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.”

New Conservation Bank Aims
To Save The Roaming Sage-Grouse

29 June 2015 | Wyoming is a land of wide skies and open fields – of country-sized ranches, ugly energy pits, and massive wind farms. It’s also one of 11 US states and 2 Canadian provinces where the humble (and going-extinct) greater sage-grouse resides.

Like the people of Wyoming, the sage-grouse likes its space – it needs 230 square miles to thrive – and that’s the problem. While the sage grouse can live alongside cattle and other grazing animals, it perishes in the fragmented habitat left by farming, energy development, and urban expansion, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). These threats, combined with other perils like invasive plants and wildfires, are driving the sage grouse toward extinction.

The FWS listed the sage-grouse as a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with plans to announce a listing decision in September. Because an ESA listing intends to bring a species back from the brink of extinction, the regulations are rigid. Western developers worry an ESA listing on a species with such a wide range will severely deter economic growth, said Theo Stein, a Public Affairs Specialist for sage-grouse at the FWS.

In an effort to proactively conserve and restore the sage-grouse to healthy populations without ESA regulations, the Sweetwater River Conservancy (SRC) opened the first conservation bank for the greater sage-grouse in March. Although it contains just 55,000 acres of prime sagebrush, the Conservancy owns 700,000 acres, a land mass the size of Rhode Island that spans three mountain ranges. The bank has plenty of space to expand should demand for sage-grouse credits require it.

The greater sage grouse’s requirement of large amounts of contiguous prairie also makes the SRC’s bank the largest in the US. Aside from the relatively new conservation banks for another grouse – the lesser prairie chicken – species banking is typically done on smaller scales involving animals that don’t require as much space.

It’s important to conserve on the proper scale, said Brian Kelley, a wildlife biologist at the Conservancy. “Instead of an acre here and 50 acres there, this sage-grouse conservation bank could signal a paradigm shift in the way conservation is done,” he said.

Three Decades of Decline

“Greater sage-grouse is a species that doesn’t like change,” said Stein. Nevertheless, the bird has struggled with an altered landscape for over a century as its historic range has been cut by over half, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Once numbering in the millions, the Department of Interior population estimates vary from 200,000 to 500,000, which is roughly a 30% decline since 1985. The only reason the bird wasn’t listed in 2010 was because the FWS said it lacked capacity to implement the listing status.

Western interests saw this as an opportunity to thwart a listing. They launched a massive proactive conservation movement that spanned energy companies, federal and state agencies and ranching and farming operations. Wyoming was one of the leaders, Stein said. It set up a state-wide conservation strategy that includes prime habitat spots preserved for conservation known as core areas.

Building a Bank

In this pro-sage-grouse political climate, Jeff Meyer, SRC’s co-founder and Managing Partner, purchased thousands of acres in central Wyoming with the intention of building a wind farm. He was correct in thinking the region has vast potential for wind power, Stein said. But what he didn’t realize was the spot was also right in the middle of a core area for sage-grouse conservation. And renewable energy is part of the energy development that harms the bird, according to the FWS.

SRC then switched to establishing a conservation bank. Initially, the company had performed intensive high-tech data-collection on the property to determine its wind power potential and found the land had great potential to generate mitigation credits.

Also, this region of Wyoming is home to a number of historic cattle ranches. SRC soon realized that pastureland, if managed sustainably, could operate in harmony with sage-grouse populations.

“The nature of the ranch landscape really leant itself to what this species needs: big, open and un-fragmented land,” said Kelly.

This means the bank requires grazing management plans that incorporate both livestock production and sage-grouse goals with activities such as vegetation monitoring factored in. Keeping the ranches in operation is an important part of the bank’s success because it incorporates local interests, Kelly said.

“Open spaces are important to Wyoming residents but maintaining their economic base is important also. A bank fits into this nicely because it allows for open space and for economic development through mitigation,” he said.

A Market requires Demand

The sage-grouse bank is opening up for business with roughly 32,000 credits to sell. “The next step is attracting clients,” said Stein.

The question of demand for these credits is a major one. A candidate species listing drives some demand, but an ESA listing drives most of it, said Mark Sattelberg, the FWS Wyoming Field Office Supervisor. However, new incentives are springing up.

Wyoming’s sage-grouse conservation strategy follows the mitigation hierarchy, according to its summary document, where development is encouraged outside core areas and requires mitigation for all projects that must occur within habitat strongholds.

On top of the state-wide mandate, the BLM and the Forest Service recently released an updated version of its sage-grouse conservation efforts. Included in it is a mitigation component requiring developers follow the mitigation hierarchy and compensate for unavoidable impacts. This is significant because together the agencies manage two-thirds of sagebrush lands. And last year, the DOI launched a new mitigation strategy referencing the hierarchy and calling for landscape-level activity.

Environmental NGO The Nature Conservancy’s announcement to establish a sage-grouse conservation bank in Nevada in partnership with gold mining company, Barrick Gold, is further evidence of a blossoming market for sage-grouse credits.

The Environmental Defense Fund’s-another environmental NGO- habitat exchanges are also in the works in Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada. These ventures focus on land management incentives to ranchers in exchange for sage-grouse conservation.

Sattleberg said he knows of three ranchers looking into conservation banking. “They’re looking into what it would take and it takes quite a bit upfront,” he said, noting interest from some ranchers will remain as interest and nothing more.

Quality Products?

At the core of all these conservation measures must be quality and they must deliver a net-benefit for the species, said Deborah Mead, the National Conservation Banking Coordinator with the FWS.

“If these initiatives aren’t established to compensatory mitigation standards, then you have to ask if the species still warrants a listing,” she said. And while this will surely frustrate those involved in the voluntary proactive activities, the interest of the species must be put first, she said.

It’s an important point to make with the various versions of conservation offered. If the FWS decides the sage-grouse does require a listing status, the current conservation activities will be assessed or re-assessed through an ESA lens, Mead said. “It’s good that people are getting out in front and taking voluntary actions on the landscape, but it should be clear whether these actions meet regulatory standards or not,” she said.

At any rate, Eric Holst, Senior Director of Working Lands at EDF, said the momentum for conserving the sage-grouse is a positive thing. “I see this as an opportunity to assemble the federal and state agencies, energy interests and other private-sector parties together to grow sage-grouse populations,” he said.

Kelly said: “It’s a different way of thinking about conservation and a new way of applying the tools we have.”

 

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.

New Conservation Bank Aims To Save The Roaming Sage-Grouse

29 June 2015 | Wyoming is a land of wide skies and open fields – of country-sized ranches, ugly energy pits, and massive wind farms. It’s also one of 11 US states and 2 Canadian provinces where the humble (and going-extinct) greater sage-grouse resides.

Like the people of Wyoming, the sage-grouse likes its space – it needs 230 square miles to thrive – and that’s the problem. While the sage grouse can live alongside cattle and other grazing animals, it perishes in the fragmented habitat left by farming, energy development, and urban expansion, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). These threats, combined with other perils like invasive plants and wildfires, are driving the sage grouse toward extinction.

The FWS listed the sage-grouse as a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with plans to announce a listing decision in September. Because an ESA listing intends to bring a species back from the brink of extinction, the regulations are rigid. Western developers worry an ESA listing on a species with such a wide range will severely deter economic growth, said Theo Stein, a Public Affairs Specialist for sage-grouse at the FWS.

In an effort to proactively conserve and restore the sage-grouse to healthy populations without ESA regulations, the Sweetwater River Conservancy (SRC) opened the first conservation bank for the greater sage-grouse in March. Although it contains just 55,000 acres of prime sagebrush, the Conservancy owns 700,000 acres, a land mass the size of Rhode Island that spans three mountain ranges. The bank has plenty of space to expand should demand for sage-grouse credits require it.

The greater sage grouse’s requirement of large amounts of contiguous prairie also makes the SRC’s bank the largest in the US. Aside from the relatively new conservation banks for another grouse – the lesser prairie chicken – species banking is typically done on smaller scales involving animals that don’t require as much space.

It’s important to conserve on the proper scale, said Brian Kelley, a wildlife biologist at the Conservancy. “Instead of an acre here and 50 acres there, this sage-grouse conservation bank could signal a paradigm shift in the way conservation is done,” he said.

Three Decades of Decline

“Greater sage-grouse is a species that doesn’t like change,” said Stein. Nevertheless, the bird has struggled with an altered landscape for over a century as its historic range has been cut by over half, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Once numbering in the millions, the Department of Interior population estimates vary from 200,000 to 500,000, which is roughly a 30% decline since 1985. The only reason the bird wasn’t listed in 2010 was because the FWS said it lacked capacity to implement the listing status.

Western interests saw this as an opportunity to thwart a listing. They launched a massive proactive conservation movement that spanned energy companies, federal and state agencies and ranching and farming operations. Wyoming was one of the leaders, Stein said. It set up a state-wide conservation strategy that includes prime habitat spots preserved for conservation known as core areas.

Building a Bank

In this pro-sage-grouse political climate, Jeff Meyer, SRC’s co-founder and Managing Partner, purchased thousands of acres in central Wyoming with the intention of building a wind farm. He was correct in thinking the region has vast potential for wind power, Stein said. But what he didn’t realize was the spot was also right in the middle of a core area for sage-grouse conservation. And renewable energy is part of the energy development that harms the bird, according to the FWS.

SRC then switched to establishing a conservation bank. Initially, the company had performed intensive high-tech data-collection on the property to determine its wind power potential and found the land had great potential to generate mitigation credits.

Also, this region of Wyoming is home to a number of historic cattle ranches. SRC soon realized that pastureland, if managed sustainably, could operate in harmony with sage-grouse populations.

“The nature of the ranch landscape really leant itself to what this species needs: big, open and un-fragmented land,” said Kelly.

This means the bank requires grazing management plans that incorporate both livestock production and sage-grouse goals with activities such as vegetation monitoring factored in. Keeping the ranches in operation is an important part of the bank’s success because it incorporates local interests, Kelly said.

“Open spaces are important to Wyoming residents but maintaining their economic base is important also. A bank fits into this nicely because it allows for open space and for economic development through mitigation,” he said.

A Market requires Demand

The sage-grouse bank is opening up for business with roughly 32,000 credits to sell. “The next step is attracting clients,” said Stein.

The question of demand for these credits is a major one. A candidate species listing drives some demand, but an ESA listing drives most of it, said Mark Sattelberg, the FWS Wyoming Field Office Supervisor. However, new incentives are springing up.

Wyoming’s sage-grouse conservation strategy follows the mitigation hierarchy, according to its summary document, where development is encouraged outside core areas and requires mitigation for all projects that must occur within habitat strongholds.

On top of the state-wide mandate, the BLM and the Forest Service recently released an updated version of its sage-grouse conservation efforts. Included in it is a mitigation component requiring developers follow the mitigation hierarchy and compensate for unavoidable impacts. This is significant because together the agencies manage two-thirds of sagebrush lands. And last year, the DOI launched a new mitigation strategy referencing the hierarchy and calling for landscape-level activity.

Environmental NGO The Nature Conservancy’s announcement to establish a sage-grouse conservation bank in Nevada in partnership with gold mining company, Barrick Gold, is further evidence of a blossoming market for sage-grouse credits.

The Environmental Defense Fund’s-another environmental NGO- habitat exchanges are also in the works in Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada. These ventures focus on land management incentives to ranchers in exchange for sage-grouse conservation.

Sattleberg said he knows of three ranchers looking into conservation banking. “They’re looking into what it would take and it takes quite a bit upfront,” he said, noting interest from some ranchers will remain as interest and nothing more.

Quality Products?

At the core of all these conservation measures must be quality and they must deliver a net-benefit for the species, said Deborah Mead, the National Conservation Banking Coordinator with the FWS.

“If these initiatives aren’t established to compensatory mitigation standards, then you have to ask if the species still warrants a listing,” she said. And while this will surely frustrate those involved in the voluntary proactive activities, the interest of the species must be put first, she said.

It’s an important point to make with the various versions of conservation offered. If the FWS decides the sage-grouse does require a listing status, the current conservation activities will be assessed or re-assessed through an ESA lens, Mead said. “It’s good that people are getting out in front and taking voluntary actions on the landscape, but it should be clear whether these actions meet regulatory standards or not,” she said.

At any rate, Eric Holst, Senior Director of Working Lands at EDF, said the momentum for conserving the sage-grouse is a positive thing. “I see this as an opportunity to assemble the federal and state agencies, energy interests and other private-sector parties together to grow sage-grouse populations,” he said.

Kelly said: “It’s a different way of thinking about conservation and a new way of applying the tools we have.”

 

Things White People Like – As Told By A Hadza Tribesman

17 June 2015 | “Those are things of your white people,” says Richard Baalow when I ask him how he plans to sell his carbon offsets to corporate leaders.

Baalow is a member of a hunter-gatherer group called the Hadza, known as the “last of the first” – the approximately 1600 remaining members of the first known people to live in what is now Tanzania. He’s traveled from his homeland, the Yaeda Valley, to Arusha to speak to me via Skype.

“Us Africans know that our side of the world is clean,” he says. “Meanwhile, you white people know that your side of the world is spoiled, because you’re destroying the environment. That’s why you bring the carbon market to us. That’s why we say, ‘Welcome, Carbon Tanzania, and bring money!’ That’s the long and short of it.”

But the long story is worth telling, too.

Yaeda Valley Under Pressure

Even before Baalow met Marc Baker and Jo Anderson of the Arusha-based non-profit organization Carbon Tanzania, he had heard about REDD through the Dutch’s government’s presence in Tanzania. The acronym stands for “reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation” of forests, and it’s applied to a broad range of activities that cut greenhouse gas emissions by saving endangered rainforest. Communities like his can earn money for the carbon they keep locked in trees, and Baalow was eager to learn how the Hadza could participate.

The Hadza, whose culture can be traced back 40,000 years, have lost about 90% of their traditional homelands. As a non-aggressive hunter-gatherer group, “their response has always been to move. Just get out of the way,” explained Baker. The Hadza moved out of the way 3,000 years ago during the Bantu expansion throughout West Africa. They moved out of the way again about 300 years ago, for the Maasai.

Yaeda valley
The Yaeda Valley. | Photo courtesy of Carbon Tanzania.

Today, pressure is coming from Sakuma farmers and Datooga pastoralists, or herders. Habitat for the mammals that the Hadza hunt with bows and arrows – everything from giraffe to zebra to baboons to bats – is dwindling. The Hadza needed a plan, and getting paid to conserve the natural resource base they live off of sounded like a good one.

“There is a new food for the world, and it’s called REDD,” Baalow said.

