This Week In V-Carbon News…

This article was originally published in the V-Carbon newsletter. Click here to read the original.

 

26 June 2014 | The data came to life this week at Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Voluntary Carbon Market 2014 report presentation in Washington DC, where market participants gathered to discuss trends in voluntary carbon offsetting – and where we go from here.

Though market value fell to $379 million last year, down from $523 million in 2012, a close look at the findings shows that much of the drop is due to shifts in compliance markets that affect voluntary purchasing. An expert panel – including Christian Dannecker of South Pole Group, Brian McFarland of Carbonfund.org and Hans Wegner of the National Geographic Society – also found plenty of silver lining.

“The good thing for people like us is that competition is also causing the value and the quality of the offsets to go up,” Wegner, the Chief Sustainability Officer at National Geographic Society, said. Nat Geo has purchased offsets from a reforestation project in Panama as well as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests) projects in Brazil and Tanzania.

Dannecker told the audience that he was encouraged – or at least not discouraged – by the report findings, and optimistic for new business opportunities. “It’s a good time for new players to enter the market because it’s easier to do so given the low prices, he said.

To McFarland, the supply-demand dynamic for REDD projects, in which a record number of tonnes were transacted at lower average pricing, was unsurprising but nevertheless concerning, since the viability of these projects depends on increasing demand. It is encouraging to see forest carbon project issuing offsets on California’s compliance market, and acceptance of international REDD offsets into the program would be an important next step, he said.

Thanks to the many attendees who joined in person and virtually through the webstream, and a special thanks to Hunton & Williams for generously hosting. If you weren’t able to participate or just want to relive the moment, please view the presentation slides and live recording.

In all of the numbers, it’s easy to look past the contributions of each project and the individuals that are making emission reductions happen every day. The Delta Institute provided one example last week with the announcement of the first offset transaction in the Nitrogen Credit Program (NCP). Myron Ortner, owner of a 40-acre farm in Michigan, voluntarily reduced his nitrogen fertilizer usage to become the first recipient of offsets under a methodology developed in partnership with Michigan State University and the Electric Power Research Institute.

Offsets from the program are generated due to the reduction in nitrous oxide caused when excess agricultural fertilizer is broken down in the soil. According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 74 million acres were planted to corn in the North Central Region last year, representing a significant reduction potential for NCP. The program was recognized for outstanding environmental achievements by American Carbon Registry in March 2014 with an Innovation Award.

Many more groundbreaking stories from the voluntary carbon marketplace are summarized below, so keep reading!

Smile, we’re on camera

You may have noticed the new video feature on Ecosystem Marketplace’s homepage, which so far has featured our “Voices from Cologne” series with interviews with some of the movers and shakers at last month’s Carbon Expo. In case you missed it: Ed Hanrahan, CEO of project developer ClimateCare, commented on corporate demand for carbon offsets, the World Bank’s Alex Kossoy discussed the proliferation of regional programs in China and the United States, and Rick Saines, head of North America Climate Change and Environmental Markets Practice at Baker & McKenzie, argued that a global agreement can provide guidance for individual countries, but domestic policy will ultimately drive action on climate change. More to come.

Every year, Ecosystem Marketplace relies wholly on offset market participants to financially support the State of research. In return, sponsors ($7.5k+) and supporters ($3k) benefit from the report’s growing exposure, early insight into our findings, and opportunities to engage directly with Ecosystem Marketplace in report-related outreach and events. Interested organizations should contact Molly Peters-Stanley.

—The Editors

For comments or questions, please email: vcarbonnews@ecosystemmarketplace.com


V-Carbon News

Voluntary Carbon

Score 331,000 for the home team
As fíºtbol fans tune in for the World Cup, host country Brazil’s emissions have also been in the spotlight. The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) will offset 331,000 tCO2e for the World Cup from four projects located in Brazil to cover carbon emissions associated with the travel and accommodation of all staff, officials, teams, volunteers and guests and emissions resulting from venues, stadiums, offices and TV production. The Purus Project, which contributes to the preservation of 36,000 hectares of pristine rain forest from deforestation, is among the projects chosen. Local project developer Mariama Vendramini of Biofí­lica told Ecosystem Marketplace that FIFA’s offsetting commitment represents one of several initiatives that has helped increase domestic interest in forestry offsetsRead the press release
Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace

 

Winds of change
India is one of the top five wind markets in the world with more than 21,000 MW of installed capacity. And as India’s total wind power potential is estimated at about 80 GW, wind energy production in the country has room to grow and then some. These wind projects can sell carbon offsets or renewable energy certificates (RECs), but the markets for both offsets and RECs has been challenging, Dipjay Sanchania of CLP Wind Farms told Ecosystem Marketplace.Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace

 

A method to the blackness?
The Gold Standard is considering the development of a methodology to allow black carbon emission reductions to earn carbon offsets from appliances such as clean cookstoves. This expanded methodology would be incorporated into an existing methodology covering cookstoves. Challenges faced in establishing the methodology include measurement, quantification, and monitoring; establishing an absolute value for the global warming potential of black carbon; and accounting for the regional nature of black carbon impacts. The Gold Standard is seeking comments from stakeholders on its proposal by July 18.Read more here

 

Climate North America

Feelin’ blue
The Forestland Group and Blue Source announced the issuance of 1.7 million forest carbon offsets for California’s cap-and-trade carbon market. The emissions reductions come from 220,000 acres stretching over seven counties in Michigan’s stunning Upper Peninsula, as part of the Blue Source Bishop Improved Forest Management project. It is the largest project issued offsets by California’s program to date. “We are excited to have completed a project of this scale which we believe provides important proof that commercial timberland operators practicing sustainable forestry can participate and thrive within the California market,” said Roger Williams, President of Blue Source. In a positive sign for the market, the development cycle for California-eligible forest carbon projects is shortening, Williams noted.Read more here

 

Time to pull a 360
Democratic state lawmakers and environmentalists from New Jersey say that it is time for the state to act on climate change and rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The lawmakers point out that New Jersey could likely meet the requirements for the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently proposed rule to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants through RGGI. Governor Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of the then 10-state cap-and-trade program in 2011. A state appeals court ruled in March that this move was illegal, but Christie’s administration announced in May it would propose repealing the relevant regulations. The EPA rule is scheduled to be finalized June 2015.Read more here

 

Kyoto & Beyond

A lost cause
International certification firm SGS will no longer audit clean energy projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and will surrender accreditation under the program. The company attempted to move its UK-based auditing business to India earlier this year to cut costs, but said those plans are no longer feasible. “SGS’ decision reflects the continuing contraction in the CDM market and its continuing concerns with the costs and risks associated with the CDM accreditation process,” the company said. The announcement comes after Norway-based DNV GL, which had been the largest CDM auditor, said in February it would cease validation and verification of CDM projects.Read more at Reuters
Read more here

 

Global Policy Update

Hey buddy, can you spare a permit?
Shanghai’s first carbon permit auction is scheduled for June 30, when nearly 200 of the city’s largest emitters will need to have permits to cover their 2013 emissions. A shortage of permits on the market has made it difficult for large firms such as Shanghai Electric Power Corp. to comply, so the Shanghai Development and Reform Commission is putting 580,000 more up for sale in a one-off auction. The price floor for the auction will be announced June 27, but an official note indicated it will be no lower than 46 yuan ($7.41) per tonne. The Commission specified that permits at the auction should be used only for compliance, not trading. Shanghai’s is one of five carbon markets in Chinese cities.Read more here

 

Lucky number 7?
China launched its seventh and final planned pilot carbon market last week in the city of Chongqing along the Yangtze River. The municipal government issued a total of 125 million permits for free to cover the emissions of 242 companies in 2013, though the volume of permits will shrink by 4% per year. At the launch, 16 deals covering 145,000 tonnes were announced, with all permits priced at 30 to 31.5 yuan ($4.83 to $5.07) per tonne. Buyers, however, are not feeling squeezed by the regulation. “No one really needs to buy, and the permits are allocated in accordance with the emissions reported by the company itself so no one will have a shortage,” said one manager, speaking anonymously.Read more here

 

The power of resolve
The Board of the Consumer Goods Forum, a network of CEOs and senior management from about 400 companies representing combined sales of 2.5 trillion euros (US$3.4 trillion), last week called on the world’s government leaders to secure an ambitious and legally-binding climate change deal. The Board issued two climate change resolutions: one to phase out the powerful GHG hydrofluorocarbon from refrigeration installations by 2015 and another to help achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. The statement specifically called for market-based mechanisms, in particular the United Nations (UN) Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism, to achieve emissions reductions.Read more at Digital Journal
Read the resolutions

 

Carbon Finance

Deal or no deal
The UN’s Green Climate Fund decided on its rules for raising and spending funds last month, including a 50-50 split between adaptation and mitigation projects. Commitments are expected in the coming months to capitalize the fund at $10 billion or more, but hurdles remain. The European Union can’t give any money until it gets a seat on the board, and the fund cannot be used for extreme events such as Typhoon Haiyan recovery, which fall under ‘loss and damage’ provisions in the UN negotiations. Seeing finance flow is key to an international climate agreement, according to developing countries. “No money, no fund, no deal in Paris,” said Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, a senior negotiator from the Democratic Republic of Congo.Read more here

 

Island ambition
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono committed $20 million to combat climate change and boost the “green economy” in Pacific Island states. The announcement was made during the Pacific Islands Development Forum in Fiji. Indonesia has a target to cut its emissions 26% by 2020, or up to 41% with international support. REDD+ is a major part of its strategy. Indonesia’s REDD+ boss Heru Prasetyo spoke about his efforts to move massive numbers of hectares of palm oil production to degraded lands to keep forests intact in an exclusive interview with Ecosystem Marketplace published last month.Read more from Australia Network News
Read the interview with Pratseyo

 

Science & Technology

Capturing the lead
Graciela Chichilnisky, one of the masterminds behind the idea of an international carbon market and its inclusion in the UN Kyoto Protocol, is now CEO of Global Thermostat. The company is claiming what almost no one else has: that its carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technology is commercially viable and scalable. Its pilot plant in Menlo Park, California uses inputs of air and heat to remove CO2 from the atmosphere as electricity is produced. The captured CO2 could be quantified and sold as carbon offsets, used to produce materials such as cement and plastic, or fed to algae for ethanol production, among other applications. The technology is patent-pending in more than 100 countries.Read more from Ecopreneurist
Read more about the technology

 

Mission possible
US space research agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) will launch the first CO2 monitoring satellite on July 1, from a California air base. It will orbit 438 miles above the Earth and its grading spectrometer will take daily CO2 measurements. “Data from this mission will help scientists reduce uncertainties in forecasts of how much carbon dioxide will be in the atmosphere and improve the accuracy of global climate change predictions,” said Michael Gunson, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The $465 million satellite mission is named Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, OCO-2 for short.Read more here

Featured Jobs

Air Pollution Specialist – California Air Resources Board
Based in Sacramento, California, the Specialist will evaluate and develop tools for analysis and monitoring of the emissions trading program, incentives, voluntary actions, offsets and other approaches to further the goals of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). An ideal candidate will have demonstrated experience with environmental, energy, or commodities and derivatives markets.Read more here

 

Director of the Biodiversity Programme – Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI)
Based in Paris, France, the Director will be in charge of designing, organizing and implementing a renewed intervention strategy and responsible for managing the biodiversity programme team. A successful candidate will have a PhD in a field related to biodiversity and ecosystem management as well as 10 years of professional experience in research and policy-oriented organizations. Fluency in English and French is required.Read more here

 

Chief of Party – Chemonics
Based in the Dominican Republic, the Chief of Party will provide technical direction and management for a US Agency for International Development (USAID) project addressing investment in climate change adaptation in urban and rural settings, municipal planning, disaster and risk mitigation, and water resource management. An ideal candidate will have prior USAID chief of party experience. Fluency in Spanish and English is required.Read more here

 

Global Programmes Manager – The Gold Standard
Based in the United Kingdom, the Global Programmes Manager will act as the central point for a range of the Foundation’s technical and project delivery activities. The staffer will be responsible for coordinating, managing and providing technical and administrative support for the Gold Standard’s Technical Advisory Committee. A successful candidate will have demonstrated experience in project management, technical experience and a passion for sustainable development, and demonstrated stakeholder management skills.Read more here

 

Program Coordinator – Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Based in New York, New York, the Program Coordinator will provide administrative, project management and program coordination support across all program areas. An ideal candidate will have three or more years of experience as a program coordinator in GHG mitigation programs, energy regulation, energy policy, electricity markets or similar subject areas.Read more here

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.

 


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Voluntary Carbon Market Stalls, But Buyers See Silver Lining

Carbon market participants mulled findings from the State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2014 report at a presentation in Washington DC. Although overall volume declined as certain offset projects transitioned into regulated markets, the participants were buoyed by the momentum in favor of projects that have strong benefits beyond just emission reductions.

26 June 2014 | WASHINGTON DC | As Chief Sustainability Officer at the National Geographic Society, Hans Wegner uses voluntary carbon markets to offset those emissions the Society cannot eliminate. From his perspective, an oversupply of offsets in 2013 made it possible to choose only the very best offsets – meaning those that not only reduce emissions, but have knock-on “co-benefits” such as conserving habitat for endangered species.

“The good thing for people like us is that competition is also causing the value and the quality of the offsets to go up,” he said on Tuesday, as Ecosystem Marketplace presented findings from its State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2014 report at the offices of Hunton & Williams in Washington, DC. “For me, it’s really, really important – because credibility is so important to us as an organization – that we have everything verified, that we’ve purchased offsets of high value that are accounted for.

Now in its eighth year, the report tracks trends in voluntary carbon offsetting and serves as a bellwether for how and why corporations and governments are using market-based mechanisms to address climate change. In 2013, for the first time, pursuit of a climate-driven mission was the second most common buyer motivation, after resale.

“We theorize that this is because the climate surpassed some pretty dangerous thresholds last year,” said Ecosystem Marketplace Director Molly Peters-Stanley. “Based on interviews we’d had with offset suppliers, they say that the companies in the marketplace are more comfortable talking about the real risks that they face from climate change.”

Presentation slides with new data available here.

For buyers such as the National Geographic Society, which use carbon offsetting in conjunction with various efforts to reduce fossil fuel, water, and materials use – and as a way to invest in critical landscapes around the world – market dynamics are such that they are getting many more calls from offset suppliers with impressive projects. Since National Geographic has direct control over only 4% of its emissions, the Society is purchasing offsets on behalf of its paper and other suppliers to neutralize its ‘scope 3’ or supply chain emissions. It also sees this as a way to spread the concept of offsetting beyond its doors.

Tonnes in Transition

In a year in which offset supply outstripped demand, suppliers able to demonstrate multiple benefits of their projects in addition to emissions reduction sometimes fared better. Offsets sourced from forestry and land use projects for the first time surpassed renewable energy as the most popular project type, with $126 million flowing to projects that address the drivers of deforestation, plant new forests or improve the management of existing ones. Many of these projects deliver benefits beyond emissions reductions such as protecting biodiversity hot spots, ensuring water quality and employing local people.

“There are good opportunities for those that add value and bring some new ideas to the market,” said Christian Dannecker, Director of Forestry at South Pole Group. “There is growth, but it’s much more diversified into different products and different transaction types than before, it won’t be only VERs (verified emissions reductions).”

The average price for offsets fell to just below the $5 mark in 2013, a dollar down from 2012, according to the State of report. Dannecker noted that the lower prices may have opened up opportunities to new market participants in emerging economies, such as the Colombian buyers they work with. For popular project types such as Verified Carbon Standard REDD and Gold Standard cookstoves and water filters, earlier stage projects fetched higher prices than those already issuing offsets – an important shift from previous years, when early-stage projects were viewed as risky rather than unique.

Compliance Markets Step in…

Buyers spent $379 million on 76 million tonnes worth of carbon offsets in 2013 – equivalent to taking 16 million cars off the road. This represents a sizeable drop in demand from the 101 million tonnes of offsets transacted in 2012, though as Peters-Stanley explained, a few factors are at play behind the scenes.

A look at voluntary offsetting over the years shows that pre-compliance transactions, or those that occur in anticipation of regulation, have played a significant role in past years, especially as buyers geared up for California’s cap-and-trade law and Australia’s carbon pricing mechanism. Pre-compliance activity in both of these markets was minimal in 2013, but for different reasons: In California, the compliance market has taken off, slurping up voluntary activity, whereas Australia’s carbon tax has floundered under political pressure. Also, offsets from Chicago Climate Exchange’s (CCX) legacy registry were traded on only one day in 2013, with small transactions volumes. The CCX was a voluntary but binding market, driven by commitments that were mostly made in pre-2010 anticipation of nationwide cap-and-trade in the U.S.

“The total drop that we saw in the marketplace last year is not necessarily related to a decrease in purely voluntary demand for offsets,” Peters-Stanley explained. “If we were to attribute a proportion to the actual purely voluntary activity in the marketplace that fell, it would be about 5%, versus the 26% that we have to report as the headline numbers. So it’s important to keep the more technical aspects of our findings in mind.”

…But Also Expand the Pie

The report findings also indicate that compliance markets can actually help to ‘expand the pie’ of demand for the voluntary market. European buyers were again the largest source of voluntary offset demand in 2013 despite the fact that the European Union (EU ETS) already caps the emissions of 11,000 companies. This may be because of what could be called ‘awareness-driven offsetting’: as reducing emissions through carbon investments is normalized under compliance, companies become familiar with the marketplace and also use offsetting as part of their sustainability efforts.

Though the EU ETS, the world’s largest compliance carbon market, excludes offsets from forestry, California’s new cap-and-trade market has welcomed them. The Yurok tribe issued the first compliance offsets under the Californian program in April from an improved forest management project on tribal lands.

“It’s very encouraging to see forest carbon offsets not only accepted in California, but also issued and retired,” said McFarland, who hopes that California’s Air Resources Board – the regulatory body charged with overseeing the cap-and-trade program – will move forward with an announcement to accept REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests) offsets from Acre, Brazil and Chiapas, Mexico into the compliance program.


A live recording of the presentation is available
here.
Additional resources

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

 

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


EM Exclusives

Peruvian Congress passes historic ecosystem services law

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace.

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

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


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

Keep reading.


Mitigation News

 

 

EM Exclusives

Peruvian Congress passes historic ecosystem services law

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace.

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

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


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

Keep reading.


Mitigation News

Queensland trims the fat with new offset law

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

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

Is private money the missing link for coastal restoration?

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


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

Read more at the New Orleans Advocate.

European Commission seeks input on a No Net Loss initiative

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

Read a press release.
View the consultation.

Natural capital accounting receives high marks on progress report

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

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

The Philippines assess natural capital with help from WAVES

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

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

Business World Online has coverage.

A case for habitat banking in Colombia

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


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

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

Ignoring natural capital risk means big losses for business

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


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

Read more at Bloomberg.

Oregon ranchers seek ways to conserve Greater Sage-Grouse habitat

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


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

Outdoor Life has the story.

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

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

Keep reading at BBC News.

New book makes the case for PES

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

Read all about it at the Forbes blog.

A guide to building blue carbon projects

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

Download the report (pdf).

The roundup

Finally – a few brief items from around the web:

 

EVENTS

 

Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration

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

Learn more here.

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

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

Learn more here.

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

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

Additional resources

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

 

ClimateCare’s Hanrahan: We Need to be Creative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional resources

The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: Interlinked Solutions For Interlinked Challenges

 

11 June 2014 | India is one of the world’s biggest users of groundwater, but the aquifers that store much of its freshwater are overused, slow to replenish and rapidly depleting. That’s because the country’s rapidly-expanding middle class has boosted its farms, which are stretching its water resources beyond capacity. The same thing is happening in energy, which uses water for cooling thermal power plants. If India doesn’t address its water challenges, it won’t be able to support its growth in both the food and energy sector – and thus its evolution as a nation.

And the country is far from alone. In China, where water distribution is woefully imbalanced, the dry desert-like north contains most of the croplands but only 16% of the freshwater. Natural resources are constrained throughout the nation, and the extraction activities that do take place have a big impact on groundwater and other water sources by significantly depleting them. Energy development often competes with the agriculture sector for water use.

Likewise in the United States, large-scale agriculture projects in California earn billions of dollars but also require enormous amounts of water – which, in a place like California, is in short supply. And demands for energy development factor in here, too – with different forms of energy extraction underway across the state, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking) – the natural gas extraction practice that pumps millions of gallons of water, sand and other chemicals into the ground to bust open shale formations to access the energy source inside.

Each of these regions – and, indeed, every part of the world – are caught in the “water-energy-food-nexus”. And because the challenges are becoming increasingly interdependent, integrated solutions that involve cross sector collaboration must be adopted. The concept is complex, but at its core, the nexus focuses on natural resource scarcity and management.

Understanding the Nexus

Ultimately, “nexus thinking” means implementing integrated solutions at an ecosystem or landscape level that enhance security and sustainability in all three sectors.

The food sector part of the nexus is perhaps the simplest to comprehend. Water and energy are both needed to produce food, and agriculture consumes 80% of water resources. As populations and prosperity increase in places like India and China, people will demand more meat, which means a greater demand for corn and soybeans to feed animals. Some argue we’ll see a self-correction as the system implodes, taking with it populations and prosperity, but that’s not a solution – it’s a tragedy.

The interdependence between water and energy is more complex, and we might as well start in California.

The state uses 20% of its electricity to pump, treat and deliver water via the world’s largest public power development and water delivery system, The California State Water Project, which supplies 23 million people in California’s water scarce but populous southern region with drinking water. This involves miles of pipelines, tunnels and canals and includes carrying water 2,000 feet over the Tehachapi Mountains. It’s the largest single user of energy in the state.

