submit to present, attend, even sponsor or exhibit! Orlando FL, USA. 5-8 May 2015.

Learn more here.

Putting A Price On Nature Can Benefit The Poor If Done Right

27 January 2015 | You don’t have to go far in Bolivia to find treasure. It’s everywhere: in the vast Amazonian forests; in Lake Titicaca, which lies nearly four kilometres above sea level in the Andes; in the peaks and rain-gathering waterways of the Andes mountains; or in Bolivia’s 2,000 animal species.

And to call all this treasure is hardly romantic because, to some, Bolivia’s natural environment is worth a lot of money.

Bolivia is not alone on that front. Programmes that pay people to sustainably manage environmental assets are increasingly popular, especially in the global South. But questions about the money’s impact on efforts to reduce poverty and inequality have persisted for decades. Does the cash help poor or indigenous people living in valuable ecosystems? Or is it more likely to benefit rich landowners? In Bolivia and elsewhere, research is beginning to show that these two goals environmental protection and poverty reduction need not be mutually exclusive.

Pricing up nature

A recent estimate of the planet’s natural capital is US$125 trillion a year. [1] This figure attempts to capture the value of the ecosystem services essentially all the benefits of a healthy, natural environment provided by such things as carbon-storing trees, drainage basins that prevent flooding and insect life that helps agriculture flourish.

Natural capital is a controversial concept. Many feel putting a price on nature is either impossible or ethically unsound. But its supporters argue that without doing so ecosystem services are at risk of being left out of economic models and decision-making.

“We’re degrading the natural environment and losing species at an alarming rate. So let’s put a value on nature and get it incorporated into these models so that we can start investing in the maintenance, protection or possibly even enhancement of those ecosystem services, says Darren Evans, a conservation biologist from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom.

Programmes to quantify and pay to maintain the value of ecosystem services have existed in one form or another since the 1950s. Today they are known as payments for ecosystem services (PES) initiatives. These schemes pay farmers and landowners for managing land in a way that conserves some targeted environmental resources, for instance a forest, river or species.

But for as long as they have existed, efforts to price nature have been divisive. What has emerged, however, is evidence that the better a scheme is tailored to benefit all stakeholders, the more likely it is to succeed.

Bolivian dissent

One country involved in this battle and its possible resolution is Bolivia. In 2010, the nation hosted the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, a global meeting attended by 30,000 government and civil society delegates. Bolivia consulted the conference on whether to sign up to the UN’s REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) programme.

REDD has some similarities to a PES scheme, but it operates at a global rather than a national scale. It is funded by selling certificates known as carbon credits, which represent carbon emissions saved through the programme, on international carbon markets. At present, 56 developing nations have signed up to the programme, but Bolivia decided against joining after the People’s Agreement drawn up by the World People’s Conference emphatically rejected this move. [2] Later in 2010, President Evo Morales further hardened his nation’s position in an open letter to indigenous peoples entitled: “Nature, forests and indigenous peoples are not for sale. [3]

Lykke Andersen, director of the Center for Environmental-Economic Modelling and Analysis at think-tank the Institute for Advanced Development Studies (INESAD) in Bolivia, says: “Bolivia is really an ideal candidate for participating in a REDD mechanism. It is promising because it has so much forest and so much deforestation. But at the Peoples Conference, the people there rejected REDD strongly. The government accepted that decision and made it a national policy.

Bolivias opposition to REDD illustrates tensions that can cause schemes that put a price on nature to come unstuck, Andersen says. In the case of REDD, the unhappiness was triggered partly because poorer countries would have to reduce emissions while richer countries carried on raising theirs.

Alternative inspiration

With REDD branded a prohibited concept in Bolivia, Andersen says the country’s conservation scientists instead turned for inspiration to smaller, local PES schemes that took poverty alleviation into account.

In 2012, INESAD carried out a countrywide analysis of the likely social and environmental impacts if Bolivia had adopted REDD. [4] The results showed that large-scale adoption of REDD would have decreased deforestation, but would also have increased competition for agricultural land, pushing up food prices and worsening poverty. More than 90 per cent of REDD-related revenues from carbon credit sales would have gone to just five per cent of the population, it forecast.

INESAD also ran the analysis based on an alternative mechanism that Anderson and her team designed. This included financial and technical assistance for sustainable development projects within the forest  and taxes and fines for deforestation. Under this theoretical situation their model showed that the nation’s poor benefitted more and food prices were more stable.

The mechanism Anderson’s team designed has come to be known as the Bolivian mechanism. [5] In 2013, UN-REDD decided to support it with US$1.1 million and Denmark pledged US$26 million. Four pilot projects testing it are currently underway.
“The Bolivian mechanism is based on looking more holistically at forests, by supporting local communities who protect their forests and engage in economic activities that are forest-friendly, while punishing deforesters with taxes and fines, Andersen explains.

“What we showed in the analysis is that the benefits of the REDD mechanism almost exclusively went to the side of reducing emissions, with very little benefit for the people of Bolivia, the rural inhabitants who would have to modify their livelihoods, she says. “With the Bolivian mechanism, there was a much fairer distribution of the benefits, helping the poor while hurting the big deforesters.

Reward and punishment

Unlike REDD, which lacks punitive elements, the Bolivian mechanism goes further than simply paying landowners not to cut down trees which Andersen tartly likens to paying a thief not to steal by also rewarding activities that protect the country’s forests. “It’s a much more healthy system of incentives where you reward the behaviour that you want to see and punish the behaviour that you don’t want to see, she says.

Those most likely to be punished under the system are wealthy agricultural producers, while those most likely to receive payments are poorer Bolivians living and working in forest areas. And the mechanism also aims to make payments to poorer communities more straightforward by requiring legal evidence of land ownership only when levying fines and taxes, rather than when managing payments. This is vital for equity and wealth redistribution as many people that live on the land do not have legal proof of ownership, despite it unequivocally being their home.

Rejecting REDD means losing access to a larger potential pot of funding, but Andersen argues that financing the Bolivian mechanism through foreign aid offers greater stability than relying on volatile carbon markets. Nonetheless, she acknowledges that securing ongoing funding is the mechanism’s biggest challenge.

Paul van Gardingen, director of UK research programme Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation, agrees that PES schemes must be well designed to equitably reward both the poor and wealthy for activities that protect the environment.

“There’s absolutely no question that PES can work, he adds. “But one of the challenges is how you link that up to poverty alleviation.

The problem of land ownership

Land tenure has been a persistent stumbling block for PES, with the worst cases reinforcing rather than alleviating inequalities. This is because many older or poorly designed PES schemes require proof of land ownership, something often only the wealthy have, for payment. Land ownership is often unclear, especially in countries with indigenous or remote rural communities.

But Ina Porras, an economist at UK-based policy research organisation the International Institute for Environment and Development, says there may be better ways of framing a PES programme than by using property rights and land ownership.

Even introducing such a system within a developed country would benefit big landowners most due to land ownership being concentrated among the rich, Porras says. “So we need to think carefully about how benefits are applied.

Costa Rica offers an interesting model in this regard. There, a national PES scheme has been a success since it started in 1997. It has helped raise the country’s forested land cover from a low of 20 per cent in the 1980s to over 50 per cent in 2012. It works by providing contracts to landowners for different types of forest conservation: protection, reforestation, sustainable management and regeneration.

Funding allocations for indigenous associations have also risen steadily, from three to 26 per cent between 1997 and 2012. This was partly due to ongoing redesigns of contract procedures: in 1997, the scheme did not prioritise different social groups on the basis of economic need, resulting in low uptake for indigenous groups with little money; in 2012, however, they were being allocated a set amount of contracts before others could bid.