Land Rights for a 40,000-Year-Old Culture

Before the Hadza could earn money for the carbon stored in the Yaeda Valley, they had to prove that they owned the land they had been living off of for millennia – and establishing that ownership could provide benefits well beyond the carbon income.

“Before this project, nobody had any rights,” Baalow said.

Richard Baalow
Richard Baalow works on a map of the Hadza territory. | Photo courtesy of Carbon Tanzania.

Land reforms of the 1990s led the Hadza to formalize two “villages” so that they could secure communal land rights under the Ministry of Lands. But by 2009, so many outsiders had moved into the villages that the majority of the representatives on the Village Council were non-Hadza. Baalow began working alongside legal advisor Edward Lakita at the Ujaama Community Resource Team on a different solution.

They decided to try a legal instrument called the Certificate of Customary Rights of Occupancy (CCRO) that had previously been used in Tanzania to formalize land rights for individuals. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), another partner in the project, paid for lawyers and meetings. It took years, but the Hadza eventually convinced the Tanzanian government to issue a CCRO to an entire community. In 2011, the Ministry of Lands issued the first-ever group CCRO, and the Hadza’s ownership of 20,000 hectares was finally on the books.

“Without that security of land tenure and resource tenure, you couldn’t begin to think about a 20-year carbon project, because at the current rate we’d have pastoralists moving all through this system,” said Matt Brown, TNC’s Africa Director. “The Hadza basically would have lost a lot more of their homeland, so securing the land legally through these CCROs is just absolutely critical.”

Baalow has traveled to several international indigenous peoples forums to speak about the process, and the Ujaama Community Resource Team has since worked with about 20 communities in Northern Tanzania to secure community land rights in the same way. Several of those CCROs went to the Sakuma and the Datooga – the neighboring groups who themselves were being pushed into Hadza territory partly because of insecure land rights.

“There’s this chain reaction,” said Brown.

REDD as Land-Use Planning

The CCRO serves as the first-ever land-use plan for the Hadza.

“As I see it, the CCRO has designated rights for different community user groups – the hunters, the farmers, and the pastoralists,” Baalow explained.

Group shot
“REDD is the distinction between plan and no plan,” says Marc Baker. | Photo courtesy of Carbon Tanzania.

The various land-use rights are based on practical considerations. Flat areas with higher organic soil content and less exposure to easterly winds are designated for agriculture. Wooded areas around important water sources are designated as protected. And so on. These “zones” do not impose on the Hadza’s way of life – they are still no fences, no permanent settlements – but they do guide decision-making around land-use within the Yaeda Valley, and they give the village governments parameters when granting farming areas to outsiders.

“REDD is the distinction between plan and no plan,” Baker said. “It’s about getting land use planning in place so when the wave of agriculture or charcoal hits, people have got rights, they’ve got value, and they’ve got an understanding of how the law works so you can actually plan where the deforestation is going to happen.”

The REDD-based land-use plan now covers more than 27,000 hectares. It would take a few days to walk across the project area.

Carbon Counting 

Now that the Hadza had secured their land rights, the next step was quantifying the carbon in the Yaeda Valley landscape. This was where TNC offered the most technical assistance – and where things get a little geeky.

Looking at map
Carbon Tanzania worked with the Hadza to measure the carbon content of their woodlands. | Photo courtesy of Carbon Tanzania.

The TNC team started with Landsat aerial imagery of the valley available through the U.S. Geological Survey, which captures the landscape at 30-meter resolution. For some areas, they used Google Earth to fill in gaps. TNC then sent out a team to take photographs at 100 different sites on the ground and manually classify them as different types of land uses: woodlands, agriculture, etcetera. They used the photographs to “train” a computer program to classify the entire map.

“We did that for 2013 and then we used the same points and looked at the 2000 imagery and basically were able to figure out what areas had gone from natural grassland or natural forest into some degraded state,” said Brown.

The verdict? The rate of forest loss in the Hadza territory was about on par with forest degradation in Tanzania as a whole – about 1% per year. This is the baseline for the “business-as-usual” scenario.

The Carbon Tanzania team followed up this work with a carbon stock assessment that involved going out into the field and measuring trees to figure out the amount of carbon stored in the African savannah woodland forest. It hadn’t been done before, so the team developed a new statistical program to determine the carbon stored in different tree species. The Hadza helped with the physical tree measurements and with identifying plants.

At the end of the study, they estimated that, at the current degradation rate, the landscape would release more than 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere annually. The majority of the aboveground carbon in the Yaeda Valley is stored in these acacia trees, according to Baker, so the fact that land-use planning protects and maps these trees can result in “a massive carbon saving.” Through REDD, the Hadza could earn sellable “offsets” for preventing that loss.

Offsets for Sale

The Yaeda Valley Carbon Tanzania project is developed under the Plan Vivo carbon standard, which focuses on community-led projects benefitting smallholders. To date, the project has earned 48,033 Plan Vivo certificates, each representing one tonne of CO2.

Buyers include National Geographic Travel and Abercrombie & Kent, as well as local tourism companies such as Dorobo, Map’s Edge, and Nature Discovery that do safaris or adventure treks in the region. Carbon Tanzania also works with international carbon offset retailers, including U.S.-based Native Energy and Sustainable Travel International and Sweden-based ZeroMission. The not-for-profit is in the process of hiring a business development manager who will focus full-time on sales now that the project is up and running.

“For the vast majority of projects, like ours, the sales element is critical,” Baker said. “If we can’t make payments, then of course the model starts to disintegrate.”

Under the Plan Vivo standard, at least 60% of revenues from the carbon sales go directly to the community. The remaining 40% is split between project monitoring and overhead. REDD payments reach the Hadza through M-PESA, a mobile phone money transfer system used widely in Tanzania. The most recent revenue of 21,550,000 Tanzania shillings (about $10,200 USD) from carbon offset sales between May and October of 2014 was split evenly between the two villages in the project area – Domanga and Mongo wa Mono. Going forward, Carbon Tanzania expects to generate $60,000 for the communities annually.

The Hadza use the money to pay the wages of 20 scouts that patrol the protected area, gathering data and documenting any illegal poaching or land incursions, as well as two village coordinators. Between 2013 and 2014, these scouts dealt with nine instances of cattle incursion and seven instances of poaching – though poaching instances involving guns have been reduced to zero. Aside from the scout salaries, the communities meet every six months to decide how to collectively spend the remainder from the carbon payments – usually on maize meal and school fees. They’ve also set up a medical fund that acts as community insurance, covering medical expenses for first-time mothers.

“The biggest benefit to come from Carbon Tanzania is that the communities have seen the value of environmental conservation and are able to earn money by conserving nature,” said Baalow.

The Future

Now that the project is in its fourth year, the Hadza have gained confidence that REDD payments actually will flow – and that monetizing carbon has led to many other outcomes that have non-monetary values such as land security, biodiversity protection, and a reduction of conflict between farmers and pastoralists, according to Baker.

“The money has value to the Hadza in terms of reducing stress on the culture,” he said, comparing it to a pension fund in Western terms. “They feel secure.”

Carbon Tanzania is in the process of expanding the Yaeda Valley project to cover more land area and is also working on a new REDD project in the Makame Wildlife Management Area, with the Maasai.

“We are not sitting around waiting for some global agreement to emerge,” he said, referring to the international climate talks coming up in Paris this December. “It’s far too important to wait for governments to do anything.”

 

Tabitha Muriuki contributed to this story.

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

REDD Dawn: The Birth Of Forest Carbon

 3 June 2015 | By all accounts, REDD was born in 1988 – not so much to save the planet as to help poor farmers in Guatemala manage their land more sustainably. It’s germination, however, began three decades earlier, in 1958, at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. That’s where the late American scientist Charles Keeling started measuring the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – an exercise that eventually yielded the “Keeling Curve”: a diagonal line that zigzags upwards as CO2 levels increase year-to-year.
KeelingCurve

2. Source: Global Warming Art Project 

The Keeling Curve: This is your planet on CO2. Source: Global Warming Art Project.

The upward slant continues to this day, while the zigzags reflect the rhythm of farms and forests in the Northern Hemisphere coming alive in summer, when they sponge up CO2, and falling dormant in the winter. If this natural rythm had such a pronounced effect on the atmosphere, scientists began to wonder, what impact does rampant deforestation have? How much of our greenhouse gasses come from industrial emissions, and how much form chopping trees?

Scientists had known about the greenhouse effect since the early 1900s, when Swedish scientist Svante August Arrhenius dubbed it the “hot-house” effect, but Keeling’s curve showed that CO2 levels were rising faster than most believed. As the curve continued to climb over the ensuing decades, so did interest in climate change.

Trees and Climate Change: An Early Defense

By the early 1970s, scientists were beginning to see climate change as a very real but distant threat – one that would eventually force us to completely restructure our industrial economy. Physicist Freeman Dyson was one of those who decided to get ahead of the challenge by looking for workable solutions.

“Suppose that, with the rising level of CO2, we run into an acute ecological disaster,” he wrote in a 1977 article entitled “Can We Control the Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere?“, published in the journal Energy. “Would it then be possible for us to halt or reverse the rise in CO2 within a few years by means less drastic than the shutdown of industrial civilization?”

His conclusion: yes, it would be possible to slow climate change by planting trees – but not as a permanent solution. Instead, he saw trees as a short-term, stopgap measure that would slow the process long enough for technology to catch up.

“The long-term response, if such a catastrophe becomes imminent, must be to stop burning fossil fuels and convert our industry to renewable photosynthetic fuels, nuclear fuels, geothermal heat and direct solar-energy conversion,” he continued. “But a world-wide shift from fossil to non-fossil fuels could not be carried out in a few years… An emergency plant-growing program would provide the necessary short-term response to hold the CO2 at bay while the shift away from fossil fuels is being implemented.”

Trees and Sustainable Agriculture

Meanwhile, in 1974, humanitarian organization CARE had launched a program called Mi Cuenca (My Watershed) to help Guatemalan farmers save their topsoil – in part by planting rows of trees on steep farmland to capture runoff and create natural terraces. The project soon became an unqualified success, and farmers across the region were clamoring to join, but by 1988 CARE was running out of money, and the project was on its last leg.

That same year, the United Nations launched the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to explore the science of global warming, while an energy executive named Roger Sant started looking to expand his company’s output – preferably by building wind farms. A proponent of green energy in the Carter Administration, Sant had co-founded a company called Applied Energy Services (AES), in part with the objective of making green energy work.

Rural Development and Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Wind-farm technology, however, wasn’t what it is today, so Sant asked the World Resources Institute (WRI) if there was a way to offset his emissions by reducing them somewhere else – a radical concept at the time. WRI picked up Dyson’s idea – which other scientists had since moved forward – and suggested he plant trees across the United States. That quest found its way to Paul Faeth, an agricultural engineer with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), which was in the process of merging into WRI.

Faeth knew of Mi Cuenca’s plight, and he proposed killing two birds with one stone: by planting trees in Guatemala, he said, AES could help both the environment and the rural poor.

Intrigued, AES began working with WRI to explore the science of carbon accounting – science that had, ironically, been perfected by timber companies to estimate the amount of wood in a forest. It was a simple but labor-intensive process that involved measuring trees at chest-height and then applying “allometric equations” based on the trees’ species and circumference to see how much wood they contained. From there, it was simple math to extrapolate the amount of carbon: basically, divide the wood by two.

But there was more to it than just the carbon in the newly-planted trees.

Deforestation and Climate Change

Researchers at the time were estimating that deforestation contributed about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions – estimates that have since been confirmed by the IPCC. That meant you could reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster by saving endangered forests than by planting new trees, which would need decades to get big enough to matter. Plus, living forests provide habitat for endangered species and deliver “ecosystem services” such as water filtration and climate control. On top of that, saving forests seemed inexpensive.

WRI had just hired a policy analyst named Mark Trexler, who pointed out that any trees they planted on the slopes would also save endangered forest further up, because farmers wouldn’t have to keep abandoning their land for greener pastures. That, he argued, was more important from a carbon perspective than planting trees – especially if many of the newly-planted trees ended up being cut down to supply farmers’ immediate needs. He proposed focusing their attention on saving the trees

In the end, AES decided to spend $2 million to save and expand Mi Cuenca to offset 2 million tons of its own internal CO2 emissions. CARE re-named the project “Mi Bosque” (My Forest), and today their experiment is considered by some to be the world’s first REDD project. Although a later analysis found it drastically over-estimated the amount of carbon that was kept out of the atmosphere, it sparked the decade of experimentation that led to the creation of today’s rigorous carbon standards.

Climate Talks Begin

The project caught the eye of The Nature Conservancy, and pilot projects started proliferating across Latin America. The term “REDD” wouldn’t enter the vernacular for another 15 years, but NGOs began developing structured, methodological approaches to “Avoided Deforestation” (AD), which became a hot topic at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, as well as at the First Conference of the Parties (COP 1) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Berlin in 1995.

As climate talks progressed, analysts like Trexler and ecologists like Tia Nelson of The Nature Conservancy argued for the inclusion of REDD in the UNFCCC framework as a critical means of immediately dampening the rise in greenhouse gases.

On the REDD front, proposals ranged from “project-based” frameworks like Mi Bosque to “national baseline frameworks” using a country’s historic rate of deforestation as a performance baseline and then offering payments for beating it.

Politics and Science: the Great Divide

The proposals, unfortunately, found little traction – for a variety of reasons. To begin with, few climate negotiators had a forestry background, so the science was lost on them. Furthermore, “offsetting” had become equated with “incentivizing industrial reductions”, and most environmental organizations were horrified by the idea of cheap offsets, which they feared would flood the market and remove the incentive to change industrial practices. Finally, developing countries – still mindful of their recent colonial past – feared that REDD would cost them control of their forests. On top of all that, no one really agreed on how best to determine which forest was in danger and which was not.

As a result, 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 at the pilot scale under real-world conditions.

Voluntary Carbon Markets

Over the next 15 years, standard-setting bodies like the Verified Carbon Standard and the American Carbon Registry emerged to provide ways of determining which forest was endangered and which procedures can be used to save it. At the same time, the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance emerged to ensure indigenous rights, and forest communities that embraced REDD found themselves able to earn income from their stewardship of the land.

Within the UNFCCC, however, REDD remained on ice until 2005. That’s when Papua New Guinea wrangled it back onto the agenda at Climate Talks in Montreal (COP 11). In 2010, REDD was the sole bright spot in the otherwise dismal Copenhagen Accord. By 2011, governments around the world were harvesting the lessons of voluntary REDD pilot project developers and offset buyers to launch larger-scale regional REDD programs that accounted for avoided deforestation at the “jurisdictional” scale but still allowed early pilot projects to generate emissions reductions and earn offsets and revenue (i.e. “nest”) within their borders. The UNFCCC and World Bank, however, steered clear of anything involving offsets and drifted toward purely jurisdictional approaches that left individual projects in limbo. (If that seems like a lot to swallow, keep reading the articles that follow.)