Then you have the fact that water is required in basically all forms of energy, and often energy development takes place in areas where water is scarce. Staying in California, we see this in Kern County, where much of the state’s agriculture growth is taking place also. The county has always been a big energy developer containing some of the top producing oil fields in the United States. Now fracking is is in the mix, too, and it consumes roughly 164,000 gallons of water per fracking well. This is common throughout the US. According to a Ceres report, nearly half of all fracking activities happen in water-stressed regions.

But coal is even worse. In a year, a typical coal plant can withdraw up to 180 billion gallons of water and consume up to 4 billion gallons. A 2013 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) projected that water withdrawals would decrease by 80% and consumption by 40% if natural gas supplies 60% of the US’ power. This would hardly solve global water and energy challenges, however, because natural gas extraction is still water-intensive and happening in water stressed regions.

Implications of the Nexus

These events unfolding around the world carry implications for the business-as-usual practices of global companies. And similar to how India’s usage of its groundwater is unsustainable, the current practices of most companies aren’t sustainable either. The changing dynamics of water, energy and food affect business operations thoroughly. A change in price or availability, for example, in one of these commodities impacts a business from its factory floor to its corporate offices.

A recent study found that 60% of the companies surveyed indicated water would negatively affect profitability and growth within the next five years. 80% of respondents said the resource will affect where companies’ locate facilities.

The drought that took hold of Texas in 2011 directly contributed to shuttered operations – like a meat processing plant in Plainview – and job loss. It also prevented growth of the power sector despite significant demand for it in the state. There wasn’t enough water available to ensure steady production of electricity. This instability in the energy sector prevented major businesses from locating there.

The water shortages that businesses in Texas struggle with are just one challenge companies face regarding the nexus. Businesses often share water sources with other actors outside of the sector like farmers and local residents. And with multiple users often drawing from the same water source, what one does impacts the other. Fertilizers from farming activities that pollute a watershed can render it unusable for other actions. Realizing that natural resources are shared can encourage competing demands to address the matter holistically at a landscape level.

A landscape approach to the nexus also carries social implications for the local populations and perhaps beyond. Because ecologically friendly farming practices, for example, that preserve a source of clean water for all users also provides sustainable livelihoods for local populations.

This potential sustainability is another aspect of the nexus. Nexus thinking can provide stability and promote political and economic security for societies while poor resource management can generate quite the opposite. Disagreements over water management in water-scarce regions like the Middle East has led to conflicts between neighbors. In North Africa, for instance, Ethiopia is aiming for energy self-sufficiency with construction of the continent’s largest hydroelectric dam on the Nile River. But the river is essentially a source of life for Egyptians-83 million people rely on it for almost all of their water needs. Egyptian officials claim the nation will lose 20-30% of its Nile water and nearly a third of power generated from its own hydroelectric dam. Ethiopia hopes to finish the project by 2017 but in the meantime, relations between the two nations have soured. Egypt even threatens military action if construction of the dam isn’t stopped.

This situation isn’t new. Still within the Middle East, Iraq lost its once ample supply of freshwater flowing from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to Turkey when it constructed dams upstream.

The Middle East isn’t the only region trying to grow its energy capacity. Other emerging economies in Africa and Asia are doing the same. Demand for energy is expected to rise 70% by 2035, according to a UN report on world water and energy. And while bringing electricity to the 1.3 billion people who lack it is a positive, the report says, the water required in the process isn’t valued economically so its limitations are ignored. Sources are stressed and depleted. The report also predicts an increase in water resource-related conflicts unless integrated-or at least more innovative-approaches are adopted.

Nature and the Nexus

With the political, social and economic implications of the water-energy-food nexus, it’s easy to overlook the nexus’ natural component. The nexus is part of nature. Each sector requires healthy ecosystems in order to function sustainably. Ecosystem services that purify water and mitigate scarcity ease the severity of droughts and floods and make food and energy production more reliable. Incorporating nature into the nexus means integrating natural infrastructure like mangroves and coral reefs, which protect coastal regions from hurricanes, into nexus management. Other examples of natural infrastructure that would benefit water, energy and food security include wetlands and floodplains that lower flood peaks and forests that filter and store water.

A report by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature encourages the integration of nature into infrastructure investment creating a mixed portfolio of both natural and grey infrastructure that complements each other. The report notes a combined system of green and grey solutions would deliver the best results in terms of cost-effectiveness, risk and sustainable development.

To demonstrate how well natural infrastructure can work, there is the now famous example of New York City conserving the forests and wetlands of Catskill watersheds in order to maintain water quality and ensure a clean drinking water supply for NYC residents.

Likewise, ignoring natural infrastructure and relying completely on engineered systems often results in unhealthy ecosystems with a low productivity rate of ecosystem services. Dams built in Nigeria’s Komadugu Yobe Basin affected the flow of water downstream reducing the flooding season farmers relied on to water their crops. Invasive weeds flourished choking waterways and ruining pastoral and agricultural lands and fisheries. The dams were built to store water for agriculture and drinking purposes but investment in the project didn’t materialize leaving ecosystems degraded and a population vulnerable to food insecurity.

Solutions to Nexus Challenges

Integrating natural infrastructure into management of the nexus is one solution that can have a big impact on the sustainability of all three sectors.

Answers to the nexus challenge rely on efficiency and cross-sector collaboration at a landscape-level. Solutions using a framework that encompasses these elements are being considered and implemented throughout the world.

In terms of efficiency, there have been solid attempts in all three sectors to increase its levels. Referring again to the UCS report on US power production, the study highlights the importance of transitioning development toward more efficient water-smart techniques. If the US were to follow a trajectory of water-smart power development, water withdrawals would decline by 97% by 2050 and consumption would be reduced by 85%-not to mention power sector carbon emissions would drop 90% below current levels. The technology and resources are available for this transition to happen.

These water-smart techniques the UCS is supporting include renewable energy. India, struggling with its overworked power grid, is also exploring renewables as one way to relieve some of the strain and increase efficiency. The government is looking to swap groundwater pumps powered by diesel fuel and the outdated power system with solar water pumps. Farmers receive subsidies to buy the solar pumps and in exchange agree to practice water-saving drip irrigation.

Not only does the initiative in India mean less water used for energy, it could also mean less water for producing food. Efficiency in producing food is a necessary component of nexus solutions. Reducing waste and growing more food on already cultivated land are two of the steps National Geographic lays out for feeding Earth’s rising population. An entire step focuses on efficient resource use highlighting techniques like cover crops, mulching and composting, that build up nutrients in the soil and conserve water. Innovative technology grows in the food sector as well. Computerized tractors with GPS allow farmers to better target the application of fertilizers and pesticides minimizing runoff into nearby waterways.

The private sector is also heavily involved in the spread of efficient and innovative solutions. The rising interest in natural capital among businesses is helping to guide nexus thinking along as more companies become aware of their dependence and risks regarding the natural world and begin to take action. Big companies like AT&T and Hershey are making changes-upgrading outdated cooling systems and investing in conservation technology.

There is a gradual increase in companies addressing the nexus and managing their water risk. A recent report found that one in four watershed investment projects counted a business as a financial supporter. Companies are in partnerships with NGOs and governments over watershed protection and restoration activities, which address challenges on a large scale.

But further collaboration on this large scale level is needed in order to truly address and change the way society addresses its water use and energy and food production. And while change is often slow to happen, initial steps of understanding the water-energy-food nexus and coming to terms with the world’s reliance on it can happen immediately.

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

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

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

Sessions held at the Huxley Auditorium will be live streaming here

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

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

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

Additional resources

This Week In V-Carbon News…

This article was originally published in the V-Carbon newsletter. Click here to read the original.

 

28 May 2014 | Voluntary buyers were driven to purchase carbon offsets for many reasons in 2013, but at the top of the list was a desire to combat climate change. Corporate social responsibility and leadership also remained prominent motivations, according to early findings from Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2014 report, the executive summary of which was unveiled today at Carbon Expo in Cologne, Germany. This year’s launch event is sponsored by ClimateCare, EcoAct and Santiago Climate Exchange.

State of the Voluntary Market 2014 sponsors

Voluntary demand for carbon offsetting declined 26% in 2013, with buyers transacting 76 million tonnes (MtCO2e) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the annual report. At first blush that may seem like a steep drop, but it reflects in part the fact that carbon offsets previously captured in Ecosystem Marketplace’s voluntary survey under the pre-compliance category are no longer featured in the data. With California launching its cap-and-trade program in January 2013, millions of tonnes generated by forestry, livestock and US ozone-depleting substances projects migrated into the compliance market. In addition, enthusiasm for pre-compliance activity in Australia dwindled last year amid the new federal government’s aggressive efforts to repeal the country’s carbon tax. Overall, pre-compliance declined to an all-time low on the list of primary motivations for voluntary offset buying.

That’s not to say the voluntary market is not facing many challenges. Buyers paid a total of $379 million for carbon offsets last year, a 29% decline compared to the previous year, with a sizeable decline in the average price to $4.9 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), amid an overall drop in demand.

The affection that voluntary buyers have for forest carbon projects continues to grow, in large part because of the very attractive co-benefits of these projects. The Ecosystem Marketplace report shows REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation or Degradation of forests) and avoided conversion projects firmly in the lead, with a 38% share of the voluntary carbon market, displacing perennial chart-topper renewable energy. But REDD prices did suffer amid an oversupply in the market, the lack of a firm signal of acceptance from a compliance market and competition from other, less expensive project types. The average price for REDD/avoided conversion offsets dropped 44% to $4.2 tCO2e, a price decline that would have been even sharper had it not been for a major transaction of about 8 MtCO2e between the Brazilian state of Acre and the German government that featured emission reductions priced at $5/tCO2e.

Ecosystem Marketplace will continue to publish a series of interviews with key participants in the voluntary carbon markets conducted as part of the research for this year’s State of report. We’ve already highlighted how Chevrolet is driving in the voluntary carbon market’s fast lane, why CarbonFund.org is hoping California’s carbon program steps up to the plate to accept REDD offsets, how the BioCarbon Group is investing in projects for both the voluntary and compliance markets and how Environmental Credit Corp is developing a new charismatic project type that could be added to California’s program in the future.

Save the date for Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2014 full report launch event on June 24 in Washington, DC from 4:30 – 6:00 PM EDT. Look for more information including registration and webinar details soon.

These and other stories from the voluntary carbon marketplace are summarized below, so keep reading!

Every year, Ecosystem Marketplace relies wholly on offset market participants to financially support the State of research. In return, sponsors ($7.5k+) and supporters ($3k) benefit from the report’s growing exposure, early insight into our findings, and opportunities to engage directly with Ecosystem Marketplace in report-related outreach and events. Interested organizations should contact Molly Peters-Stanley.mpeters-stanley@ecosystemmarketplace.com

—The Editors
For comments or questions, please email: ggonzalez@ecosystemmarketplace.com.


V-Carbon News

Voluntary Carbon

More benefits for your buck
The Gold Standard has always touted the social and environmental “co-benefits” of its certified carbon mitigation projects, which are key to obtaining above-average offset pricing. Its new report, The Real Value of Robust Climate Action: Impact Investment Far Greater than Previously Understood, claims to have the number to back up those assertions. The study, published by NetBalance and commissioned by the Gold Standard, examined 109 projects certified to the standard – and found that their co-benefits contributed an estimated $686 million in additional annual value tied to their environmental, economic and social initiatives. The Gold Standard hopes this study will strengthen the value proposition for voluntary offset buyers while influencing policy discussions at the global scale.Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace

 

Riding the climate risk roller-coaster
A new report by CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, reveals that US corporations consider climate change risks to be more urgent and physically immediate than they did just a few years ago. Of the physical climate risks that 62 participating companies disclosed in 2013, 45% are currently being felt or expected to be felt in the next one to five years, up from 26% in 2011. Many companies that disclosed information about climate risks voluntarily purchase carbon offsets, use internal carbon pricing – or both.Read more here

 

Be our guest
Hotel Verde in Cape Town, South Africa recently announced a partnership with impactChoice to neutralize carbon emissions by purchasing carbon offsets from the Sofala Community Carbon Project in Mozambique. The Plan Vivo REDD project, which has now been running for seven years, covers 11,744 hectares in Gorongosa National Park and is estimated to avoid the emission of 1 MtCO2e per year (342,423 Plan Vivo certificates have been issued so far). “We have committed to offsetting each guest’s stay or conference with us at no additional cost to the guest, taking straight from our bottom line,” said Mario Delicio, the hotel owner.Read more at Independent Online

 

All about the bennies
Emissions reductions are great, but reductions with added environmental, social and economic benefits are better. The Verified Carbon Standard, a leading voluntary offset standard, and SOCIALCARBON, a certification standard for contributions to sustainable development, have partnered to make going the extra mile easier. The two organizations have released new templates that will allow developers and auditors to validate or verify projects simultaneously to both standards, while only having to complete one set of documents. The resulting offset is a Verified Carbon Unit with a SOCIALCARBON tag. Other standards have demonstrated that offsets that can demonstrate additional co-benefits garner a price premium in the market.Read more here

 

A climate by any other name
TerraPass has sold its retail business to JustGreen, an initiative of Just Energy Group, and will take on a new name, Origin Climate. Origin Climate will continue the ongoing work of TerraPass in carbon offset verification, wholesale and energy consulting services. Erin Craig, CEO of TerraPass, said: “This transaction is a big step forward for us, for our customers, and for the environment. Just Energy’s scale and expertise in serving the retail market means greater support for our retail customers, while allowing us to focus on more tailored carbon offset and renewable energy solutions for our large commercial and industrial clients.” Origin Climate expects to originate more than 1 MtCO2e of new carbon offsets over the next two years.Read more here

 

Climate North America

Going, going, sold
On May 16, the California Air Resources Board conducted its seventh auction, selling all of the 16.95 million vintage 2014 allowances at a clearing price of $11.50/tCO2e. Also on auction were 9.26 million allowances which can be used in 2017, known as “advance” allowances. The state sold 4.04 million of those future allowances at the floor price of $11.34/tCO2e each. California has linked its emissions trading system with the Canadian province of Quebec, which will be holding its next auction on May 27.Read more from Bloomberg
Read full auction results from ARB

 

Fitting the carbon tax for cement shoes
The Cement Association of Canada (CAC) is again calling on the British Columbia (BC) government to change how its carbon tax is applied to the cement sector. Since the carbon tax began in 2008, BC producers have lost nearly a third of the market share to imports from the US and Asia not subject to a price on carbon. The disparity exposes the cement industry to unfair competition, according to CAC. “The cement industry wants to be part of the solution to climate change through equitable application of the carbon tax,” said Michael McSweeney, CAC’s president and CEO.Read more here

 

Clean bill of health
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has once again passed its annual checkup. Independent market monitor Potomac Economics released RGGI’s 2013 annual report showing no evidence of anti-competitive conduct. RGGI is a regional cap-and-trade program for electric power generators in nine northeastern US states. According to the report, the average auction clearing price was $2.92/tCO2e in 2013, a 51% increase from the $1.93/tCO2e average in 2012, after RGGI officials announced a major overhaul of the program. The most recent auction held on March 5 had a clearing price of $4.00/tCO2e. Carbon emissions in the region were down for a third straight year, to 86 million short tons in 2013 from 92 million tons in 2012.Read more here

 

75 million people can’t be wrong
“More than a quarter of the US population lives in a state with a price on carbon,” said Janet Peace from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). Two weeks ahead of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s anticipated release of emission rules for existing power plants, C2ES has published a report looking at another option for addressing GHG emissions. Its report, “A Carbon Tax in Broader U.S. Fiscal Reform: Design and Distributional Issues”, gives an overview of the implementation potential of a carbon tax and looks closely at how to design the policy equitably for all households.Read more here

 

Kyoto & Beyond

Plugging the loophole
A new budget bill has closed a loophole in New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) that allowed foresters who planted their trees after 1989 to earn New Zealand Units (NZU) from the government, sell them to emitters, and then buy cheaper international Emissions Reduction Units (ERU) to give back to the government. NZUs are currently worth 23 times ERUs, and foresters were able to earn several hundred million dollars through trading – with zero benefit to the climate. The budget bill came as a surprise to the Forest Owners Association, which said foresters who have bought ERUs in the last year will now be selling them at a loss.Read more here

 

The back-up plan
Jos Delbeke, Director General for Climate Action of the European Commission, said the commission is open to early consideration of a proposal to reduce the oversupply of permits in the European Union Emissions Trading System. The commission in January proposed a “market supply reserve” that would start in 2021 to address the oversupply of allowances blamed for low permit prices. This is a follow-up to the March program to temporarily withdraw or “backload” 900 million allowances between 2014 and 2016, including 400 million this year. The allowances would be reintroduced to the market at the end of the decade. “We are confident backloading will work, but it was always only a short-term fix,” he said.Read more here

 

Liquidation sales
Eco-Synergies Ltd, a wholesaler of voluntary carbon offsets, was at the center of an investigation by the United Kingdom’s Insolvency Service of 13 firms improperly selling voluntary offsets. Those firms, which have now been liquidated by the UK High Court, misleadingly sold voluntary offsets to individuals as investment instruments that would gain value. The Insolvency Service said Eco-Synergies had sourced credits for a total of 2.3 million pounds, or at an average of 65 pence each, and then sold them to investors via ostensibly unrelated companies at a mark-up of as much as 869%.Read more here

 

Global Policy Update

A promise is a promise
In 2009, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono committed Indonesia to cut GHG emissions by 26% on its own by 2020, and by 41% with sufficient international help. The announcement gained Indonesia international attention and investment through REDD project financing. But Yudhoyono will step down after elections are held on July 9. According to Deni Bram, an environmental law expert at Jakarta’s Tarumanegara University, the next president will have to live up to those promises at the risk of losing face with the international community. In an exclusive interview with Ecosystem Marketplace, Heru Prasetyo, head of Indonesia’s REDD agency, outlined the country’s national REDD+ strategy.Read more from the Forst Carbon Portal
Read more at Reuters

 

A little help from friends
The European Union (EU) has announced a three-year carbon market cooperation project with China to provide 5 million Euros in financial and regulatory assistance. The partnership will help China expand its current pilot programs and establish a national emissions trading system. The EU will also provide access to policy makers to help China develop medium to long-term programs for implementing emissions trading systems. The European experts will help China in critical areas such as establishment of emission caps, allowance distribution, monitoring, verification and reporting protocols.Read more here

 

Carbon Finance

Africa needs money to adapt
Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, said millions of people in Africa are at risk if soil erosion and deforestation problems aren’t prioritized. She called on the board members of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to focus not just on those countries with the greatest GHG emissions reduction potential, but to also address adaptation measures in other countries that won’t benefit from mitigation financing. At its March meeting, the GCF board promised that at least 50% of all its finance flows would go towards adaptation in vulnerable regions.Read more here

 

Investing in the Earth
Representatives from Coady Diemar Partners, Equilibrium Capital, The Lyme Timber Company, Credit Suisse and others are exploring ways to scale up investments in ecosystem services that provide benefits such as clean water, clean air and carbon storage. Wetlands mitigation is fully investable, but the participants have yet to find other models. However, Peter Stein of Lyme Timber said: “We’re on the cusp of having the attention of institutional investors and that’s good news.”Read more here

 

Science & Technology

It’s hump day in Australia
The Australian government has withdrawn support for a camel culling carbon offset proposal under its Carbon Farming Initiative offset program. Recent amendments to the Carbon Credits Act say that “the federal government no longer believes that removing feral animals for an emissions reduction purpose is viable or important to Australia’s international commitments.” Camels in Australia are feral and have contributed to significant environmental degradation and are a source of methane, a powerful GHG. The Australian government has sponsored a $19 million camel cull between 2009 and 2012. Without further sources of funding for culls, some believe that the camel population will explode.Read more here

Featured Jobs

Programme Coordinator – WWF
Based in South Africa, the programme coordinator will support the work of the Fynbos Succulent Land Programme. The position will support and mobilize civil society participation in conservation. Qualified candidates will have a minimum four years experience in protected area management, environmental or biodiversity management, or biophysical research sectors. Ideal candidates will be familiar with South Africa’s Protected Areas Network and Stewardship Programmes. Fluency in at least two South African languages as well as South African citizenship or resident status is required.Read more here

 

Verification Program Assistant – The Climate Registry
Preferably based in Los Angeles or New York City, the program assistant will support The Registry’s verification and accreditation programs. The position involves maintain relationships with verification bodies, performing quality assurance checks on verified emissions inventories and developing or maintaining The Registry’s verification documentation.The ideal candidate will have two years of professional experience and interest in climate change, corporate environmental management, or air quality issues.Read more here

 

Director of Finance – EcoZoom
Based in Portland, Oregon or Nairobi, Kenya, the Director of Finance will drive the global growth of EcoZoom’s suite of clean cookstoves products for developing countries. The position involves working with senior management to develop a strategy for bilateral aid mechanisms such as carbon finance and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions. The ideal candidate will have at least seven years work experience in finance, with a minimum of five years at a multinational company, preferably with offices in Africa.Read more here

 

Forestry Senior Program Associate – American Carbon Registry
Based in Sacramento, California (preferred) or Washington, DC, the Senior Program Associate will provide support on all aspects of registry management, support business development and outreach activities, and help to coordinate the development and/or approval of new quantification methodologies. A master’s degree in forestry and three to six years of experience working with forest projects in the carbon market or related fields is required. Candidates who have completed California Air Resources Board training and passed the exam in the US Forests Compliance Offset Protocol are preferred.Read more here

 

APX – Renewable Energy and Carbon Markets Intern
Based in Washington, DC, the Renewable Energy and Carbon Markets Intern will kick-start an analytics and research program through APX Environmental. The internship will emphasize learning and preparation for a potential future career in the field. Candidates must have a passion for research and analysis, strong communication skills, and enthusiasm about working in a start-up environment. Proficiency in Spanish is a plus.Read more here

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.

