Forest Carbon Week in Review: A Look at Cancun

Thousands of climate-minded visitors are swarming over Cancún.  As United Nations climate talks progress and appear poised for a decision on REDD+, some of the other negotiating points remain unresolved. Ecosystem Marketplace strives to bring you the major – and most relevent – outcomes from COP16.  Combine that with news from outside of the climate change conference, this is the latest from the world of Forest Carbon.

NOTE: This article has been reprinted from Ecosystem Marketplace’s Forest Carbon Newsletter. You can receive this summary of global news and views from the world of Forest Carbon automatically in your inbox every two weeks by clicking here.

8 December 2010 | Thousands of climate-minded visitors are swarming over Cancíºn.   As United Nations climate talks progress and appear poised for a decision on REDD+, some of the other negotiating points (such as the land-use accounting “logging loophole”) remain unresolved.   With boots on the ground, Ecosystem Marketplace has been covering the overwhelming volume of news and events happening each day and distilling the major outcomes.   The talks will be winding up on Friday, and more news and analysis are sure to emerge.

The REDD+ Partnership, which has been working alongside the negotiations to develop their 2011-2012 Work Program, appears to be escaping much attention from the various Partners’ negotiators as delegates focus on the evolving UN texts.   Breaking news from Ecosystem Marketplace about the major cuts to safeguard language and deeper digging showing the Co-Chairs were responsible has left most observers pointing a finger squarely at Papua New Guinea.   Since the Partnership may well be the venue for coordinating the initial billions for fast-start REDD+ activities, it remains to be seen whether these major cuts will hold up the Partnership’s approval of its 2011-2012 Work Program.

On the sidelines of the negotiations, an array of businesses and NGOs were quite busy launching and announcing major new initiatives.   On the scientific and technical side, Google unveiled its Earth Engine along with a major donation of computing power to REDD countries to measure and monitor forest cover changes.   Clark Labs joined the fray, releasing two new GIS tools to measure REDD GHG emissions and model the economics of policy choices.   A slew of advocacy pieces regarding REDD have also emerged.

Offset standards seem to be moving forward rapidly as well.   The Voluntary Carbon Standard has approved three additional forest carbon methodologies, including the landmark Avoided Deforestation Partners REDD Methodology Modules.   But what’s more, news of the imminent issuance of credits from the first VCS REDD Project has energized many market players in and out of Mexico.

And in the run-up to Cancíºn, we got wind of a new “risk mitigation product” now out from the American Carbon Registry that signals a first major step of any offset standard towards a private insurance model for handling the risk of reversals from forest carbon projects.

Stay tuned to the Forest Carbon Portal and Ecosystem Marketplace for the latest on these rapidly evolving stories.

As always, read on below for the inside scoop in this, the latest issue of Ecosystem Marketplace’s Forest Carbon Newsletter.
—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at [email protected].  


International Policy

UN Negotiations Moving Towards Decision on REDD+

Meeting for the first time to discuss REDD+ late last week, the evolution of text under the UN negotiations appears poised to hand off a few key issues to high-level ministerial meetings, but is on course for a final vote before the negotiations wrap up this week. Key choices on safeguards language, the role of markets and financing, the metrics and goals for deforestation, and more remain. Gus Silva Chavez of Environmental Defense Fund calls it like he sees it here. Stay informed with running updates posted daily about the goings-on in Cancíºn from the on-site Ecosystem Marketplace team here.

Is Anybody Watching the REDD+ Partnership?

Ecosystem Marketplace seems to be the only one reporting what can only be described as a carnival. Last week, Partners met and were happy enough with a draft text for the 2011-2012 Work Program that they disbanded and left any revisions up to the Secretariat rather than employing any drafting groups comprised of national negotiators. What emerged from the process instead is a document that has been gutted of the majority of previous safeguards language and Ecosystem Marketplace has confirmed the edits were made by the Co-Chairs (Japan and/or Papua New Guinea). The final approval of the Work Program will proceed over e-mail, and can be held up only if one of the Partners objects via e-mail by 8pm Wednesday, December 8.


U.S. Policy

USAID launches US strategy for REDD+

At a side event in Cancíºn on Tuesday, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) unveiled the United States strategy for REDD+ support, including priorities for the $1 billion that the US pledged back in Copenhagen. The Strategy details that the primary financial vehicles the US intends to use include the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and Forest Investment Program, the Global Environment Facility, and yet-to-be-announced bilateral deals with forest countries. Read about the launch and access the strategy documents here.

Regional Emissions Trading Schemes Eye Linkages

Carbon Positive reported last week that the Western Climate Initiative and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative may look to joining their efforts in 2012. With federal cap-and-trade legislation shelved for the near future, linking the regional initiatives could offer an expanded carbon market to member states, the equivalent of a third of the US and Canadian economies. Given the fundamental differences in the schemes, however, reconciling them may prove difficult. Read more from Carbon Positive here.