Then, at the 2013 climate talks in Warsaw, the UNFCCC finally agreed on a REDD Rulebookfor jurisdictional REDD. Technically, it’s not a book, but a collection of seven decisions that provide guidance on how countries can harvest available data to earn REDD income. The Rulebook’s provisions for program development are significantly less rigorous than the standards imposed on voluntary projects, but the payments into jurisdictional programs aren’t offsets – meaning countries can’t claim to have reduced their own carbon footprint. Instead, jurisdictional programs are increasingly seen as “payments for performance” that could slow deforestation by supporting sustainable agriculture – while at the same time creating a framework within which more rigorous individual projects can address specific local challenges.

 

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=” http://anthropozine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Frazier1-300×226.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=” http://anthropozine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Resting1-225×300.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

Nesting

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
and
Acre and Goliath: One Brazilian State Struggles To End Deforestation, which appeared in Ecosystem Marketplace on May 5, 2014.

 

This Week In Water: Everybody’s Talking About The Clean Water Rule

Parties with an interest in regulations falling under the Clean Water Act are still sorting out the implications of the recently finalized Clean Water Rule. Meanwhile, green infrastructure scored several victories this month as New York City, Detroit and Xiamen contemplate using the practice to manage stormwater overflows.

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

 

29 May 2015 | After a year of controversy and debate among environmentalists, farming interests, landowners and legislators, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers released a new rule this week which seeks to clarify which wetlands and streams are protected under the Clean Water Act. The rule has likely impacts on a number of regulatory programs – and a high likelihood of meeting future litigation as permittees, environmentalists, and others sort out its implications.

In other stories this month, interest in green infrastructure and low impact development (LID) by cities is picking up rapidly, if the volume of news is any indication. New York City published monitoring results from three demonstration projects showing a better-than-expected 20% cut in stormwater flow to sewers, while cities from Xiamen to Detroit are also getting on board.

It’s about time. As a recent white paper from Veolia and the International Food Policy Research Institute points out, even under the best case scenario, “water quality is still projected to deteriorate dramatically” globally in the coming years, and especially in Asia. Despite the bad news, the paper’s conclusions are noteworthy. The authors call for new infrastructure investment but also soft-path solutions: watershed-scale approaches, better management of rural and upstream areas, and water quality trading.

The search for solutions to water quality challenges is evident in a flurry of recent news on trading mechanisms. Progress is underway on a new trading program in Arkansas, while the city of Santa Rosa, California, will pay $330,000 to a vineyard for nutrient offset credits. Meanwhile, nutrient trading is being floated in basins from the Baltic to India’s Ganga River, as a cost-effective strategy to manage enormous water pollution challenges.

 

As always, you don’t have to wait til next month to get the latest on natural infrastructure finance and trends. Subscribe to us on Twitter, and check out our daily news feed.

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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

 

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 at Ecosystem Marketplace.

 

Is Private Investment And Coastal Management A Good Or Bad Match?

Nicolas Pascal, of the BlueFinance project, a data collection initiative aimed at developing finance mechanisms for marine conservation management, says market mechanisms have potential to fill a big part of a funding gap that exists in marine conservation. But its practical experience in coastal environments is limited: more know-how is needed to spur private investment.

Learn more.

 

POLICY UPDATES

The Stormwater Challenge: China looks for Solutions in Low Impact Development

Following a report that found 81% of China’s coastal waters are polluted with nutrients and other forms of pollution, the government is launching ‘Sponge’ City pilots to take place in 16 cities. Focused on low impact development solutions for stormwater runoff, the pilots will implement certain techniques in order to use 70% of captured rainwater, providing a water source for drought-prone areas and reducing flooding.

Get the full story from WEF’s Stormwater Report.

 

EPA, Corps Release Clean Water Rule into Contentious Atmosphere

After a year of controversy and debate among environmentalists, farming interests, landowners and legislators, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers released a new rule this week which seeks to clarify which wetlands and streams are protected under the Clean Water Act. The rule has likely implications for a number of regulatory programs including the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program and Section 404 wetlands dredge/fill permitting. The final rule will be published in the federal register in the next few weeks; analysts suggest that litigation over portions of the rule are likely in the future.

Read analysis from Barnes & Thornberg, via Lexology.

 

Work on Arkansas’ New Trading Program Begins in Earnest

Following passage of supporting legislation in the Arkansas state legislature this spring, decision-makers and environmental groups are assembling the pieces of a nutrient trading program in the Beaver Lake watershed. Legislators and the governor will select an advisory panel to regulate trades and guide program design – including whether trading will take the form of an offset system, exchange program, or compliance association. Meanwhile, the Beaver Watershed Alliance is busy identifying potential demand among utilities in the watershed.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has coverage.

 

Far-flung Countries Bond Over Market Mechanisms and Water Pollution

Given similarities between northern Europe’s Baltic Sea and the Chesapeake Bay in the United States, a consortium of Baltic-area institutions and the US Department of Agriculture joined forces to analyze the two bodies of water and develop best management strategies. One finding: flexible market-based mechanisms like water-quality trading were deemed the best method to achieve cost-effective pollution control.

Learn more at the USDA blog.

 

Farmers Agree to Water Cuts as California Drought Worsens

Drought-stricken California farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta agreed to giving up a quarter of the water they have rights to use, in part because they fear much larger cuts down the road as the state’s historic drought shows no sign of ending. Cuts will come through continuing water conservation – farmers have been keen to remind the state of their ongoing efforts – and letting land lie fallow.

Read it at the New York Times.

 

GLOBAL MARKETS

High Marks for Green Stormwater Projects in NYC

The New York City Department of Environment released a report on progress made on three neighborhood-scale green infrastructure demonstration projects intending to curb the amount of stormwater flowing into the city’s sewer system. Results were good as the initiatives outperformed expectations, cutting flows to sewers by more than 20 percent.

Learn more via WEF’s Stormwater Report.
Read the report.

 

In Philippines, USAID Joins Forces with Coca-Cola and Sustainable Business Group

A new partnership between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Coca-Cola Philippines and the Philippine Business for Social Progress group will secure safe drinking water in the Philippines’ Leyte, Iloilo, Maguindanao, Misamis Oriental and Basilan provinces. The partnership focuses on green infrastructure interventions like groundwater infiltration wells, permeable pavers, rainwater harvesting and storage, flood water diversion and storage, and watershed protection and restoration.

Read more at the Manila Times.

 

Accounting for Water Risk? Never Been Easier

A new online tool developed especially for the business community enables companies to assess the true cost of their water use and account for their water impacts. Creators, EcoLab and Trucost, say the Water Risk Monetizer is an adaptable tool that can be used by large and small companies alike.

Learn more.

 

Santa Rosa Inks $330k Nutrient Offset Deal With Vineyard

The City of Santa Rosa, California recently got a regulatory stamp of approval for a nutrient offset to the tune of $330,000. The city will pay Jackson Family Wines and their partner Krasilsa Pacific Farms for phosphorus credits generated through manure removal on a former dairy recently converted to vineyard. The offset represents 23,345 lbs of avoided phosphorus pollution (at around $14 per lb). The city will bank the credits for future compliance needs: thanks to the current drought and a wastewater reuse project, it hasn’t recently made any wastewater discharges that would trigger regulatory fines.

The Press Democrat has the story.

 

Wild Lands Deliver Clean Water to Big Cities

Metropolises struggling to supply their inhabitants with a clean and steady supply of water can look to Boston and New York City. For these cities, watershed investment programs continue to deliver clean water requiring little filtration or pumping to city residents, thanks to conservation activities in surrounding rural areas.

National Geographic has coverage.

 

A Payments for Ecosystem Services Project to Save Sri Lanka’s Surviving Mangroves

Sri Lanka intends to be the first and only nation in the world with a plan to protect all its remaining mangrove forests. The country’s plan revolves around providing microloans to women for business training, and to guard the mangroves against ongoing deforestation pressures.

The Guardian has coverage.

 

A Call for Corporate Water Stewardship in Africa

In order to build proper water infrastructure in Africa and ensure water quality and quantity through resilient ecosystems, water professionals in Tanzania are pushing for public-private partnerships to finance water stewardship efforts. “We must grasp the big picture connected to water and bring together investors, bankers, economic players and public officials to tackle the infrastructure deficit in new and creative ways,” says World Water Council President Benedito Braga.

Read it at All Africa.

 

Ceres Report Helps Businesses Wake Up to Water Risk

Ceres, a nonprofit organization focused on environmental sustainability, analyzed nearly 40 companies regarding their water risk management finding that less than half evaluate risk throughout supply chains while 60% assesses water risk at their own production sites. Coca-Cola and Unilever scored some of the top marks but, overall, Ceres stressed the need for collaborative efforts that build water security and healthy watersheds to ensure sustainable water supplies.

Learn more from National Geographic.

 

Stormwater Management Goes Green in DC – Slowly

Rather than construct underground tunnels to store sewage-rainwater overflow, Washington D.C. will use green infrastructure, which will allow pollution to filter slowly back into the ground through practices like green roofs and porous pavements, to manage its stormwater overflows. The bad news however, is the plan could take up to five years to implement-meaning more raw sewage flowing into D.C. waterways.

Read more at the NRDC Switchboard blog.

 

Will the Motor City Build a Blue Stormwater System?

The US city of Detroit is investigating green infrastructure to ease the stormwater overflows that are currently overwhelming the city’s aging sewage system. Officials are backing a pilot project that would divert stormwater running off impervious surfaces into a nearby constructed wetland. The potential cost-savings associated with green infrastructure, which figures prominently in the Detroit Future City visionary framework, are a major draw for the cash-strapped city.

Learn more from the Detroit Free Press.

 

JOB LISTINGS

 

Policy Associate

The Nature Conservancy – Arlington VA, USA

The Global Affairs Policy Associate supports The Nature Conservancy’s conservation goals by working with multi-disciplinary teams, focal area teams and TNC’s field offices to develop and implement a strategy to advance policies, partnerships and agreements at the global, regional and national levels. She/he will support The Nature Conservancy’s work in providing expert advice on climate finance to the Government of Peru as COP President in the lead up to Paris and as co-chair of the Green Climate Fund’s board. She/he will also work as part of the Global Freshwater Team to advance and implement the policy and financial components of the Conservancy’s strategy around sustainable hydropower development.

Learn more here.

 

Climate Change Adaptation Intern

Conservation International – Virginia, USA

The intern will help with various outreach materials, including peer reviewed publications that need to be completed as part of the IKI EbA solutions project. This exciting project, which aims to improve the understanding and use of the ecosystem-based adaptation in three geographies (South Africa, Philippines and Brazil) is ending soon and we are in the process of combining and summarizing all the information gathered. Work will include the search for references to be included in outreach materials, manuscript editing and formatting and preparation of a brochure that will include the results of the project.

Learn more here.

 

EVENTS

River Basin Management 2015 Conference

River Basin Management 2015 is the 8th Conference in a series of conferences which marks the growing international interest in the planning, design and management of river basin systems. Changes in the landscape, use of the land and climate conditions lead to a continuous revaluation of river basin management objectives. This requires the development of better measuring tools as well as the use of increasingly accurate computer software. The objective of this series of conferences is to bring together practitioners and researchers in academia and industry in the hope that their interaction will foster mutual understanding and lead to better solutions for river basins. 17-19 June 2015. Coruna, Spain.

Learn more here.

 

World Forum on Ecosystem Governance

The World Forum on Ecosystem Governance is modeled after the World Economic Forum, but with a focus on the planet’s natural capital. The Forum will periodically bring together world specialists and leaders to promote more effective governance to respond to ecosystem threats. The first event is the High Level Consultations from 25-27 June 2015 in Guiyang City, Guizhou Province, China, followed by the Young Professionals’ Academy on 27 October 2015 in Beijing, China. The Technical Roundtable Discussions will be held 28-30 October 2015 in Beijing, China and will build around the guidance provided by the High Level Consultations. The World Forum on Ecosystem Governance is a partnership of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM), the Chinese State Forestry Administration (SFA), and the Beijing Municipal Government. The 1st World Forum on Ecosystem Governance will serve as a pilot for an expanded Forum in 2017. 25-27 June 2015. Guiyang City, China.

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.

 

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.

CONTRIBUTING TO ECOSYSTEM MARKETPLACE

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

 


Additional resources

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.”

Prospecting

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 steeppuna 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 Ecorregión Andina (CONDESAN).

 Amunas will xx
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 Perú, 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, São 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.

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.

Emerging From The Darkness: New Process Aims To Tackle Black Carbon

Soot and smoke no longer blanket London and other Western cities like they once did, but these and other forms of “black carbon” continue to plague families in developing countries. Now a new Gold Standard methodology will offer clean cookstoves projects the chance to access a new source of funding for reducing these emissions.

23 April 2015 | While carbon dioxide (CO2) is currently the dirty word of climate change, another pollutant – black carbon – has been chugging out of tailpipes and charcoal grills. A key component of soot, black carbon is pure carbon that results from incomplete combustion. It doesn’t stay in the atmosphere for centuries like CO2 does, but it’s deadly for those who breathe it, and it contributes to climate change when it settles on reflective surfaces such as glaciers. Its danger is so clear and present that Congress actually came together in 2009 to regulate it in the United States. But while these measures have helped reduce black carbon in the U.S., the pollutant remains pervasive elsewhere in the world and disproportionally affects the poor.

Poorly-burned fuels account for an estimated 25% of all black carbon emissions globally, and 84% of that comes from households in developing countries. These small particles have a large impact: the World Health Organization estimates that nearly 4.3 million people, mostly women and young children, die from indoor air pollution annually.

Black Carbon: The Challenge of Measuring

Because of its short time in the air, black carbon is classified as a “short-lived climate pollutant” (SLCP), which means it’s not among the six global warming pollutants covered by most climate policies. A 2013 study, however, found that black carbon is second only to CO2 as a leading cause of global warming – largely because its warming impact is 460-1,500 times higher in the short term. As a result, governments and public organizations have become more interested in addressing black carbon’s impacts – and, most recently, funded a new methodology for dealing with black carbon.



Certification ≠ Offset

Released by the Gold Standard Foundation (GSF) and developed by a group of cookstove organizations – including Project Surya, The Energy and Research Institute, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Nexleaf Analytics and the University of California at San Diego – the new methodology will award a certification to organizations that reduce black carbon.

The certification shouldn’t be confused with carbon offsets: companies that emit recognized greenhouse gases like CO2 can’t reduce their carbon footprints by reducing black carbon elsewhere. Certification will, however, let projects earn recognition for the black carbon it eliminates, which in turn may attract new buyers or qualify it for additional funding.