 


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Corporate Buyers Stick with Voluntary Carbon Offsetting in Transitional Year

It was a topsy-turvy year in voluntary carbon, with some volume migrating to California’s cap-and-trade market and new government entities coming in on the buy side. Through it all, most corporate buyers who used offsets in the past continued to do so, but newcomers were hard to find. Here’s a preview of our latest “State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets” report.

28 May 2014 | COLOGNE | GERMANY | In a bid to reduce their contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, corporate leaders like Chevrolet, Marks & Spencer, and Allianz continued to voluntarily purchase carbon offsets in 2013, locking 76 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, according to the annual State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets report, previewed by Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace this week in Cologne, Germany.

These and other diverse actors paid $379 million for carbon offsets to neutralize emissions that they couldn’t directly reduce. This value supports hundreds of environmental projects, particularly those that reduce or avoid deforestation (“REDD”), install wind energy, or distribute cleaner-burning cookstoves in the developing world.

Roughly 90% of 2013 purchases came from “repeat customers” – a testament to many companies’ ongoing loyalty to their offsetting commitments, but also a stark reminder of the challenge the market faces in attracting new voluntary offset buyers. Overall, global demand fell short of 2012 levels by 26.7 million tonnes and $144 million, and saw the average per-tonne price drop 16% to $4.9.

Millions of these “lost” tonnes were probably still transacted – but not voluntarily. When the US state of California’s cap-and-trade program came into force in 2013, many buyers that had voluntarily purchased offsets in prior years (averaging 10 million tonnes/year) to prepare for the law last year began obtaining the same offsets – which had their origins in the voluntary market – to comply with the law. Ecosystem Marketplace’s report series does not track carbon offsets purchased for direct compliance, only for “pre- compliance” preparations. Compared to around 15 million tonnes of carbon offsets purchased for pre- compliance in 2012, 2013’s offset suppliers reported just 300,000 tonnes of such demand.

“The absence of these North American transactions from our report is a win, not a loss, for the voluntary offset markets,” said Ecosystem Marketplace Director Molly Peters-Stanley. “It validates those who backed what were originally voluntary instruments that are finally seeing demand from California’s compliance market, and indicates to governments with similar policies in development that the voluntary market can drive early action, inform policy, and successfully transition to meet compliance needs.”

Dampened pre-compliance demand was driven not only by California’s market launch, but also from the disintegration of Australia’s pre-compliance market as the country failed to sustain its offset-inclusive carbon tax. Offset sales in the United States also ceased to reflect any expectation of a national carbon market, which had once driven significant activity on the now-shuttered Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). Activity under the CCX legacy program constituted 8.3 million tonnes transacted in 2012 that did not see a repeat in 2013.

This means companies that purchased offsets last year did so because they wanted to – not because they had to. Europe-based organizations were the market’s biggest “purely voluntary” buyers once again, purchasing 28 million tonnes of carbon offsets last year. This represented a 36% decline from 2012, for which the region’s offset suppliers blame slow economic recovery, pessimism regarding the state of the region’s regulatory carbon market, and competition with trendier approaches to business and supply chain sustainability. Even so, European buyers grabbed up the largest proportion of offsets that enable sustainable development.

Forestry again found the spotlight, with REDD projects transacting 22.6 million tonnes – a record for forest conservation projects and up from 8.6 million tonnes in 2012. This volume was boosted by an historic agreement between German development bank KfW (Kreditanstalt fí¼r Wiederaufbau) through Germany’s REDD+ Early Movers Programme and the Brazilian state of Acre. Last year Acre agreed to retire at least 8 million tonnes of carbon credits earned by protecting its forests over four years. Acre will also match KfW’s offset retirement on a one-to-one basis as its “own contribution” – effectively doubling the agreement’s impact.

“The work being done in Acre, alongside 2013’s historic transaction between Brazil’s indigenous Paiter Suruí­ people and Natura Cosmeticos [a Brazilian company], indicate that emerging economies in Latin America and elsewhere are willing and able to protect their forests’ future,” said Forest Trends founding president and CEO Michael Jenkins. “It will be interesting to see if and how these same governments will recognize early leaders in the voluntary offset market as countries commit to new climate goals in coming months.”

Last year’s giant leap in demand for REDD offsets came at a lower price, falling 44% to $4.2/tonne from $7.4/tonne. This volume-weighted average price was heavily influenced by fewer than five project developers that transacted 28% of all REDD offsets at less than $3/tonne. The remaining forty REDD transactions reported through the survey were priced at between $3/tonne and $20/tonne.

In other developments, projects in Africa experienced a record year, supplying over 11 million tonnes of transacted offsets. A large proportion of these offsets was also from forestry. Clean cookstove distribution projects, which saw sizable demand from voluntary buyers in 2012, saw both transacted volumes and prices reported by the sector decline by 26% and 18%, respectively, transacting 4.3 million tonnes at an average price of $9.2/tonne.

The report’s executive summary is available here. The full report will be made freely available at the same link in late June.

Additional resources

This Week In V-Carbon: Countdown to Carbon Expo in Cologne

This article was originally published in the V-Carbon newsletter. Click here to read the original.

 

19 May 2014 | State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2014 Report Launch! Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace invites you join us for an event exploring findings from our 2014 State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets survey. This year’s launch event at Carbon Expo in Cologne, Germany is sponsored by ClimateCare, EcoAct, and Santiago Climate Exchange.


Join us to find the answers to questions like, “At what stage in the project cycle are most offsets sold, and at what price? How does voluntary offsetting fit into corporations supply chain sustainability? How did voluntary and compliance offset markets relate in 2014?” Our latest report builds on data collected from a global pool of offset suppliers worldwide to provide insights that will once again become an industry benchmark.

Taking place at Carbon Expo 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 13:00-13:45

Plenary Room

With panelists representing: Ecosystem Marketplace, BioCarbon Group, ClimateCare, EcoAct, and International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance (ICROA).


Introduction


Russia has been in the news a lot lately, but a signal from Moscow in early April caught the attention of the carbon markets. The Russian government has approved a number of measures aimed at helping the country meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 15% to 25% percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

The measures to be established include monitoring, reporting and verification procedures, inventory guidelines for GHG emissions among sectors, and an assessment of the reduction potential for each sector. The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade will be responsible for evaluating current emission reduction efforts and proposing new efforts for mitigation and funding for low-carbon development. A compliance or voluntary carbon pricing system is a possible outcome, according to Germany-based GFA Consulting Group. An unofficial translation of the decree is available on GFA’s website.

If Russia allows voluntary offsetting, it would become the latest country or subnational jurisdiction to tap into the expertise of the voluntary carbon markets. South Africa’s recently released policy paper carves out a strong role for offsets – and pitches a plan to include standards first developed for the voluntary carbon markets. If all regulated sectors choose to purchase offsets, the tax could generate demand for up to 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) reductions from energy efficiency, forestry and other offset projects located in South Africa.

“It’s really nice to be able to use something that’s already built,” said David Antonioli, Chief Executive Officer of the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), one of several voluntary standards that will be folded into South Africa’s carbon tax.

These and other stories from the voluntary carbon marketplace are summarized below, so keep reading!

Every year, Ecosystem Marketplace relies wholly on offset market participants to financially support the State of research. In return, sponsors ($7.5k+) and supporters ($3k) benefit from the report’s growing exposure, early insight into our findings, and opportunities to engage directly with Ecosystem Marketplace in report-related outreach and events. Interested organizations should contact Molly Peters-Stanley. mpeters-stanley@ecosystemmarketplace.com

—The Editors

For comments or questions, please email: vcarbonnews@ecosystemmarketplace.com


V-Carbon News

Voluntary Carbon

Don’t waste the water

Project developer Tierra Resources is turning wastewater into blue-carbon offsets and saving Louisiana’s coastline in the process. The company identifies restoration projects and utilizes nutrient rich treated wastewater to facilitate regrowth. Carbon offsets are generated through the additional sequestration of carbon as determined by an American Carbon Registry methodology that was developed with assistance from utility Entergy Corporation. Its 950-acre pilot project near Luling, Louisiana is expected to generate between 1,000 tCO2e to 7,000 tCO2e of reductions annually. In addition to storing carbon, restoring wetlands in the Mississippi Delta will help rebuild a natural buffer against hurricanes and ocean swell, plus help guard against saltwater intrusion.

Read more here

 

Bringing home the Canadian bacon

Vancouver, British Columbia-based project developer Offsetters Climate Solutions doubled its sales revenue to north of $7 million last year, more than twice the sales it experienced in 2012, following its merging of ERA Ecosystem Restoration Associates, Offsetters Clean Technology and Carbon Credit Corp. Total carbon offset sales rose 4% last year, aided by the sale of Verified Emission Reductions from the firm’s Mai Ndombe REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) project. About 93.5% of offset revenues were generated through the voluntary markets, despite the launch of cap-and-trade markets in California and Quebec, while the remaining 6.5% were generated via BC’s Pacific Carbon Trust transactions. But Offsetters sees new revenues potentially emerging from participating in regional compliance markets in 2014.

Read more here

 

Striking gold in Zambia

The Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project has achieved VCS verification, becoming the first VCS-verified REDD+ project in Sub-Saharan Africa to have also achieved “triple gold” level validation against the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard. The project, which received an undisclosed investment from the BioCarbon Group earlier this year, is protecting 39,000 hectares of intact miombo forest along the northwestern boundary of the Lower Zambezi National Park. Zambia has one of the highest deforestation rates relative to land area in Africa, according to United Nations estimates, due to unsustainable agricultural practices and urban charcoal demand. The project is working to mitigate this problem by supporting sustainable charcoal production, as well as improved conservation farming practices and other initiatives.

Read more here

 

Climate North America

If the carbon price is right

Washington could become the next US state to put a price on carbon, joining its Pacific Coast neighbor California in taking a step that the federal government has so far failed to take to address carbon pollution. The details are still to be worked out, but many experts see Washington closely following California’s lead to ensure the two state carbon pricing systems are compatible. However, each state is unique and analysts say differences in state laws could result in auction revenues in Washington being utilized differently than in the Golden State.

Read more here

 

You Stay CLASSY, CAR!

Offset project registry Climate Action Reserve (CAR) is the winner of a CLASSY award, which honors organizations for their social impacts. The awards – presented in partnership with the United Nations Foundation – are given in eight categories, with CAR voted the winner in the environmental protection category’s climate and energy subcategory for its work supporting voluntary carbon projects. Fellow nominees included the World Wildlife Fund for its Nepal biogas project, Amazon Watch for protecting the Ecuadoran rainforest against oil development, the Paradigm Project for its distribution of clean cookstoves and other products in Kenya, and Acterra for its energy efficiency program in California.

Read more here

 

Kyoto & Beyond

There is such a thing as a free lunch

The European Commission has proposed that 175 out of 245 industry sectors continue receiving free allocations from 2015-2019 for their obligations under the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The industries include those exposed to competitive global trade and therefore at risk of carbon leakage, meaning their businesses and associated emissions could be relocated outside the EU ETS jurisdiction if additional costs are imposed on their activities. A majority of member states must agree to the proposal before it becomes law. A vote is expected in July.

Read more here

 

Hidden data

The total number of international offsets used in the EU ETS for 2013 was 132.8 million, down nearly 75% from 493 million in 2012. Unlike previous years, this information was presented by the European Commission in aggregate, omitting what types of offsets were used for compliance and making it impossible to verify whether China-based projects that have traditionally dominated the market are being kept out, as promised, according to Carbon Market Watch. Some market experts argue transparency about offset location is important to the ongoing reform debate driven by low permit prices, which are seen in some circles as negatively affecting the efficacy of the EU ETS.

Read more from Bloomberg here
Read more from Carbon Market Watch here

 

Global Policy Update

Upping their game

Su Wei, a senior climate official with China’s National Development and Reform Commission, said the countryis making plans to expand the number of provinces participating in pilot emissions trading systems (ETS). Beijing and Tianjin could link their existing markets and be joined by Hebei, a province with one of the highest levels of emissions, as well as the provinces of Inner Mongolia and Shanxi. The manufacturing provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang could join Shanghai’s current ETS, while Guangxi and Hainan may link with the Guangdong ETS. Officials previously stated they intend to announce an initial draft plan for a national ETS as early as October. China has committed to reduce its GHG intensity by 40% to 45% from 2005 levels by 2020.

Read more here

 

Drafting REDD into service

India has released a draft national policy on REDD+ that aims to enable local communities to receive financial incentives for forest conservation and sustainable forest management initiatives. The proposed policy could allow India REDD+ projects to access millions of dollars provided by developed countries by creating a national regulatory body, establishing policies to safeguard local community rights, and developing a mechanism to fairly channel REDD+ funds to these communities. India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests noted that forest cover in the country neutralizes 11% of its GHG emissions. But India only added three million hectares of forest from 1997 to 2007, according to its State of Forest Report. Comments can be made on the draft policy until May 27.

Read more here

 

A Closing Window

Australian analysis firm RepuTex said the federal government could use existing legislation to implement its proposed Emissions Reduction Fund – the centerpiece of its plan to replace Australia’s carbon tax program. Developing new rules under the Carbon Farming Initiative Act that established Australia’s carbon offsets program would allow Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s administration to bypass the legislature, which has stymied his attempts to repeal the carbon tax. But offsets are likely to be scarce in the fund’s first year because the government must develop methodologies and pre-approve and register projects. Developers of land-based projects could choose to take advantage of the tax’s closing window by selling offsets at A$22 until February 2015, when companies have to pay their final carbon liabilities.

Read more here

 

Carbon Finance

Time is money

Developed countries have pledged to mobilize $100 billion in climate finance every year starting in 2020, including for the Green Climate Fund – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) mechanism to fund adaptation and mitigation initiatives such as REDD+ projects. But developing countries are concerned that the ongoing debate over the potential private sector contribution to reaching that $100 billion target is delaying the flow of public dollars for climate initiatives, according to Adis Dzebo of the Stockholm Environment Institute and Pieter Pauw of the German Development Institute. Developed countries have a responsibility to provide public dollars, particularly for adaptation, where private -sector engagement may be more limited, they argued.

Read more here

 

Passing carbon notes

China launched its first carbon-linked financial product, a debt note linked to the performance of carbon offsets on the Shenzhen Emissions Exchange. On offer are 1 billion yuan (US $161 million) of five-year notes. Unlike direct trading in carbon permits, the debt notes offer a steadier return over the five-year period and are seen as more attractive to institutional investors. The notes were issued by a unit of China General Nuclear Power Group and underwritten by Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. Shenzhen is one of six cities and provinces currently operating pilot ETSs in China.

Read more here

 

Science & Technology

Assessing the Damage

The newly-released National Climate Assessment makes even clearer than ever that the Earth’s climate is changing in dangerous ways and that the United States is already feeling the consequences of these changes. The report details the effects of climate change on different geographic regions and segments of the US economy. It documents recent increases in the factors that jeopardize forests and agriculture such as floods, drought, wildfire, disease and infestations—risks projected to intensify even further in the future.

Read more here

 

A Dubious Record

For the first time in human history, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the Earth’s atmosphere stayed above 400 parts per million (ppm) on average for an entire month. The month-long record set in April was documented at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa monitoring station. The same site also recorded the first measurement exceeding 400 ppm on May 9, 2013. Scientists expect CO2 concentrations to remain above 400 ppm through May or June before summer’s sequestration by plants begins to lower the level in July. Scientists estimate that a similar month-long average will be reached earlier in 2015 with year- round measurements above 400 ppm as early as 2016.

Read more here

 

It’s only natural (capital)

The Natural Capital Coalition has released the first draft of a framework for valuing natural capital in business decision making. The coalition’s aim is to enable better measurement, management, reporting and disclosure of natural resources and ecosystem services that businesses rely on. The rationale is similar to the GHG Protocols, which harmonized measuring practices for GHG emissions. The proposed protocols build on previous efforts such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Guide to Corporate Ecosystems Valuation. After a review and consultation process, the coalition will update its framework in late 2014.

Read more here

 

Smoother sailing

A new coating for ship hulls will prevent marine life from hitching a ride and slowing the vessels down. The resulting fuel efficiency gains will generate carbon offsets for ship owners through a methodology developed by International Paint and the Gold Standard. Emissions intensity is measured before and after application of the Intersleek coating to determine the fuel. International Paint will handle the administration of offsets and distribute the revenue annually to ship owners. A ship forfeits eligibility for offset generation if any other energy saving devices are fitted because of difficulties quantifying energy savings associated solely with the coating. As the practice becomes accepted, the organizations plan to address that limitation through further methodology development.

Read more here

Featured Jobs

Forest Carbon Program Research Assistant – Ecosystem Marketplace

Based in Washington, DC, the Forest Carbon Program Research Assistant will help in the development of a research product focusing on public-private partnerships for financing REDD+ projects, and support the development of the State of the Forest Carbon Markets report. The ideal candidate will have excellent writing and research skills (journalism skills a plus); strong Spanish-language speaking and writing skills; and the ability to work well in a team environment, but also with minimal management. This is a three-month position, paid hourly.

Read more here

 

Forestry Senior Program Associate – American Carbon Registry

Based in Sacramento, California (preferred) or Washington, DC, the Senior Program Associate will provide support on all aspects of registry management, support business development and outreach activities, and help to coordinate the development and/or approval of new quantification methodologies. A master’s degree in forestry and three to six years of experience working with forest projects in the carbon market or related fields is required. Candidates who have completed California Air Resources Board training and passed the exam in the US Forests Compliance Offset Protocol are preferred.

Read more here

 

Costa Rica Climate Change Advisor – Management and Engineering Technologies International

Based in San José, Costa Rica, the Climate Change Advisor will work with the Government of Costa Rica to provide technical assistance on its REDD+ readiness efforts. Candidates should have a master’s degree or doctorate and five years of international experience in natural resource management, environmental science, or a related field. Ideal candidate will have experience with Geographic Information Systems and remote sensing technologies for land use change estimation and forest inventories. Fluency in Spanish is preferred.

Read more here

 

Senior Associate Forest Certification – Rainforest Alliance

Based in Northfield, Minnesota, the Senior Associate will provide essential leadership in management and growth of Rainforest Alliance’s US forest management portfolio in the US Region. Responsibilities will encompass management and leadership, client service, and quality assurance. Preferred candidates will have an advanced degree with five to seven years of experience in forestry or a related field.

Read more here

 

Environment and Climate Adaptation Specialists – Management Systems International (MSI)

Based in various locations, MSI seeks to build a roster of environment and climate adaptation specialists for short- and long-term assignments on upcoming US Agency for International Development initiatives. Consultants will lead and manage technical work related to a variety of donor-funded projects, including climate change programming and adaptation; biodiversity conservation; coastal, fisheries and wildlife management; wildlife trafficking; land tenure reform; and public sector management. Ideal candidates will have an advanced degree and 10 years technical experience in a relevant analytical field, with doctorate-level credentials a plus.

Read more here

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.

 


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Voices From Denver: Mitigation Bankers Discuss New Measures And Role Of NGOs



9 May 2014 | DENVER | On Thursday, we caught up with incoming NMBA president Wayne White and Partnerships Committee co-chair Adam Davis to talk about NMBA work and priorities this year.

White: Key opportunities for the Association, including influencing policy in Washington, creating a process for working with local agency offices on national issues, and the search for an NMBA Executive Director.

Davis: The Partnership Committee’s accomplishments to date in engaging NGOs also engaged in mitigation, and how they’ll build on these efforts in the coming year.

The NGO Perspective

Yesterday’s talk on the Department of Interior’s new mitigation strategy carried over to today’s starting session which was on NGOs’ perspective on compensatory mitigation. John Kostyack of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) was one of the presenters. Because his work centers around building climate change resiliency, he focused on the durability and climate-smart conservation aspects of the strategy. Mitigation must be long-term because of climate impacts, Kostyack says, and further clarity is needed regarding how the strategy will adopt climate-smart conservation and use science based tools. The plan doesn’t really explain how it will implement these parts, he says.

The NWF is developing its own guidelines on conservation in a changing climate to be released soon. The guidance highlights durability and permanence as key elements.

Will McDow, representing the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), also spoke during this session briefly mentioning the habitat exchanges the organization is developing for species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), like the lesser prairie chicken, and for species in danger of being listed like the greater sage-grouse.

Possibilities in Species Conservation

McDow mentioned these species only briefly during the first session but, in fact, these animals are prime topics of conversation at the conference this year and, between the two, constituted the entire following session.

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has created a range-wide compensatory mitigation framework for the greater sage-grouse to help the 11 states within the bird’s range implement meaningful conservation and prevent a listing status. The grouse’s listing decision must be made by late 2015. The greater-sage grouse’s situation is complex for many reasons-one of them being just how large its range spans. Habitat falling on private verse public land varies depending on the state, which complicates the matter further. In Montana, for instance, majority of the bird’s habitat is on private land but in Nevada, almost 80% of the range falls on public land. A rangewide plan such as the one being used for the lesser prairie chicken isn’t feasible for the greater sage-grouse, says Shauna Ginger, an ecosystem services biologist with the FWS. “We’re aiming for less plans and more consistency among them,” she says.

Most of the conservation programs for the bird will be state level with a few county wide plans. The Service’s framework is meant to offer guidance to the states in creating their plans. And the framework as a basis should help provide a level of consistency as well.

It’s not constrictive, but does lay out some standards and goals the programs should meet. Using the mitigation hierarchy is one as is achieving a net positive outcome for the species. This should be done by drawing from the DOI’s mitigation strategy and developing effective landscape-level conservation.

Two states have officially developed sage-grouse conservation plans. One is Wyoming and the other is Utah. Alan G. Clark, the Watershed Program Director in Utah’s Department of Natural Resources, was at the conference to discuss Utah’s plan. The plan anchors on Sage-Grouse Management Areas (SGMAs), which are high quality habitat spots for the specie and where most of the protection and conservation measures will take place. The plan follows the mitigation hierarchy and includes conservation banking as a potential mitigation tool.