While the principle of setting aside some contracts for indigenous groups resolves some problems around land tenure, the persistent challenges of fair access to the programme and equitable distribution of benefits still require further analysis, says Porras.

She is studying participation in the Costa Rican programme. In 1997, 44 per cent of funds were paid to cooperatives and associations, but these types of organisations had virtually ceased receiving money by 2012. Meanwhile, payments going to legal entities such as businesses or other legally registered groups have risen from just over a quarter to almost half of total payouts. Understanding these shifts is key to designing PES schemes and ensuring they work for both communities and conservation over the long term.

Looking at the studies by INESAD and Porras, it apparent that there is a need to understand the risk of a PES scheme exacerbating social inequality at the expense of environmental protection, and to design it accordingly.

Van Gardingen says there is now an emerging understanding that “if you are serious about using PES as a method to deliver poverty alleviation then you need to be thinking about the efficiency of the environmental benefits, the efficiency of the social benefits, accept that there’s going to be a trade-off and find the appropriate balance.

Indigenous People Explore Many Shades Of REDD

15 January 2015 | On a daily basis, logging trucks rumble up an offshoot of Brazil’s Highway 364, laden with muddy trunks illegally harvested from the Zorí³ Indigenous Territory, at the southern edge of the Amazon Rainforest, along the border between the Brazilian states of Rondí´nia and Mato Grosso.

Seen from above, indigenous territories in the Arc of Deforestation appear as islands of emerald in seas of gray-green degradation. It's as stark an illustration as you'll find of the vital role that indigenous people play as guardians of the rainforest, but it's a role that takes its toll on the people themselves. The Sete de Setembro territory is in the center, with Igarape Lourdes to the northwest and the Zoro territory to the northeast.
Seen from above, indigenous territories in the Arc of Deforestation appear as islands of emerald in seas of gray-green degradation. It’s as stark an illustration as you’ll find of the vital role that indigenous people play as guardians of the rainforest, but it’s a role that takes its toll on the people themselves. The Sete de Setembro territory is in the center, with Igarape Lourdes to the northwest and the Zoro territory to the northeast.

The bounty includes old growth teak and mahogany, the crown jewels of the Amazon rainforest destined for luxury furniture showrooms across Brazil and around the world. The finished wood from a single mahogany trunk can fetch tens of thousands of dollars, and a few pennies of that will go to members of the Zorí³ indigenous people who illegally escort loggers to the most productive parts of their forest. It’s a practice in which many Zorí³ say they’d rather not engage, but they see no choice if they’re to feed their families.

After leaving the Zorí³ territory, the trucks pass along the northern edge of the Sete de Setembro, where the Paiter-Surui community once logged just as aggressively as the Zorí³ do today.

“We had survived for centuries by nurturing the forest, but to survive in the modern market economy, we had to let outsiders come in and chop the mahogany and teak,” says Almir Narayamoga Surui, chief of the Paiter-Surui people. “As the trees fell, the birds went silent, the animals and fish retreated, and our people lost their way.”

But that changed dramatically over the past five years, as most of his people forswore logging and chose instead to earn money from carbon offsets by maintaining the forest and keeping the loggers at bay. Still, some logging continues here as well.

After leaving Sete de Setembro, the trucks briefly pass through the southern tip of the Igarapé Lourdes territory, home to members of the Gavií£o and Arara people who never succumbed to the temptation to chop their trees, and who have a forest that’s thicker and richer than that of their neighbors, but a population that’s financially poorer.

The trucks then pass out into the dusty terrain beyond the indigenous territories, where cattle graze on depleted land and ranchers wonder why their indigenous neighbors refuse to chop their trees for even the Zorí³, the most aggressive loggers among the local indigenous communities, maintain their forest better than do their non-indigenous neighbors. Ultimately, the greatest threat to indigenous lands here and around the world isn’t logging, but the illegal conversion of forest to agriculture. Yet that conversion begins with the construction of access roads like the one connecting the three territories.

Last October, about 80 members of the Gavií£o gathered in their territory, not far from the road traversed by loggers, to weigh their options. Tired of poverty but unwilling to chop their trees, they look with envy on the Paiter-Surui and their ability to earn money by maintaining the forest. Can the same option work for them?

That’s a question that the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indí­genas de la Cuenca Amazí³nica, or “COICA“) hopes to answer here. Based in Lima, COICA is a federation of indigenous organizations across Latin America. For the past three years, it’s been exploring the creation of a financing mechanism called “Indigenous REDD+” (REDD+ Indí­gena Amazí³nico, or “RIA”), which aims to blend financing mechanisms like REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation, Degradation and other land uses) with existing indigenous practices.

Igarapé Lourdes is one place it aims to pilot the initiative, and if it works it can change the lives of indigenous people across the Amazon.

The Arc of Deforestation

Sixty years ago, the Zorí³, the Paiter-Surui, the Gavií£o and the Arara were isolated people of the Amazon, but today they’re among scores of indigenous communities in the “Arc of Deforestation” a boomerang-shaped band of destruction that sprawls across the southern and eastern edges of the Amazon Rainforest, representing the frontier of what was, just a century ago, a vast and unspoiled forest.

 The Arc of Deforestation stretches from the port city of Belém at the mouth of the Amazon to Brazil's border with Bolivia.

The Arc of Deforestation stretches from the port city of Belém at the mouth of the Amazon to Brazil’s border with Bolivia.


It’s a region of vital importance to the global climate, because indigenous territories of the Amazon hold nearly 30 billion tons of carbon, which would become 110 billion tons of carbon dioxide if it made its way into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. That’s a real possibility, because more than half of those trees are in danger of being destroyed, according to research by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), and COICA.

In a paper entitled “Forest Carbon in Amazonia: The Unrecognized Contributions of Indigenous Territories and Protected Natural Areas“, they looked at current threats, like the expansion of access roads, and concluded that roughly one-third of indigenous and protected territories are under “immediate threat” from illegal logging, mining, dams, and agriculture, while an additional fifth are under “near-term” threat.

More than 400 REDD projects around the world are currently protecting a forested area larger than the entire land mass of Malaysia, according to the latest Ecosystem Marketplace State of Forest Carbon Markets Report, and indigenous people across the Amazon have already laid the groundwork for successful REDD projects, although that wasn’t their intent.

Indigenous REDD

Beginning in the 1990s, indigenous people across the Amazon began developing “Life Plans” which are long-term development plans designed to cultivate indigenous economies built on sustainable, traditional practices like the harvesting of Brazil nuts or acai and the creation of handicrafts. All have struggled to get their plans off the ground, but in 2007 the Paiter-Surui achieved liftoff by embracing REDD and becoming, in a sense, modern-day forest rangers.

The Zorí³, however, continued to embrace logging leaving their Life Plan undeveloped while the Gavií£o and Arara began implementing their Life Plans in 2004, only to see them stall for lack of funding.

The quality of Life Plans varies, but most describe land-use and governance programs that are, at the very least, compatible with REDD initiatives.

The Paiter-Surui and the Limits of Project-Based REDD

The Paiter-Surui concluded the world’s first indigenous-led REDD project in June 2013, becoming the first such project to generate offsets by saving endangered rainforest under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). Several months later, they sold 120,000 tonnes of carbon offsets to Natura Cosméticos, a Brazilian cosmetics giant.

But what worked for the Paiter Surui in Mato Grosso might not work for all indigenous territories facing dire threats from deforestation. The Gavií£o and Arara of Igarapé Lourdes have been much better stewards of their forests than either the Zoro or the Paiter-Surui, and while all four communities  including the Zorí³ have preserved their forests better than the non-indigenous settlers have, the people of Igarapé Lourdes have done the best job of all. Yet, ironically, this fact may keep them from fully utilizing REDD finance. The situation is something of a Catch 22: to earn carbon offsets to protect forests and fund the implementation of their Life Plan, the trees of today must face measurable, imminent destruction.

