Shades of REDD+
Without Projects, Jurisdictional REDD+ Programs Risk Becoming ‘Paper Parks’

Joshua McCarron

As Everland’s Global Head of Business Development, I spend my days talking to customers which include several of the largest carbon credit buyers in the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM). And alongside robust carbon accounting, what buyers most want to understand is the positive impact their money will have.

For the high-integrity REDD+ projects that Everland represents, this is a simple question to answer: sustained investment into a project means that the Indigenous and traditional communities who live in and around project areas can pursue their own development goals, whilst protecting the biodiverse forests they call home. I can point to many examples of how the projects we work with have helped local people access clean water, improve agriculture, and build hospitals and schools.

But as REDD+ moves towards a ‘jurisdictional approach’ with credits aligning to national forest carbon programs, how can buyers be confident of that same connection between a carbon credit purchase and local impact on the ground?

Buyers’ concern is understandable. Much of the discussion within the sector so far has treated large-scale jurisdictional REDD+ programs and smaller community-centered REDD+ projects as separate and incompatible.

But they aren’t. In fact, the opposite is true and the success of jurisdictional REDD+ will be built upon an accumulation of successful REDD+ projects.

Through a process called ‘nesting’ governments can build networks of projects, with each project tailored to local contexts and to best meet the specific needs of individual communities. Together these projects can be merged (or ‘nested’) into the overall jurisdictional REDD+ program, which is overseen regionally or nationally.

The old saying – local solutions to global problems – applies.

Nesting has advantages for REDD+ projects too. For example, because jurisdictional REDD+ programs are part of national plans and policies, nesting means the impacts projects achieve are more likely to be permanent and the risk of deforestation being displaced to areas outside of projects’ boundaries, or so called ‘leakage’, is reduced.

When done robustly, nesting also allows countries to measure deforestation and associated emissions consistently, by setting ‘national baselines’, and count emissions avoided by REDD+ projects towards nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement.

For all these reasons, every stakeholder in the VCM should welcome the idea that the Wildlife Works Mai Ndombe REDD+ Project has been nested into the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s (FCPF’s) Mai Ndombe Emission Reduction Program since 2019, representing the first project to issue credits under a jurisdictional program.

The project protects roughly 300,000 hectares of forest to the west of Inongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). With dense forest covering over 100 million hectares of land, the Congo Basin is a critical carbon sink and – following the Amazon – the second largest tropical rainforest in the world. Many communities in DRC have long depended on the forest to survive. In the Mai Ndombe province for example, the majority of the population lives on less than $1 a day.

The area where the project stands was originally a logging concession held by a notoriously bad actor who did nothing for the local community. However, Wildlife Works was able to convert the area into a conservation concession and by partnering with the local community has been using carbon finance to stop deforestation and improve the lives and livelihoods of people who call Mai Ndombe home.

So far the project has built more than 20 schools and a hospital, has introduced fish ponds to improve food security, and built wells to provide access to safe drinking water. In total, the project has reached more than 16,000 community members through health and education initiatives, all while avoiding over 38 million tons of CO2e emissions to date.

It is thanks to these proven successes that the Government of DRC has decided to make the Mai Ndombe project the jewel of its jurisdictional REDD+ program; a program that will be integral in meeting DRC’s international climate commitments, because 86% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions are currently caused by forestry and other land-use.

This is what the market is calling for: the opportunity to support communities and conservation at the project-level, where buyers can be confident of demonstrable local impact. And when those projects are nested into jurisdictional programs, buyers can be equally confident of their contribution to national and global climate targets.

As the sector begins to adopt jurisdictional REDD+, we continue to focus on what really works. Nested projects will be crucial for effective jurisdictional REDD+ programs.

Because without projects like Mai Ndombe to do the work on the ground, governments risk creating jurisdictional ‘paper parks’ – circles drawn on maps, with little benefit for communities, climate or conservation.

Joshua McCarron is Senior Vice President and Global Head of Business Development at Everland. Based in New York, he works to create partnerships between companies and communities on the frontlines of deforestation. Before joining Everland in 2019, Joshua lectured Economics at Kingston University and spent over a decade in finance, working at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank.

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About this Series

This story is part of a continuing series called “Shades of REDD+”, which is a companion to the intermittent series “Forests, Farms, and the Global Carbon Sink“.

“Shades of REDD+” is not intended to represent the views of Ecosystem Marketplace or Forest Trends, but rather to showcase a diversity of analyses and opinions from recognized experts in the field of forest carbon finance.

Check back for the next installment, or scroll to the end to sign up for e-mail alerts when new installments post.

Curtain Raiser: New Series to Explore History and Future of Forest Carbon Finance

Part One: A Marshall Plan for Tropical Forests?

Part Two: Can Oil and Aviation Fuel a Marshall Plan for Forests?

Part Three: Bridging the National vs Project Divide

Part Four: Nesting: A Good or Bad Piece of Swiss Cheese?

Part Five: Should Forest Carbon Credits be Eligible for CORSIA?

Part Six: Cambodia: Building a Nested System to Protect Remaining Forests

Part Seven: The Right to Carbon, the Right to Land, the Right to Decide

Part Eight: How Guatemala Blended Existing REDD+ Projects Into a New National Strategy

Part Nine: Why the World Needs Both Projects and Policies to Save Forests

Part Ten: We Have to Talk About Leakage

Part Eleven: Pruning Expectations of Corporate Offsetting with REDD+

Part Twelve: Corresponding Adjustments for Voluntary Markets – Seriously?

Part Thirteen: Corresponding Adjustments, Kyoto Protocol Nostalgia, and a Proposed Way Forward

Part Fourteen: The Risk of Diverting Carbon Finance from Nature to Technological Carbon Removals

Part Fifteen: Creating a Bigger Tent for REDD+ Success

Part Sixteen: ART, JNR or GCF… Which is Best for Countries?

Part Seventeen: Corresponding Adjustments, Equity, and Climate Justice

Part Eighteen: Filling an Urgent Need: New Guidance for ‘Nested REDD+’ Published

Part Nineteen: Managing expectations for Glasgow: Art. 6 of the Paris Agreement and the Voluntary Carbon Market

Part Twenty: What does the Article 6 Rulebook mean for REDD+?

Part Twenty-One: Beyond carbon – evaluating the sustainable development co-benefits of carbon projects

Part Twenty-Two: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of carbon markets

Part Twenty-Three: Reforming the International Financial Systems to Value High-Integrity Forests

Part Twenty-Four: Harmonized Biodiversity Claims as a Solution for Fragmented Biodiversity Markets

Part Twenty-Five: Burdened by unverifiable policy assumptions: The decision on when to apply corresponding adjustments to voluntary carbon markets



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