During the discussion, the controversial method of using term or temporary mitigation to conserve the sage-grouse came up. And to Ginger’s knowledge the approach isn’t part of sage-grouse conservation as of now. The emphasis is on permanent offsets for the species, she says.

It is however being used to mitigate for the lesser prairie chicken, which is one of several issues conservation banker Wayne Walker takes with the Lesser Prairie Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan. Walker, the founder of Common Ground Capital (CGC), a conservation banking firm focused on landscape level prairie chicken banks, (Walker notes in the video CGC’s chicken banks were recently approved) dissected the plan throughout his presentation pointing out elements he sees as faults. These include the Service’s inclusion of the 4 (d) rule, a lack of scientific data for its findings and the negative impact it will have on the market-based banking industry.

Along with the constructive criticism, Walker also highlights the importance of each party involved and the need for further collaboration and support between them.

In this video, Walker summarizes lessons learned and lays out steps he believes needs to be taken in order to deliver a positive outcome for the prairie chicken.

Tomorrow the conference winds down with the Legislative and Regulatory Update.

This Week In Water: Nestle, General Mills Sign On To International Water Standard

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

 

4 May 2014 | Greetings! First things first: this is the final week of our 2014 Water Survey. We’re updating our global inventory of innovative projects investing in watershed protection. If you haven’t submitted project information yet, please get in touch with us.  

Next week, we’ll be at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s annual sustainability forum. This year’s theme is energy and water in business operations and supply chains; we’ll be chairing a session on barriers and risks to catalyzing business investment in natural infrastructure. It’s a great opportunity to connect with sustainability thought leaders in the private sector and dig into ‘nature and the nexus’. Join us!

Our team will also be covering the National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference in Denver May 6th-9th. Follow us on Twitter and check our home page for coverage starting next Monday.

Preparing the ‘State of Watershed Payments‘ report is always a big undertaking, but this year’s version has really brought into focus how big and diverse the watershed investments world is becoming. We’ve come a long way in a short time from payments for watershed services: every year we find new models for protecting natural infrastructure, new actors, and new motivations.

The news this month reflects that depth and variety. On one hand, we find business-friendly new tools for companies to manage their water risk, with improvements to the Water Risk Filter and a new batch of Water Restoration Certificates sold to protect the Colorado River Basin in US. Meanwhile, watershed investments look very different in Kenya, where a new water fund recently launched in Nairobi, or in Bolivia, where a ‘School of Reciprocal Environmental Agreements‘ trains water service providers in working with upstream communities on conservation projects to safeguard water supplies.


What do these stories have in common? The recognition of natural infrastructure values, and effective partnerships between water users to protect those values. The recent announcement that Nestlé and General Mills have signed on to the International Water Stewardship Standard suggests that the worlds of corporate water sustainability and local watershed investments are starting to collide, which is a good thing. The Water Stewardship Standard offers a framework for businesses and other major water users to go “beyond the fence,” managing water risk through collective action in both the watershed and the supply chain.

Happy reading,

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


EM Headlines

GENERAL

Uniting People And Ecosystem Resilience For Food Security In Latin America on Earth Day

One aim of April’s Katoomba Meeting in Lima was to complement year-end climate talks in Peru, by focusing on how climate policy fits into the larger “landscape approach” that incorporates people, farming, forests, and water. Our global food systems, resource management policies, and even our ecosystem services markets too often focus on only narrow objectives, ignoring both ecosystem links and the realities of rural economies.


Over the past two and a half years, EcoAgriculture Partners has examined more than 100 integrated landscape initiatives (ILI’s) across the continent, together with partners CATIE, Bioversity International, Conservation International and the University of Idaho. They found a surprising degree of community engagement and collaboration among stakeholders from agriculture, health, biodiversity, water to protect and restore their landscapes from threats of degradation and climate change.

Read more here.

 

Peruvian Ecosystem Services Law In Limbo

It’s not easy for any country to protect its natural areas from exploitation, but Peru is making a solid attempt to preserve its forests, which store massive amounts of carbon and provide habitat to thousands of rare and endangered species – delivering in the process benefits that accrue to the world at large and not only to Peru.

The country’s legislators have drafted one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation for governing Payments for Ecosystem Services, but the Ley de Mecanismos de Retribucií³n por Servicios Ecosistémicos has been perpetually on the brink of passing since it was introduced in 2008.

In December, a key congressional commission gave the bill a thumbs-up; in February, the Ministry of Environment (Ministerio del Ambiente, or “MINAM”) launched a consultation initiative with indigenous people; and last week, the bill was slated to be formally debated for the first time before the entire National Congress. That debate, however, never took place, and now the bill is back on ice.

Learn more at Ecosystem Marketplace.
Read the article in its original Spanish at our sister site, Valorando Naturaleza.

 

Buying Hope And Time For Coral Reef

“The need was evident because I was diving all the time, going out to the same spots – and you get there, and the coral had died,” explains Ken Nedimyer, the former fisherman who initiated coral nursery-based restoration in the Florida Keys. Coral reefs, which provide habitat for over twenty-five percent of marine species, are dying worldwide, especially in tropical waters, from combined climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, disease, and pollution stresses. In 2001, Nedimyer began to gather staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis ) and elkhorn coral (Acropora palmater) from degraded reefs for his ad-hoc nursery in Tavernier Key.

Between now and August, Ecosystem Marketplace will be examining the economic benefits of coral reefs and financing mechanisms designed to help preserve them. Here’s a look at the other side of that equation: what it costs to maintain them, and the challenge of meeting that cost through conventional means.

Keep reading.

 

In The News

POLICY UPDATES

Funding for Climate Adaptation must be Scaled Up and Fast, IPCC warns

The most recent installment of the IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) report finds a serious shortfall in adaptation investments, despite climate change impacts already being felt around the world.


As the data on climate change grows more abundant and clear, the more the IPCC reports are able to discuss ramifications and impacts – and that’s leading to some worrying findings. Developing countries with more vulnerable communities will feel the harshest effects of a changing climate. The costs of global adaptation are substantially higher than current funding and investments, the report says, although the specific amount is disagreed on among IPCC authors. With little confidence in the numbers, the IPCC places global adaptation costs between $70 billion to $100 billion by 2050. It’s expected that food production will be hit hard by climate change in the near future and food security will suffer.


Developed countries have made pledges – over $100 billion a year for adaptation and mitigation by 2020 – with the international facilitator, the Green Climate Fund, opening its new headquarters this year in South Korea. But the process has been slow and the IPCC warns of climate extremes affecting food production. Early-warning systems need to be in place, the report says, but these are expensive and require infrastructure and capital investment. A policy worker from an anti-poverty network says the IPCC report “is a wake-up call for governments to invest in agricultural systems that are effective and sustainable far into the future.”

Keep reading at the Inter Press Service.

 

More Water Woes for China

When most people think about China’s environmental problems, they think of the carbon pollution blanketing Beijing and other cities. But due to a recent incident where the city of Lanzhou’s water supply was contaminated by a benzene spill, the country’s water troubles have been brought to the fore. China’s northern region is water scarce and heavily populated. 70% of the groundwater there has become unfit to drink or use for farming due to pollution.


China continues to struggle with transparency in its government: the Ministry of Environmental Protection is weak and a tough new environmental law is tied up in revisions. Meanwhile, officials don’t feel comfortable involving ordinary citizens in the issue, though their support would carry a good deal of momentum. The national government is taking some action – encouraging more efficient farming and holding local officials responsible for environmental degradation – but at this point China should be pulling out all the stops to get their water crisis under control.

Read more at Bloomberg.

 

All on Board for Murray-Darling Basin Plan, But Off to Shaky Start

It was an encouraging point for many when Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) joined the other Australian states (Victoria, South Australia, Australian Capital Territory) participating in the inter-governmental Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Since the water purchases began, some 3,175 gigalitres (GL) has been returned to the river – another encouraging sign – and the environment has benefited. But challenges and uncertainties remain.


The states’ priorities appear to be different despite the collective framework of the plan that is meant to benefit the basin and its communities equally. Cost-shifting appears to be happening – NSW and South Australia (SA) scaled back water management activities even though they are both part owners. Water projects initiated by the states have yet to deliver. NSW’s water meter project, for instance, was created six years ago and has produced few tangible results. In SA, instead of purchasing water directly for the environment, its capital city of Adelaide spent loads of money on enlarging their desalination plant – an energy intensive and expensive infrastructure investment. And Queensland and NSW haven’t met their water objectives to receive this year’s funding but reached an agreement with the national government and will be receiving it in full regardless.


And while it’s a concern that the states haven’t reached their milestones, the plan’s overall quota of reducing 2750 GL of water for consumption is also at risk. The federal government limited direct purchases to 1500 GL. This puts more pressure on other measures to reach the target.

Learn more at The Conversation.

 

‘Water for Energy’ Attempt Goes Bad in India

This month, Circle of Blue launched the latest iteration of its Choke Point series, focusing on India. The ‘Choke Point’ project is a partnership with the Wilson Center, exploring the conflicting demands for water, energy and food in different regions of the world. The newest installment focuses on India’s rapid attempt to bring hydropower to the waters of the wild and unpredictable Himalayan mountains, in Uttarakhand state. It’s turned into a disaster when monstrous floods last June killed at least 6,000 people (and as many as 30,000, according to locals) and destroyed much of the area’s infrastructure including several of the massive dams themselves. Two months later, India’s Supreme Court shut down any future permits for hydropower development in Uttarakhand and directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests to undertake a study of the risks and merits of continuing to build dams in the region.

Read more at Circle of Blue.

 

GLOBAL MARKETS

Nestlé, General Mills Sign On To International Water Stewardship Standard

Major companies including Nestlé and General Mills put their weight behind the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS)’s new international standard for sustainable water management. The standard, launched by AWS in early April, provides a framework for water stewardship not only ‘within the walls’ of an operation, but on the surrounding landscape and along the supply chain, with a strong emphasis on partnerships and collective action.

“Nestlé supports the efforts of AWS to promote water stewardship internationally and assist companies to manage water-related risk at a site and catchment level,” Carlo Galli, Water Resources, Technical & Strategic Advisor to Nestlé said in a press release. “The AWS Standard will enable companies to better assess their performance against a defined set of principles, identify opportunities for improvement and take collaborative steps to improve their water use.” The AWS counts as members nearly thirty organizations in the business, NGO and philanthropic world.

Read a press release at MarketWatch.

 

Report sees Trend in Water Risk Awareness among Businesses

Water has long been taken for granted and wasn’t likely a big cause for concern for companies a decade ago. But it is today. According to a report by environmental research group the Pacific Institute and public affairs firm Vox Global, 60 percent of companies surveyed said water issues would affect both business growth and profitability in the next five years.


While the report’s conclusion can’t be considered a national average, because only 51 companies were surveyed, the findings reflect a growing trend toward water awareness. “I think water is becoming the next big issue,” John Schulz, assistant vice-president of sustainability operations at the telecommunications corporation AT&T, tells the Financial Times. “There is a rising awareness from a business risk perspective that if we don’t start getting control of this, it could become a real business-impacting issue.”


Many companies have started to monitor their water use and make cuts: the report documents actions by companies like AT&T and Hershey making technology upgrades that have saved both water and money. “Historically many companies have thought of water as a low-cost input and looked at it mostly within the context of their direct operations,” said co-author Jason Morrison. “Now companies are increasingly thinking about water more broadly.”

The Financial Times has coverage.
Get a copy of the study here.

 

Water Risk Filter Bigger and Better with Agricultural Data

Two years after its initial release, the already popular and widely used Water Risk Filter tool received an upgrade. The free online tool that quantifies water risk for businesses using a simple but effective method now includes agricultural data on over 120 commodities-including cotton and corn. The tool, developed by the German development bank DEG and environmental nonprofit WWF, measures water risk using sectoral and regionally-specific information as well as offering interactive maps and case studies. It provides a risk score for companies based on exposure to different risks along, with a mitigation toolbox to help manage the discovered threats. The tool has assessed more than 50,000 individual facilities with over 1,500 organizations using the tool, including well-known clothing retailer H&M. The Water Risk Filter’s recent addition of agricultural information makes the tool all the more useful.

Get the full story.

 

The Water Fund Moves to Africa

A public-private consortium is bringing the water fund, the watershed investment model so popular in Latin America, to Kenya with the Nairobi Water Fund. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is working with eighteen organizations including Coca Cola and the national Water Resources Management Authority to launch the project. TNC has already completed a feasibility study and implemented pilot projects in three watersheds. Within the next five years, TNC plans to develop the Nairobi Water Fund into a replicable tool. The water fund model commissions big downstream water users to pay into a conservation fund that finances sustainable land management practices like tree-planting and terracing upstream lands. In return, downstream users receive a reliable source of water and lower treatment costs.

Keep reading.

 

Community sees Value in Paying for Ecosystem Services

The environmental benefits derived from a payments for ecosystem services (PES) project outweigh the costs. That was the basic findings drawn from a PES project in the Chaina watershed of the eastern Colombian Andes, where wealthier landowners and farmers agreed to pay higher rates to improve and protect their water supply. In fact, affluent residents were willing to pay an even higher price than farmers felt reasonable.


This led one researcher – Sven Wunder of CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research) – to consider having different residents pay different rates. In the program, which was supported by CIFOR, water users aiming to improve their water supply and its quality negotiated with landowners upstream within the Chaina watershed. They struck PES deals with several landowners, along with also buying land outright. Landowners participating in PES schemes were compensated for their conservation practices, including halting deforestation and limiting cattle ranching on steep slopes. This replicable program has helped preserve 162 hectares of natural forest along with the regeneration of fourteen hectares of streamside vegetation.


Challenges certainly remain, however. For one, more funds are needed to expand the program and improve efficiency but many are unwilling to pay for something they’re used to receiving free. “Water used to be clean and plentiful, but with a larger population and more economic activity, there’s less of it available, and sometimes people get angry,” Wunder said. “Scarcity of an environmental service is something new, and people need to become mentally accustomed to the idea, before they might do something about it.”

Get coverage from the Thomson-Reuters Foundation.

 

In Bolivia, School of Reciprocal Environmental Agreements Graduates its First Class

Fundacií³n Natura Bolivia (FNB) this spring wrapped up its first training program through its School of Reciprocal Environmental Agreements. In partnership with the Avina Foundation and Care International, FNB builds capacity among small and medium-scale water service providers. Three water cooperatives have already committed to replicating the trainings within their own municipalities. The School also hosted a program in December 2013 for international participants interested in its ‘reciprocal watershed agreements’ model, which safeguards municipal water supplies through financial support to upstream communities engaged in conservation work.

Read more at the FNB site.

 

Ted’s Montana Grill and WhiteWave Foods Help the Colorado Through Water Restoration Certificates

Restaurant chain Ted’s Montana Grill and WhiteWave Foods announced new efforts in late April to support instream flow restoration in the Colorado River Basin, via the purchase of Water Restoration Certificates (WRCs). The certificates, developed by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation working with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, each represent a thousand gallons restored to river systems through funding restoration projects and the retirement of water rights. More than 7.6 billion gallons have been returned since 2009 through WRCs. Ted’s Montana Grill and WhiteWave Foods are pooling resources to support river health in three Colorado River tributaries: the Cimarron, Fraser and Roaring Fork Rivers.

Learn more at CSR Wire.

 

EVENTS

Accelerating Sustainability: Energy and Water in Your Operations and Supply Chains

You slashed your water consumption. You shrank your energy bill. You improved efficiencies in your supply chain. Now what? It’s time to put sustainability to work for your business. Join us on May 6 to learn innovative sustainability strategies that can enhance your brand, cut cost, and grow revenue faster and at greater scale. At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Accelerating Sustainability Forum, in partnership with the US Business Council for Sustainable Development, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and SustainAbility, we will bring together some of the greatest minds and proven practitioners from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to explore two approaches — enhanced, scaled collaboration and sustainability-driven innovation. These concepts are redefining what businesses can achieve around energy and water use that delivers shared value for your business, society, and the environment. Through visionary speakers, action-oriented sessions, and ample networking opportunities, you will work with other sustainability leaders to refine the partnerships, tools, and techniques you need to create the energy and water solutions to accelerate transformative change. 6 May 2014. Washington DC, USA.

Learn more here.

 

2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

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

Learn more here.

 

Business & Ecosystems Training

Join the the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) on May 7 for their Business Ecosystems Training. Hosted at the Chamber of Commerce, this one-day training provides businesses with state-of-the-art information and tools for integrating natural capital into your business decisions. Understand how to minimize the risks and capture the opportunities for your company related to water, GHG, and natural systems. 7 May 2014. Washington DC, USA.

Learn more here.

 

Webinar: An overview of water/energy issues from national and federal perspectives

Dr. Craig Zamuda from the Department of Energy (DOE) will present key findings from DOE’s upcoming water/energy nexus report, and highlight some of the key challenges and opportunities described in the report that provide a foundation for future energy-water technology and modeling research, development, and deployment efforts. Dr. Kristen Averyt, Associate Director for Science for the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Director of the Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado, will present her research regarding water-energy challenges that exist currently and are on the horizon. 8 May 2014 at 2:00 pm EST. Online.

Register here.

 

3rd Symposium on Urbanization and Stream Ecology

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

Learn more here.

 

Ecosystem Services Partnership Conference 2014

The emphasis of this Seventh international ESP conference will be on the use of the ecosystem services concept at the local level, focusing on Latin America with a special emphasis on Costa Rica. Scientists representing several EU-funded projects will present their results on Community Based Ecosystem Management. Don’t miss your chance to interact and exchange ideas with the rapidly growing network of ESP members, practitioners, educators, policy-makers, researchers, and many others from all continents. Be part of special sessions and working-groups producing outcomes ranging from journal articles, white papers, book chapters, grant proposals, database structures, websites, and much more. The call for abstracts for oral presentations is open until May 11, 2014. The deadline for the submission of abstracts for posters is June 15th and July 6th. 8-12 September 2014. San Jose, Costa Rica.

Learn more here.

 

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

ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services represents a dynamic and growing assembly of professionals, researchers, and policy makers involved with ecosystem services. The ACES 2014 Conference brings together this community in partnership with Ecosystem Markets and the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP), providing an open forum to share experiences, methods, and tools, for assessing and incorporating ecosystem services into public and private decisions. The focus of the conference is to link science, practice, and sustainable decision making by bringing together the ecosystem services community from around the United States and the globe. ACES 2014 will bring together leaders in government, NGOs, academia, Native American communities, and the private sector to advance the use of ecosystem services science and practice in conservation, restoration, resource management, and development decisions. We hope you will make plans to join more than 500 ecosystem service stakeholders in this collaborative discussion to advance use of an ecosystem services framework for natural resource management and policy. Deadline for proposals for many session formats is March 31st! 8-11 December 2014. Washington DC, USA.

Learn more here.

 

JOBS

 

Forest Carbon Research Assistant: Spring/Summer 2014

Ecosystem Marketplace – Washington DC, USA

Ecosystem Marketplace is seeking a full-time research assistant focusing on the forestry sector for our Carbon Program. The hourly role and work will span an initial 3-month period, with potential for extension for an additional three months. Ecosystem Marketplace’s Carbon Program produces a range of qualitative and quantitative analyses of the voluntary and forest carbon markets, as well as a suite of other mechanisms for financing forest conservation. Our products include original news articles, annual marketplace reports, periodic topical reports, news briefs, a resource library and tracking carbon offset projects. Additional activities occasionally include providing specialized market and policy consultative services, leading in-person and remote educational lectures and hosting regional to international events. The Carbon Program research assistant will be able to commit to 35-40 hours per week to support the range of activities under the Ecosystem Marketplace Carbon Markets Program.

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.

 


Click here to view this article in its original format.

Latest Science Reconfirms:
Trees Are Key To Curbing Climate Change

This article was originally published on the Center for Global Development’s blog. Click here to read the original.

 

29 April 2014 | The newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change,” describes the actions that people will need to take if we are to maintain a safe and stable global climate.  Like the two previous IPCC reports (which I have written about here and here), it is based on the collective volunteer work of dozens of top scientists and economists synthesizing the findings of thousands of peer-reviewed articles.

My colleague Alice Lépissier has written here about the IPCC finding that avoiding dangerous climate change is still possible if governments act quickly to set a price on carbon emissions.   So I won’t cover that ground in this blog.   Instead, I’d like to highlight what the IPCC report says about forests.

This IPCC report makes clear that avoiding dangerous climate change by limiting global temperature increase to 2 °C (3.8 °F), as agreed by nations in Copenhagen in 2009, will depend critically on taking carbon dioxide out of the air.   There are two ways to do this. One way is to strip carbon dioxide out of emissions from power plants before it enters the atmosphere, and store it underground.   This technology is called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and is still in early development stages.   Another way to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is by planting trees.   Trees have been sequestering carbon perfectly well for millions of years using photosynthesis.

In a future in which CCS technology becomes available and cost-effective on a large scale, limiting global temperature rise to +2 °C requires reducing deforestation to near-zero by 2030.   Not many models project that it’s possible to limit warming to +2 °C without CCS technology, but those that do require not only stopping deforestation altogether, but reversing it to create a massive terrestrial carbon sink of regrowing forest vegetation by 2030 (Figure 1).

 

CGDFig1

Figure 1. Greenhouse gas emissions by sector in modelled scenarios that limit atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration to 450 ppm CO2eq, with and without Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the electricity sector. Green bars represent carbon sequestration by forests. Source: IPCC WGIII AR5 Figure SPM.7

Since halting and reversing deforestation is so critical to maintaining a safe climate, how can we make this happen?   My colleague Kalifi Ferretti-Gallon and I have been researching this topic for the last year, and I’ll come back to our findings in a moment.   But first, here are three important things to bear in mind about what the IPCC report says about forests:

1.             Net emissions from deforestation are 11% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.   But the mitigation potential from reducing gross emissions from deforestation is much larger.