Since it is first-of-its-kind, the initial methodology will only be available to cookstove projects that have also measured their carbon dioxide emissions reductions. It will serve as a test run for future work in the field – and set the stage for an additional financing source besides carbon offsets.

Opening a New Path to Finance

Unlike many carbon offset project types, such as wind or solar, cookstove projects rely heavily on changing human behavior – first by marketing and selling the stoves, then by following up for training and maintenance. Though cookstove carbon offsets often sell for some of the highest prices in the voluntary carbon markets (at an average of $10.4 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent last year), the profit often isn’t enough to cover the full costs of the project.

“The reality is, Verified Emission Reductions (VERs) aren’t enough,” said Owen Hewlett, Chief Technical Officer at GSF. “There’s a gap for the more advanced cookstoves.”

With the new methodology, project developers can continue to sell their carbon offsets to private buyers, but can use additional certification for black carbon reduction to attract separate financing – most likely from public sources.

“In the early days, I suspect [buyers] will be mostly bilateral donors” since they understand black carbon, Hewlett said.

Hewlett was referring to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which was started by the governments of Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden and the U.S., along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2012 to address SLCPs. Since then, as recognition of the need to reduce SLCP has grown, membership has exponentially increased to 44 members, the European Commission, and 54 non-state actors like UNEP.

There is also potential for private sector investment, according to Nithya Ramanathan, another methodology participant who is President of the nonprofit technology company Nexleaf Analytics and Co-Lead of Project Surya, a cookstove project based in India that focuses specifically on reducing black carbon, methane and ozone emissions. “We don’t have confirmed buyers yet. I think initially, in the first month or two, donors and countries who are motivated to reduce particulate emissions may be a good fit to help catalyze this market, but private sector buyers would be needed almost immediately in order to help establish a healthy price for the certified outcomes.”

Nexleaf plans to target possible early adopter organizations that have already shown an understanding of black carbon, but recognized that eventually the organization will need to start educating carbon offset buyers unfamiliar with black carbon.

Black Carbon Finally in the Spotlight

Addressing black carbon emissions would improve the chances of global temperature rise remaining below the maximum target of 2 degrees Celsius set under international climate negotiations, according to a study by UNEP.

So why hasn’t black carbon been addressed before now?

The answer lies in the relative permanence of SLCPs compared to other climate pollutants. Black carbon typically persists in the atmosphere for a few days. In contrast, CO2 molecules may remain in the atmosphere for decades – about a quarter of the CO2 emitted today will still be in the atmosphere 1,000 years from now. This means that cutting CO2 emissions was long considered a more urgent problem, since once a tonne is emitted into the atmosphere it’s not easily removed. However, slashing SLCPs would have a more immediate impact, with the potential to prevent 0.6 degrees Celsius of warming by 2050.

“SLCPs haven’t really been considered under the international negotiations,” said Mike MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs at the Climate Institute, a non-profit organization that has focused on climate protection since 1986. “There was a sense at the time [back in the early climate negotiations] that CO2 emissions would really get addressed, so the concern focused on long-term prospects of climate change control.”

MacCracken has seen that interest change in recent years as the international negotiations have failed to produce a global commitment on climate change. But for all its potential for emissions reductions, SLCPs lack the scientific research and standards devoted to CO2.

“It’s not as well established in the scientific community as a tonne of CO2, for example. So there’s less research, less data,” said Hewlett.

Cooking up a Certification Scheme

Since black carbon’s lifespan is measured in days, its impact is highly localized depending on the region, season and local weather. So, unlike CO2, it matters where in the world it is emitted. That makes it more difficult to include in a global carbon trading mechanism. For instance, a farm in the U.S. would not be able to offset black carbon in India. Even if the units were the same, the climate impact could differ depending on such details as the cloud cover in each location or whether the winds carried the black carbon higher into the atmosphere.

Given the scientific uncertainty surrounding impact, the GSF methodology focuses on simply measuring the emissions reductions and will provide a ‘certified outcome statement’ that confirms the project’s “Black Carbon Equivalent (BCe) Emissions Reductions,” alongside Gold Standard VERs. Since BCes are not a carbon dioxide equivalent, they cannot be substituted with VERs. The certification is meant only as an additional element of a project’s verified impact, not a replacement for the carbon offset.

“The key of it really is that definition of impact – that’s the bit we’re hoping to explore more, and extend into further,” Hewlett said. “[Black carbon] is well established as a climate forcer that operates on a short timescale, but the scientific community is still establishing the impact of black carbon. It could be very different from Nepal to India or Greenland, due to the local climate conditions.”

For example, in India, black carbon has been linked to disrupting monsoon rainfall patterns and affecting millions of livelihoods, while in Greenland, black carbon that lands on surface snow absorbs more of the sun’s heat and increases snowmelt.

Hewlett is particularly interested in exploring the health impacts of reducing black carbon emissions, but cautioned that such a methodology would require even more technical advisory committees.

“Part of the balance to strike here is maintaining technical rigor,” he said. “What we’d like to do with the Gold Standard is move towards measuring health impacts in a detailed way, to establish governance and technical advisory committees and get members on board with that,” he said. “We want to make sure the right people would look at it.”

Thus, for now, the new methodology focuses only on quantifying the black carbon emissions reductions – not the co-benefits of those reductions. “What the methodology isn’t attempting to do in this first pass is to actually quantify the impact… We’re staying on our toes to see the best direction to take this because there’s a number of impacts you could look to quantify.”

The “best direction” will largely depend on the market’s response to black carbon, according to Ramanathan.

“At this stage, because black carbon is relatively new from a carbon market perspective, we thought it best to start as a certified outcome and test the market to see what people are willing to pay,” she said. “As and when we have more data on that, we’d have a better case to move forward.”

 

Additional resources

This Week In Biodiversity: Choose Your Own Adventure

The argument over voluntary approaches to conserve at risk-species like the greater sage-grouse isn’t waning. Meanwhile, new research applying the mitigation hierarchy to the agriculture and forestry sectors finds net positive impacts for biodiversity are possible and a separate report finds commodity subsidies driving deforestation vastly outweigh conservation finance to protect forests.

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

21 April 2015 | Greetings! In honor of those Mitmail readers whose next few weeks are dominated by preparing for exams or handing in dissertations, we thought we’d provide you all with some homework.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to brush up on one of the “Three Cs”: commodities, candidate species, and carbon. Each is an emerging force that’s poised to radically change business-as-usual for biodiversity conservation and finance. So if you normally skim over these issues as you read our news briefs, this month pick a “C” to take a few minutes to get up to speed on.

 

If you choose commodities: Read our latest on applying the mitigation hierarchy to the agricultural and forestry sectors. Then get some background on the challenge: learn how commodity subsidies driving deforestation vastly outweigh conservation finance to protect forests, and how questions are emerging regarding the effectiveness of sustainable commodity roundtables. Finally, read about a new way to pair conservation finance and commodities, in which the Althelia Climate Fund is helping a sustainable cocoa project in Peru use carbon finance as collateral against loans to get the project off the ground. The project will then shift over time to sustainable cocoa production as its main revenue stream.

 

If you choose candidate species: Start with this piece introducing the concept of Habitat Exchanges, which help entities that impact imperiled – but not yet federally listed – species to pay to restore and protect critical habitat elsewhere, in order to keep those species from further decline. (Though arguably the system is set up for the energy and mining industries – not so much other sectors like agriculture.) Sounds good in theory, right? But as the first conservation bank for the greater sage-grouse prepares to open its doors in Wyoming, it’s beating back attacks from both sides of the political spectrum over whether voluntary mitigation really is the right mechanism to keep the grouse off the Endangered Species List.


If you choose carbon:
You’ll also want to read the article on how a sustainable cocoa project in Peru is using carbon finance to leverage start-up capital but isn’t exactly a carbon project. Then for a counterpoint, check out Mongabay’s reporting on efforts to get carbon projects going in Brazil’s Cerrado, which illustrates the larger point that carbon storage and biodiversity values don’t always go hand-in-hand. But! A carbon market that assigns higher values to biodiversity-rich areas could help undo fifty years of biodiversity decline on land, according to a new study. You have the weekend to ponder this challenge, dear reader.


Finally, Forest Trends is hiring
a Senior Communications Associate and a Research Assistant for Ecosystem Marketplace’s new Supply Change initiative. Scroll down to the Job Openings section for descriptions.
Cheers,


—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

 

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

 

Venturing Into Uncharted Territory: Applying Net Positive Impacts For Biodiversity In Forestry And Agriculture

Despite the impact that the agriculture and forestry sectors have on biodiversity, the IUCN finds that companies active in forestry and agriculture tend not to participate in conservation efforts that apply the four-step mitigation hierarchy. Contrast this to the extractive industries like mining and fossil fuels as well as the infrastructure sector, which have been involved in mitigation, in partnership with NGOS like Flora and Fauna International,BirdLife International, and Conservation International since at least the early 2000s.

 

In the fall of 2013, IUCN’s Global Business and Biodiversity Program convened with private sector and biodiversity experts to figure out how the mitigation hierarchy could be applied to the agriculture and forestry sectors. The outcome of that informal meeting is the report, No Net Loss and Net Positive Impact: Approaches for Biodiversity, published this week.

Get the full story from Ecosystem Marketplace.

 

The BBOP Files: Lessons from the Community of Practice

Two recent Business and Biodiversity Offset Programme (BBOP) webinars offer insights from the ground on offsets practice and policy.

 

On March 27th, Sally Johnson and Kirsten Hund presented “National Biodiversity Offset Scheme: A Road Map for Liberia,” reviewing World Bank-backed efforts to explore the feasibility of a national offset program in Liberia to help minimize impacts from mining in the country.

 

Then on April 8th, Tom Grosskopf and Derek Steller discussed the use of offsets to finance conservation and manage growth areas in Western Sydney, Australia and the surrounding region.

Watch recordings and get a copy of presenters’ slides here.

 

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

The Tambopata REDD project in the Madre de Dios region, known as Peru’s “Biodiversity Capital,” aims to help locals make ends meet while taking pressure off the valuable forest. But generating the offsets is only the first step. Project developers have to figure out how to sell them. Until governments reach a deal on integrating avoided deforestation into an international climate change agreement, the REDD market is entirely dependent on voluntary buyers. And 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.

 

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?

Get the full story here.

 

Subsidies for Deforestation-driving Commodities Dwarf Conservation Finance – New Report

The race against deforestation is being won or lost hectare by hectare in the tropical rainforest countries that also provide the majority of the world’s agricultural commodities. But subsidies for commodities that drive deforestation may be undermining the efficacy of financial incentives for conserving forests and their carbon content, according to a new working paper by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a United Kingdom-based think tank.

Agricultural subsidies worth at least $486 billion in 2012 dwarf the $8.7 billion total that developed countries have committed towards Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests (REDD+) since 2006, the report finds.

Get coverage here.

 

Commodity Roundtables: Green Gatekeepers Or Dirty Doormen?

It’s been a decade since the first commodity roundtables brought producers of soy, palm, and other crops together with environmental organizations. The results have been less than stellar, as the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil recently disciplined 100 members for failure to comply with paperwork requirements. Critics say that’s a nice beginning, but we still have far to go.

Read more.

 

Opinion: Bioenergy Can Support Climate, Food, Land Restoration – If Done Right

Governments have long promoted the use of biofuels like ethanol derived from corn as a relatively clean-burning alternative to coal, but biofuels have gone from hero to zero as people started chopping forests to plant fuel crops. Many environmentalists today are calling for an end to pro-biofuel policies, but Emily McGlynn of The Earth Partners LP says we simply need to use land more efficiently.

Read it here.

Changing Course on Global Biodiversity Loss with a Carbon Market

The bad news: Since the 1500s, the Earth has experienced a 14% drop in the average number of species living in various ecosystems due to human-caused land use change. The good news: a first-of-its-kind global analysis finds that some of this biodiversity loss can be reversed. Using climate change mitigation scenarios, report authors found that establishing a strong carbon market that assigned higher values to biodiversity-rich forests was effective in conserving and restoring lost wildlife. The lead report author explains, “If society takes concerted action, and reduces climate change by valuing forests properly, then by the end of the century we can undo the last 50 years of damage to biodiversity on land.”

 

But in order to prevent further biodiversity loss and undo years of damage, more data and policy change is certainly needed. Another recent study, published in the journal of Applied Ecology analyzes the Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBV), a list of the essential elements related to biodiversity that require monitoring, to answer those questions. The study identifies gaps between global biodiversity goals, indicators used to develop policy reports and available data that measures the indicators and objectives.

Learn more about carbon and biodiversity conservation here.
Read about the EBV analysis.

 

Whither New South Wales’ Biodiversity Legislation?

Australia’s New South Wales recently held an election for state leadership. Prior to election day, residents expressed concern about the future of biodiversity legislation following an independent review that included the controversial suggestion to repeal the Native Vegetation Act and Threatened Species Act. It also recommended less government oversight on land clearing activities and a greater dependency on biodiversity offsets, which opponents say currently lack the transparency needed for meaningful offsetting. The Liberal-National Coalition announced that they would adopt all the recommendations for the state’s biodiversity legislation, if re-elected. And on March 28, they won the election.

Get analysis at The Conversation.
Read more on the Coalition’s announcement at the Sydney Morning Herald

 

The Greater Sage-Grouse Gets Its Own Marketplace

Some western landowners in the US are backing a new approach to conserve the declining greater sage-grouse. It’s the so-called “sagebrush marketplace,” which allows an assortment of developers that unavoidably destroy sage-grouse habitat to offset their impact by purchasing credits from landowners that have performed an amount of sage-grouse conservation like removing juniper trees that overtake the ecosystem.

 

The marketplace is made up of Habitat Exchanges, which are a type of payment for ecosystem services program developed by NGO Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). They’re taking hold in several states including Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada. As it stands, the bird isn’t listed under the Endangered Species Act yet so the exchanges operate on a voluntary basis. The energy interests, ranchers and others participating are intending for their actions to prevent regulatory obligations down the road should the grouse end up listed.

Yale 360 has the story.

 

Despite Potential, Litigation Marks Wyoming’s First Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Bank

The Sweetwater River Conservancy in central Wyoming marks the first conservation bank for greater sage-grouse. Supporters hope that the 235,000 acre ranch can balance efforts to conserve and restore dwindling sage-grouse populations with energy development and other sources of economic growth.