Project Development

Brazil’s Suruí­ Launch Indigenous Carbon Fund

At the “Amazon Evening” gathering last Friday in Cancun, participants learned of the creation of the first indigenous carbon fund to help manage the funds associate with the Suruí­’s community forest carbon project. This innovative project has drawn on the expertise of several organizations, and brought the Suruí­ to a point of exerting serious control over their lands while surrounding forest lands continue to be ravaged. Read more from the Forest Carbon Portal here.

Carbon in the Congo

Olivier Mushiete, an agricultural engineer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, established the country’s first forest carbon project: 1,500 hectares of acacia trees. He’s sold credits to the World Bank (who in turn sold them to Danone), and is now acting as a consultant on other forest carbon projects in the area. Read more about Mushiete’s innovative efforts from IRIN Africa here. And see the project listing of the Ibi Bateke Sink Plantation Project in the Forest Carbon Portal’s Project Inventory here.

Commodities Giants trading REDD Credits

Gazprom and Vitol, two of the world’s biggest commodity companies, will begin trading forest carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market by the end of this year. The permits, generated under the Voluntary Carbon Standard and certified to the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standard, emerge from 100,000 hectares of conserved Indonesian rainforest. The permits will be sold by InfiniteEarth, a Hong Kong-based project developer. Read more from The Telegraph here, and see the Rimba Raya project’s listing on the Forest Carbon Portal project inventory here.

Everything and the Carbon Sink

In addition to shutting down old factories and coal plants as part of their 11th five-year plan (not that they aren’t building new ones), China has also started a number of forestation projects. In Yunnan Province a number of forest carbon projects working under the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standard are underway, including a 5,000 acre project in Tengchong County that is projected to sequester 15 million tons of carbon dioxide. Read about Yunnan’s forest carbon projects here, and the original article in Mandarin here. See the project’s listing on the Project Inventory here.

National Strategy & Capacity

A New Forest Offset Protocol for BC

The British Columbia government has released a proposed “Forest Carbon Offset Protocol” and is conducting public consultations and seeking public comment. Final approval is expected in early 2011 and will guide development of offset projects on private and public land, such as planting trees, restoring forests and protecting sensitive areas from development, that could generate offsets available for sale on the carbon market. Initial responses from some environmentalists are skeptical. Read additional news coverage of the Protocol from BC Local News here, and review the draft for yourself here. The public review period closes on Monday, January 31, 2011.

Community Forestry in Mexico: Lessons Learned

Recent studies of community forest management in Mexico show that devolving rights over forest land and its resources, including carbon, to the local level is not a panacea for deforestation and forest degradation. It is also not the only necessary ingredient for forest-based carbon capture. A new report argues forests managed sustainably by communities, including for wood production, can capture and store more carbon than can forest conservation regimes in which wood-harvesting is prohibited. Read more from the Rights and Resources Initiative here.

Methodology & Standards Watch

VCS Signs Off On Three New Forest Methodologies

The Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) has been busy over the past couple weeks. Three new forest project methodologies have gotten the final nod from VCS, including the Avoided Deforestation Partners (ADP) REDD Methodology Modules, Face the Future’s Improved Forest Management Methodology, and Terra Global Capital’s Mosaic Deforestation REDD Methodology. See behind the scenes on the significance of the ADP Modules on the Forest Carbon Portal here, from Carbon Positive on the Face the Future methodology here, and read the press releases about the methodologies on the VCS website here.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

A joint effort of the American Carbon Registry (ACR) and forest carbon project developer’s Finite Carbon has produced the voluntary carbon markets first major step towards private insurance against reversals of carbon storage. ACR has approved the “Carbon Reduction Guarantee,” a service provided by Finite Carbon’s subsidiary Carbon Reduction Corporation. Ecosystem Marketplace followed up with the movers and shakers behind the deal. Get the full story on the Forest Carbon Portal here.

Grouping Mosaic Deforestation Projects

Following on the heels of the approval of Terra Global Capital’s Mosaic REDD Methodology (see above), the consultancy has now proposed a follow-on Methodology to bundle these projects together. The Methodology for Carbon Accounting of Grouped Mosaic and Landscape-scale REDD Projects is now open for a period of public comment by VCS until December 30th. The methodology sets out the project conditions and carbon accounting procedures for activities aimed at reducing unplanned anthropogenic deforestation and forest degradation of the mosaic type, and allows for grouped projects, in which discrete project parcels are added after the start of the project and without a full validation. Check out the methodology on the VCS website here.

Human Dimension

Conflicts for REDD and India’s Forest Rights Act?