The 11% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions (5.4 GtCO2eq/yr) from forest loss is net of forest regrowth. But gross emissions from forest loss are actually much higher than this; about twice as much carbon is released from forest loss as is sequestered due to regrowth. And importantly, forest loss is currently occurring in different regions of the world than forest regrowth.   Accelerating the regrowth of forests in China and India does not diminish the potential to reduce deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia.   So the potential contribution to global mitigation of reducing forest loss is much larger than 11%.

2.             Deforestation emissions comprise the bulk of emissions in some regions.

While net emissions from deforestation comprise 11% of emissions globally, they make up a far larger share of emissions in some countries.   Deforestation makes up more than half of the emissions from Latin America. In Indonesia, deforestation and associated peat degradation represent about three-quarters of emissions. The main way that these countries can participate in slowing climate change is by reducing deforestation.

3.             Research published after the deadline for inclusion in the IPCC report shows that the global pace of deforestation is currently accelerating, not slowing.

The stack of scientific papers published on climate change grows taller with every passing week. So the IPCC necessarily sets a deadline for which scientific papers it can include in its reports.   For this report, papers were only included if they were accepted for publication before October 4, 2013.   Unfortunately, one of the most important scientific papers in years about deforestation was published on October 15, 2013—eleven days after the deadline for inclusion.   This paper by Matt Hansen and his colleagues in Science used satellite data to show that global deforestation rates increased throughout the 2000s (Figure 2).   But the IPCC reports that deforestation emissions are falling, based on a decline in the deforestation rates that countries self-reported to the Food and Agricultural Organization between the 1990s and the 2000s.   IPCC projections of future rates of deforestation also assume falling rates.  If future rates of deforestation are instead projected to stay stable or climb, then even more investment in reducing deforestation is needed to stabilize the climate.

 

CGDFig2

Figure 2. Annual forest cover loss by climate domain in millions of hectares per year, 2001-2010. Source: Hansen et al (2013)

 

So, coming back to the urgent topic at hand, what drives deforestation and what stops it?   My colleague Kalifi Ferretti-Gallon and I investigate this question in a new CGD Working Paper.   We compiled a comprehensive database of all 117 spatially explicit econometric studies of deforestation published in peer-reviewed academic journals from 1996-2013.   We then present a meta-analysis of what drives deforestation and what stops it, based on the signs and significances of 5909 coefficients in 554 multivariate analyses (Figure 3).

 

CGDFig2

Figure 3. Twenty most commonly studied metavariables’ association with deforestation, organized by sign and significance of coefficients related to that meta-variable. Meta-variables ordered by ratio of negative to positive association with deforestation. For meta-variables in upper case, the ratio of negative to positive observations is statistically significantly different from 1:1 in a two-tailed t-test at the 95% confidence level. Source: Ferretti-Gallon and Busch (2014)

Comparing the relative effects of different drivers of deforestation, we found that:

  • forests are more likely to be cleared where economic returns to agriculture and pasture are higher, either due to more favorable climatological and topographic conditions, or due to lower costs of clearing forest and transporting products to market.
  • timber activity, land tenure security, and community demographics do not show a consistent association with either higher or lower deforestation.
  • population is consistently associated with greater deforestation, and poverty is consistently associated with lower deforestation, but in both cases endogeneity makes a causal link difficult to infer.

Furthermore, we found that promising approaches for stopping deforestation include:

  • reducing the intrusion of road networks into remote forested areas
  • targeting protected areas to regions where forests face higher threat
  • tying rural income support to the maintenance of forest resources through payments for ecosystem services
  • insulating the forest frontier from the price effects of demand for agricultural commodities.

The establishment of international performance-based payments for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) would increase the incentive to successfully undertake any of the above interventions.   That’s why it’s important to learn from large-scale experiments in performance-based finance for reducing deforestation currently taking place in Brazil, Guyana, and Indonesia, and why it’s so critical to scale up performance-based finance for reducing deforestation, as through the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s Carbon Fund.

Because without figuring out what mix of policies and finance mechanisms will successfully halt and reverse deforestation, we’re going to sail right through that +2 °C target.

Download the full database here.  

 

Jonah Busch is a research fellow with the Center for Global Development and environmental economist whose research focuses on the economics of forests and climate change. He can be reached at jbusch@cgdev.org.

CIFOR Says Tenure And Funding Still Dog REDD

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) recently surveyed 23 subnational forest carbon projects in Brazil, Peru, Cameroon, Tanzania, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Their findings? Project proponents are driven to save forests, but a lack of demand and unclear tenure remain their biggest challenges.

This article was originally posted in CIFOR’s blog. Click here to read the original.

29 April 2014 | Bogor | Indonesia | Actions must be taken to clarify land tenure in forest-rich developing countries, and to improve the economic viability of REDD+ or risk jeopardizing efforts to reduce deforestation and mitigate climate change, a new study based on 23 forest carbon initiatives suggests.  


Hundreds of pilot
initiatives designed to test the feasibility of REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, have got under way in recent years. But with obstacles mounting and a climate agreement still elusive, some initiative proponents are losing their enthusiasm for REDD+, according to the study, led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“The initiative proponents are a spirited, determined group of people who believe in what they’re doing to protect forests,” said William Sunderlin, principal scientist at CIFOR and lead author of The Challenge of Establishing REDD+ on the Ground: Insights from 23 Subnational Initiatives in Six Countries.

“But they’re encountering major challenges whose root causes lie outside their project boundaries, particularly tenure insecurity and what we call the ‘disadvantageous economics’ of REDD+,” Sunderlin said. “These subnational initiatives need more committed support from national and international processes to create circumstances that allow REDD+ to function as intended.”

REDD+ emerged in 2007 as a promising mechanism to slow anthropogenic climate change by providing financial incentives to keep forests standing, given that forests absorb carbon from the atmosphere and that deforestation and forest degradation contribute up to 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. For example, in Indonesia, the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, more than 75 percent of emissions come from conversion of forests to farmland, agriculture and peat fires — roughly equivalent to emissions from about 400 million cars each year.

What makes REDD+ different from previous — and generally unsuccessful — efforts to reduce deforestation is that it is based on performance-based incentives. As originally conceived, REDD+ would generate a revenue stream by placing a financial value on carbon, with forest managers receiving a share of that revenue only if they actually achieved emission reductions or enhanced carbon stocks.

“Conditional incentives give REDD+ an extra point of leverage, but for this system to work, there must be a clear stream of income and it must be clear who is entitled to benefit,” Sunderlin said.

“Our study shows that these aspects in particular are weak, and this is where attention needs to be focused.”

A Contested Landscape

Insecurity over tenure — the right to own, access or use land — remains the biggest challenge for proponents, the study found.

“REDD+ is being established in places where tenure rules are often unclear and contested,” Sunderlin said.

“But the REDD+ rewards system requires clarity over who holds the right to forests or carbon, who is responsible for reducing emissions, and who can claim the benefits.”

In an earlier survey of villages in five countries involved in REDD+, more than half of the respondents reported that at least some of their tenure is insecure, and more than a fifth had been unable to exclude unwanted outsiders. Furthermore, as tenure problems are generally national in scope and origin, resolving them often lies outside proponents’ control.

The challenge, while daunting, is not insurmountable, Sunderlin notes, as path-breaking tenure reforms are beginning to take shape.

In Indonesia, for example, the government has launched the One Map Initiative to improve tenure and land-use planning, and last year a Constitutional Court ruling aimed to grant indigenous people land ownership rights.

The Highest Bidder

Yet for anyone to benefit, REDD+ must generate income in the first place, and the REDD+ revenue stream originally envisioned through trading carbon credits on carbon markets has fallen short of targets.

Undermining efforts to generate revenue are the lack of a binding international climate agreement to induce regulatory changes, weak carbon markets and the ongoing dominance of powerful business interests, according to the study.

“If you think of REDD+ as a bidding process in an auction, where those who make the highest bid can control forest land use, the bid offered by big agricultural companies often outcompetes what can be offered by REDD+,” Sunderlin said.

“This could change with the establishment of new conditions — some combination of development assistance, international or national funds, or a market-based mechanism — that can generate a stream of income from REDD+ and cover the opportunity costs of forest conversion.”

The existing funding gap is estimated at US$15 billion to US$48 billion by 2020, with the supply of carbon credits outstripping demand by 13 to 39 times, according to the International Forest Finance Project. Initiatives such as California’s cap-and-trade program show promise for generating revenue through carbon markets, but, Sunderlin said, “there is still an urgent need for something that does not yet exist.”

Nevertheless, in combination with research turning a spotlight on challenges and possible solutions, the positive developments under way and increasing impetus to act can lead to “breakthrough solutions,” he added.

“There is growing awareness among governments that tenure problems and the economics of REDD+ are fundamental and need to be resolved soon,” Sunderlin said.

“You can’t rule out the possibility of dramatic improvement in climate change mitigation policy in the next few years — simply because world leaders cannot afford to ignore climate change anymore.”

Note: REDD+ will be a key theme of discussion at the upcoming Forests Asia Summit, 5-6 May in Jakarta, Indonesia. At the Summit, panelists will explore how REDD+ initiatives can offer lessons for low-emissions development strategies and contribute to sustainable development. Participants will also look at how REDD+ activities and low-emissions development strategies can support climate change adaptation. Read more here.

For more information about the topics of this research, please contact William Sunderlin at w.sunderlin@cgiar.org.

Ecosystem Marketplace Coverage Of The 2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

 

8 May 2014 | DENVER | The annual National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference kicked off here on Tuesday, with roughly 400 participants from across the mitigation banking spectrum. It has grown to over 400 attendees. A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed that just over half of the participants are mitigation bankers, while regulators comprise about 25%. Of these, the majority are from the federal government. Agriculture and finance were among the smallest contingents (see “Who’s Here?”, below).

Voices From Denver: Mitigation Bankers Discuss New Measures And Role Of NGOs
Summarizes Thursday’s event and includes interviews with NMBA president Wayne White and Partnerships Committee co-chair Adam Davis to talk about NMBA work and priorities this year.

USFWS Contemplating Move Beyond CCAs To State-Administered Crediting Systems For Non-Listed Species
A breakout string focusing on emerging policies for the year ahead.

Data, Transparency, And The Role Of Non-Profits: Wednesday At NMEBC
A detailed wrap of Wednesday’s discussions, including a summary of the morning meeting of the NMBA and afternoon sessions examining the challenge of finding water for wetlands in the aird American West, the role of non-profits in mitigation banking, and a preview of the policy horizon for 2014.

After Turbulent Year, Mitigation Bankers Meet In Denver
A summary of the key issues from the past year and how they may play out in Denver.

We’ll be here throughout the week, so remember to check this page and follow EM on Twitter for the latest developments.

More than half of all attendees are practitioners.

Wednesday’s tally of NMEBC attendees very diverse…


Voices From Denver: Mitigation Bankers Discuss New Measures And Role Of NGOs



9 May 2014 | DENVER | On Thursday, we caught up with incoming NMBA president Wayne White and Partnerships Committee co-chair Adam Davis to talk about NMBA work and priorities this year.

White: Key opportunities for the Association, including influencing policy in Washington, creating a process for working with local agency offices on national issues, and the search for an NMBA Executive Director.

Davis: The Partnership Committee’s accomplishments to date in engaging NGOs also engaged in mitigation, and how they’ll build on these efforts in the coming year.

The NGO Perspective

Yesterday’s talk on the Department of Interior’s new mitigation strategy carried over to today’s starting session which was on NGOs’ perspective on compensatory mitigation. John Kostyack of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) was one of the presenters. Because his work centers around building climate change resiliency, he focused on the durability and climate-smart conservation aspects of the strategy. Mitigation must be long-term because of climate impacts, Kostyack says, and further clarity is needed regarding how the strategy will adopt climate-smart conservation and use science based tools. The plan doesn’t really explain how it will implement these parts, he says.

The NWF is developing its own guidelines on conservation in a changing climate to be released soon. The guidance highlights durability and permanence as key elements.

Will McDow, representing the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), also spoke during this session briefly mentioning the habitat exchanges the organization is developing for species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), like the lesser prairie chicken, and for species in danger of being listed like the greater sage-grouse.

Possibilities in Species Conservation

McDow mentioned these species only briefly during the first session but, in fact, these animals are prime topics of conversation at the conference this year and, between the two, constituted the entire following session.

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has created a range-wide compensatory mitigation framework for the greater sage-grouse to help the 11 states within the bird’s range implement meaningful conservation and prevent a listing status. The grouse’s listing decision must be made by late 2015. The greater-sage grouse’s situation is complex for many reasons-one of them being just how large its range spans. Habitat falling on private verse public land varies depending on the state, which complicates the matter further. In Montana, for instance, majority of the bird’s habitat is on private land but in Nevada, almost 80% of the range falls on public land. A rangewide plan such as the one being used for the lesser prairie chicken isn’t feasible for the greater sage-grouse, says Shauna Ginger, an ecosystem services biologist with the FWS. “We’re aiming for less plans and more consistency among them,” she says.

Most of the conservation programs for the bird will be state level with a few county wide plans. The Service’s framework is meant to offer guidance to the states in creating their plans. And the framework as a basis should help provide a level of consistency as well.

It’s not constrictive, but does lay out some standards and goals the programs should meet. Using the mitigation hierarchy is one as is achieving a net positive outcome for the species. This should be done by drawing from the DOI’s mitigation strategy and developing effective landscape-level conservation.

Two states have officially developed sage-grouse conservation plans. One is Wyoming and the other is Utah. Alan G. Clark, the Watershed Program Director in Utah’s Department of Natural Resources, was at the conference to discuss Utah’s plan. The plan anchors on Sage-Grouse Management Areas (SGMAs), which are high quality habitat spots for the specie and where most of the protection and conservation measures will take place. The plan follows the mitigation hierarchy and includes conservation banking as a potential mitigation tool.

During the discussion, the controversial method of using term or temporary mitigation to conserve the sage-grouse came up. And to Ginger’s knowledge the approach isn’t part of sage-grouse conservation as of now. The emphasis is on permanent offsets for the species, she says.

It is however being used to mitigate for the lesser prairie chicken, which is one of several issues conservation banker Wayne Walker takes with the Lesser Prairie Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan. Walker, the founder of Common Ground Capital (CGC), a conservation banking firm focused on landscape level prairie chicken banks, (Walker notes in the video CGC’s chicken banks were recently approved) dissected the plan throughout his presentation pointing out elements he sees as faults. These include the Service’s inclusion of the 4 (d) rule, a lack of scientific data for its findings and the negative impact it will have on the market-based banking industry.

Along with the constructive criticism, Walker also highlights the importance of each party involved and the need for further collaboration and support between them.

In this video, Walker summarizes lessons learned and lays out steps he believes needs to be taken in order to deliver a positive outcome for the prairie chicken.

Tomorrow the conference winds down with the Legislative and Regulatory Update.

Your Donut Is Killing Our Forests, Here’s How To Make It Stop

12 March 2014 | Calen May-Tobin recently confessed to using Old Spice since he was 15, and he says that isn’t the worst of his transgressions.

“On a bad day nothing cheers me up quite like a bowl (or six) of Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” he wrote in a recent blog post for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “(A)nd seeing a Taco Bell sign or McDonald’s golden arches on a long car trip never fails to reinvigorate me.”

But those products, he points out, contain palm oil, which often comes from carbon-rich peat swamps. Draining those swamps pumps hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere every year, and that accelerates climate change. Some of the world’s largest private conservation efforts, like the Rimba Raya REDD Project, are devoted to reversing that trend, and the Indonesian government has stepped up with support as well, but those efforts will fail if the global economy doesn’t wake up to the challenge.

That’s where May-Tobin comes in. He’s a policy analyst with UCS’s Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative, and he’s been tracking the small but influential gaggle of consumer-facing companies that vowed to source palm oil from degraded lands instead of from peat swamps. The result is Donuts, Deodorant, Deforestation, a scorecard that grades 30 top consumer companies in the fast food, personal care, and packaged food sectors.

Published last week, the scorecard shows that while some companies are at least coming clean on their impact, most are keeping mum, and even those who have come clean haven’t yet reduced their impact enough to make a difference.

Out of ten fast food companies, for example, only two – McDonald’s and Subway – qualified to even receive points on the scorecard, and both scored quite low. Still, he gives them credit for at least acknowledging there is a problem and promising to take action – unlike the other eight.

Companies that make personal-care products scored higher, but only one of them – L’Oreal – had become peat-free and only two – L’Oreal and Reckitt Benckiser – had committed to letting their supplies become traceable.

Packaged food companies scored the highest, with four out of ten – namely, Kellogg’s,  Mondelez,  Nestlé,  and Unilever – committing to both purge their supply chains of palm oil that led to deforestation or peat depletion and let their supplies be traced.

Now, he says, it’s up to consumers to make sure those promises are kept.

“Even those companies that have made strong commitments…still have a long road ahead of them,” May-Tobin concludes. “Commitments are only the first step, and are only as good as the paper they’re printed on. The real change takes place when companies act on their commitments and put them into practice.”

Reason For Optimism

May-Tobin’s colleague Doug Boucher says there are plenty of reason to believe those commitments will, in fact, be put into practice. He is UCS’s senior scientist and director of climate research and analysis, and he believes that the shift in emphasis from palm-oil producers to consumer-facing companies like these has pushed the sector towards eliminating palm-driven deforestation.

“Until recently, the palm oil producers, the global companies that produce palm oil – not the companies that used that palm oil in their products, which is the focus on the scorecard – were hiding behind the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil rather than addressing deforestation head on,” he points out. “But, since December, two major suppliers have committed to producing deforestation-free and peat-free palm oil. These two suppliers, Wilmar and Golden Agri-Resource (GAR), together sell 55 percent of the world’s palm oil.”

None of this means consumer companies are off the hook, and neither are consumers. Sustainably-harvested palm oil is more expensive in the short-term, but if we don’t pay a little bit extra now, we’ll pay a lot more later.

Fast Food Companies

Source: www.ucsusa.org/palmoilscorecard

Personal Care

Packaged Foods

 

Additional resources

Biodiversity Boom Bolsters Peruvian Forests (And REDD) Ahead Of Year-End Climate Talks There

By saving their Manu National Park, Peruvians have engineered a biodiversity boom – just as more research shows that undisrupted and biodiversity-rich ecosystems recover more rapidly from disturbances brought on by climate change. Lauren Cooper of Nature Services Peru says this should put REDD front-and-center at year-end climate talks there.

15 April 2014 | A new survey, by UC Berkeley, SIU-Carbondale, and Illinois Wesleyan University is bringing some much-needed positivity in global biodiversity news. Despite species and biodiversity figures dropping all over the world, Manu National Park of southern Peru has surpassed its own record for species biodiversity. The park continues to hold title as the richest biodiversity hotspot in the world for reptiles and amphibians.

Located in the Department of Madre de Dios in southern Peru, Manu Park is already a world-renowned attraction for “eco-tourists” – specifically bird watchers, scientists, and conservationists. The World Heritage List in 1987.

The nearly 1.5 million protected hectares hosts a variety of ecosystems, including lowland moist Amazonian rain forest, high-altitude cloud forest, and Andean grasslands. Located east of the city of Cuzco, down the steep slope of the Andean mountains, the park has remained largely untouched by modern development and is symbolic of pristine wilderness.

The new survey finds more than 1,000 species of birds (accounting for roughly 10 percent of global bird species), more than 1,200 species of butterflies, more than 200 mammals, and now 287 reptiles and amphibians.

What are the larger implications?

Biodiversity contributes to ecosystem services such as water circulation, air filtration, micro- and macroclimate stabilization, as well as useful products for humans such as wood, clean water, and medicines. For communities living in and around the forests, this also means basic livelihood needs such as food, spirituality, and materials for building and clothing. The complex relationships between plant, animal, insect, fungi, and amphibian species is what keeps ecosystems functioning.

Science and media have been buzzing around the idea of extinction loss –that it’s happening, its unprecedented in our era (in the last major extinction the Earth lost 90% of biodiversity and the dinosaurs), and it has meaningful impacts for humans. Today we are facing a global biodiversity crisis that is only now becoming understood.

A new book by Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, is getting a good deal of attention. Kolbert suggests that 20 to 50 percent of all living species on earth could disappear within this century. As perhaps the most direct threat to life on Earth, this can be confusing with all of the attention climate change is receiving. It is important to know that these issues are not separate, but are instead highly interrelated. How biodiversity loss will interact with a changing climate is perhaps the most daunting prospect humans have ever faced.

How has this happened? From habitat destruction to water pollution, transporting invasive species to pesticide use, natural resource extraction to human-induced climate change, we are now impacting nearly every corner of the Earth. Scientists have determined that habitats are being so rapidly destroyed and altered that extinction is occurring at a much faster rate than species can evolve.

A Connection to Climate Change?

Climate change is aggravating the issue of biodiversity loss. Beyond the physical destruction of ecosystems to build roads and communities (to accommodate our exploding population), climate change brings highly uncertain impacts and consequences to conservation and biodiversity.

Climate change can lead to movements of species in “unpredictable or aggressive ways” while pests and non-local species create additional challenges for the resilience capacity to resist invasion. For example, this ecosystem resilience can be overcome if forest fires occur too frequently or over large areas.

However, research has found that undisrupted and biodiversity-rich ecosystems recover more rapidly from disturbances such as logging, storms, species shifting, or fire. Therefore, simply by maintaining forest health and biodiversity, such as in the Manu National Park, forests are more capable and well-adapted to coping with any disturbances. These findings have important and reassuring implications for conservation and landscape management, indicating that long-term protection and conservation provides unrivaled benefits to biodiversity and connectivity. This is especially important when looking at the current rate of biodiversity loss; once these species are gone, we won’t get them back.