 

However, the bank’s projected success is likely not enough to stamp out ongoing controversy regarding greater sage-grouse conservation, over whether mitigation can work, where it should take place, and how migratory grouse populations will be managed. In addition to these disputes, which have a big chance of ending up in court, a coalition of energy and farming interests are pursuing legal action against the federal government. The group claims the government is using bad science to justify top-down solutions to grouse conservation.

Read more about the bird wars from the Casper Star Tribune.
Learn about the greater sage-grouse conservation bank here.

 

Proactive Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation: Worth its Weight in Gold?

The Barrick Gold Corporation, a multinational gold mining company, is making its contribution to greater sage-grouse conservation by establishing a conservation bank in Nevada, one of 11 states that make up the bird’s range. The bank will allow Barrick to expand its mining operations while simultaneously conserving sage-grouse habitat. The sage-grouse is one of a few grouse species that has seen their numbers decline drastically in the last few decades. The Gunnison sage-grouse was listed as endangered last year, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service will likely make a decision on the greater sage-grouse this year. Voluntary efforts such as this conservation bank can help keep the sage-grouse off the endangered list, the US Department of Interior says.

NPR has the story.

 

Whether Tis Nobler to Maximize Minimization, or Just Go Ahead and Mitigate

A recent US District Court decision that upheld the US Fish and Wildlife’s issuing an incidental take permit for endangered Indiana bats at a wind power project may have implications for application of the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, then minimize, then mitigate) when it comes to impacts to endangered species. Union Neighbors United had challenged the permit on the grounds that Buckeye Wind had not minimized take to the lowest extent possible before moving on to mitigation.

 

The court rejected this argument on the grounds that the 1996 Habitat Conservation Planning and Incidental Take Permit Handbook takes the long view, allowing agencies to focus on whatever is most likely to deliver “substantial benefits” to the species. “Here, the USFWS found that the minimization and mitigation measures ‘fully offset’ the impact of the taking of Indiana bats, and thus, it was not necessary to determine if the plan was the ‘maximum that can be practically implemented by the Applicant,” the decision stated.

 

Get analysis at Lexology.

 

In Brazil’s Cerrado, the Co-Finance Dream Endures

In 2008, Hyundai announced an offset commitment aiming to conserve and reforest 3,000 acres of tropical forest in Brazil Cerrado region to great fanfare. The project was promoted as “one of the first voluntary carbon offset projects that will meet the high standards of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards.” Within three years, the project had been quietly withdrawn from validation after auditors brought up concerns that despite the Cerrado’s biodiversity values, the area had little promise in terms of carbon storage.

 

It’s a familiar story, says Mongabay: opportunities to link carbon finance to biodiversity conservation have so far been a rare beast. In fact, the biggest carbon project in the Cerrado to date, which plants eucalyptus to burn as charcoal, is terrible for the region’s biodiversity. But that may be changing. New science suggests that even savanna ecosystems like the Cerrado can be valuable in the fight against climate change, and advocates for the Cerrado aren’t ready just yet to unpin their hopes from carbon.

Read it at Mongabay.

 

Payments for Ecosystem Services Turns Blue

As the value of coastal ecosystems like mangroves grows and their many ecosystem services become fully recognized, a new payment for ecosystem services (PES) mechanism is emerging. Right now, it’s focused on the ‘blue carbon’ that marine ecosystems store, with NGOs initiating projects like the International Blue Carbon Initiative. But recently, the International Center for Forestry Research (CIFOR) noted how PES projects are principally designed for terrestrial ecosystems. Therefore the special risks related to coastal ecosystems must be identified so project design can reflect them and the proper policies are in place. Stressors unique to marine ecosystems include hurricanes, sea-level rise and changes in sediment supply.

Read the blog post at CIFOR.

 

Proposed Alaskan ILF Aims to Go Beyond Preservation

A watershed coalition in southeast Alaska is in the midst of creating an in-lieu fee (ILF) program focused on local wetland and stream restoration and enhancement. If approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Southeast Alaska Mitigation Fund would be different for a couple reasons. First, preservation is the only type of mitigation currently practiced in southeast Alaska. Secondly, the fund says it’ll focus on mitigating impacts locally, a departure from what’s often current practice in the region.

Stikine River Radio has coverage.

 

VIP Treatment for Energy in Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation?

A rangewide plan to conserve the federally listed lesser prairie chicken contains a mitigation banking program – but it’s primarily for the energy industries, as developers hoping to install a dairy worth $70 million found out. Wind and oil and gas developers can sign on to the plan which allows them to harm chicken habitat and compensate for it by conserving an area greater and of more value to the bird than what was destroyed.

 

According to state wildlife officials, the plan is much less costly for energy interests than consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service on a case by case basis. In some circumstances, farming activities can qualify under the plan, but as officials explained, a dairy wouldn’t be able to comply with specific sound and activity rules during the prairie chicken’s mating season and so doesn’t qualify.

Get coverage from the Lamar Ledger.

 

Little Protection Happening in Indonesia’s Protected Areas

Areas protected specifically to preserve biodiversity in forest-rich Indonesia do very little in protecting these places from deforestation, a Singapore-based study has found. It’s a critical issue because not only do Indonesia’s forests contain high levels of unique and endangered biodiversity, but its standing forests help fight climate change. The increased demand for agricultural land and timber, combined with weak enforcement of protected areas, are the key reasons for the forest loss. Report authors suggest better monitoring efforts, particularly of road construction, stronger enforcement rules, and alternative livelihoods for local peoples as more effective methods to preserve the protected areas.

Learn more about the study here.

 

Connecting the Dots Between Human Health and Biodiversity

Biodiversity and human health are inextricably linked through biodiversity’s impact on ecosystem services like air and water quality, food production and medicine. And this year, the link was officially recognized at the 14th World Congress on Public Health where the World Health Organization and Convention on Biological Diversity launched a new report meant to be this issue’s flagship publication. The report offers recommendations that can help halt global biodiversity loss. Because land-use change and agriculture are dominant causes of the loss, sustainable production is one such suggestion. As for climate change and the risk to biodiversity it poses, report authors say ecosystem-based adaptation and mitigation strategies that build resilience are the best approaches. They also note another significant factor in preserving biodiversity: human behavioral change.

Mongabay has the story.

 

JOB LISTINGS

 

 

Senior Communications Associate – Forest Trends

Forest Trends – Washington DC, USA

Based in Washington, D.C., the Senior Communications Associate will support the Communications Manager in strengthening Forest Trends’ overall communications, with a special emphasis on media and social media outreach. S/he will be responsible for promoting Forest Trends’ work to the media and also generally strengthen the organization’s outreach by cultivating and organizing media contacts and lists, assisting with mailings (primarily electronic) and other forms of outreach, coordinating event logistics, supporting the publication and communications production process, and performing other duties as assigned. Successful candidates will have a bachelor’s degree and three to five years of relevant experience.

Learn more here.

 

Supply Change Research Assistant – Ecosystem Marketplace

Forest Trends – Washington DC, USA

Based in Washington, D.C., the Research Assistant will support Supply Change, a project that provides real-time information on the extent and value of commitment-driven commodity production and demand. The position involves researching public commitments to reduce supply chain impacts on ecosystem degradation, compiling data in Excel, identifying news for the Supply Change web platform, and conducting stakeholder outreach. The successful candidate will have excellent research, organizational and writing skills; an interest in agricultural commodity-related deforestation; and experience with Excel. The position runs for an initial three-month period at a negotiable hourly rate.

Learn more here.

 

Managing Director, West Africa

Envirofit – Lagos, Nigeria

Envirofit International (www.envirofit.org) is rapidly scaling its operations in West Africa. With this rapid growth comes the need for high quality in-country management to oversee operations and manage expansion. Envirofit is seeking a Managing Director to oversee and grow its operations, sales and business development within the West Africa region. This director will have full Operations and P&L responsibility. Position will be based at Envirofit’s West Africa Sales and Manufacturing headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria.

Learn more here.

 

EVENTS

 

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.

 

2015 Conservation Finance Boot Camp

The Conservation Finance Network at Island Press is pleased to announce the 2015 Conservation Finance Boot Camp training course being held at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in partnership with the Yale Center for Business and the Environment. Now in its ninth year, this intensive week-long course aims to help professionals utilize innovative and effective financing strategies for land resource conservation, restoration, and stewardship. The course will offer in-depth information on trends and opportunities in public funding, private investment capital, bridge financing and loans, gifts and grants, income from the land, and monetized ecosystem services. There will be a strong emphasis on practical, hands-on tools and lessons from relevant case studies. Attendees will have an opportunity to consult with conservation finance experts on projects or problems from their work. The course will also serve to convene a peer network of committed conservation professionals working on similar issues across the nation. Past attendees have included U.S. and international conservationists, foundation leaders, land trust board members, executive directors, private investors, business executives, and academics. Opportunities for networking will be built in throughout the week in order to foster long-term professional relationships and support networks among attendees and presenters. 1-5 June 2015. New Haven CT, USA.

Learn more here.

 

SOCAP 15

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.

Additional resources

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 general@forestcarbonportal.com.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

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 (agoldstein@ecosystemmarketplace.com) by Friday, April 17.

 

Do you heart forest carbon?

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.

 

NATIONAL STRATEGY & CAPACITY

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.

 

PROJECT DEVELOPMENT

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 Carbonfund.org 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 Carbonfund.org 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.

 

SUSTAINABLE COMMODITIES

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.”

 

FINANCE AND ECONOMICS

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.”

 

HUMAN DIMENSION

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.”

 

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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.


PUBLICATIONS

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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ABOUT THE ECOSYSTEM MARKETPLACE

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

 

 

Additional resources

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 Supply-Change.org.)

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 (http://indigenousmap.canopybridge.com/). The database includes:

  • The characteristics and contact information for producer organizations
  • A listing of products (linked to the online platform CanopyBridge.com)
  • 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 CanopyBridge.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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.

REDD and PES

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.

Additional resources

Why Denver Spends Water Fees On Trees

21 March 2014 | The Colorado utility Denver Water delivers clean drinking water to 1.3 million people spread across more than 335 square miles, and most of that water comes from rivers and reservoirs that capture run-off from forest-covered hills in clearly-delineated watersheds. The forests both protect the steep slopes from erosion and regulate the flows of water by mopping it up and then releasing it slowly over time.

But climate change has extended summers in Colorado just enough to give the northern pine beetle the comfort it needs to multiply like never before. The bug has taken full advantage – devouring bark at a rate ten times higher than ever recorded, killing trees and leaving them scattered like kindling for wildfires.

And those fires now take hold with increasing frequency, reducing the forest to lumps of silt and sludge. Lush slopes degenerate into unstable masses of goo. The water upon which the city depends becomes muddy and irregular, which makes it more difficult – and expensive – to assure people they can turn on their faucets and trust the drinking water that comes out.

Enter the US Forest Service (USFS), which is charged, in part, with ensuring clean headwaters by maintaining healthy forests.

Both the USFS and Denver Water are struggling to meet their budgets in the face of these challenges, so in August of 2010 the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain office cut a $33 million deal with the Denver utility to proactively manage 38,000 critical acres in five key watersheds – if Denver Water comes up with half the money.

Denver Water took the offer, despite – or perhaps because of – its own struggles with a slew of disaster-related expenses, including a $26 million bill to remove silt and mud from a reservoir in just one wildfire-damaged watershed.

Convinced that spending money now will save money in the long run, the utility agreed to finance the removal of dead trees in sensitive areas among other activities that will halt the beetle’s massive tree-eating ventures by implementing water fees that will amount to about $27 dollars per household over the next five years.

Five years on, the project is operating under budget, and it’s expanded in both scope and ambition, says program manager Don Kennedy.

More Coverage, Less Cost, and a New Partner

The initial objective of 38,000 acres has since risen to 46,000, but the program only spent $14.5 million – versus the allocated $16.5 million – on the necessary fuel treatments (mechanical underbrush removal to lessen the intensity of fire), restoration and prescribed burning.

With the extra funds, the program was able to partner with the Colorado State Forest Service, a longtime partner of Denver Water, along with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, a nonprofit conservation organization. The extra partnership meant additional treatment in sensitive areas that further protect the region’s water supply.

And for the most part, it appears residents understand that protecting this water supply means a slight increase in their water bill. Out of 1.3 million people Denver Water serves, Kennedy says he only got one call from a customer. And he was just asking for more information regarding the costs. “We’ve been actively informing our customers about our relationship with the USFS and the work that we’ve been doing,” Kennedy says.

Payments for Ecosystem Services

This type of targeted spending is typical of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs, which aim to finance the preservation of nature by recognizing the economic value of nature’s services, and then convincing beneficiaries of those services to pay those who deliver them. Such mechanisms offer more transparency and accountability than do normal governmental structures – a key selling point in any economic climate.

In this case, the ecosystems are the watersheds being protected, and the ecosystem service is the provision of water. More specifically, Denver Water’s program is an investments in watershed services (IWS) scheme or investments in nature-based solutions.

The city of New York runs one of the best-knows IWS programs, which involves payments to rural landowners in the Catskill Mountains. This program has saved the city an estimated $10 billion since its inception in the 1990s.

Opportunity for Rural Poor

Water utilities in developing-world cities like Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, have investigated the use of IWS schemes to preserve their water flow, while Latin American cities like Heredia in Costa Rica and Saltillo in Mexico have implemented successful programs that pay small-scale farmers to maintain the watershed. The result is clean, reliable water at a fraction of what it would cost to develop modern filtration facilities.

Embracing the Natural Way

In 2010, when the From Forests to Faucets partnership was launching, Ecosystem Marketplace published a report documenting nearly 300 of these types of programs occurring all over the world that amounted to $10 billion in transactions in 2008 alone. Three years later, investments in nature-based solutions such as the From Forests to Faucets program has amounted to over $12 billion globally.

Spreading the Word

These programs have attracted interest from other places struggling with similar water challenges. The From Forests to Faucets program has influenced several other such partnerships with the USFS in Colorado. These include a program with Aurora Water – a major provider in Colorado’s Front Range region – and one for the Big Thompson reservoir that encompasses not only forest and watershed health but also maintaining hydropower facilities.

The From Forests to Faucet program’s reach has even extended outside the state. Kennedy mentioned other municipalities within the US West have reached out to him. Santa Ana, the densely populated California city, consulted with Kennedy and is seriously considering a partnership with the USFS along the same line as Denver’s. Kennedy also met with representatives from the Salt River Project, Phoenix’s water and electric power utility. The entity has since launched a partnership with the National Forest Foundation-the nonprofit arm of the USFS-that funds watershed-restoration activities through donations from water users.

Kennedy says the Forests to Faucets IWS model is adaptable to regions outside of the US as well although differences in ecosystems would, of course, have to be factored in.