The Paiter Surui REDD project became a reality because they were able to demonstrate this risk of imminent deforestation and thus reduced carbon storage under a business-as-usual scenario called a “baseline”.

So while a REDD project can help some indigenous peoples improve their stewardship of the land, it may not be applicable to the peoples of Igarapé Lourdes and certainly not the “uncontacted” indigenous peoples inhabiting wild, remote areas of the Brazilian Amazon. It is believed that nearly 70 such indigenous groups continue to live in isolation in the Brazilian Amazon alone, according to a2007 estimate from Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (Funai), higher than past estimates of about 40 groups. What’s clear is that conflicts with miners, ranchers, farmers and loggers will increasingly force such groups to confront the world at large, and in particular, incursions for resource extraction.

In the same year of the above estimate, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renoví¡veis, IBAMA) forced hundreds of illegal settlers from the Uru Eu Wau Wau indigenous territory in Rondí´nia where uncontacted groups are believed to reside.

Dealing With a Funding Dilemma

If it’s not possible to emulate the Pater-Surui, how do people like the Gavií£o and Arara resist logging and other short-term resource extraction pressures that are sure to increase in time? And what of the indigenous peoples who remain uncontacted, living in remote areas?

The challenges ahead to protecting the forests of such unexplored indigenous areas are immense: across the Brazilian Amazon today, about 15 percent of indigenous territories have still not been even been defined with boundaries or officially demarcated.

“All across the Amazon, we have indigenous people crying out for help to defend the forest,” said COICA head Juan-Carlos Jintiac at recent year-end climate talks in Lima, Peru. “But because they had no deforestation, they had no access to REDD finance.”

In light of the importance of indigenous territories to the planet’s carbon stocks and the current threats to such a resource, how can these many good stewards of the forest be rewarded for what they are doing? More precisely, how to fund the life plans that are so central to developing an enduring sustainable economy?

Where to Get the Money?

One alternative path forward is for states to seek REDD finance for reducing deforestation across their entire jurisdiction, and then distributing the funding in-state as they see fit. The tiny state of Acre, to the west, of Rondí´nia, has pioneered this “jurisdictional” approach to REDD and is rewarding indigenous peoples with funds for good forest stewardship. The money comes into the state as REDD finance, but is distributed internally for activities that conserve water and protect endangered species.


The premise is this: good forest management and carbon sequestration go hand-in-hand, but payments for one ecosystem service will result in benefits to another and for indigenous people, there is a chance to resurrect their traditional practices built on sustainable resource extraction, eco-tourism, and handicrafts.

In 2013, the German development bank KfW committed to financing the reduction of 8 million tons of emission reductions from Acre in a four-year, $40-million agreement the first ever payment for emissions reductions at the jurisdictional level. Such payments are to flow from the state government to indigenous groups and communities based on a variety of activities under Acre’s State System of Incentives for Environmental Services (known as “SISA”).

Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest

Beyond REDD, there are other potential sources of funding. One could come from municipal and state levels via the federal ICMS Ecolí³gico (Ecological Tax on Goods and Services / Imposto sobre Circulaçí£o de Mercadorias e Serviços Ecolí³gico) program, which allows local governments to access a refunded portion of the value added tax collected in their states, based on the amount of forest cover and water resources in their jurisdiction. To date at least 24 Brazilian states have passed laws or are debating legislation related to creating a green value-added tax.

Other Shades of REDD

Acre is both an innovator and outlier the jurisdictional REDD solution pioneered there is not a fit for many other states in the Brazilian Amazon, where much larger populations and vastly more diverse deforestation pressures continue to converge. That said, some form of jurisdictional REDD administered from the state level is moving forward across much of the Brazilian Amazon.

At least four other Brazilian states have embarked on statewide REDD programs, and each is unique: Mato Grosso, which destroyed its forests at a devastating rate to make way for soybean production, has slashed its rates 90% and created the country’s most advanced regime for keeping track of REDD payments. Meanwhile deforestation is picking up in states that have historically had little deforestation, like Amapa.

Consider Rondí´nia itself, home to the Zoro, the Surui, and the indigenous peoples of the Igarapé Lourdes territory, where discussions to create a state-wide jurisdictional REDD system, with state and municipal government support, have already started.

As COICA and the people of Igarapé Lourdes further explore the potential for Indigenous REDD+ (RIA), jurisdictional efforts operating outside carbon markets may prove to be the most viable funding source.

Next Week: Life Plans: Foundation or Fools’ Gold?

This Week In Forest Carbon: Lima Call For Action Undergoes Surgery

23 December 2014 | Officials participating in the United Nations (UN) climate talks in Lima, Peru often debated well past the witching hour, but had to pare down the negotiating text to scare up agreement on a final document.
Singapore Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan offered a colorful (and somewhat disturbing) metaphor for the compromise: “Before embarking on any surgery, the most important question is whether it is necessary, and you have to ask, ‘What are the potential complications?'” he said. “If you are submitting for circumcision, be careful it doesn’t become an amputation because the surgeon used too big a knife and took too much flesh.”

The “surgery” went forward nonetheless, and the 50-page document shrunk down to a sleek 22 paragraphs. The “Lima Call for Action” set a procedure for countries to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) the country-level emissions-reductions proposals that will serve as the basis of the climate deal expected to be inked in Paris next year. While the previous document included a fair amount of detail, such as several options for including land-use provisions in INDCs, the “circumcised” one is less prescriptive, simply asking countries to explain their “land-use accounting approaches and expected use of market mechanisms.”


Going forward, a key point of contention will continue to be the decades-old rift between the developed countries that have historically emitted the most carbon dioxide and the developing countries that currently bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change. But these developing nations are also poised to spew out a dangerous amount of carbon pollution in the coming decades if they do not soon steer towards a low-emissions development path.


The Green Climate Fund (GCF) established during the 16th Conference of Parties (COP 16) in Cancun, Mexico aimed to finance this transition, with developed countries pledging $100 billion per year by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation. Countries have been slow in ponying up the dough, but the GCF did reach a critical milestone in Lima as contributions from Norway and Belgium pushed it over the $10 billion threshold.


The onus is now on the GCF to assess and secure board approval for projects ahead of COP 21 in Paris. REDD projects could be among those fast-tracked since forest management and land-use have been defined as focus areas of the GCF.


“I would be more than delighted if some of the projects approved include forestry projects,” said Héla Cheikhrouhou, GCF’s Executive Director. But given the short time frame to Paris, she warned: “Don’t bring us concepts that will take years to develop.”


Here at Ecosystem Marketplace, we’re wrapping up 2014 with some reflections, and we invite you to submit yours. What do you think were the top forest carbon stories of 2014? Rank the stories here, and make sure to give us your 2015 predictions for forest carbon, too! We’ll publish select ones in our New Year’s edition.


Wishing you a happy holiday.

The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at



Call for proposals

The Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Fund issued a call for proposals to its members for efforts to monitor, report, and verify carbon stocks; address key gap areas in the design of jurisdictional programs; and enhance alignment with national efforts to reduce deforestation. Civil society organizations are encouraged to partner with GCF tropical forest member states. Under this round, the GCF Fund is seeking to support projects in Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria. Proposals are due January 24, 2015.