Linking it all Together: COP20 in Lima, Peru

Coincidentally, the 2014 Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework for Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) is in Lima, Peru. It’s also the meeting spot for the second Katoomba meeting, which fittingly kicks off on April 22-Earth Day.

The COP is an annual international meeting that brings together national level negotiators to find solutions for climate change. The COP includes mitigation of emissions (reducing CO2 from fossil fuel burning and destroying natural sinks such as forests) and adaptation (adjusting to climate change impacts happening today and in the future). Although the COP has been criticized as a slow and bulky response, it’s the formal communications plan currently in place and remains an important platform to discuss these issues and work toward solutions.

While marking the 20th COP is symbolic in its own right, additional pressure to fulfill targets set in the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action will dominate this meeting. This platform, created in South Africa in 2012, agrees to commit to a new international agreement with legal force to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2015. The plan will become operational by 2020. This is an immense task itself, and leaders in Lima are preparing to reach this target.

While the 20th COP is certainly crucial in light of accelerating global climate change, it is also an opportunity for issues of forests, ecosystem services, and biodiversity to move more fully into the negotiations. As a major tropical forest country, Peru leadership should be strong and consistent in the stance that forest-rich countries must be provided with substantial incentives, functioning mechanisms, and institutional support to implement biological conservation and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+).

Tapping into REDD

Last year’s COP in Warsaw, Poland made some progress in orchestrating funding, transparency, and monitoring for the REDD+ mechanism. Though it still has some way to go, continued support is providing REDD+ projects, existing and developing, the confidence to progress. However, specifics on safeguards, further funding, and the possibility of a compliance market remain murky. The parties are still searching for effective ways to implement conservation and REDD+ while maintaining the highest standards of respect for people that live and depend on forests.

Forest carbon has been included for a number of years in various carbon valuing approaches and markets. Payments for ecosystem services (PES) including biodiversity are emerging as well. The last decade has shown success in developing effective market components for carbon credits and REDD+, validation, transparency, and establishing appropriate safeguards. While we still have much to learn, and REDD must continue to stay flexible and open to learning best practices, the sheer volume of high quality projects demand that this mechanism begin to function boldly to both reduce emissions and protect biodiversity.

Efforts to value ecosystems (including carbon, services, and biodiversity) have an essential role in balancing the global needs of carbon mitigation and biodiversity conservation. A central tenet of the negotiations is creating new mechanisms to value goods such as carbon and ecosystem services that fall outside of the traditional economic model. It will be important to support current and emerging projects while local, regional, and national governments launch ecosystem valuing programming and regulations. Achieving further consensus and funding for REDD+ in COP 20 can move towards both climate and biodiversity goals.

Global Engagement

In the face of climate change and biodiversity loss we are required to come together as a global community in ways never needed before. We must learn from the mistakes made in the industrialized world, not just helping developing countries to leap-frog dirty technologies, but also in creating solutions to reduce deforestation and protect biodiversity.

Lauren Cooper is a Project Coordinator with Nature Services Períº, a Peruvian company focused on sustainable ecosystem management. She can be reached at lauren.cooper@natureservicesperu.com.
Additional resources

Buying Hope And Time For Coral Reef

Between now and August, we’ll be examining the economic benefits of coral reefs and financing mechanisms designed to help preserve them. Here’s a look at the other side of that equation: what it costs to maintain them, and the challenge of meeting that cost through conventional means.

9 April 2014 | “The need was evident because I was diving all the time, going out to the same spots – and you get there, and the coral had died,” explains Ken Nedimyer, the former fisherman who initiated coral nursery-based restoration in the Florida Keys. Coral reefs, which provide habitat for over twenty-five percent of marine species, are dying worldwide, especially in tropical waters, from combined climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, disease, and pollution stresses. In 2001, Nedimyer began to gather staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis ) and elkhorn coral (Acropora palmater) from degraded reefs for his ad-hoc nursery in Tavernier Key. By 2003, his nursery coral looked strong, and Nedimyer began planting the coral within the nearby reef areas.

In 2004, Nedimyer began collaborating with the Florida Keys branch of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and that same year, the Florida office of the Restoration Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offered Nedimyer and TNC their first joint grant, a $35,000 Community-based Restoration Grant for coral nursery and restoration work. “We were looking for grass roots groups that were really just trying to get started, get new ideas off the ground,” explains NOAA marine biologist Tom Moore, who runs the NOAA Restoration Center’s southeast Atlantic coral restoration work. “(T)hat is exactly what Ken was doing. They had an idea, it was a new idea, [and] it didn’t have a lot of big money behind it.”

In 2006, staghorn coral and elkhorn coral were listed as threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, and NOAA became even more interested in Nedimyer’s and TNC’s work, according to Moore. That year, the NOAA Restoration Center offered a $45,000 Community-based Habitat Restoration Grant to Nedimyer, TNC, and their new collaborators, the University of Miami, the Mote Marine Laboratory, and Nova Southeastern University. The total project costs for 2004 (which ran into 2005) and 2006 efforts were $88,000 and $105,000, respectively, according to Caitlin Lustic, TNC’s Coral Reef Restoration coordinator.

In 2007, Nedimyer reorganized his small, part-time group into the non-profit Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF). Because the grant money, the coral nursery, and the restoration effort were all relatively modest, Nedimyer continued working his fisherman day job.

This changed during the recession in 2009, when the American Recovery and Relief Act (ARRA), better known as “the stimulus,” funded NOAA’s Restoration Center with 168 million dollars for employment-generating restoration projects. Under the Stimulus, NOAA gave Nedimyer, TNC, and their partners a 3.3 million dollar grant to work on coral reef restoration for a three year period. With stimulus funding, Nedimyer dedicated himself full time to coral restoration. “It allowed us to really ramp up the program and take it to a whole new level,” says Nedimyer, whose own nurseries grew from approximately 5,000 to 30,000 coral during the three-year period.

Getting a NOAA stimulus grant was competitive and entailed a multi-level application review with separate panels of data and restoration policy experts. However, NOAA encouraged the TNC/CRF-led group , which now consisted of TNC, CRF, the University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University, Mote Marine Lab, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, all in Florida, to apply. (Penn State would also help out during the grant period providing genetic analysis of coral.) Creating jobs was key, says Moore, and he points out that “coral restoration was actually one of the most efficient ways to create jobs because we did not have lots of equipment expenditures… and it is relatively low tech. It is really people in the water doing work. And so that got a lot of traction.” Moore also credits the different coral restoration groups’ forging a strong partnership. “It allowed them to tell one cohesive story and ultimately get funded,” Moore says.

Once underway, the grant created thirty-five new jobs among the collaborating groups, with TNC coordinating the program, distributing NOAA-stimulus funds, and directly reporting to NOAA. The partners divided up the $3.3 million dollar grant, with TNC getting extra for administration, and Nedimyer getting the second largest portion of the grant. The partners focused on restoration in the Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Upper, Middle and Lower Keys, and Dry Tortugas. Work in the United States Virgin Island St. Croix and St. Thomas parks were included as well.

The partners each set up a staghorn coral nursery and prioritized coral genetic diversity for hearty, disease resistant strains. Each group made plans to transplant approximately 1,200 coral during the last months of the grant period.

All participated in restoration. With CRF, for example, participants replanted sets of 400 coral at Conch Reef, Pickles Reef, Molasses Reef and Key Largo Dry Rocks, all in the Keys. The group produced new understandings of coral genetics with assessments published, and achieved high genetic diversity for staghorn coral. CRF now has over 100 genetic strains of staghorn at the CRF Tavernier nursery alone.

Lustic organized monthly meetings in which the different groups shared data and experiences. Nedimyer offered his own coral nursery experience, which proved critical. In 2010 a cold front swept through the Keys marine area, killing much coral placed at the bottom of the marine nurseries. Nedimyer’s innovations with coral trees and coral lines that were elevated above the marine bottom in CRF nurseries enabled his nurseries to avoid devastation, and he was able to resupply a few of the partners who lost hundreds of coral during the 2010 cold snap.

Lustic, Nedimyer, and Moore report solid success and coral nurseries still in place. Moore offers a big picture assessment where global stresses, such as climate change, need to be addressed. At the same time, Moore emphasizes the need for ongoing restoration today. Otherwise, he says, when and if those global challenges are addressed, there will be a “Panda bear” situation, “with coral reef in dire, dire straits.”

Moore adds that one major goal of the stimulus grant was to replant enough genetically diverse coral to have successful coral spawning events, which only happens once a year and which were desultory before the grant. He confirms that in 2013 a major spawning occurred in stimulus fund restored areas. “What we were trying to do with this project is to make sure that we outplant corals that are genetically diverse from one another and close enough to each other so that when they do have their one night of sexual reproduction that…those reefs that we have restored…will become seed grounds for other reefs in other areas,” explains Moore. “We set that up in a number of places.”

Lustic also points to scaled-up potential and demonstrable success as the stimulus grant’s legacy. But she is concerned that the partners, who remain a group and maintain nurseries, are underfunded. The group is currently receiving a modest $170,000 two-year NOAA grant divided six ways, which the partners match with their own raised funds and then TNC matches that amount, making it a 1-1-1 match. “We are only funding right now at a smaller level, and the partners are ready to be doing this at a bigger scale,” Lustic says. She also says that there is a possibility of receiving money under the Restore Act, the authority for collecting BP Oil Spill penalties. The funds are distributed to ecology-centered projects in the Gulf States. But that is very uncertain. Meanwhile, TNC does receive some alternative funding with the National Park Service supporting TNC’s Dry Tortugas program.

In a few places, advances continue. Nedimyer’s Coral Reef Foundation now has a $650,000 annual budget, with five full-time employees, and 40,000 coral in its nurseries. In addition to NOAA support, CRF receives significant private interest and support. Nedimyer and his team are also now providing guidance for Bonaire and Colombia on coral reef restoration and hold 15,000 coral in its Caribbean nurseries. Recently, his team formed another United States NGO just for international programs.

However, Nedimyer agrees with Lustic and Moore that the fall in funding makes it near impossible to bring south Atlantic and Caribbean coral reef restoration up to what it could be. “All of those nurseries are still running. All of them have plans to do more…Now NOAA is convinced this can be done on a big scale and that we have worked out all the bumps,” Nedimyer says. “The [grant’s] legacy is ‘look at all we can do now. We have all the tools in place, we have the corals in place, and we have people trained how to do it…’ So we say, ‘look, let’s keep doing this.’ ”

Richard Blaustein is a freelance environmental journalist based in Washington D.C. He can be reached at richblaustein@hotmail.com.

Latest Science Reconfirms:Trees Are Key To Curbing Climate Change

This article was originally published on the Center for Global Development’s blog. Click here to read the original.

 

29 April 2014 | The newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change,” describes the actions that people will need to take if we are to maintain a safe and stable global climate.  Like the two previous IPCC reports (which I have written about here and here), it is based on the collective volunteer work of dozens of top scientists and economists synthesizing the findings of thousands of peer-reviewed articles.

My colleague Alice Lépissier has written here about the IPCC finding that avoiding dangerous climate change is still possible if governments act quickly to set a price on carbon emissions.   So I won’t cover that ground in this blog.   Instead, I’d like to highlight what the IPCC report says about forests.

This IPCC report makes clear that avoiding dangerous climate change by limiting global temperature increase to 2 °C (3.8 °F), as agreed by nations in Copenhagen in 2009, will depend critically on taking carbon dioxide out of the air.   There are two ways to do this. One way is to strip carbon dioxide out of emissions from power plants before it enters the atmosphere, and store it underground.   This technology is called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and is still in early development stages.   Another way to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is by planting trees.   Trees have been sequestering carbon perfectly well for millions of years using photosynthesis.

In a future in which CCS technology becomes available and cost-effective on a large scale, limiting global temperature rise to +2 °C requires reducing deforestation to near-zero by 2030.   Not many models project that it’s possible to limit warming to +2 °C without CCS technology, but those that do require not only stopping deforestation altogether, but reversing it to create a massive terrestrial carbon sink of regrowing forest vegetation by 2030 (Figure 1).

 

CGDFig1

Figure 1. Greenhouse gas emissions by sector in modelled scenarios that limit atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration to 450 ppm CO2eq, with and without Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the electricity sector. Green bars represent carbon sequestration by forests. Source: IPCC WGIII AR5 Figure SPM.7

Since halting and reversing deforestation is so critical to maintaining a safe climate, how can we make this happen?   My colleague Kalifi Ferretti-Gallon and I have been researching this topic for the last year, and I’ll come back to our findings in a moment.   But first, here are three important things to bear in mind about what the IPCC report says about forests:

1.             Net emissions from deforestation are 11% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.   But the mitigation potential from reducing gross emissions from deforestation is much larger.

The 11% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions (5.4 GtCO2eq/yr) from forest loss is net of forest regrowth. But gross emissions from forest loss are actually much higher than this; about twice as much carbon is released from forest loss as is sequestered due to regrowth. And importantly, forest loss is currently occurring in different regions of the world than forest regrowth.   Accelerating the regrowth of forests in China and India does not diminish the potential to reduce deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia.   So the potential contribution to global mitigation of reducing forest loss is much larger than 11%.

2.             Deforestation emissions comprise the bulk of emissions in some regions.

While net emissions from deforestation comprise 11% of emissions globally, they make up a far larger share of emissions in some countries.   Deforestation makes up more than half of the emissions from Latin America. In Indonesia, deforestation and associated peat degradation represent about three-quarters of emissions. The main way that these countries can participate in slowing climate change is by reducing deforestation.

3.             Research published after the deadline for inclusion in the IPCC report shows that the global pace of deforestation is currently accelerating, not slowing.

The stack of scientific papers published on climate change grows taller with every passing week. So the IPCC necessarily sets a deadline for which scientific papers it can include in its reports.   For this report, papers were only included if they were accepted for publication before October 4, 2013.   Unfortunately, one of the most important scientific papers in years about deforestation was published on October 15, 2013—eleven days after the deadline for inclusion.   This paper by Matt Hansen and his colleagues in Science used satellite data to show that global deforestation rates increased throughout the 2000s (Figure 2).   But the IPCC reports that deforestation emissions are falling, based on a decline in the deforestation rates that countries self-reported to the Food and Agricultural Organization between the 1990s and the 2000s.   IPCC projections of future rates of deforestation also assume falling rates.  If future rates of deforestation are instead projected to stay stable or climb, then even more investment in reducing deforestation is needed to stabilize the climate.

 

CGDFig2

Figure 2. Annual forest cover loss by climate domain in millions of hectares per year, 2001-2010. Source: Hansen et al (2013)

 

So, coming back to the urgent topic at hand, what drives deforestation and what stops it?   My colleague Kalifi Ferretti-Gallon and I investigate this question in a new CGD Working Paper.   We compiled a comprehensive database of all 117 spatially explicit econometric studies of deforestation published in peer-reviewed academic journals from 1996-2013.   We then present a meta-analysis of what drives deforestation and what stops it, based on the signs and significances of 5909 coefficients in 554 multivariate analyses (Figure 3).

 

CGDFig2

Figure 3. Twenty most commonly studied metavariables’ association with deforestation, organized by sign and significance of coefficients related to that meta-variable. Meta-variables ordered by ratio of negative to positive association with deforestation. For meta-variables in upper case, the ratio of negative to positive observations is statistically significantly different from 1:1 in a two-tailed t-test at the 95% confidence level. Source: Ferretti-Gallon and Busch (2014)

Comparing the relative effects of different drivers of deforestation, we found that:

  • forests are more likely to be cleared where economic returns to agriculture and pasture are higher, either due to more favorable climatological and topographic conditions, or due to lower costs of clearing forest and transporting products to market.
  • timber activity, land tenure security, and community demographics do not show a consistent association with either higher or lower deforestation.
  • population is consistently associated with greater deforestation, and poverty is consistently associated with lower deforestation, but in both cases endogeneity makes a causal link difficult to infer.

Furthermore, we found that promising approaches for stopping deforestation include:

  • reducing the intrusion of road networks into remote forested areas
  • targeting protected areas to regions where forests face higher threat
  • tying rural income support to the maintenance of forest resources through payments for ecosystem services
  • insulating the forest frontier from the price effects of demand for agricultural commodities.

The establishment of international performance-based payments for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) would increase the incentive to successfully undertake any of the above interventions.   That’s why it’s important to learn from large-scale experiments in performance-based finance for reducing deforestation currently taking place in Brazil, Guyana, and Indonesia, and why it’s so critical to scale up performance-based finance for reducing deforestation, as through the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s Carbon Fund.

Because without figuring out what mix of policies and finance mechanisms will successfully halt and reverse deforestation, we’re going to sail right through that +2 °C target.

Download the full database here.  

 

Jonah Busch is a research fellow with the Center for Global Development and environmental economist whose research focuses on the economics of forests and climate change. He can be reached at jbusch@cgdev.org.

This Week In Water: Nature And The Nexus

Ecosystem Marketplace is gearing up for the 2014 State of Watershed Payments report. The report will cover the water energy food nexus and watershed investments among other topics. Meanwhile, EM is also preparing for Katoomba XX in Lima Peru where discussions will focus on aligning climate policy with other commitments that support resilient ecosystems and societies.

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

31 March 2014 | Your editors have been wondering whether long, cold winters lead to putting extra irons in the proverbial fire, because we sure are busy this month. We’ve launched our 2014 water survey, gathering data for a new ‘State of Watershed Payments‘ report due out later this year. If you’re working in the field of natural infrastructure investments – whether that’s PES, water quality trading, partnerships for water stewardship, or something else, please get in touch. You can fill out the survey online, or work with us to share data through an interview or hard copy of the survey. The survey is also available in Spanish.


It’s going to be a great report this year.
We’re looking forward to covering financing mechanisms, watershed investment ROI, and nexus issues in greater detail. Be part of it by reporting on your own work, or talk to us about partnership and sponsorship opportunities.

We’re also preparing for the twentieth Katoomba meeting, “Climate, Forests, Water, and People: A Vision of Development for Tropical America.” With COP 20 only months away, and also to be held in Lima, Peru, we look forward to thinking about how to align climate policy and finance with other investment commitments, to ensure that forests and other ecosystems continue to support for a stable climate and resilient societies. If you’re interested in attending, learn more here.
 

We’ll be joining Natural Capital Markets for a free webinar on April 16th, exploring new models and actors driving natural capital investments in watershed services and biodiversity. Learn more and register here.
 

And finally, we’re looking forward to the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s upcoming symposium, “Accelerating Sustainability: Energy and Water in Your Operations and Supply Chains” in Washington DC on May 6th. Look for us chairing the session on natural infrastructure. Follow the link to register – ‘Early Bird’ rates are available through the end of this month.

 

The water-energy nexus focus of the symposium is a timely one; it’s also the topic of this year’s World Water Day and two new reports which we cover in this month’s newsletter: a new World Water Development Report tracking how energy development may be accelerating water risk, and a white paper that considers the nexus rationale for integrating carbon and water footprint management.
 

We also have coverage of the world’s first interstate water quality trade (again, the energy sector makes an appearance!), and a new report from CDP that suggests that the private sector in India is failing to act on its water risk exposure.

 

Very best,

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


EM Headlines

GENERAL

Event Marks World’s First Interstate Water Quality Trading Project

The Ohio River spans 981 miles meandering from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois where it empties into the Mississippi River. Twenty five million people live within its basin and three million rely on the river for their drinking water supply.

 

But pollution is damaging the river’s water quality. Nutrient-nitrogen and phosphorous-pollution is flowing into the waterway from different states. While the water and pollution in it crosses borders, the differing state laws often make solving the problem complicated. And the sources of pollution are many. They include power plants, wastewater treatment facilities, agriculture and urban runoff. In order to stem the flow of effluents, collaboration is needed among these groups as well as with environmental NGOs, farmers and federal and state agencies.

 

One solution that can provide this high level of collaboration is a water quality trading program. Three states within the Ohio River Basin are moving forward with one such project. Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana make up the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Project that, if successful, will reduce nutrient pollution flowing into the Ohio River by 66,000 pounds of nitrogen and 33,000 pounds of phosphorous over a five year period. The program marked its first trade earlier this month: at full scale, the market could encompass eight states, 46 power plants, thousands of wastewater utilities and 230,000 farmers.

Learn more.

In The News

POLICY UPDATES

I Sense a Disturbance in the Nexus…

This year’s edition of the World Water Development Report finds that the water-energy nexus may be a little imbalanced. Energy and water needs are strongly interconnected, but too often energy development is favored at the expense of water resources, according to the report. In part, this is because policy-makers lack the information to understand water-energy tradeoffs, lead author Richard Connor tells Circle of Blue: “Because water is not managed around its economic value, whereas energy is seen as an economic value, the tendency is to make decisions with respect to energy and ignore the water limitations.” The report offers a thorough looks at trends in the energy and water sectors and outlook in the coming decades, along with a dozen case studies of successful nexus solutions.

Read Circle of Blue’s coverage.
Read the report (pdf).

EPA Suggests a Green Hand to Stem Combined Sewer Overflows

In October of 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a green infrastructure strategy. This month, the EPA released guidance particularly focused on greening combined sewer overflow occurrences which are expected to increase with heavier rains in a changing climate. The infrastructure – such as grassy swales and porous pavements – can be incorporated into long-term control plans required . The Clean Water Act requires these plans, but meeting them has been expensive for urban areas in the past. Using green infrastructure can help reduce costs. The EPA guidance provides instructions on installing and maintaining green techniques while applying them alongside “gray” infrastructure like pipes. The guidance also demonstrates software that quantifies the amount of overflow the green infrastructure is reducing.

Bloomberg has coverage.

Southern Africa Struggles with Clean Water and Sanitation Targets

Out of fifteen southern African nations, only two are on target to cut by half the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation, says a report by nonprofit Water Aid. About 100 million people living in the region don’t have access to safe drinking water. Only Botswana and Seychelles will meet their 2015 Millennium Development Goals. The report called on governments to make as much progress as possible in the little time remaining before 2015.