Making IWS Work

For IWS schemes to work anywhere, buyers have to understand what they’re paying for, and sellers have to understand what they’re delivering. That’s not always easy when the area being protected – whether a forest or a wetland – is hundreds of miles away from the city receiving the water.

“The concept of a ‘protection forest’ is nothing new, really,” says University of Massachusetts Professor Paul Barten. “The first written record of a community establishing something like this dates from 1342 in Switzerland, but back then the source of the water was closer to the users, so you didn’t need these kind of financing schemes.”

Both the Mexican and Costa Rican programs employed clever marketing to raise awareness, and Denver is no different. The name “From Forests to Faucets” borrows the name of a joint USFS/University of Massachusetts research project that Barten helped spearhead in the Northeast a decade ago.

“We came up with the name to make the connection,” says Barten. “We found that the larger the municipality, the more distant the supply of water – and the greater the tendency for it to remain out of sight and out of mind.”

And that lack of awareness cannot continue – especially in light of current demographics.

“We have twice as much forest in the Northeast as we did when the Forest Service was founded,” he says. “But we have three times as many people – and they consume ten times as much water.”

Another Five Years?

As for the From Forests to Faucets Partnership, there is no end in sight. While its future-in terms of finance-lies in the hands of Denver Water’s board, Kennedy thinks the program will continue to have funding because it makes sense. There’s still much to be done; primary objectives for the next few years include addressing the zones of concern that are at high risk of catastrophic wildfire and assessing more USFS land that may be beneficial to Denver Water.

And there’s always maintenance. “It’s like mowing your lawn,” Kennedy says. “You mow the lawn and then you have to trim bushes and so on. You’re never really done.” The thinning treatments and restoration work are effective for a period but they need to be followed-up on and maintained.

So it will always be something of a work in progress. But Kennedy is more than pleased with the program’s first five years. “It’s exciting because it’s almost all been really positive,” he says. “How often can you say that?”

This Week In Biodiversity: EM Tracks the Co-Financing Unicorn to the Gulf

It was a good month for conservation finance as a study on the potential of wetland carbon offsets in Louisiana found that the state’s blue carbon could be worth between $540 million and $1.6 billion over a five year period. And in California, farmers may be able to leverage finance from both the carbon market and a habitat exchange.

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

 

17 March 2015 | Greetings! Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost an area of wetlands equivalent to the size of Delaware, and it continues to lose a football field of wetlands every hour. If current loss rates continue, by the year 2040 more than one million acres – or nearly another Delaware – of wetlands will be gone – and the carbon stored in these ecosystems will be released into the atmosphere.
But a new study says it’s possible to not only restore the wetlands – but generate a lot of money doing so: Wetland restoration in Louisiana could be worth between $540 million and $1.6 billion dollars over the next five decades, according to the Louisiana Blue Carbon study.

 

The study, supported by Entergy Corporation through their Environmental Initiatives Fund, and prepared in partnership by New Orleans-based Tierra Resources and Portland-based nonprofit The Climate Trust, looks at Louisiana’s potential to produce blue carbon offsets.

 

But the high costs of wetland restoration may surpass the value of carbon finance in projects – which means that project developers are looking at pooling finance from other quarters: stacking environmental credits, eligible types of conservation easements, and federal funds are all on the table.

 

Leveraging finance across ecosystem markets and funding sources is like a unicorn: often talked-about but rarely seen. But activities in the Gulf – and in California, where rice farmers this year for the first time may be able to draw finance for conservation from both a new habitat exchange and the California carbon market – suggest that we may be getting closer to a successful sighting.

 

Conservation finance got more good news with the launch of the European Investment Bank’s new Natural Capital Financing Facility, which will seek to support sustainable ventures – and attract additional investors – with an initial US$135M purse.

 

And it wouldn’t be Mitmail without some lawsuits and colorful language. This month, they’re in New South Wales, California, and Alaska.

 

Enjoy!

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

 

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

 

US Gulf Coast Prime For Wetlands Restoration

Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost an area of wetlands equivalent to the size of Delaware, and it continues to lose a football field of wetlands every hour. If current loss rates continue, by the year 2040 more than one million acres of wetlands will be gone – and the carbon stored in these ecosystems will be released into the atmosphere.

 

But what if there is another way? While a large degree of wetland loss in the Gulf of Mexico is inevitable due to the dual forces of land subsidence and sea level rise, project developer Tierra Resources and utility Entergy are optimistic that wetland restoration is possible in some areas. Tierra Resources estimated that Louisiana has the potential to produce 1.8 million carbon offsets per year, or almost 92 million offsets over 50 years, according to the Louisiana Blue Carbon study. Wetland restoration in Louisiana could be worth between $540 million and $1.6 billion dollars over the next five decades, the study finds.

 

Learn more at Ecosystem Marketplace.

 

Opinion: Can Putting A Price On Environmental Risk Mainstream Corporate Sustainability?

As it stands, some companies take environmental issues and sustainability seriously but the majority don’t. In a new opinion piece, Ivo Mulder, the REDD+ Green Economy Advisor for UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), argues how quantifying environmental risks in monetary terms may be necessary to convince the bulk of corporations to follow suit.

Read it here.

 

Researchers Say Ecotourism In Protected Areas Delivers 60:1 Annual Return On Costs

The world’s national parks and nature reserves receive around eight billion visits every year, according to the first study into the global scale of nature-based tourism in protected areas. The paper, by researchers in Cambridge, UK, Princeton, New Jersey, and Washington, DC, published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, is the first global-scale attempt to answer the question of how many visits protected areas receive, and what they might be worth in terms of tourist dollars.

 

The authors of the study say that this number of visits could generate as much as US$600 billion of tourism expenditure annually – a huge economic benefit which vastly exceeds the less than US$10 billion spent safeguarding these sites each year.

 

Scientists and conservation experts describe current global expenditure on protected areas as “grossly insufficient”, and have called for greatly increased investment in the maintenance and expansion of protected areas – a move which this study shows would yield substantial economic return – as well as saving incalculably precious natural landscapes and species from destruction.

Learn more.

EU NatCap Financing Facility Is Ready for Business

With the intention of attracting investments from a variety of public and private sources, the European Investment Bank (EIB) launched the Natural Capital Financing Facility last month, one of two pilot projects to grow investments in climate adaptation and energy conservation. The Natural Capital Financing Facility has pockets USD$135M deep for investing in – and attracting investors to – sustainability projects like forestry management.

Read more from Yahoo News.

 

Cozy Relationship Between Government and Mining Company Irks Australian Public

A controversial mine expansion in Australia grew more contentious when a media organization released information suggesting that the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) rubber-stamped offsets for the Warkworth expansion. The organization claimed the OEH approved the mine’s biodiversity offsets for clearing 600 acres of vegetation that contained endangered woodlands prior to actually calculating the value of the offsets. The area proposed for new mining itself was actually set aside as a biodiversity offset for prior impacts. An OEH spokesperson responded by saying that the calculation was done before certifying the mine.

 

Meanwhile, the Labor Party is promising that if elected it would scrap the Coalition’s current biodiversity policy in favor of a policy allowing only “like-for-like” offsets on land “within a reasonable geographic proximity” to the impacted area.

The Sydney Morning Herald has the story.

 

Mitigation Bankers, Locals Spar Over Recreating Wild Lands

Turning developed property back into natural habitat for mitigation purposes has become profitable in places like southern California where so many wetlands have been destroyed. As there is ample opportunity and money to be made, mitigation bankers have been busy buying agricultural land and business properties and converting them into mitigation banks. But owners of a shuttered golf course who are attempting to turn it into a bank have met with opposition from local residents concerned about the effect on local property values. Supporters counter that most opposition stems from misinformation, and that these issues can be ironed out through better community engagement.

Learn more.

 

BSI Unveils a Business Standard on Biodiversity

UK-based standards group BSI just released a new standard for business on biodiversity management. BS 8583 Biodiversity, Guidance for businesses on managing the risks and opportunities lays out a framework for setting targets on a local, national and global level, and managing biodiversity across normal operations, supply chain management, and land/premises management.

Read a press release.

 

Mitigation Roundup

Work is underway at Wildlands’ new San Luis Rey Mitigation Bank in Oceanside, San Diego County, California.

 

Cadiz Inc. saw its 7,400-acre Fenner Valley Desert Tortoise Conservation Bank in California’s San Bernardino County approved early this month.

 

A reservoir in Clitheroe in Lancashire, England, will be restored as a nature reserve, with funds coming from via the Environment Bank’s biodiversity offset pilot work.

 

 

‘Counterfeit’ Credits of Alaskan Mitigation Bank Drive Lawsuit Against the Corps

Last month, a mitigation banker operating out of Alaska sued the US Army Corps of Engineers for what he says is a violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The banker, Scott Walther, argues that in 2012 the Corps steered a developer in need of wetland mitigation away from his bank, which is authorized to sell credits to CWA permit holders, to a bank operated by the Matanuska-Susitna borough that Walther says has no business selling credits. Walther says the Su-Knik Mitigation bank’s credits were awarded in violation of the Final Rule. In the lawsuit, Walther is seeking an injunction blocking the Corps from directing CWA permit holders to buy bank credits fro Su-Knik until the bank comes into CWA compliance.

Read it at Law360 (registration required).

 

Can Colombia Create the World’s Biggest Ecological Corridor?

With the cooperation of its neighbors, Brazil and Venezuela, Colombia has plans to create the world’s largest ecological corridor. It would span over 135M hectares of Amazon rainforest ,helping to slow global warming by reducing deforestation and preserving the region’s biodiversity. Norway and Germany are pitching in as well: they have agreed to US$65M worth of finance for an Amazon protection program. He plans to announce the eco-corridor initiative, called ‘Triple A’, at COP21 in Paris later this year.

Learn more.

 

Cali Farmers See Opportunities in Habitat, Carbon

A farmer in California’s Central Valley will leave rice fields flooded for part of this season, to provide habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, and Chinook salmon. John Brennan, who oversees the 1,700-acre Knaggs Ranch, says he hopes to be able to market these benefits on the Central Valley Habitat Exchange, a new mechanism channeling finance to landowners undertaking voluntary conservation. Funds are expected to come from private and public investors, including some with mitigation or restoration requirements. Brennan also has his eye on the California carbon market: this spring, the California Air Resources Board will likely approve the first standard for carbon sequestration from rice farming.

Learn more at the EDF blog.

 

Locals, Activists Protest to Save Australia’s Native Vegetation Act

The independent review board that recommended that Australia’s New South Wales government repeal the Native Vegetation Act is getting pushback from landowners and a local environmental group. Critics particularly take issue with the review’s suggestion that land conserved under voluntary conservation agreements (VCA) can be used as offsets for biodiversity loss elsewhere. “We are horrified to think that at some time in the future our VCA-protected land in this remarkable rainforest could become a tool to enable vegetation destruction in other areas,” said the secretary of the Gerroa Environmental Protection Society. But supporters of the repeal argue they are looking for fair policy that balances environmental stewardship with economic growth. And the review board claimed the Native Vegetation Act didn’t meet expectations for biodiversity conservation in the state.

The Kiama Independent has coverage.

 

Alberta Starting to Rethink Wetland Incentives

Researchers at the University of Alberta plan to pilot a reverse auction mechanism for wetland restoration in the province. The provincial government will fund the effort, which aims to test out market approaches to restoring wetlands. Offering payments to landowners from a designation restoration fund isn’t working, says U of A’s Peter Boxall: 90% of wetlands around Calgary have been lost, and 70% of wetlands in the ‘white zone’ (e.g. the developed part of Alberta).

The Edmonton Journal has coverage.

 

To Finance Green Growth, Namibia Needs A Little Green

Namibia has taken strides to protect its biodiversity: It’s one of the few countries that have a clause in the constitution targeting biodiversity management. And between 2001 and 2010, it implemented its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) to international recognition as one of the best first generation plans. Namibia is now undertaking implementing the second phase of its plan, which aims to promote the sustainable use of natural resources by mainstreaming biodiversity conservation across the government and private sector. But funding is a big impediment, the Minister of Environment and Tourism notes, as a conservative estimate for implementing NBSAP2 costs over US$40M. The Minister emphasized the importance of donor aid and exploring innovative finance as means to finance implementation.

All Africa has coverage.

 

Landscape Level Environment Project Saves Three Birds with One Stone in Vietnam

Vietnam is moving forward with a project integrating biodiversity, climate resilience and forestry management. The national government approved the “Integrating Biodiversity Conservation, Climate Resilience and Sustainable Forest Management in Trung Truong Son Landscapes” project, which is comprised of two parts. One is to manage biodiversity and forests in the region’s protected areas and their buffer zones. The other part is to implement landscape conservation at the community-level in the surrounding areas, which will promote sustainable livelihoods and reduce the bad environmental habits that contribute to climate change.

Learn more.

 

CEMEX and BirdLife Renew Partnership

CEMEX and BirdLife International renewed their partnership for another three years. The two groups have worked together since 2007 to improve understanding and monitoring of conservation actions at CEMEX’s quarry sites. The partnership has supported projects in Mexico, the UK, and France, and collaborated on a number of company-level initiatives.

Read a press release.

 

EVENTS

 

 

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.

 

SOCAP 15

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.

 

2015 Conservation Finance Boot Camp

The Conservation Finance Network at Island Press is pleased to announce the 2015 Conservation Finance Boot Camp training course being held at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in partnership with the Yale Center for Business and the Environment. Now in its ninth year, this intensive week-long course aims to help professionals utilize innovative and effective financing strategies for land resource conservation, restoration, and stewardship. The course will offer in-depth information on trends and opportunities in public funding, private investment capital, bridge financing and loans, gifts and grants, income from the land, and monetized ecosystem services. There will be a strong emphasis on practical, hands-on tools and lessons from relevant case studies. Attendees will have an opportunity to consult with conservation finance experts on projects or problems from their work. The course will also serve to convene a peer network of committed conservation professionals working on similar issues across the nation. Past attendees have included U.S. and international conservationists, foundation leaders, land trust board members, executive directors, private investors, business executives, and academics. Opportunities for networking will be built in throughout the week in order to foster long-term professional relationships and support networks among attendees and presenters. 1-5 June 2015. New Haven CT, USA.

Learn more here.