REDD could have serious implications for tribes and forest-dwellers in India. Indigenous rights advocates at Campaign For Survival and Dignity claim that REDD contradicts the Forest Rights Act (FRA), which provides for rights of tribes and forest-dwellers. The Indian Ministry of Environment warns that lack of definition of forests in India can pose problems in implementation. Read more from the Hindustan Times here.

Women in REDD Critical for Climate Action

Women are typically the main providers or food and other resources in forest-dependent communities. They are often the holders of much of the traditional knowledge about the food and other household products that forests supply. Yet while negotiators of REDD policy state the need to engage indigenous peoples and local communities, the role of women is rarely explicitly recognized in negotiating texts, despite the critical roles they play in natural resource management. A new gender initiative launched by IUCN and partners at the UN climate summit in Cancíºn, aims to ensure that women are an integral part of negotiations on REDD. Read more from the Jakarta Post here and from Scoop here.

Science & Technology Review

Google Earth Engine Emerges from The Cloud

Last Thursday in Cancíºn, Google released its long-awaited Earth Engine. Building upon the past 25 years of imagery from LANDSAT satellites, Earth Engine allows scientists, policymakers, and even the curious web visitor the ability to choose a country and apply user-developed algorithms to visualize deforestation and forest degradation across any specified timeframe. In addition, Google has pledged 10 million CPU hours to help developing countries utilize the new system to prepare national REDD readiness plans, including development of deforestation baselines and monitoring schemes. Read more from the google blog here, and visit Earth Engine here.

Mapping Leverages Carbon and Economics Methods

Clark Labs, of Clark University’s Graduate School of Geography, unveiled two new Geographic Information Systems tools at Forest Day 4 in Cancíºn. One tool estimates forest GHG emissions based on the World Bank BioCarbon Fund’s proposed VCS methodology, and another utilizes a national-level REDD+ economic planning model called OSIRIS, which allows users to estimate and map the impacts of alternative policies for REDD+ on deforestation, emission reductions, and revenue generation for different nations. Read more from Clark Labs here.

REDD+ Priority Areas Mapped Using Co-benefits

Scientists at the UN Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre have developed an interactive mapping tool that overlays carbon stocks with biodiversity, protected areas, population, poverty and economic activities. Maps of Ecuador, Tanzania, China, Nigeria, Honduras and Cambodia demonstrate which areas have the potential for multiple benefits, areas where different priorities may clash, as well as large, unprotected carbon sinks. Read more coverage of this tool from the New York Times here.

Publications & Tools

A flood of reports on forest carbon, REDD, and many more topics are gushing out at countless side events and press conferences in Cancíºn alongside the UN climate talks. Here is a quick attempt to cover some of the more notable ones. Just as we helped provide a list of Must-Reads heading into Cancíºn, stay tuned after the conference concludes for a digest of the major publications that are landing on our desks.

A Plethora of Publications from the FAO

• A study on forestry in Central Asia and Eastern Europe
• A study of forests and climate change in the Asia-Pacific region with country assessments and describes mitigation options, including the prospect of REDD in the region.
• A paper reporting on an analysis of lessons from 297 ongoing AFOLU projects from 11 registries
• Two studies on woodfuels and their climate change mitigation potential.
Read the Central Asia, Asia-Pacific, and woodfuels study here and the AFOLU report here.

The “Redd rush”

Friends of the Earth International released a new report arguing that REDD could lead to the privatization of resources as private firms rush to cash in on the billion dollar scheme. The potential flow of billions in REDD money into developing countries is a cause for great concern for the group, who warns that there are significant social risks associated with REDD that still need to be addressed. See coverage of the report from The Guardian here, and access the report here.

Who’s in the Driver’s Seat?

A new publication by the Global Forest Coalition (GFC) argues that REDD is likely to fail because it does not address the major drivers of forest loss directly. The Coalition sees no international policies to reduce timber demand as a means to reducing deforestation while renewable energy policies provide incentives to increase wood-based energy production. GFC encourages incentivizing indigenous peoples to manage forests sustainably based upon traditional ecological knowledge and subsistence use of resources. Read more about the report from Green Wise here, and access the report from GFC here.

Greenpeace Wary of Indonesia’s REDD Program

Greenpeace International has released a report, titled “REDD Alert: Protection Money”, condemning Indonesia’s REDD program, saying that international financing may support the pulping and palm oil industry, allowing for their continued expansion despite claims by the government of a moratorium on forest clearing. Read coverage of the report by UPI here and access the full report here


Looking for a job as a post-doctoral fellow studying REDD+ or as a Trainer for Forest Carbon Standards in Indonesia? How about as a CDM project developer in India? Learn about these and other job opportunities at Forest Carbon Portal’s Jobs page, where you can also post your own job listings..


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


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