One way is to allocate revenue from natural resource extraction toward sanitation and clean water. John Garrett, lead author of the Water Aid report, says, “There’s opportunity for other countries in the region to make better use of their natural resource base in order to expand public spending on water and sanitation.” Aid also should be distributed based on need, the report says. Seychelles receives $57.20 per person of aid while the Democratic Republic of Congo gets $1 per person in aid, even though over half the latter population lacks access to clean water. Garrett says, “The most important thing is to see political priority coming from those countries which have neglected the water and sanitation sector.”

Learn more.

Drumbeat for NatCap Accounting Gets Louder in the UK

“Unless we attach a value it is often assumed to be zero and we take it for granted,” the UK Secretary of State for Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson, said during the launch of the latest State of Natural Capital report. He was referring to the lack of proper accounting for natural assets and the need for it. “Attaching a value improves our decision-making by shedding a light on what nature provides for free compared to things such as the costs and benefits of investment and regulation. It helps us make better choices for the long term.” The report, published this month by the UK Natural Capital Committee reinforces work already undertaken to incorporate natural capital into national accounting.

Learn more here.

Building Resilience with Natural Infrastructure in Kenya’s Tana Basin

In Kenya’s Tana River basin, work is underway to demonstrate how natural infrastructure can support resilience to climate change. The “Wise-Up” (Water Infrastructure Solutions from Ecosystem services Underpinning climate resilient Policies and programmes) program, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the International Climate Initiative, aims to demonstrate portfolios of built and natural infrastructure to manage water-food-energy security risks and build climate resilience. Work in the Tana Basin kicked off with a three-day workshop in Malindi. Program leaders plan to begin by developing dams and dykes within natural wetlands in the lower basin to mitigate flood and drought effects in the catchment.

Read more from the Kenya News Agency.

EPA Helps Lancaster PA Move on Green Infrastructure

Because of Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s interest and plan to implement green infrastructure throughout the city, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chose them to serve as a case study for their recent report on utilizing green infrastructure for controlling wet-weather pollution. The EPA’s study found that Lancaster’s plan would reduce gray infrastructure capital costs by $121.7 million and save the city $661,000 in wastewater pumping and treatment costs annually. And unlike single-purpose gray pipelines, green infrastructure has the potential byproducts of cleaner air and biodiversity among other benefits which, in monetary terms, exceed $2.8 million in Lancaster’s case. This surpasses the estimated cost of implementing the changes, which ranged from $51 to $94 million. Liz Deardorff of American Rivers says, “Valuing multiple benefits of green infrastructure ensures water management investments by the city will help beautify, provide a safer, healthier and more prosperous community.”

Read more at WaterWorld.

GLOBAL MARKETS

Understanding Nexus Links Between Carbon and Water Footprints

A white paper released earlier this month by the Anthesis Group and the Water Footprint Network looks at the links between climate and water impacts, and why we should consider them in isolation. Demand for energy triggers greater demand for water, and often vice versa, suggesting a need to manage growth and impacts in tandem. Fifteen companies including Nestlé, Nokia and Tata Cleantech Capital Ltd. have committed to integrated management of their carbon and water footprints already, the authors note. “Until today, water and energy use has been tackled separately,” said Paul McNeillis, Director of Anthesis and a co-author of the white paper. “By considering them holistically, we are starting to clear the path towards sustainability.”

Learn more.
Read the white paper.

Three Energy Companies Become First Buyers in Ohio River Trading Project

Duke Energy, Hoosier Energy and American Electric Power (AEP) were the first buyers of water quality credits in the Ohio River Basin Trading Project that officially launched this month. The pilot project is the only interstate water quality trading project in the world and aims to stem the nutrient pollution flowing into the Ohio River from different states and sources. The three buyers purchased 9,000 credits altogether, and can use them to meet sustainability goals and for flexibility in meeting possible compliance obligations in the future. “These early credit transactions will immediately improve watershed and farm health,” says Jessica Fox, an EPRI technical executive and director of the water quality trading program.

Keep reading here.

India Business Sector Needs to Wake Up to Water Risk, Says CDP

By 2020, India is expected to be a water-scarce nation and by 2030, demand for water is expected to outstrip supply by 50 percent. But according to a study by the NGO CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), the business sector in India isn’t recognizing the problem or planning accordingly. CDP’s report, “Safeguarding India’s Water Resources,” says companies are underestimating this risk. The federal government, meanwhile, is seeking a paradigm shift in their water resource management, calling for a 20 percent reduction in water use from industry. In order for this to happen, businesses need to identify their water risks with better measurement techniques and transparency, and then build long-term resilience to these challenges. “India’s economic growth and political stability are at stake in the coming years if it does not change its approach to water management,” the CDP report says. “The bottom-line is we need to act now.”

Business Today has the story.

Oregon Cities to be Cool and Clean with Natural Infrastructure

Natural vegetation along a waterway can act as a water filter and native plants can keep water cool. The city of Medford is one of two Oregon cities attempting to use this natural infrastructure through voluntary incentives programs that save money while keeping their water supplies cool and clean. Medford uses a program that pays landowners for an easement to plant trees on their property along the Rogue River. This program costs $8 million – slightly more than half of what installing chillers to cool the water would cost. The other city is Eugene, located east of the McKenzie River, where residents will be compensated for maintaining a swath of their property in environmentally friendly ways. Alex Johnson of the Freshwater Trust sums up the projects by saying, “Natural infrastructure only gets more valuable. Every other type of asset depreciates.”

Read the full story.

EVENTS

Webinar: Working with Conservation Districts

ASDWA and GWPC will conduct a free webinar to showcase the new Source Water Collaborative Toolkit and share state source water program experiences from Minnesota and Nebraska in developing relationships and working with their conservation district partners. Please encourage your colleagues to participate. This webinar is ideal for state drinking water, ground water, clean water, and agriculture programs, EPA Regions, and other interested stakeholders. 3 April 2014. [1:00 – 2:30 PM EDT. ] Online.

Learn more here.

2014 Water Policy Conference

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

Learn more here.

Webinar: Natural Capital Markets for Watershed Services: Actors, Mechanisms, and Impacts

Natural Capital Markets (NCM) together with Ecosystem Marketplace (EM) will focus on the use of market (based) instruments to conserve watershed services. In particular, the role of different actors such as the private sector and local communities will be discussed. Panelists will also explore leading and emerging models for investments in natural capital. The webinar will be based on findings from a NCM study on PES (Payments for Ecosystem Services) and biodiversity offsets, and findings from latest recent EM publication “Payments for Watershed Services: An Executive Summary for Business.” 16 April 2014. [16:00 CET/10:00 EDT; will run for about one hour.] Online.

Learn more here.

Groundwater Summit 2014

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

Learn more here.

Accelerating Sustainability: Energy and Water in Your Operations and Supply Chains

You slashed your water consumption. You shrank your energy bill. You improved efficiencies in your supply chain. Now what? It’s time to put sustainability to work for your business. Join us on May 6 to learn innovative sustainability strategies that can enhance your brand, cut cost, and grow revenue faster and at greater scale. At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Accelerating Sustainability Forum, in partnership with the US Business Council for Sustainable Development, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and SustainAbility, we will bring together some of the greatest minds and proven practitioners from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to explore two approaches — enhanced, scaled collaboration and sustainability-driven innovation. These concepts are redefining what businesses can achieve around energy and water use that delivers shared value for your business, society, and the environment. Through visionary speakers, action-oriented sessions, and ample networking opportunities, you will work with other sustainability leaders to refine the partnerships, tools, and techniques you need to create the energy and water solutions to accelerate transformative change. Early Bird pricing ends March 31st! 6 May 2014. Washington DC, USA.

Learn more here.

2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

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

Learn more here.

Business & Ecosystems Training

Join the the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) on May 7 for their Business Ecosystems Training. Hosted at the Chamber of Commerce, this one-day training provides businesses with state-of-the-art information and tools for integrating natural capital into your business decisions. Understand how to minimize the risks and capture the opportunities for your company related to water, GHG, and natural systems. 7 May 2014. Washington DC, USA.

Learn more here.

3rd Symposium on Urbanization and Stream Ecology

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

Learn more here.

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

ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services represents a dynamic and growing assembly of professionals, researchers, and policy makers involved with ecosystem services. The ACES 2014 Conference brings together this community in partnership with Ecosystem Markets and the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP), providing an open forum to share experiences, methods, and tools, for assessing and incorporating ecosystem services into public and private decisions. The focus of the conference is to link science, practice, and sustainable decision making by bringing together the ecosystem services community from around the United States and the globe. ACES 2014 will bring together leaders in government, NGOs, academia, Native American communities, and the private sector to advance the use of ecosystem services science and practice in conservation, restoration, resource management, and development decisions. We hope you will make plans to join more than 500 ecosystem service stakeholders in this collaborative discussion to advance use of an ecosystem services framework for natural resource management and policy. Deadline for proposals for many session formats is March 31st! 8-11 December 2014. Washington DC, USA.

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

Fight Over Declining Bird Highlights Debate Over Role Of Permanence In Mitigation

 

24 March 2014 | The lesser prairie chicken is in trouble. Its population has dropped by 50% since 2012, and less than 20,000 birds are left. All parties involved agree that some form of mitigation and conservation needs to happen, but mitigation bankers have slammed a proposal to make that mitigation voluntary even if the little grouse is listed as endangered. US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will make a decision on whether to officially list the prairie chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) at the end of this month. An ESA listing means federal protection for the species and its habitat, which complicates matters for landowners and energy interests. Loss of habitat from development is a prime reason the bird’s population is in decline.

Normally, such a listing would come with mandatory mitigation requirements, but FWS has proposed a special 4(d) rule – which would exempt participants enrolled in approved voluntary conservation plans from regulatory obligations.

Proponents of the voluntary approach say it offers the ability to shift habitat with a changing climate, but opponents say it lacks rigor and won’t offer the bird the protection it needs.

Adaptability or Fluff?

The proposed voluntary mechanisms rely on temporary mitigation to offset permanent impacts to the bird. One such initiative – and the one to garner the most opposition – is the Lesser Prairie Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan (RWP), which the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) proposed. Another is the Range-wide Oil and Gas Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for the Lesser Prairie Chicken for oil and gas activities (LPC CCAA). WAFWA administers both.

Further voluntary programs include the Lesser Prairie Chicken Habitat Exchange and habitat conservation program among others. These voluntary programs have support from a variety of stakeholders including NGOs, oil and gas companies as well as individual landowners in the regions the bird resides. The FWS has expressed serious interest in voluntary initiatives. Late last year, the Service announced it was seeking to incorporate the RWP into its proposal on conserving the bird and last month it was considering the habitat exchange as well. This month, the Service announced it had finalized its CCAA agreement for oil and gas.

Conservation bankers say the voluntary initiatives aren’t nearly rigorous enough to save the bird’s habitat. Bankers preserve endangered or threatened species by securing long term areas of undisturbed habitat and then generate revenue by buying and purchasing credits from developers needing to offset their impacts on a species. They argue the voluntary measures will not deliver the necessary results and are operating under untested methods. They also argue a revision to the 4(d) rule is needed because the conservation practiced under the RWP and the other voluntary plans isn’t strong enough to restore and repopulate prairie chicken populations.

The best solution, some bankers say, is to list the bird under the ESA and conserve the species with permanent mitigation using a proven market based approach like conservation banking.

Supporters of the voluntary plans say they are robust. The RWP uses a 2:1 mitigation ratio where development impacts on the prairie chicken are offset with twice the number of habitat units. One habitat unit is equivalent to one acre of high quality habitat. Qualifying as an offset includes a management plan for the property as well as annual monitoring that assess the quality of the land being used as habitat units.

Furthermore, usage of a spatial model that designates areas for prairie chicken conservation and industry development called the Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) has increased threefold since the FWS endorsed the RWP, says Bill Van Pelt, the Grassland Coordinator at WAFWA. By identifying prime chicken territory, the tool can encourage development activities to take place outside of those areas so it’s used by conservationists as well as developers.

The tool allows for pre-planning and involves stakeholders on both sides. Van Pelt talks about another group of stakeholders-the landowners-which, he says, are a key part of ensuring the viability of the species.

The RWP has generated a lot of interest among farmers and ranchers living in prairie chicken range. And New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma all have enrolled land in CCAAs for prairie chickens.

Van Pelt says participation is higher in these voluntary initiatives because participants want to make changes and implement conservation versus being forced to by regulatory obligations.

Having a structured plan like the RWP sets clear objectives in terms of restoring population and habitat while identifying participants and resources, Van Pelt explains.

“The RWP gives landowners the opportunity or options to determine if it will work for them and it gives industry a level of certainty on what it will cost,” Van Pelt says.

Adapting to Changing Landscapes

The plan considers impacts to the bird to be permanent. Therefore, Van Pelt says, they must be offset in-perpetuity. This is achieved through the plan’s endowment fund that will generate funds to provide conservation forever. Those providing the permanent offsets must demonstrate their ability to meet this requirement.

The mitigation method called moving habitat, also known as shifting and dynamic mitigation, is included as 75% of the RWP’s approach to permanently offset impacts to the prairie chicken. Shifting mitigation conserves an area of land for a five to ten year period. Moving habitat follows the bird as it migrates-the plan says the bird adapts easily to changing conditions. This also helps to avoid conflicts with development. The remaining 25% of the plan’s strategy will establish permanent areas of habitat for the prairie chicken called strongholds.

The plan says that this rather untraditional use of shifting mitigation is necessary for this species because climate change is a main threat to the bird’s survival, and it will cause changes in the bird’s migrating patterns and its range.

Supporters of the RWP argue that because conservation banks establish permanent swaths of land as species habitat, they won’t be as effective in conserving prairie chickens because of this possible change in the bird’s migrating pattern. A prairie chicken bank could be set up, opponents argue, but the bird’s range has shifted away from the area of the bank, so it does little to protect the species.

On top of that, the prairie chicken needs thousands of acres to thrive and opponents argue conservation banks aren’t designed for these types of wide-ranging species.

A Banking Approach

Conservation bankers, meanwhile, don’t only argue that conservation banking works well for wide-ranging animals, they also argue a compensatory mitigation model-conservation banking- should be the basis of the Services’ plan in conserving the bird. In fact they would argue for a species on the edge of extinction like the prairie chicken, the tried and trusted method of banking is the only way to proceed.

“There are too many unknowns,” says J. Adam Riggsbee about the RWP, the president of RiverBank Ecosystems, a mitigation and conservation banking company. Term mitigation leaves uncertainty around if there will be land available in the future and at what cost.

“Conservation banks provide certainty plain and simple,” he says. “We know its quality and we know it will be funded in perpetuity.”

Another conservation banker, Wayne Walker, says prairie chicken conservation won’t be successful if it continues to be voluntary. “Government, term payment programs will not drive the needed behavior change to achieve certainty of a net conservation benefit that a for profit compensatory conservation banking model will achieve, maintain and be accountable for in perpetuity,” he says. Walker is the founder of Common Ground Capital (CGC), a conservation banking company focused on landscape-scale banks for the prairie chicken.

This conservation banking model Walker is pushing for will require government to act as a regulator to a compliant market that trades chicken credits. Government can ensure industry is operating on a level playing field for the cost of conservation.

Walker says a conservation approach based on banking can achieve three things. The first is the probability of success will increase with the risk level decreasing. Second, the temporal risk to the bird will decrease as well because credits will be available to sell immediately upon a listing decision. This would minimize further impact to the species. And third, Walker argues that conservation banking does guarantee the landowner engagement needed. Banking would generate more landowners working with conservation bankers to save the species and create a viable market.

Cost of Conservation

Because conservation banking is considered expensive, proponents of the RWP, argue the less expensive methods used in the plan frees up more money for on the ground purposes protecting the prairie chickens.

Riggsbee doesn’t dispute banking is expensive. But it’s offering permanent high quality conservation.

“It costs more to cover permanent, well-sited conservation that is protected, funded and managed forever,” he says.

The cost of conservation banking is the real cost of conserving the prairie chicken back to viable healthy populations, the bankers say, where the voluntary initiatives won’t deliver this net benefit for the species and thus isn’t reflecting the true cost of saving the bird from extinction.

What’s best for the bird?

The point of all these proposals and plans is to prevent the prairie chicken from going extinct.

Jake Li, an environmental lawyer for the environmental nonprofit, Defenders of Wildlife, says an ESA listing is in the bird’s best interest.

“The evidence is right there. What the federal government and industry has been doing with the voluntary initiatives are just not working,” Li says. The bird has been a candidate species since 1998 and since then, the population has continued to decline.

A conservation plan must control threats to the species and increase its population which Li doesn’t see happening using only the voluntary plans.

“The problem isn’t that they are voluntary,” Li says, “but that the methods the plans are using aren’t proven.”

He’s talking primarily about shifting mitigation, which he says isn’t a proven mitigation method.

“Relying on term or dynamic mitigation to offset permanent impacts is a novel idea,” he says. “There is no scientific support for this method in protecting the prairie chicken. It doesn’t necessarily mean term mitigation won’t work. We just haven’t seen adequate evidence that it will.”

Until there is more confidence in this approach, conservation strategies using it should be cautious moving forward especially when considering development in priority habitat areas. As of right now, acres of land within the prairie chicken range are authorized for development based on the assumption the shifting mitigation theory works.

Li sees voluntary activities as a big part of prairie chicken conservation but they must be robust and not reliant on term mitigation. This would include permanent easements and a recovery plan for the species.

As of right now, Li says the first step to conserving the prairie chicken is an ESA listing. That decision will be made at the end of this month. If the Service decides against listing, litigation is more than likely, Li says.

Carbon Rights And Tenure:
The Debate Continues

 

March 21, 2014 | Though the weather outside the Newseum in Washington D.C. on Wednesday was dull, the mood inside was spirited and at times contentious at the Fifteenth Dialogue on Forests, Governance & Climate Change, hosted by the Rights and Resources Institute (RRI). About 100 panelists and audience members came together to discuss the issue of ‘carbon rights’ in the wake of the recently passed Warsaw Agreement on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests (REDD+).

“For the large trade to take place and large flow of money from developed countries to developing countries to take place, it’s extremely important that two things are very clear,” said Arvind Khare, Executive Director of RRI. “Who is the seller and who is the owner? And what is the commodity you are trading?”

It’s a question that could be phrased in an even more fundamental way: namely, is a payment for conservation performanceever really a commodity? REDD+ programs emerging under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change generally work by supporting climate-safe agriculture and involve no tradable carbon credits, at least not yet. Regional programs like California’s do have provisions for offsetting that would create tradable credits, and the REDD Offsets Working Group (ROW) has recommended safeguards for indigenous people participating under that mechanism.

Much of the debate focused on the continuing lack of clear land tenure for indigenous people, but Charles Di Leva of the World Bank’s Environmental and International Law Unit warned that a myopic focus on ownership could harm the communities it’s designed to help.

“If we were to require title resolution as a prerequisite, we might be excluding communities who want to participate in REDD activities,” he said.

In the voluntary market, which works at the project level instead of the jurisdictional level, project developers – indigenous or not – often don’t own the land on which they are operating, and REDD+ credits are often retired instead of traded. Increasingly those credits are contingent on the involvement of local communities. Andrew Hedges, the REDD+ Vice-Chair of the Climate Markets & Investment Association, noted that many buyers on the voluntary market now expect projects to have both Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standard (CCB) certification – which places the emphasis on the efficacy of those standards rather than on strict adherence to requirements to title.

But Niranjali Amerasinghe of the Center for International Environmental Law disagreed.

“I would posit that you really shouldn’t separate carbon from land rights,” she said.

For a full summary of the debate, visit The Forest Carbon Portal.

Indonesian Fires Bring More Haze to Southeast Asia

Unseasonal forest fires in Indonesia are causing respiratory problems and generating carbon emissions. The World Resources Institute uses the new Global Forest Watch tool to find out why and how these fires can be prevented.

This article was originally published on the World Resources Institute website. Click here to read the original.

4 March 2014 | The governor of Indonesia’s Riau province issued a state of emergency last week as thick haze blanketed large areas of the region, closing down schools and airports. According to local officials, more than 22,000 people have been impacted by respiratory problems–with the potential for many more if winds shift the haze to other more densely populated areas such as Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.

Clearing land for timber and agriculture is likely to blame. According to data from Global Forest Watch—a new online system that tracks tree cover change, fires, and other information in near-real time—roughly half of these fires are burning on land managed by oil palm, timber, and logging companies—despite the fact that using fire to clear land is illegal in Indonesia.

This latest haze emergency is reminiscent of a similar one that flared up in Indonesia in June 2013 (see WRI’s coverage of the fires crisis). So what’s different this time around, and what’s the same? We’ll attempt to answer these questions using satellite technology and Indonesian government data found in Global Forest Watch.

How Is this Haze Crisis Similar to that of June 2013?

Our new analysis detected 1,449 “high confidence” fire alerts on the island of Sumatra from February 20-March 3, 2014. Like last June, the fire alerts—which are detected using NASA’s Active Fire Data—are concentrated in the island’s Riau province.

 

Fire Alert

 

And like the June 2013 crisis, almost half of the fire alerts fall within timber, palm oil, and logging concessions.

 

Fire Graph

 

Very distinct clusters of fires can also be seen within specific company concessions. Using Global Forest Watch, everyone can explore these patterns, see the precise locations of the fires day-by-day, and determine which companies are operating in these areas.

 

Fire Image

 

A list of the affected concessions and companies is available at the end of the document. Closer investigation on the ground by Indonesian authorities is needed to pinpoint the exact causes of the fires at these locations and determine whether companies have perhaps broken the strict laws that limit the use of burning.

What Is Different About the New Haze Crisis?