 

JOB LISTINGS

 

Program Manager of Marine Ecosystem Services

European Institute of Marine Studies – Plouzané, France

The candidate(s) will work with Linwood Pendleton, the International Chair of Excellence at the European Institute of Marine Studies/Laboratory of Excellence of the Sea/Center for Marine Law and Economics/University of West Brittany to build an international program on policy, management, and science regarding human uses of the sea and coast. The program already has attracted over a million euros of research investment in just the last 6 months. The work of the International Chair focuses particularly on new and innovative science and policies to help better manage the ecosystem services provided by marine and coastal areas and to better coordinate development, conservation, and management to balance the use of living and non-living resources. The International Chair is a fundamental contributor to a proposed United Nations University for the Ocean. Research areas pursued by the International Chair and his team currently include the a Global Environmental Facility project on Blue Forests (i.e. blue carbon), a new European Commission study (ECOPOTENTIAL) that uses Earth Observation and Ecosystem Services data to monitor the effectiveness of protected areas, as well as projects that focus on the impacts of ocean acidification, mapping and visualizing ecosystem services, and managing resources in the high seas and deep sea. The successful candidate(s) will assist the Chair in all aspects of his work including (but not limited to) research, scholarly and popular writing and presentations, seminar and workshop planning, grant proposal writing, and project and grant management.

Learn more here.

 

Land Conservation Manager

The Nature Conservancy – South central Pennsylvania, USA

The Pennsylvania Chapter of The Nature Conservancy seeks a knowledgeable, energetic conservationist for the position of Land Conservation Manager. The position, based in south central Pennsylvania, offers the opportunity to join the staff of one of the largest, most successful conservation organizations in the world. The Nature Conservancy’s global success can be measured by the protection of 117 million acres in over 30 countries. The Pennsylvania Chapter is known in the Conservancy and beyond as a leader in innovative, effective strategies that benefit both people and nature at a scale that matters. The Land Conservation Manager will lead the Chapter’s efforts to protect and restore high priority areas in Pennsylvania, including lands along one of Pennsylvania’s most spectacular and scenic natural features, the Kittatinny Ridge, and lands within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Learn more here.

 

Environmental Finance Officer

International Union for Conservation of Nature – Vaud, Switzerland

The Environmental Finance Officer will undertake research and analytical work at the interface of economics, development, business and the environment. Contributions will be in the form of applied research (data collection and analysis), drafting of policy papers and reports for knowledge uptake, and providing environmental finance insights throughout IUCN programmes and projects. Broad thematic areas of work include:

 

  • Apply finance analytical tools and financing lenses to issues affecting biodiversity and ecosystems and their management and decision support;
  • Explore and develop innovative public and private sector financial mechanisms to support conservation and sustainable development initiatives;
  • Assess the role and contributions of financial mechanisms in equitable benefit-sharing for vulnerable natural resource dependent communities;
  • Follow the debates and developments on resource mobilization and sustainable finance in global policy fora such as UNFCCC, CBD, SDG, etc.;
  • Promote uptake of existing knowledge and generate new knowledge on environmental finance.

Learn more here.

 

Senior Program Associate, Ecosystem Services

Winrock International – Arlington VA, USA

The Senior Program Associate will be responsible for assisting in the implementation of projects related to ecosystem services including climate change mitigation and adaptation in the agriculture, forestry, and other land uses (AFOLU) sector. Responsibilities will include: performing field data compilation and collection, especially in relation to forest carbon and ecosystem services valuation; analysis and synthesis of data and information on land use and forests; tracking national and international activities in related fields; document and report writing; and assisting in holding capacity building training sessions on subjects related to climate change and ecosystem services.

Learn more here.

 

Program Associate, Ecosystem Services

Winrock International – Arlington VA, USA

The Program Associate will be responsible for assisting in the implementation of projects related to ecosystem services including climate change mitigation and adaptation in the agriculture, forestry, and other land uses (AFOLU) sector. Responsibilities will include: performing field data compilation and collection, especially in relation to forest carbon and ecosystem services valuation; analysis and synthesis of data and information on land use and forests; tracking national and international activities in related fields; document and report writing; and assisting in holding capacity building training sessions on subjects related to climate change and ecosystem services.

Learn more here.

Additional resources

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 “Match.com” 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.


Additional resources

US Gulf Coast Prime For Wetlands Restoration: Study

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

12 March 2015 | Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost an area of wetlands equivalent to the size of Delaware, and it continues to lose a football field of wetlands every hour. If current loss rates continue, by the year 2040 more than one million acres of wetlands will be gone – and the carbon stored in these ecosystems will be released into the atmosphere.

But what if there is another way? While a large degree of wetland loss in the Gulf of Mexico is inevitable due to the dual forces of land subsidence and sea level rise, project developer Tierra Resources and utility Entergy are optimistic that wetland restoration is possible in some areas. Tierra Resources estimated that Louisiana has the potential to produce 1.8 million carbon offsets per year, or almost 92 million offsets over 50 years, according to the Louisiana Blue Carbon study.

Louisiana landscape at sunset ” />

Louisiana landscape at sunset.

Wetland restoration in Louisiana could be worth between $540 million and $1.6 billion dollars over the next five decades. The study uses $4.4 per tonne as its lowest estimated price – based on the average historical price of a voluntary carbon offset developed under the American Carbon Registry (ACR). The study featured $10.8 per tonne as the high price – based on the higher value of offsets sold into compliance markets such as California’s cap-and-trade system.

Ultimately, the hope is that wetland projects will become eligible for the California market so that the Louisiana-based offsets can be traded there, said Brent Dorsey, director of environmental programs at Entergy. But the Golden State requires a 100- year project lifespan for land-based projects, compared to ACR’s 40-year timeframe, so additional hurdles remain, observed Sarah Mack, President and CEO of Tierra Resources.

Carbon Opportunities

Entergy has advocated and supported market-based solutions to environmental risks since 1998, when it became involved in the initial development of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the carbon trading program of nine Northeastern states, some of them home to Entergy facilities.

Using its Environmental Initiatives Fund, Entergy financed Tierra Resources’ study of wetland restoration techniques and development of a new blue carbon accounting methodology under ACR. The Louisiana Blue Carbon project was a partnership between Entergy energy, Tierra Resources, and the Climate Trust. The goal was to develop opportunities for financially viable wetland offset projects in Louisiana.

The methodology that was developed focuses on four million acres of wetlands in the coastal zone of Louisiana, with a small amount of coast in Mississippi and Texas. They focused on scalable restoration methods that show commercialization potential as wetland offset projects to determine the carbon impact of incorporating prevented wetland loss in carbon accounting, determine the state’s offset potential, and what the financial estimates are of the blue carbon.

Tierra Resources reviewed restoration techniques featured in the “Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast ” and researched additional restoration techniques, wetland assimilation and mangrove planting. The company then evaluated the commercial wetland offset potential for long-term enhancement of wetlands, scalability, and cost effectiveness. The Master Plan used a 50-year projection for the future of wetlands in Louisiana, which was also employed by Tierra Resources as the basis for its analysis to determine annual offsets and value, as well as long-term potential.

The study evaluated different types of wetland restoration, including mangrove planting, wetland assimilation – the introduction of treated municipal effluent into impounded and degraded wetlands to provide freshwater and nutrients for restoration purposes, and river diversion – use of new channels and/or structures to divert sediment and freshwater from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers into adjacent basins. The latter two techniques offer opportunities to stack carbon offsets with other mechanisms such as water quality credits, if those markets develop. Wetland assimilation offers the greatest net offset yield per acre: about seven tons of carbon for forested wetlands.

However, for land in Louisiana, mangrove planting (two tons per acre) and river diversions (3.8 tons per acre) are the most feasible options.

The challenges facing wetland restoration as a viable mechanism for carbon sequestration include the high costs of wetland restoration, which may surpass the value of carbon finance in projects, which necessitates partnering projects with more traditional funding pathways.

Mack outlined some of the policy options available to encourage wetland restoration including: “allowing the use of federal funds alongside carbon finance; environmental credit stacking, eligible types of conservation easements, rules and processes for project aggregation, and crediting period length for wetland restoration. Additionally, establishing funding pools to allow wetland project development to scale up and meet future carbon demands in the compliance market would benefit future wetland restoration projects.”

Money, money, money

In 2010, Entergy sponsored a study that found the cost-benefit ratio for wetland restoration is three to one, meaning for every three dollars invested in wetland restoration a dollar is gained in risk avoidance. Using this study as a baseline, Entergy partnered with Tierra Resources to explore additional benefits, such as hunting, fishing, water filtration, and other ecosystem services that could be gained by restoring wetlands, as well as carbon sequestration benefits.

The total potential benefit of just restoring coastal wetlands in Louisiana was determined to be between $400 and $1 billion. If prevented wetland loss, that is the prevention of wetlands from reverting to, or turning into, open water, is included in the carbon accounting, an additional $140 million to almost $630 million may be earned by Louisiana wetlands.

The case for preventing wetland loss is not just environmental, according to large oil and gas corporations such as ConocoPhillips and Shell currently involved in blue carbon projects. Dorsey highlighted an additional risk associated with wetland loss: “Existing wetland owners, if the wetlands convert to open water, they lose all title to that property including the mineral rights. That is some of the economic push for some of these folks to be involved with blue carbon.”

What motivates companies?

Entergy serves Louisiana, among other southern Gulf Coast states, as an energy generator and transmitter and is vulnerable to adverse weather events that may strike the area as Hurricane Katrina did in 2005, he said.

“Entergy is wed to their service area, we don’t have the luxury of pulling up poles and power plants and moving, we are a real member of our service area,” he said. “Looking at this from a risk-management perspective, a storm could wipe out transmission and distribution facilities and have significant economic impacts to our customers.”

 

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

New European Carbon Exchange Bets On Revival Of Spot Trading

24 February 2015 | Watch out, European compliance traders there’s a new player in town.

The European Environmental Markets (EEM) launched on February 11 as a new exchange platform for spot transactions of European Union Allowances (EUAs) and Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs), meaning that participants can conduct transactions in real time.

While EEM is not the first spot exchange for the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), the once-popular trading option hasn’t been available since 2012. That was when the French exchange BlueNext dissolved after handling more than 1.1 billion metric tonnes of European Union (EU) permits during its prime.

European policymakers saw a bright, shining future for the newly created EU ETS when it launched in 2005. The system enacted pollution caps on nearly 12,000 power plant and other industrial entities. Those that could not reduce their emissions could trade EUAs to comply.

But the EU ETS experienced growing pains that ultimately led to the demise of exchanges such as BlueNext, including outright fraud and a phishing scam that tarnished the reputation of the trading program. However, the bigger challenges for these exchanges may have been the regulatory policies that led to a glut of allowances, with an estimated 1.5-2 billion tonnes flooding the market, and a global recession that pressured demand for the permits.

After years of these challenges, only two exchanges remained standing: the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) and the European Energy Exchange (EEX).

Spotting a New Opportunity

Despite this turbulent history, newly-launched European Environmental Markets’ CEO Adrian Rimmer believes the time to enter the market is now, especially after EU officials signed off on a plan last year to shore up the EU ETS by withholding 900 million permits from 2014-2016, a temporary solution known as backloading.

“We’re in the fortunate position of having been able to wait for what we think is the right time – clear rules, backloading appearing to be addressed, clarity that the emissions regulation is entrenched and expanding and that the ETS will remain a core part of EU policy,” he said.

But with two exchanges already on the market, why a third? The answer comes back to spot transactions.

Both ICE and EEX offer same-day trading under a daily futures contract, but neither offers spot trading. While the length of time between the two transaction options may be small, it can translate into major differences for corporate compliance entities.

Many organizations do not have a mandate to trade in futures. Even if they do, futures require lines of credit, which entail more management and overhead that spot transactions can skip. “Certainly from a CFO perspective, the lack of a need for credit will be very attractive,” Rimmer said

The organization’s single-minded focus on spot will also lower running costs, to the benefit of its users. Many of the failed exchanges from the past combined multiple sets of proprietary software in their operations – leading to extravagant information technology costs. The older software also required a large back office, since hardly anything was fully automatic.

“It was a lot of behind the scenes,” Rimmer said. “You’d have an electronic front end, but actually a lot of manual processes in the background. People would be running around with bits of paper, posting things and downloading forms.”

EEM’s trading platform is fully automated. It was created by the exchange’s Executive Chairman Wayne Sharpe 25 years ago when he founded the commercial organization Bartercard. Since then, Bartercard has become one of the largest online exchanges in the world and has facilitated over $40 billion in trade via more than 30 million transactions.

What this means for the carbon market is that Sharpe’s platform has been tested for more than 20 years and been upgraded at a cost of more than tens of millions of dollars. The past 3-4 years has been spent tailoring the platform for the European environmental markets.

Looking to the Future

While EEM will test the waters with the compliance markets, Rimmer will not be letting go of his Gold Standard Foundation past completely. The exchange will begin with compliance markets, but then seeks to cover all European environmental markets including voluntary carbon, renewable energy, water and biomass.

“My goal through the Gold Standard has been two things: to continue to demonstrate why carbon markets and climate finance can be credible,” he said “And the second piece is trying to bring that tangible financial value to a wider range of environmental impacts and social impacts than just carbon.”

With the Gold Standard still working on measuring non-carbon impacts through, for example, a proposed Water Benefit Standard, Rimmer hopes to now broaden the financial instruments available to the carbon markets.

“Having focused on credibility for the last five years, I want to focus on liquidity in the market,” he said “It doesn’t matter how credible it is if nobody can access the market and no one can trade in it.”

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.

Study Sees $1.6 Billion For Blue Carbon In Louisiana Wetlands

23 February 2015 | A two-year assessment of the potential to develop blue carbon projects on Louisiana’s coast estimates  that carbon finance revenue can provide up to $1.6 billion in critical funding to assist with wetland restoration over the next 50 years. The study, supported by Entergy Corporation through their Environmental Initiatives Fund, and prepared in partnership by New Orleans-based Tierra Resources and Portland-based nonprofit The Climate Trust, examines existing wetland restoration techniques river diversions, hydrologic restoration, wetland assimilation, and mangrove identifying areas for future scientific investigation to support carbon offset programs.

Findings from the report will be shared by Tierra Resources and the American Carbon Registry at a free national webinar, scheduled for March 5, 2015, at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Initial study findings showed that restoration in Louisiana has the potential to produce over 1.8 million offsets per year; almost 92 million offsets over 50 years. This is the equivalent of taking approximately 350 thousand cars off the road each year or 20 million cars off the road over 50 years.  Wetland restoration techniques identified in this study could potentially generate $400 million to $1 billion in offset revenue depending on the dollar value of the carbon offset with the potential for almost $630 million more by including prevented wetland loss in the carbon accounting.

Entergy’s commitment to the study stems from the company’s mission to create sustainable value for all its stakeholders. Wetlands play a crucial role in storm protection for many Entergy communities, helping preserve industries, businesses, homes, and livelihoods along with Entergy’s own facilities and assets.