More information here



Big Foot

Despite the casual dress code declared due to limited air conditioning, COP 20 in Lima left the largest carbon footprint of any UN climate negotiations, emitting more than 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Jorge Alvarez, project coordinator for the UN Development Programme broke it down: 20% of the emissions came from the construction of the venue on Peru’s army headquarters, 30% came from air travel as 11,000 people flew to Lima; 15-20% came from local transport (most delegates spent an hour or two per day on buses to get to and from the venue); and the remaining 30-35% came from electricity and food consumed on-site. The emissions were, however, offset with investments in 1,500 square miles of forest protection.


20/20 vision

Seven Latin American and Caribbean countries and two regional programs committed to restore 20 million hectares of degraded land by 2020, an area larger than Uruguay. TheInitiative 20×20, officially launched at COP 20, is a major contribution to the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to restore 150 million hectares by the end of the decade. The initiative comes with $365 million in new private investment: $120 million from Althelia, $100 million from Permian Global, $80 million from Moringa, $60 million from Terra Bella, and $5 million from Rare. Projects will restore both natural forests and mosaic landscapes of trees, crops and livestock.



Ready to get results

Heru Prasetyo, head of Indonesia’s REDD+ Agency, said the country will be ready for results-based payments for reducing deforestation by the end of 2016. The first step was submitting reference levels on Indonesia’s historical deforestation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change a task completed last week. The reference levels include both deforestation and degradation between 2000 and 2012 and projects that land-use change in Indonesia will result in 439 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year by 2020 under a business-as-usual scenario. Creating the reference level required pulling together disparate data from several sources across the country and getting different institutions to work together a massive undertaking, according to the REDD+ Agency.


A busy day in Korea

The Korean Forest Service (KFS) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Cambodia to cooperate on UN-REDD programs. “Cambodia has a big presence among the REDD+ countries. Cambodia’s experience and our business know-how from Indonesian projects will help us gain certified emissions reduction credits,” a KFS spokesman told The Korea Herald. On the same day, KFS also signed an MOU with Myanmar on investing in afforestation, in a move they hope will pave the way for future climate investments. The deals were signed at special ministerial meetings on forestry held in Busan, South Korea.



A neutral meeting

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) committed to purchasing 1,070 carbon offsets to neutralize the emissions from an international event organized by the council. The offsets will come from a REDD+ project in the Shipibo Conibo and Cacataibo indigenous communities in Ucayali, Peru. Developed by Peruvian project developer AIDER under the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standards, the project is expected to reduce almost a million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Kim Carstensen, FSC Director General, noted it is difficult for an international organization to avoid travel (and the related emissions) altogether. “The fact that the carbon footprint of an event in Spain can be neutralized by communities in Peru is evidence of the truly global nature of sustainability,” she said.


Not the greatest expectations

In 2009, the Jane Goodall Institute received $20,000 in start-up money from Norway to pilot REDD+ in seven villages in the Kigoma region of Tanzania. The villages competed for the cash based on their forest management efforts and even started using innovative smartphone monitoring. Everything seemed to be moving forward but then the first installment of funding dried up, with uncertainty about a second phase. “Everyone Norway and the proponents underestimated the amount of money and work needed to do REDD+, to set up the process. They expected that by now we would be selling carbon, but that has not yet happened,” said Demetrius Kweka, a researcher who has been analyzing REDD initiatives for a new book.



Coffee as collateral

Althelia Climate Fund has issued Peru’s Cordillera Azul National Park a loan secured by more than eight million carbon offsets for forest conservation and agro-forestry, including activities such as coffee and cocao production. The agreement was announced by Peru’s Environment Deputy Minister Gabriel Quijandria and US Ambassador to Peru Brian Nichols at an event at COP 20 last week. The loan will go to the Center for Conservation, Research and Management of Natural Areas, which manages the 1.4 million hectare park.Cordillera Azul spans tropical cloud and montane forests in the regions of San Martí­n, Ucayali, Huanuco and Loreto in Peru.



Front-line monitors

new video released by AIDESEP, a national group representing Amazonian indigenous peoples in Peru, explains their “Veedurí­a Forestal,” a community-based forest monitoring system that is projected to cover the 12 million hectares of titled forests that their communities inhabit. Through the program, forest monitors are trained in local forestry laws and to create a management plan in order to keep tabs on tree extraction, much of which is illegal. “It’s important for us to have sufficient financing, to be able to guarantee that illegal logging doesn’t continue in native communities,” said Daysi Zapata, the Vice President of AIDESEP. Communities are waiting for official title to an additional 20 million hectares of land that are, in practice, community-managed.


Marching to the beat

Modeled after the People’s Climate March in New York City last September, thousands of people took to Lima’s streets on December 10th for their own call for climate action  the largest ever in Latin America. The marchers included Peruvians, Bolivians, Ecuadorians and many others, including strong indigenous contingents from all over the world many of whomrisk their lives to oppose extraction projects and are skeptical of pro-business solutions proposed within the UN climate negotiations. “It’s very important to say there is no homogenous position regarding development,” Ivonne Yí¡nez of Accií³n Ecolí³gica/Oil Watch in Ecuador told The Guardian. “A lot of the people here reject oil, reject mining. They even reject business projects that are supposed to be for forests.”



Not much on the menu

A world without forests would be a hotter and drier one, with serious implications for food production, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change. Even without taking into account the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation, a world with forest-bare tropics would be 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer and deforested areas would receive between 10% and 15% less rainfall, on average. “Tropical forests are often talked about as the ‘lungs of the earth,’ but they’re more like the sweat glands,” said Deborah Lawrence, the study’s lead author. She found that there are likely “tipping points” of deforestation and that forest clearing in the tropics can affect climates in agricultural regions thousands of miles away.


Inhale, exhale

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) just released its estimates for GHG emissions from the agriculture, forestry and land-use sector in 2012. Here’s the damage: 5.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) from agriculture, 3.7 billion tCO2e from land conversion (a proxy for deforestation), 0.8 billion tCO2e from degraded peatlands, and 0.4 billion tCO2e from biomass fires. On the other side of the equation, forests absorbed 1.9 billion tCO2e in 2012. The numbers represent an all-time high for agricultural emissions, up 1% over 2011 due to increases in synthetic fertilizer applications, but land-use change emissions decreased as deforestation rates in several countries declined.


The best game of laser tag ever

For five weeks last summer, a flying, carbon-counting laser flew over the Tanana Valley of Alaska, which contains an Iowa-sized chunk of boreal forest. Throughout the mission a sensor called G-LiHT fired three different sensors at the landscape lidar lasers to create a 3-D model of the trees; a hyper-spectral camera to pick up color changes that could indicate trees’ age, type, and health; and a thermal camera that determines whether the soil is frozen, melted or dried-out. The data will be used to create a detailed inventory of the forest’s stored carbon, but there is more work to be done. The Tanana Valley contains only about a fifth of Alaska’s unmapped carbon.



The best possible outcome

The Global Landscapes Forum that was sandwiched in between two busy weeks of negotiations in Lima drew 1,700 participants from around the world, and an outcome statement outlines nine key messages that emerged from the event. Among them was the need to scale up landscape finance by reducing risks for investment and transforming capital markets. “Neither REDD+ nor supply chain action can succeed on their own, but these two approaches combined have the potential to achieve the goal of halting deforestation by 2030,” the document states.


A multitasking plant

Bamboo forests could store more than one million tCO2e in China alone by 2050, according to a new report from the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR). Because bamboo grows quickly and can thrive on degraded sites, it could be used in efforts to combat climate change, according to INBAR,which includes 40 member countries. The plant has multiple uses, from construction to fuelwood to furniture, and in Rwanda there is a legal mandate to plant it along riverbanks to control erosion. In May, EcoPlanet Bamboo verified the first carbon offsets from a bamboo plantation. The company’s Nicaragua project is expected to reduce 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over 20 years.



Carbon Research Assistant, Winter/Spring 2015 – Ecosystem Marketplace

Based in Washington D.C., the Research Assistant will be able to commit to 35-40 hours per week to support a range of activities under the Ecosystem Marketplace Carbon Markets Program, including supporting the development of the State of the Forest Carbon/Voluntary Carbon Markets reports. The ideal candidate will have a graduate degree, an interest in conservation finance/payments for ecosystem services and basic knowledge of the carbon markets or another ecosystem service market; excellent writing, verbal communications, research and organizational skills; and excellent working knowledge of Microsoft Excel.

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Director of Development Earth Innovation Institute

Based in San Francisco, California, the Director of Development will design and lead the implementation strategy of an institutional development strategy for the organization. The position requires working closely with the Executive Director and Board of Directors, and researching individuals and foundations capable of making substantial gifts. The successful candidate will have multiple years of relevant experience at a management level with a not-for-profit as well as demonstrated success in securing revenue targets from both private and public sources.

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Indigenous Advisor, Social Policy and Practice Program Conservation International

Based in Arlington, Virginia, the Indigenous Advisor will inform and advise the organization on indigenous peoples’ policy positions and needs related to biodiversity and climate change adaptation and mitigation, particularly REDD+. A bachelor’s degree in anthropology, education, political science, indigenous issues or a related field is required, along with five years of experience involving indigenous peoples’ issues. The position involves traveling 35% of the time, often to remote forest areas in developing countries.

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Communications Manager Nexus Carbon for Development

Based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the Communications Manager will manage communication with stakeholders as Nexus expands beyond the carbon markets to open up new mechanisms such as crowdfunding and a working capital fund. The position involves managing a team of two to three people, conducting a revamp of the organization’s websites, developing marketing materials, and creating visual content. The successful candidate will have a minimum of five years of experience in communications or marketing, excellent writing skills, experience managing a team, and strong knowledge of energy and climate change issues.

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Vietnam Integrated Landscape and Climate Change Planner Winrock International

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ABOUT THE FOREST CARBON PORTALThe Forest Carbon Portal provides relevant daily news, a bi-weekly news brief, feature articles, a calendar of events, a searchable member directory, a jobs board, a library of tools and resources. The Portal also includes the Forest Carbon Project Inventory, an international database of projects including those in the pipeline. Projects are described with consistent ‘nutrition labels’ and allow viewers to contact project developers.
ABOUT THE ECOSYSTEM MARKETPLACEEcosystem Marketplace is a project of Forest Trends, a tax-exempt corporation under Section 501(c)3. This newsletter and other dimensions of our voluntary carbon markets program are funded by a series of international development agencies, philanthropic foundations, and private sector organizations. For more information on donating to Ecosystem Marketplace, please

This Week In Forest Carbon: What Role Will Forests Play In Future Climate Deal?

9 December 2014 | Ecosystem Marketplace is right in the middle of the action in Lima, Peru this week, where thousands of government negotiators, non-profit representatives, indigenous leaders, corporate officials and journalists have gathered for the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP 20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is in this strange alternative universe where people speak in acronyms and debate negotiating text over pisco sours that the groundwork for an international climate agreement next year in Paris is being laid.


What role will forests play in this future deal? After the last-minute agreement on the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) Rulebook at last year’s Warsaw COP, market participants were expecting a quiet year in Lima in terms of concrete decisions on forests and that’s what they’ve mostly gotten so far.


In a roundtable discussion with Ecosystem Marketplace, REDD policy experts discussed the two major forest carbon issues on the table at COP 20: The rules for Safeguards and whether the guidelines for countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (see our COP alphabet soup piece for background) will include REDD.


The technical committee discussions concluded this weekend without a decision on whether the UNFCCC should offer further guidance on REDD social and environmental safeguards, punting the issue to June meetings in Bonn, Germany. Many tropical forest countries were in favor of this no decision outcome.


“Many REDD countries said, We’re implementing them [the safeguards], figuring out our system, making sure everything is connected, and they interpreted the calls for more guidance as additional demands being imposed even before they’ve been able to see if they have any problems or not, said Peter Graham of World Wildlife Fund. “They’re basically saying, You’re asking us to see how we’re doing before we do it, and they don’t see it as fair.


The rules for INDCs will be discussed this week as the negotiations transition from technical discussions to policy ones and high-level ministers arrive.


“My understanding is that the INDCs to be submitted by March will be a range of numbers coupled with explanations saying, This is how we came up with this number. These are the policies that we expect to use to implement or meet our INDC. Basically, numbers with context, said Gustavo Silva of Forest Trends.


“Also, for some countries like least-developed countries, we’re not expecting them to come in with numbers, but more activities, added Chris Meyers of Environmental Defense Fund. These activities might include forest conservation, climate-friendlier agricultural techniques, or even improved land tenure in indigenous territories, he said.


Over the next week, policy experts are following whether the rules for INDCs will specifically mention forests and land use, since this would send a signal about the potential role of REDD+ in countries emissions reductions plans.


More stories from the forest carbon market are summarized below, so keep reading.

The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at



Ecosystem Marketplace in Lima

If you are in Lima this week, please join us tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the Forest Pavilion at Voces de Clima for a debrief of our State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2014 report. Co-authors Gloria Gonzalez and Allie Goldstein will present key findings from the report and provide insight on current market dynamics. Panelists Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar of Althelia Climate Fund and Mariama Vendramini of Biof­lica will comment on their experience developing or investing in forest carbon projects and the state of the market in the context of the United Nations climate negotiations. More info about the event is available here. We look forward to seeing you there.



You decide!

It’s that time of year again…please rank the top forest carbon stories of 2014 here. Was it the first compliance forest carbon offset issuance in California? The first jurisdictional REDD payments flowing to Acre, Brazil? The Consumer Goods Forum zero net deforestation pledge? The Green Climate Fund reaching the $10 billion mark (today)? We give you 20 stories, you rank them (or add your own). We’ll tell you the results in the new year. The survey also includes a place to write in your predictions for the forest carbon market for 2015.

– Get ranking!



Older and wiser markets

Much discussion in Lima has centered on the potential “new market mechanisms” that could merge from the negotiations. But market experts speaking at a side event last week advocated that “new” should mean “reformed” rather than “starting from scratch.” “Because if we don’t learn the lessons of the (Clean Development Mechanism) and from Joint Implementation, then we’re simply going to recreate history,” said Miles Austin, Executive Director of the Climate Markets and Investment Association. The International Emissions Trading Association proposed language for a new agreement that includes a unified international transfer system that allows countries to transfer portions of the INDC contributions through instruments of their choice, whether that be CDM, REDD, or something else.



Time to check those references

Colombia, Guyana, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico formally submitted information and data on their forest-based greenhouse gas emissions to the UNFCCC on Monday. This data is required to establish forest emissions levels in these countries reference levels that are in turn used as the benchmarks for reducing deforestation and potentially receiving payments for REDD offsets. The data will now be assessed by forestry experts coordinated by the UNFCCC according to rules agreed on last year in Warsaw. These countries join Brazil, which was the first country to submit its reference level data last June.


Oh, how the mighty have fallen

New Zealand Carbon Farming is suing Mighty River Power for $34.7 million over carbon offsets the energy company contracted to buy to offset carbon emissions from electricity generation. The case is based on a methodology change governing the generation of forest offsets under New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme. Mighty River Power is resisting the claim because it could be forced to buy significantly more forest carbon offsets than expected, which would double the value of its 15-year contract with New Zealand Carbon Farming.


No easy assembly

The Swedish behemoth company IKEA just unveiled a new palm oil policy, calling for zero deforestation and no conversion of peatlands for any oil used in its candle and food products. These actions go a step beyond the certification standards required by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, of which IKEA is a member. The company aims to source all of its palm oil sustainably by December 2017. Suppliers that fail to source certified palm oil will likely see their relationship “phased out”.