“Entergy was pleased to be able to sponsor this important work and help unlock the huge potential for wetland carbon credits in Louisiana,” said Chuck Barlow, vice president for environmental strategy & policy for Entergy Corporation. “By capitalizing on the economic benefits offered through carbon credits, more of Louisiana’s wetlands can be restored and preserved. Eventually, this work in Louisiana can be expanded to address other critical wetland areas throughout the nation and the world, making this study a first step, with the potential for major global impact.”

Of the restoration techniques studied, forested wetlands that receive treated municipal effluent, referred to as wetland assimilation systems, have the highest net offset yield per acre. However, it was concluded that river diversions and mangrove plantings have the potential to generate the largest volume of offsets in Louisiana due to the huge amount of acreage upon which these restoration techniques can be implemented. Additionally, carbon offsets from wetland assimilation systems and river diversions show potential to be stacked with water quality credits should these markets evolve in Louisiana.

The primary barrier to wetland carbon commercialization that was identified through this study is the high cost of wetland restoration. Carbon finance will likely lead to new public-private partnerships that leverage carbon funds with government restoration dollars to stimulate investment into wetland projects.

“The results of this study demonstrate that carbon finance has substantial potential to generate important revenue to support wetland restoration,” said lead author Dr. Sarah Mack, President and CEO of Tierra Resources. “Furthermore, this study points to Louisiana as an innovator of creative financing strategies for wetland restoration, and as creating new investment opportunities that will yield substantial economic and environmental benefits.”

The American Carbon Registry, a leading voluntary and California compliance Cap-and-Trade Offset Project Registry, in 2012 approved a methodology developed by Tierra Resources, which quantifies the greenhouse gas emission reductions and carbon sequestration associated with restoring degraded deltaic wetlands in the Mississippi Delta. This methodology allows landowners and project developers to document, quantify, and seek verification for the GHG benefit of their wetland restoration projects, ultimately leading to certified offset credits that can be sold as carbon credits in the voluntary market.

“Carbon markets provide economic incentives for reducing carbon emissions, as well as an important and innovative approach to finance environmental restoration and conservation,” said Dick Kempka, vice president of business development for The Climate Trust. “The opportunity to engage in this emerging sector and help provide a path for wetlands restoration to enter the carbon markets has been an exciting journey.”

The restoration of the Mississippi River Delta and the storage of blue carbon (the carbon captured by coastal ecosystems) is of national significance. The economic health of much of the United States depends on sustaining the navigation, flood control, energy production, and seafood resources of this valuable deltaic river system. Each of those functions is currently at severe risk due to a coastal wetland loss rate of approximately one football field an hour.

“Wetland restoration provides a wealth of benefits including storm surge reduction, habitat preservation, carbon sequestration and recreation; as well as job creation, and economic development that are vital to Louisiana’s sustainability and resilience,” states Michael Hecht, President & CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “By innovating creative financing solutions for coastal restoration, local companies like Tierra Resources are contributing to the growing hub of Emerging Environmental expertise that can be found in Greater New Orleans.”

Ontario Inches Towards Carbon Pricing, Explores Ag And Forestry Offsets

12 February 2014 | Ontario officials have been hinting for weeks that they would be putting forth an ambitious climate plan that will include a carbon pricing program. Today, regulators released a discussion paper that seeks advice on the type of program to be implemented, but makes clear that carbon pricing will be coming to the Canadian province in some format.

Ontario has a long-term target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 and is currently working with British Columbia, California and Québec to establish new interim targets. While the province emits less than 1% of total global emissions, it is one of the largest per capita GHG emitters in the world, the paper noted. The transportation sector is the largest emitter in the Ontario, followed by industrials such as cement and chemical manufacturers.

This spring, the province will confirm the market mechanism or mechanisms that will be used to price carbon in the jurisdiction. In the meantime, stakeholders have 45 days to offer their opinions on the best mechanisms for achieving its emissions reduction goals, according to the paper released by Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

“It is clear that carbon pricing is a climate-critical policy that will be driving emissions reductions across the Ontario economy, the paper stated.

Provincial officials are seeking comments on the type of carbon pricing program, with the paper highlighting four approaches: cap and trade, baseline and credit, a carbon tax, and regulations and performance standards.

The paper also observed that some of Ontario’s closest neighbors and key competitors have launched carbon pricing programs, including the province of Québec, which has linked its cap-and-trade programs with California through the Western Climate Initiative (WCI). Ten companies in Ontario are already covered by Québec’s cap-and-trade program, which recently expanded to include transportation and heating fuels.

Aside from seeking advice on setting a carbon price, regulators are also asking for comments on the role that the agriculture and forestry sectors can play in reducing emissions and/or providing carbon sinks or offsets.

That’s High Praise

Ontario’s announcement was highly praised by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA).

“In the absence of strong national leadership, climate policy in North America is increasingly being driven by action at the subnational level, including Ontario’s neighbor Québec, says IETA President and CEO Dirk Forrister. “We welcome Ontario’s move to put a price on carbon and look forward to engaging the government on the advantages that cap and trade brings to reaching climate targets, while driving clean investment and innovation.

Ontario isn’t the only North America jurisdiction currently considering adopting a carbon pricing program. In late 2014, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee released a proposal for a cap-and-trade program that would cover an estimated 130 facilities and fuel distributors operating in the state that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of GHG emissions per year.

“With Washington State also looking at connecting to the trading pool, the addition of Ontario would further drive down costs and increase compliance flexibility for businesses across these jurisdictions, said Katie Sullivan, IETA’s Director of North America.

Ontario and Washington State were both previously members of the WCI, which now only features California and Québec and British Columbia pricing carbon, although British Columbia implemented a carbon tax. Ontario has also been an observer to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the carbon trading program for nine states in the US northeast covering the power sector.

This Week In V-Carbon: Punxsutawney Phil Predicts EM’s Survey Launch

13 February 2015 | Crowds bundled up last week to see the United States’ most famous diviner: Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog tasked with predicting the onset of spring. Legend has it that this weather-hog can tell if there will be an early spring depending on whether Phil sees his own shadow. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll be in for another six weeks of cold weather, according to Phil’s prediction.
Though he didn’t know it (…or did he?), Phil also forecast the new timeline of Ecosystem Marketplace’s annual carbon markets survey. Unlike previous years, we are condensing our survey timeframe through March 4, 2015 to provide a greater range of reports throughout the year.

The shorter data collection period will allow us to produce more reports, including a new report specially focused on exploring the North American carbon markets. Contingent on receiving sufficient data, we’ll break down North American demand for carbon offsets in 2014 according to price, project type, voluntary versus compliance, and by state or province. We’ll also look forward to project how future policy developments such as the expansion of California’s program to include new sectors will affect demand. And of course, Ecosystem Marketplace plans to publish its annual State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets report.
And as Ecosystem Marketplace looks towards our 10th birthday in 2015, we’re launching “Gen A”  our code name for the next generation of our initiative. Since 2010, our specialized web portals EcosystemMarketplace.com, ForestCarbonPortal.com, and reddx.forest-trends.org (tracking expenditures to avoid deforestation) have been viewed by over 1 million unique users. Gen A will bring it all together. We imagine a new, GIS-based decision support tool that overlays our data on forests, cookstoves, biodiversity and water markets in a way that will allow project developers and funders to query investable opportunities.

 

But this critical, thought-provoking work will only be possible with the financial support of our loyal and eager audiences. Sponsors benefit from exposure logo placement on reports that are downloaded tens of thousands of times and shout-outs in this news brief as well as further insight into our findings through tailored briefings. And that’s not to mention influence: Ecosystem Marketplace’s reports have been cited in the development of emerging carbon pricing programs from South Africa to South Korea, and supporting our research is a good opportunity to influence these discussions. To sponsor one of these exciting Ecosystem Marketplace products, contact Gloria Gonzalez.

 

More news from the voluntary carbon marketplace is summarized below, so keep reading!

 

The Editors

 

Supporting Subscribers request

 

If you value what you read in this news brief, consider supporting Ecosystem Marketplace’s Carbon Program as a Supporting Subscriber. Readers’ contributions help us keep the lights on and continue to deliver voluntary carbon market news and insights to your inbox biweekly and free of charge. For a suggested US$150/year donation, you or your company can be listed as a V-Carbon News Supporting Subscriber (with weblink) for one year (~24 issues). Reach out to inboxes worldwide and make your contribution here (select “Support for Voluntary Carbon News Briefs” in the drop-down menu).

 

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V-Carbon News

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The Climate Leadership Conference will be held in Washington, D.C. from February 23rd to 25th. The conference convenes leaders from diverse sectors to explore market transformation and share energy and climate solutions. On the agenda are: a roundtable on transparency in carbon accounting hosted by The Climate Registry; a discussion of California cap and trade hosted by the Environmental Defense Fund; a breakout session on best practices in corporate carbon reduction strategies; and much more. Want 20% off your registration? Use discount code CLC-Ecosystem-20% when you register here.

VOLUNTARY CARBON

I’d rather stand

Code REDD just launched a new initiative, “Stand for Trees,” that aims to target a different buyer: individuals. While REDD projects have traditionally focused on corporate buyers such as Disney and Microsoft, the new site will utilize social media and crowd-funding to tell the stories of individual REDD projects and their charismatic co-benefits. Individuals can buy as little as half a tonne, or $10 an offset, and project developers benefit from higher payouts than they might receive on the wholesale market. For now, the site only lists dual-certified Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance offsets.

Read more from Ecosystem Marketplace here

Separating disbanding from disinterest

In an opinion piece, Pungky Widiaryanto of Indonesia’s State Ministry of National Development Planning argues that Indonesia’s recent disbanding of the country’s REDD+ Agency may lead to more effective implementation. The REDD+ Agency was formed with the expectation that it would reach across ministries to consolidate funding and coordinate efforts to move REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) progress along. In practice, it received unclear authority and little recognition from other government ministries. President Jokowi’s move to integrate this ad hoc agency followed his decisions to merge the Environment and Forestry Ministries into one.

Read more from Ecosystem Marketplace here

COMPLIANCE CARBON

No one party here

With no centralized rules, China’s pilot emissions trading schemes have resulted in a variety of offset regulations and prices. This became most apparent with the launch of the nation’s carbon offset registry in January, which allowed Chinese Certified Emissions Reductions (CCERs) to be transferred across the seven pilots for the first time. The only two markets with final offset rules, Beijing and Shanghai, have banned CCERs generated prior to 2013 (essentially 99.5% of all issued), and spot deliveries in China’s capital were as high as 25-30 yuan. Forward contracts in most other pilots ranged from 5-20 yuan. But the pilots do all have one thing in common: China just issued standardized guidelines for measuring and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by major industrials.

Read more from Reuters here
Read more from Reuters here

Getting an A for effort

A three-year research project just concluded that South Africa is ready for carbon trading. The project, led by climate advisory firm Prometheum Carbon in cooperation with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), examined the suitability of existing financing mechanisms for the proposed market. In late 2014, the JSE demonstrated how its existing commodities registry could be used for carbon, with several South African companies including Nedbank and Sanlam, the Backsberg Wine Estate and the Cape Town Marathon purchasing offsets from the Climate Neutral Group and others. While this was only a pilot trade, South Africa plans to launch its carbon tax (with option for offsets) by 2016.

Read more here

The UK understands the cloud

Skyscrape Cloud Services, a company that provides cloud services to the United Kingdom’s (UK) public sector, has teamed up with The CarbonNeutral Company to offset its client’s emissions. The initiative stems from the 2011 Government’s Greening Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Strategy, which set out goals to reduce environmental impact and increase sustainability for ICT programs by 2015. Skyscrape customers will now receive a carbon offset certificate each month that can be used to demonstrate they are meeting their government commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25%. The carbon offsets are validated by both the VCS and the Clean Development Mechanism.

Read more here

Golden opportunities in the golden state

Offset demand is continuing to grow in 2015 in California’s cap-and-trade program despite the Air Resources Board’s (ARB) invalidation of nearly 89,000 offsets last year, according to brokers. However, the controversial invalidation measure served as a sharp reminder for buyers that the ARB can rescind non-compliant offsets for up to eight years after issuance. One exception is the “golden” California carbon offsets, which have protection against invalidation, and traders have reported seeing more activity with those offsets. Demand for offsets is expected to rise throughout the year, as California has begun including fuel and natural gas suppliers in its program.

Read more here

Farming on the edge

Farmers Edge, a big-data farm management company, will put its data to sustainable use with its new multi-million dollar deal with Alberta-based coal and gas operator Capital Power. By integrating its new Nitrous Oxide Emissions Reductions Protocols into its on-farm data collection tools, the company will be able to track nitrous oxide emissions reductions. Any reductions will be sold to Capital Power as offsets, which the coal company can use under Alberta’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program. The program allows regulated entities that do not meet mandatory emissions reduction targets to pay $15 per tonne or buy offsets to meet their compliance obligations. Alberta officials are currently deciding the fate of the program, but increasing the $15 levy does not appear to be in the cards.

Read more from Winnipeg Free Press here
Read more from Bloomberg here

CARBON FINANCE

If it walks like a duck…it could be an offset

The United States Department of Agriculture is again calling for carbon offset project proposals through its Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program. Since its establishment in 2004, CIG has funded nearly 900 projects with over $206 million, including part of theDucks Unlimited’s Avoided Grassland Conversion methodology. This year, the program has up to $20 million available for grants, with approximately half of the money earmarked for projects that engage farmers or ranchers specifically. Pre-proposals are accepted through February 24.

Read more here

In forests we trust

The city of Astoria, Oregon agreed to partner with The Climate Trust to reduce its timber harvest. The Climate Trust, a non-profit designed to help Oregon power plants meet the state’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reductions law, will sell the resulting carbon offsets to those utilities. In return, the city is set to receive an estimated $358,750 in carbon offsets this year and $130,000 annually thereafter. The monetary difference stems from reducing based on the city’s existing inventory versus the following years’ growth.

Read more here

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Tracking hot air

NASA scientists have revealed a new prototype sounder designed to measure methane. The instrument was inspired by the Soundar Lidar, which collects around-the-clock CO2 measurements. The lead scientist, Haris Riris, helped with the carbon instrument and now set his sights on a similar instrument for the more potent greenhouse gas: methane. Though the NASA team is still testing, it hopes the instrument will eventually be flown on missions such as NASA’s Active Sensing of CO2 Emissions over Nights, Days and Seasons (ASCENDS). While some satellites can currently track methane, none provide 24-hour coverage at all latitudes.

Read more here

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Carbon Credit Finance Fellow – Potential Energy

Based in Oakland, California, the Fellow will work with cookstove project developer Potential Energy to seek out a contract for the company’s accreditation process, identify funds for completion of the process, and negotiate terms/identify potential buyers of carbon offsets. Successful candidates should have a degree in finance or economics and previous professional experience. The position is unpaid and part time, for 3-6 months.

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