Just reaching the starting line

Norway last week announced it has doubled its pledge to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to NOK 1.6 billion ($258 million USD), bringing the fund to $9.95 billion. And today Belgium contributed $60 million,officially bringing the fund up to the $10 billion that the UNFCCC Executive Secretariat and others have set as the minimum that should be achieved at this COP. Parties have agreed that $100 billion per year should flow annually from developed to developing countries, both to curb emissions and to adapt to climate change’s effects, by 2020. 

Early movers get the worm

The governments of Germany and Norway committed up to $65 million apiece to Colombia and Ecuador, expanding the REDD Early Movers Program (REM) to these two rainforest nations. The contributions will be distributed over three years, starting in 2015 through the end of 2017, as payments for verified emissions reductions. “The best contribution we can make as donors is to demonstrate that we are willing to pay for the results,” said Hege Araldsen, the Norwegian Ambassador to Ecuador, Chile and Peru. The announcement marks a significant expansion of the REM program, following the 2013 agreement between Germany and the state of Acre, Brazil.



A tragic outcome

After going missing on November 28, Shuar leader Jos© Isidro Tendetza Antºn was found dead last week. Tendetza disappeared on his way to meet protestors against the Mirador copper and gold mine on his peoples’ territory in the Ecuadorean Amazon. The project is operated by Chinese conglomerate Ecuacorriente, originally a Canadian-owned company. Tendetza had planned to participate in COP 20. “We believe that this murder is part of escalating violence against indigenous leaders which responds to the Ecuadorean government and the companies’ need to clear the opposition to a mega-mining project in the Cordillera del Condor,” Luis Corral, an advisor to Ecuador’s Assembly of the People of the South, told The Guardian newspaper.



Agriculture strikes Gold

The Gold Standard launched its agricultural program last week at a side event at COP 20. “Our secret agenda is to make sure that payments for carbon reduction actually become payments for sustainable development,” said Pieter van Midwoud, Director of Land Use and Forests. The certified emissions reductions program includes streamlined guidelines for smallholder farmers. The Gold Standard is working with partners Hivos, Solidaridad and the Cool Farm Alliance, and their announcement states that they aim to make their agricultural program “a strong weapon for corporates implementing zero-net deforestation commitments.”


Digging into the details

Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund just released its soil carbon method for public consultation. The method seeks to offer a low-cost tool for cropping, pasture and mixed farming systems to calculate soil carbon. The method uses modeled estimates of sequestration and builds on the soil carbon grazing method used in the Carbon Farming Initiative. Consultation closes on December 12.



When a tree is logged, does the soil notice?

While scientists have a clear understanding about the above-ground biomass stored in forests, a lot remains unanswered about what happens underneath. The U.S. Forest Service assumes soil carbon doesn’t change from harvesting, but Dartmouth College researchers thought differently. They examined mineral soils, which are difficult to collect but make up the majority of carbon storage in the northeastern U.S., from forests logged 5, 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago. Their latest findings, reported in the Global Change Biology Bioenergy journal, found that harvested forests show a gradual release of carbon for decades following logging.



Keeping up on current events

Indigenous peoples in the Amazon have long suffered from economic straits while preserving standing forests. Yet because of these actions, they could not tap into REDD+ finance because their forests had no history of deforestation. A new study, “Forest Carbon in Amazonia: The Unrecognized Contributions of Indigenous Territories and Protected Natural Areas,” takes an innovative approach by focusing on current threats (instead of historic rates) of deforestation. It concluded that nearly one-third of indigenous and protected territories are under immediate threat from illegal logging, mining, dams and agriculture, while an additional one-fifth are under near-term threat. Presenting at COP 20, report authors emphasized the need to demarcate indigenous lands and to aid indigenous tribes in using life plan methodologies as a benchmark of success in REDD.


Consolidation is the name of the game

COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland produced a series of decisions around REDD+ commonly known as the REDD Rulebook. However, it wasn’t completely comprehensive. Prior UNFCCC decisions had additional implications for REDD+. A new publication, The Consolidated Guide to REDD+ Rules under the UNFCCC, written by the Baker and McKenzie Law for Development Initiative combines all of the UNFCCC REDD+ rules into a single document.


No clear road to REDD

In the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) new book, “REDD+ on the Ground: A Case Book of Subnational Initiatives Across the Globe“, the authors analyzed 23 REDD+ initiatives from all over the world to try and tease out global lessons. William Sunderlin, a principal scientist for CIFOR, presented about the report findings at a COP 20 side event, noting the importance of clear land tenure in REDD projects. “There are reasons for hope in the future about REDD but there are certainly grounds for serious concern, and this book will give you an appreciation for how big the obstacles are,” he said. “The core concept of performance-based incentives has proved very difficult to implement without secure, long-term funding.”



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Based in San Francisco, California, the Investment Analysis Manager will be responsible for acquisition valuation, fund portfolio model development and maintenance, and cash flow management for the New Forests investment funds managed in the U.S. Successful candidates should have at least six years of meaningful experience in comparable roles with investment firms or conservation mission NGOs and a Chartered Financial Analyst designation and/or master’s degree in relevant field.

– Read more about the position here.


Program Manager, Government & Community Partnerships – Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

Based in Vientiane, Laos, the Program Manager will take overall management responsibility across WCS sites for the Lao Program’s Community Partnership component, which includes outreach, land-use planning, and sustainable livelihoods sub-component, and lead coordination activities at various government levels. Successful candidates should have a master’s degree in environment-related field, extensive knowledge of Government of Lao PDR ministries involved in natural resource management and good Lao language skills.

– Read more about the position here.


Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Specialist – United Nations Development Program

Based in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Specialist will develop a communications strategy to support the legal certainty of forests in Indonesia by arranging workshops on participatory mapping, initiating a media campaign at the national level and more. Successful candidates should have a master’s in communication and at least six years of experience in a related field.

– Read more about the position here.


Assistant Professor – Oregon State University

Based in Corvallis, Oregon, the Assistant Professor is a 9-month tenure-track position within the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management. The professor will contribute to the Department’s focal areas of forest management, economics, and policy through research on the application of economic analysis to problems of active management of the forest resource for an array of objectives. Successful candidates should have a PhD in forest, resource or applied economics or related economics program by date of hire and an educational background in economics sufficient to teach master’s level courses in Oregon State University’s Applied Economics Program.

– Read more about the position here.

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COP Boss Pushes Simplified, Less Prescriptive Text In Bid To Move Climate Talks Forward

11 December 2014 | LIMA| Peru | For a brief moment, Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal seemed to have lost his spark. As President of the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), he’s been tirelessly shepherding delegates here towards an agreement on two issues: how best to tackle climate change between now and 2020, which is when a new climate agreement is supposed to come into effect, and sewhat should go into the building blocks of that new agreement so-called Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDC).

But he looked drained and almost haggard as he introduced Kishan Kumarsingh, who heads the negotiating body charged with creating a basic text. Kumarsingh then reported that his group had failed to move beyond the 50-page document containing 36 paragraphs, almost all with several options: “In a nutshell, we have not had any progress on how we proceed with the textual negotiations on the text we completedlast night.”

Pulgar-Vidal then lit the room with a 20-minute harangue that blended into a rallying cry and culminated with him calling Kumarsingh and fellow co-chair Artur Runge-Metzger into a closed-door meeting designed to yield a simplified negotiating text a draft of which had already been accidentally posted to the UNFCCC’s web site in the morning, prompting a walkout by the G-77 and China.

Finally, at 10:30pm local time, he posted a new negotiating text that boiled 50 pages of bloated text offering several options for each paragraph down to seven pages comprised of 17 paragraphs, only four of which had options. Each of those four has only three options, and each of those three is clearly delineated from the others.

The new text is decidedly less prescriptive than the earlier one. On land use, for example, the previous text contained several detailed options for making land-use provisions explicit and calling for meetings between now and Paris. The new text has just one option in the main body that explicitly mentions land-use (the third option under paragraph nine, which asks countries to detail their “land-use accounting approaches and expected use of market mechanisms, undertakings in national adaptation planning processes, and if applicable, the provision of finance, technology development and transfer and capacity-building support for ambitious mitigation and adaptation action in developing countries.”)

The annex, which contains the proposed elements of a country’s Intended Nationally-Determined Contribution, has also been whittled from 15 pages to two, and makes a brief reference to the need for “accounting for the land sector, including an explanation of how Parties will address all significant lands or activities, pools and gases; the reason for exclusion of any significant lands or activities, pools and gases; the approach proposed for addressing non-anthropogenic impacts, if any; and whether any accounting approaches build upon existing and agreed guidance or other methodologies.”

The result is a document with no one’s pet projects delineated explicitly, but none explicitly endorsed, either.

“Don’t leave me alone.
Work with me together, based on confidence, to deal with the problem.

Pular-Vidal drew a standing ovation for his appeal to put legalistic thinking aside and focus on core values.

“This isn’t a linguistic discussion,” he said. “It’s a substantial discussion.”

He conceded the need for negotiators to look out for their own national interests, but urged them to cooperate.

“The solution is not in the words, not in the dots or points, but in the substance,” he said, recounting his 28 years in environmental law. “You are my colleagues. Most of you are ministers of environment; some of you are ministers of foreign affairs; and I’m sure we believe in the same thing. Obviously we recognize your domestic needs, your domestic problems, your internal political difficulties.

“Don’t leave me alone,” he concluded. “Work with me together, based on confidence, to deal with the problem.”

In the morning, we’ll see how well the appeal worked.

Indigenous People Call For Scaled Up REDD As Study Highlights Precarious State Of Territorial Forests

3 December 2014 | LIMA | Peru | “All across the Amazon, the only thing standing between forests and destruction is us, the people of the forest,” said Jorge Furagaro of COICA (Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Ind­genas de la Cuenca Amaz³nica, Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin), a federation of indigenous people across Latin America, as he presented the findings of a peer-reviewed paper appearing in the academic journal Carbon Management.

Entitled “Forest Carbon in Amazonia: The Unrecognized Contributions of Indigenous Territories and Protected Natural Areas“, the paper says that trees on indigenous and protected lands store more than half of the carbon content of the Amazon, but that more than half of those trees are in danger of being destroyed, while roughly 14% of indigenous territories have still not been officially demarcated. The findings bolster the case for ramping up the demarcation of indigenous lands and of using REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) finance to support indigenous protection efforts.

“All across the Amazon, we have indigenous people crying out for help to defend the forest,” said COICA Coordinator, Juan-Carlos Jintiac. “But because they had no deforestation, they had no access to REDD finance. Now we see that their forests are in danger, and they have earned support.”

While national reference levels focus on historic rates of deforestation, the paper looks at current threats and concludes that roughly one-third of indigenous and protected territories are under “immediate threat” from illegal logging, mining, dams, and agriculture, while an additional fifth are under “near-term” threat.

Written by a team from COICA, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), the paper also takes a new look at sequestration, using more detailed measurements of carbon stocks than had previously been available, and says that indigenous lands store more carbon than had previously been believed.

“Our knowledge and awareness is changing every day,” said Furagaro. “In Colombia, we thought that old forests would not sequestrate as much carbon as young ones, but now we know just the opposite is true.”

The Amazonia Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG, Red Amaz³nica de Informaci³n Socioambiental Georreferencia) has incorporated the findings into a map, which is available online here, with explanations in Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

The Need for Demarcation

Indigenous leaders used the occasion of the paper’s release to renew calls for demarcation of their lands.

“We now have evidence that there are strong rights, there are standing forests,” said COICA President Edwin V¡squez, who co-authored the paper. “Knowing that we have more than half of the region’s carbon on indigenous and protected lands, we can tell our leaders so they can strengthen the role and the rights of indigenous forest peoples.”

REDD and Life Plans

In a separate session later in the day, Jintiac and indigenous leaders from the Amarakaeri and Shuar people outlined their “Life Plans”, which are blueprints for long-term sustainable growth across the Amazon. Most indigenous people have developed such plans over the past decade, but they lack the funding to get them off the ground.

“If you look at what REDD does and you look at Life Plans, their objectives are basically the same,” said Jintiac.

In a Wednesday session, representatives from the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve of Peru and the Federaci³n Nativa del R­o Madre de Dios y Afluentes (FENAMAD) will offer details of a new methodology that uses Life Plans as a benchmark in the success of REDD.

Changing Shape of REDD

The role of indigenous people and REDD is emerging as a central theme of talks in Lima, and Furagaro said it may very well take a different shape in different parts of the region.

“It’s difficult to say that there is a comprehensive policy towards the Amazonian Indigenous REDD, since the government of each country is different,” he said. “The strength of different initiatives depends on the political and negotiating capacity of the indigenous communities and the state.”

Thursday in Lima: Indigenous Life Plans And REDD Finance, Bringing It Together

3 December 2014 | Lima | Peru | A consortium of nine environmental and indigenous organizations called AIME (Accelerating Inclusion and Mitigating Emissions) has over the past two years been quietly making tremendous strides in how we look at some of the thornier parts of climate change and offering real hope.

Thursday, the group will present some of their work at the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The presentation will cover a groundbreaking project in the Brazilian Amazon involving indigenous people and their role in keeping carbon locked in trees; a way to connect the Life Plans of indigenous communities with the difficult task of reducing emissions in the atmosphere; and how an overhaul of the typical approach to climate change mitigation is necessary and possible.

In addition to their presentation, AIME members will participate in smaller meetings throughout the COP, including discussions that will focus on the development of a for indigenous REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) fund. Earlier in the week, COP also hosted an AIME event at the restaurant Malabar, the cuisine of which focuses on “sustainable gastronomy,” an innovative way of looking at how edible products of the rainforest can be part of solutions to climate change.

AIME: The Nuts and Bolts

The nine partners in the consortium are led by the D.C.-based international/global nonprofit Forest Trends, and include Earth Innovation Institute, EcoDecision, the Environmental Defense Fund, Metareila Surui Association, IPAM, PRISMA, COICA, and Pronatura Sur. The program launched two years ago, funded by USAID, and works in Brazil. Peru, Colombia, Central America, and Mexico.

Indigenous people and other local communities control about 33% of forest tenure in Latin America. Their stewardship of these swaths of trees which absorb the carbon emissions of our planet is a vital tool in the fight against climate change. Without these forests, the carbon would be released into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming and subsequent climate change. Rather than clear-cut these forests, as logging and mining interests would have them do, indigenous people should be encouraged to do what they have been doing for decades: remain the guardians of this valuable, irreplaceable climate-change solution.

Recognizing this, AIME supports these forest-dependent communities and their conservation efforts. An underlying premise of their work is that maintaining the livelihoods of these communities should be a central part of climate-change solution strategy.

Role of Indigenous People on International Climate Change Stage

The presence of AIME at the COP climate change talks illustrates the growing acceptance of indigenous people “at the table.” No longer the purview of world leaders and scientists, the puzzle that is climate change and our world’s future can only be addressed with the input of people like Almir Suru­, chief of the Paiter-Suru­ community in Brazil.

Among other innovative accomplishments, the Suru developed and signed a historic sale of carbon offsets in 2013, a deal that can serve as a model for other communities seeking alternatives to clear-cutting their land. At COP, the Metareila Suru­ Association, representing the Suru­, will present the community’s long-term development plan and several other ideas that constitute its “REDD+ Project.”

Earth Innovation Institute, part of AIME, will also be part of Thursday’s presentation, explaining a “jurisdictional approach” to finding climate change solutions versus a “project approach.” In this kind of focus, indigenous people work together with donors, donor nations, states and provinces, among other actors, in finding solutions and strategies.

Also presenting as part of AIME will be the indigenous advocacy group COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin). They will be discussing their own approach to reducing emissions (Redd+ Indgena Amaz³nico, or RIA), especially in the context of indigenous people’s Life Plans.

For the first time, this year’s COP is home to the “Indigenous Pavilion,” where many of the events centered on the work of these communities will take place. “The Indigenous Peoples hold the knowledge,” reads the information about the pavilion, “worldviews, experiences, and proposals for mitigation, adaptation to slow and overcome the biggest threat for all life forms; the voice of the indigenous peoples can and must be heard by the global actors.”

It is in this context, then, that the AIME consortium seeks to share their experiences and serve as a model of forward-thinking, creative approaches to climate change. As the world watches the high-level COP negotiations over the next weeks with varying degrees of skepticism and support on several smaller but nonetheless important stages, also at COP, stories of proven success will be told. And this year, the world will be listening.

Flood Disaster in the Amazon: A Fight Against Climate Change Gets Personal

30 November 2014 |The rain hit hard and fast, and in the dead of night. “The people woke up around midnight, and the water was everywhere. Houses were destroyed, children were crying,” says Chief Tashka Yawanaw¡ of the Yawanaw¡ indigenous people in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest.

On November 15, a devastating flood hit Tashka’s community in the Rio Greg³rio Indigenous Territory in the state of Acre, Brazil. The disaster took a heavy toll on all seven villages of the Yawanaw¡, where more than 565 people now live. Along with their homes, many families lost all their belongings, including essential items like boats, generators, well pumps, solar panels, clothing, food, and furniture. Livestock and crops were washed completely away in the deluge.



Images of the Yawanaw¡ community, after flooding (Photo credit: TEDGlobal)

The community straddles the Greg³rio River, which rose to never-before-seen heights, sweeping away the villages. The people fled the rising water into higher land, in the jungle, remaining there until the waters began to recede.

“There was nothing anyone could do,” says Tashka. “Because the water came so fast and strong. For three or four days, it was all under water. That was really scary. Thanks to the Creator, nobody died. But we lost almost everything we had. It makes people really sad. People are trying to find their belongings now, but it looks like the water has taken everything.” The Yawanaw¡ plan to rebuild on higher land, but they need support. They are establishing a fund, “SOS Yawanaw¡,” through which people can help out.

“I heard of one man who was in another village during the flooding,” says Tashka. “When he came back to his house, he found nothing. Nothing was there. He could not believe it. Imagine if you returned to your home, and your home is disappeared. That man just sat down and started crying.”


A Leader in the Fight Against Climate Change

Just last month, Tashka gave a TEDTalk during the opening session of one of the largest conferences in the world, TEDGlobal in Rio, which featured speakers and performers from all over the world. Of the 65 speakers, Tashka was the only indigenous person presenting. He told the audience how his community has been working hard for decades now to protect their home–the forest–from outside interests like ranching and mining, which see more value in a clear-cut forest than a living forest.

Tashka told the crowd of his dedication to working in response to climate change, a problem to which his people are particularly vulnerable–as last week’s floods revealed in sharp and tragic focus.

November is the start of the rainy season in the Amazon, but last week’s unprecedented amount of rain, explains Tashka now, is symptomatic of a changing climate. “One of the shamans in our village told me that the rain looked like somebody was very angry and passed by here and destroyed everything,” he says. “They did this to advise us about what’s really happening with our planet.”

While scientists are reticent to tie any individual disaster to climate change, they consistently warn of extreme weather–deeper droughts and unprecedented  intense rains. This one certainly fits that pattern.

“We have lived in this territory for time immemorial, and this has never happened,” says Tashka. “Never in our history. How we see it is that the whole climate is changing. Nature reacts differently now.”


Indigenous People Particularly Vulnerable

Communities like the Yawanaw¡ are especially threatened by the impacts of climate change, as explained in a 2008 “backgrounder” paper from the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: “Indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, owing to their dependence upon, and close relationship with the environment and its resources. Climate change exacerbates the difficulties already faced by vulnerable indigenous communities, including political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, human rights violations, discrimination and unemployment.”

In Tashka’s case, the damage wrought by the flooding is particularly heartbreaking, given the fact that he dedicates his life to engaging in practices and with tools that enable his community to keep their forest home alive standing–and doing its vital work of keeping carbon locked in trees instead of in the atmosphere, a key component to global warming and climate change mitigation.

“Climate change poses threats and dangers to the survival of indigenous communities worldwide, even though indigenous peoples contribute little to greenhouse emissions,” reports the UN paper. “In fact, indigenous peoples are vital to, and active in, the many ecosystems that inhabit their lands and territories, and may therefore help enhance the resilience of these ecosystems.”

Tashka has been collaborating with the D.C.-based nonprofit Forest Trends on innovative ways to keep the forest standing, such as implementing economic incentives for supporting the Yawanawa’s traditional forest stewardship via public and private financing. Forest Trends’ Communities and Markets Program has been working with Tashka and other indigenous communities to enable them to better adapt to climate change, by supporting the communities’ Life Plans and integrated territorial governance.

“I am deeply saddened by this loss, as I was there just a few months ago and saw that the community was thriving,” says Beto Borges, Director of Forest Trends’ Communities and Markets Program. “The Yawanaw¡, like other indigenous communities, are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as extreme flooding. On the verge of the 20th climate change Conference of the Parties in Peru, global leaders have an obligation to acknowledge and respect the rights of indigenous and other forest-dependent communities into the negotiations.

“Indigenous peoples,” he adds, “have been effective guardians of their forested territories, preventing large amounts of carbon from being released into the atmosphere through forest clearing and degradation. Yet, the important contributions of these forest guardians to climate change mitigation have resulted in surprisingly few benefits for them.”


Recovery and Resilience

The Yawanaw¡ are reeling, understandably. But they are also resilient, and they will rebuild their community. The same determination and focus that has made Tashka Yawanaw¡ an effective and respected leader both within his community and internationally will aid the Yawanaw¡ greatly as they recover.

The world should know, though, explains Tashka, that what happened last week on that terrible night in a few tiny villages in the Amazon has implications that go far beyond his community and his work. As the international climate change negotiations of the Conference of the Parties take place next week in Lima, the representatives in attendance–from all over the world–would do well to remember that fateful night of flooding.

“What has happened to Yawanaw¡,” Tashka says, “It’s just a little piece of what is really happening in the world because of climate change and global warming. A lot of people do not believe that this is really happening right now. But people like us who live with the struggle know what is happening.”

Yet Tashka is hopeful. The same optimism that so impressed audiences at TEDGlobal last month is still with him: “We are doing our part, but other people must also do their part. If we all come together and do something, our little work can become bigger and bigger, and make a real difference in the world.”

Support the Yawanaw¡ as they rebuild by donating here:

Bank name: Banco do Brasil

Account name: Associao Sociocultural Yawanawa

Account number: 63235-x Bank branch/agency: 0071-x

Swiff number: BRASBRRJMNS

Bank address: Rua Arlindo Porto Leal, 85

69908040 Rio Branco – Acre – Brazil