February is an unusual time of year for fires in Indonesia—the normal burning season is April to October. This February has, however, been one of the driest on record in Indonesia and neighboring countries, affecting crop yields and setting the stage for burning. These sorts of dry spells may become more frequent and severe as climate change worsens.

These unseasonable fires are concerning, but there are also some positive, recent advances that could help prevent them from flaring up in the future. For one, stronger policy and market practices are disincentivizing and even penalizing burning and forest-clearing in Indonesia. Singapore, for example, is proposing a new law that would allow it to levy fines on companies—foreign or domestic—that cause transboundary haze events that impact the country. In the current draft bill, companies could face fines of up to US$238,000 for contributing to haze that crosses national borders. This is a rather small fine for the large companies that operate in Indonesia, but the potential impact on their reputations sends a strong signal that businesses need to do a better job of fire prevention.

Additionally, Wilmar, the world’s largest palm oil trader, recently pledged to produce and buy only deforestation-free and fire-free palm oil. Companies may see their valuable contracts with this major trader jeopardized if their concessions are affected by fires.

Furthermore, the world can now monitor these events live through Global Forest Watch. This new platform, launched on February 20 by WRI and more than 40 partners, provides near real-time information on fires and concession data.

More Action Is Needed to Prevent Fires in Indonesia’s Forests

There’s more that Indonesia and other countries should do to address the forest fires problem. While Global Forest Watch relies on the best data available, the Indonesian government has not yet released its most up-to-date concession information. The concession data shown above from the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry gives us a good idea of which companies are operating where, but it has several known inaccuracies. More transparency on the exact locations of concessions would make it easier to monitor and hold companies accountable when fires flare.

This transparency may improve in the near future. In October 2013, ministers from five Southeast Asian nations—including Indonesia—met to discuss haze prevention and agreed to share concession data on a country-to-country basis (though not make it public). Furthermore, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an industry group, has adopted a resolution that commits their member companies to share concession data openly.

In the meantime, companies, NGOs, governments, and concerned citizens can go directly to Global Forest Watch to monitor fire alert data and overlay it with data on concessions, protected areas, and land cover. With this information easily accessible, companies, local law enforcement, and governments cannot use ignorance as an excuse for inaction.

  • LEARN MORE: For more WRI analysis on Indonesia’s fires, check out our blog series.

 

Fire Table

 

Ariana Alisjahbana is a research analyst at WRI’s Forests Initiative. She can be reached at ariana.alisjahbana@wri.org.James Anderson is Forests Communications Officer for WRI’s People and Ecosystems Program. He can be reached at janderson@wri.org. Susan Minnemeyer is WRI’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Lab Manager. She can be reached at susanm@wri.org.Fred Stolle is Program Manager for WRI’s Forest Landscape Objective. He can be reached at fstolle@wri.org. Nigel Sizer is the Director of WRI’s Global Forest Initiative. He can be reached at nsizer@wri.org.
Additional resources

This Week In Water: Landscapes Thinking In Action

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


EM Headlines

GENERAL

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

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


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

 

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

Read more at Watershed Connect.

Latin American Katoomba Meetings Aim To Turbocharge Climate Talks

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

 

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

 

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

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

Keys To Launching Successful Forest Landscape Restoration

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

 

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

 

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

Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.

Writing About Food Security? Say It With Pictograms!

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

 

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

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

In The News

POLICY UPDATES

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

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


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


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

The Times-Picayune has coverage.

Commonwealth-NSW Ink a Deal on the Murray-Darling

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

Learn more at Circle of Blue.

Water Rights Buybacks Helped Australian Farmers, Study Says

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

Get the full story.

World Bank Throws its Weight Behind Nexus Thinking

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

Visit the Thirsty Energy website.

GLOBAL MARKETS

Restoring US Lands – One Forest at a Time

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

Learn more at the Helena Independent Record.

Nairobi Business Task Force Aims for Water Collaboration, Not Conflict

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

 

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

Read more from the Guardian.

Ohio River Basin States Take the Lead on Water Quality Trading

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

Keep reading here.

Yorkshire Water Invests in Pennine Moorlands

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

Learn more.

Water Quality Trading Alliance aims to Spur Programs and Advance Effectiveness

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

WaterWorld has coverage.

Businesses Realize Value of Nature with Online Resource

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

Read more here.

Trading in Grey for Green Spaces in London

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

 

Learn more.

A Wetland Park Spawns Green Growth in Los Angeles

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

Learn more.

Make a New Glacier, or Save the Old One?

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

 

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

Tierramérica has coverage.

EVENTS

Nexus 2014: Water, Climate, Food and Energy Conference

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

Learn more here.

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

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

Learn more here.

2014 Water Policy Conference

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

Learn more here.

Groundwater Summit 2014

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

Learn more here.

2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

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

Learn more here.

3rd Symposium on Urbanization and Stream Ecology

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

Learn more here.

CONTRIBUTING TO ECOSYSTEM MARKETPLACE

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

Additional resources

Google Offers A View Into Forest Growth-Or Loss-In Real Time

The lack of reliable data on forests has long been a major challenge in the battle against deforestation. But a new tool powered by Google aims to provide real-time information on forest clearing and empower local communities and other stakeholders to fight back.

25 February 2014 | If a tree falls in the forest, not only can you hear it, now you can actually see it in real time, thanks to a new, freely accessible tool called Global Forest Watch.

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

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

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

Additional resources

Enemies Of The Forest Beware: The Whole World Is Watching

There are plenty of satellites keeping electronic eyes on forests, but the high-resolution ones don’t fly that often and the ones that fly often can’t see so good. But a new platform combines sophisticated algorithms and high-speed computing with the power of crowdsourcing to provide near real-time monitoring of all the world’s forests.

20 February 2014 | Rebecca Moore joined Google after using the company’s Google Earth program to track the destruction of redwoods in her Santa Cruz Mountain community.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this could be a great tool for monitoring forests around the world,’” she told us in 2009 – right after she’d begun working with the Surui Indigenous People of Brazil as they launched what has since become the world’s first indigenous-led project to use carbon finance to save endangered rainforest.

A computer scientist by profession and an environmentalist by passion, she launched Google Earth Outreach in part to foster the creation of a tool for monitoring global forests just as she had done locally. That, however, proved easier to imagine than to implement – mostly because the satellites scanning the forests use different degrees of resolution based on different technology and fly over the forests at different times, but also because it wasn’t always clear what exactly those images were revealing.

Five years and reams of data later, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Google Earth Outreach this week launched Global Forest Watch, which is a powerful yet incredibly simple tool that lets anyone in the world follow deforestation using the most recent satellite data available. Building on algorithms that University of Maryland Professor Matthew Hansen described in his 2013 paper High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change and drawing on expertise and funding from more than 40 organizations, the platform combines data gathered annually at a resolution of 30 meters with data gathered monthly at a resolution of 500 meters and harvests the power of cloud computing provided by Google to interpret the data and generate trustworthy images of forestland around the world. When forest loss alerts are detected, a network of partners and citizens around the world can mobilize to take action.

Watch The Demo

The tool also provides layers showing boundaries of protected areas worldwide; logging, mining, and changes in land use.

Forests in the Amazon: New, Old, and Lost

Amazon forest screen shot

This screen shot from the Amazon lets you see where forests have lost, gained, or preserved.

Global Forest Watch can support other users like indigenous communities, who can upload alerts and photos when encroachment occurs on their lands; and NGOs that can identify deforestation hotspots, mobilize action, and collect evidence to hold governments and companies accountable. At the same time, many governments like Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, welcome Global Forest Watch because it can help them design smarter policies, enforce forest laws, detect illegal forest clearing, manage forests more sustainably, and achieve conservation and climate goals.

“Indonesia is committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent, or 41 percent with international support, which reflect national and international commitments to combat climate change. How Indonesia meets that commitment is largely defined by how we manage our forests,” said Heru Prasetyo, Government Ministerial level Head of the REDD+ Agency, Indonesia. “The ability to better monitor our forests and have up-to-date information to make decisions are critical. I commend the Global Forest Watch initiative, will continue to support it, and expect that it will be an effective tool for the world and each nation as we leave neglect and ignorance in the past.”

In addition to WRI and Google, the parnters include Esri, University of Maryland, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Imazon, Center for Global Development, Observatoire Satellital des Foríªts d’Afrique Centrale (OSFAC), Global Forest Watch Canada, ScanEx, Transparent World, the Jane Goodall Institute, and Vizzuality. Major companies have also provided early input, including Unilever and Nestle, and the wider Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 Partnership. Core funders include the Norwegian Climate and Forests Initiative, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Global Environment Facility (GEF), U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), and the Tilia Fund.

Additional resources

Carbon Rights And Tenure:The Debate Continues

 

March 21, 2014 | Though the weather outside the Newseum in Washington D.C. on Wednesday was dull, the mood inside was spirited and at times contentious at the Fifteenth Dialogue on Forests, Governance & Climate Change, hosted by the Rights and Resources Institute (RRI). About 100 panelists and audience members came together to discuss the issue of ‘carbon rights’ in the wake of the recently passed Warsaw Agreement on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests (REDD+).

“For the large trade to take place and large flow of money from developed countries to developing countries to take place, it’s extremely important that two things are very clear,” said Arvind Khare, Executive Director of RRI. “Who is the seller and who is the owner? And what is the commodity you are trading?”

It’s a question that could be phrased in an even more fundamental way: namely, is a payment for conservation performanceever really a commodity? REDD+ programs emerging under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change generally work by supporting climate-safe agriculture and involve no tradable carbon credits, at least not yet. Regional programs like California’s do have provisions for offsetting that would create tradable credits, and the REDD Offsets Working Group (ROW) has recommended safeguards for indigenous people participating under that mechanism.

Much of the debate focused on the continuing lack of clear land tenure for indigenous people, but Charles Di Leva of the World Bank’s Environmental and International Law Unit warned that a myopic focus on ownership could harm the communities it’s designed to help.

“If we were to require title resolution as a prerequisite, we might be excluding communities who want to participate in REDD activities,” he said.

In the voluntary market, which works at the project level instead of the jurisdictional level, project developers – indigenous or not – often don’t own the land on which they are operating, and REDD+ credits are often retired instead of traded. Increasingly those credits are contingent on the involvement of local communities. Andrew Hedges, the REDD+ Vice-Chair of the Climate Markets & Investment Association, noted that many buyers on the voluntary market now expect projects to have both Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standard (CCB) certification – which places the emphasis on the efficacy of those standards rather than on strict adherence to requirements to title.

But Niranjali Amerasinghe of the Center for International Environmental Law disagreed.

“I would posit that you really shouldn’t separate carbon from land rights,” she said.

For a full summary of the debate, visit The Forest Carbon Portal.

Latin American Katoomba Meetings Aim To Turbocharge Climate Talks

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

On the one hand, mechanisms like species banking, forest-carbon crediting, and investments in watershed services draw finance away from environmental destruction and into conservation, and they do so based not on something as fickle as philanthropy, but on the fundamental recognition that our civilization depends on clean air, clean water, and resilient ecosystems.

On the other hand, narrow payments explicitly focused on specific ecosystem values favor those that can be measured and verified, which means they run the risk of leaving a whole symphony of ecosystem services unaccounted for and unsupported.

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

Recognizing The Obvious

The challenge is great, but not as revolutionary as it may seem. After all, in practice the holistic and the simplistic have always linked together. The most successful REDD projects don’t work by putting a fence around a forest, for example. They work by helping rural poor develop sustainable land-use practices that take pressure off the forest. The outcomes may be measured in the amount of carbon stored in trees or the cleanliness of water coming into a lake or stream, but the actions have always focused on people, places, and procedures.

The simple fact is that even nominally fragmented financing mechanisms work best when they support holistic land-management strategies, and organizations employing those strategies have increasingly tapped into these financing mechanisms to achieve goals that were unachievable in the past. This reality has slowly come into focus in our annual State of the Forest Carbon Markets reports, which show that private conservationists using forest-carbon financing mechanisms today are managing an area larger than all the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo combined.

There’s always been a sense that a more formalized holistic approach would deliver even better benefits, and that philosophy took center stage at year-end climate talks in Warsaw, with Forest Day giving way to Landscapes Day, a Dutch consortium launching the BEE REDD+ Initiative to better bring biodiversity values into REDD, and the US, UK, and Norway launching a REDD finance mechanism under the World Bank focused on saving forest by supporting climate-safe agriculture.

But the landscapes approach isn’t just about scaling up or broadening narrowly-focused but effective mechanisms like REDD. It’s about redirecting finance flows across the entire global agricultural economy, with the actual environmental payments acting as catalysts or being used to fine-tune the more broad-based activities. Implementing something as massive as sustainable landscapes requires the cooperation of major agriculture players, policy makers, and financial institutions, as well as scientific experts in deforestation, water, and biodiversity.

Two Global Katoomba Meetings – one in March and one in April – will bring these diverse stakeholders together as part of an ongoing effort to accelerate this change. The aim is to harvest efforts already underway for lessons-learned, and jump-start new initiatives based on the best knowledge we have.

The March meeting will take place on the 19th and 20th at Iguazíº Falls, on the border of Brazil and Argentina, under the banner “Scaling Up Sustainable Commodity Supply Chains”.

The April meeting will take place in Lima, Peru, over four days – from the 22nd through the 25th – and its working motto is “Climate, Forests, Water, and People: A Vision for Alignment in Tropical America”.

Ecosystem Marketplace Coverage of Katoomba Season 2014

Over the next two months, our coverage will focus heavily on the issues to be covered at these two major events. We will begin by examining the perils and promise of sustainable commodity supply chains, then explore issues of governance, and then move into ways that specific mechanisms are impacting the landscape in Peru’s San Martí­n region and across the Amazon.

Katoomba Brazil: Laying the Foundation

When you talk agriculture in Brazil, you’re talking soybeans in the Cerrado and cattle in the Amazon. Both are major drivers of land-use change, and both generate products that find their way into nearly everything we consume – from tofu and hamburgers to leather sofas and shoes. That demand is what’s killing the forest, but it’s also what’s feeding the companies that drive the destruction. Inform the demand, the thinking goes, and you can reduce the damage.

It’s that thinking that drove the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) to vow zero deforestation in its supply chains by 2020. A collaboration of 400 major consumer goods companies and service providers with combined annual sales of over US$3 trillion, the CGF will respond to consumers – but only if those consumers are serious. Some companies have formed roundtables to coordinate efforts around specific commodities. And recent initiatives focused on building jurisdictional approaches (national, subnational, and municipal) could bring integrated, large-scale transformation to commodity supply chains.

Initiatives like these are critical, but they are all in early stages of development. If the challenge of increased agricultural production is to be met while also reducing deforestation in the next few years, new relationships, creative approaches, and sources of finance will be required to help companies and their suppliers achieve long-term sustainability while still meeting their bottom line.

Katoomba Peru: 20/20 Vision for a Global Climate Solution

This is the 20th Katoomba Meeting, and it’s designed to align international cooperation and development strategies for the region. In so doing, it will also provide clarity for the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which also takes place in Lima this year. The COP is the year-end climate talks, and this one is charged with delivering a global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions.

Katoomba 20 opens on Earth Day with the first two days taking place in Lima on the same grounds as the COP. There, the events will be open to a broad range of high-level participants, but the second two days take place in San Martin and are for expert practitioners only. They will be comprised of workshops designed to turn theory into practice.

The aim of both meetings is to identify opportunities for climate policy and finance to align with other public and private investments and commitments to ensure that forests and other ecosystems continue to provide critical support for stable climate and resilient societies.

Why Alignment

The need for alignment becomes clear when we consider how climate change, forests, and water are deeply intertwined. Not only will climate change directly impact forests and the other natural systems that maintain critical water-related ecosystem services, climate impacts will be experienced largely through the medium of water – melting glaciers, changing rainfall patterns, increased water stress and drought from higher temperatures, more severe storms – resulting in increased water and food insecurity, and constraints on economic opportunities. Integrating climate policy, forest and biodiversity conservation, post-2015 sustainable development goals, water management, and agriculture and energy development will be critical to success.

Why Peru?

Peru is positioned to lead the region and the world in undertaking this complex, but crucial, work. Critical sources of water, regulators of flow from Andean glaciers, and home to the country’s distinctive and well-known megadiverse flora and fauna, Peru’s forests are also under threat – and deforestation is the primary source of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Having committed to zero net emissions from deforestation by 2021, Peru’s new forestry and climate change strategy will be pivotal in realizing the country’s commitment to climate change and its very identity moving forward. Additionally, Peru has shown how to lead on ecosystem service-based approaches through its recent water sector reform, support for a national incubator of ecosystem services projects, the development of a national ecosystem services law, and new regulations requiring no net loss of biodiversity for large mining, agriculture, and infrastructure projects.

Beyond national leadership, this strategy’s success will largely depend on the commitment of Peru’s Amazonian regional governments. In that arena, several regional governments have demonstrated real interest in accessing finance for sustainably managing their natural resources – including Loreto, Madre de Dios, Ucayali, and San Martin, which have joined the Governors’ Climate and Forests Tasks Force and begun to develop jurisdictional REDD+ programs. San Martin stands out among these regional governments, as a leading “green region” with sincere commitment to aligning its economic, environmental, and social goals with a framework anchored in optimizing the ecological and economic value of its landscapes. As the home to several REDD+ projects, the first watershed services project in Peru, over a dozen conservation concessions, and a growing ecotourism industry, San Martin is poised to demonstrate how to align the financial, political, and cultural pieces necessary to achieve a thriving, productive, and sustainable society.

Successfully finding alignment will require efforts not only at these multiple levels of governance but also among scientists, financiers, business leaders, bilateral and multilateral donors, NGO leaders, and community leaders. Katoomba XX will convene these actors to help to forge alliances and mobilize momentum for a new vision of alignment for Tropical America.

 

Higher Ed To Get Cleaner, More Efficient, With Boost From Chevrolet

Chevrolet has been one of the most active and prominent buyers of carbon credits in the voluntary market in recent years. Now a potentially game-changing new program financed by the automaker aims to reward US-based colleges and universities for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects undertaken via a new methodology under the Verified Carbon Standard.

13 February 2014 | When Ball State University joined the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), it vowed to slash its greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2020. Then it identified nine pilot projects to help it achieve its goal “as funding becomes available”.

Now Automaker Chevrolet is helping to make some of that funding available by purchasing roughly 400,000 to 500,00 carbon credits from institutions of higher learning that undertake energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects.

Not only is Chevrolet buying the credits, but the company financed the development of a new methodology that made their creation possible. The exact price the automaker will pay each institution for credits is confidential, but likely around $5 per metric ton.

“It could potentially be a game-changer in carbon reduction and the carbon market,” said David Tulauskas, director of sustainability for General Motors, Chevrolet’s parent company. “For the first time, it offers a streamlined, easy process for universities and colleges, many have set a target to become carbon neutral in the future, a way to monetize this.”

Specifically, the methodology developed under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) provides the procedures for quantifying reductions in “Scope 1”, or direct, stationary combustion emissions and “Scope 2”, or indirect, electricity emissions achieved as a result of campus-wide interventions or through Leader in Energy and Environment Design certification of individual buildings.

“There hasn’t been a convenient way for higher ed institutions to enter the carbon market and to effectively participate,” said Robert Koester, professor of architecture and chair of the Ball State University Council on the Environment. With the new methodology, “that barrier is gone.

Colleges and universities are increasingly pursuing clean energy and energy efficiency projects as part of a widespread sustainability movement in the higher education community, which has a built-in base of students already passionate about addressing the climate issue and eager to ensure their schools are doing their parts to reduce carbon emissions.

Ball State University

Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana is applying the new carbon-reduction methodologies and selling some of the carbon reductions from installing the largest geothermal system at a U.S. college.

At last count, 679 campuses – about 15% of the roughly 4,000 colleges and universities across the United States – are engaged in an aggressive effort to reduce their carbon emissions as part of the ACUPCC. Under this commitment, the institutions agree to complete an emissions inventory, set a target date and interim milestones for achieving climate neutrality and take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gases, among other things.

“That’s what this methodology really is about,” Talauskas said. “It’s about rewarding those leaders, those innovators that are going beyond business as usual.”

If Chevrolet had not financed and promoted the development of the methodology, these progressive institutions would not have the mechanism to access the voluntary carbon market in a trusted way, Koester said.

The Pioneers

Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and Valencia College in Orlando, Florida are the first to apply these new methodologies with pilot projects. Ball State’s pilot involves selling some of the carbon reductions from installing a geothermal system while Valencia will use Chevrolet’s funds to finance additional energy efficiency retrofits.

“They have first mover advantage so they’re getting a bit of premium,” Tulauskas said. “There’s some real skin in the game and some real benefits to the universities, to the students and the climate.”

Valencia College

Valencia College in Orlando, Fla. is participating in the Chevrolet carbon-reduction initiative as a pilot project. Chevrolet’s funds will be used for additional energy efficiency retrofits on campus.

Chevrolet has committed to buying at least 30,000 to 40,000 credits from Ball State, which often had trouble finding the money to engage in clean energy and efficiency initiatives, Koester said. The university is not alone in that regard as other institutions are often forced to draw from tight operations budgets for these types of programs, he said.

“Chevrolet’s intervention is changing that game because now there’s a way for universities to actually acquire funding to undertake projects that will drive more deeply the carbon reductions laid out in their climate action planning,” Koester said. “It’s a really significant incentive pool.”

“We should be able to achieve carbon neutrality sooner as a result of this kind of incentive,” he observed.

Chevrolet is the largest US corporate buyer of voluntary carbon credits, purchasing offsets at above-average prices, according to Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace’s 2013 State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets report.

In 2010, the company voluntarily committed to reduce up to eight million metric tons of carbon and pledged about $40 million to the effort. Chevrolet has reduced about 7.6 million tonnes to date and the new offset purchases will complete that commitment.

To develop the new methodology, which has been approved by the VCS, Chevrolet worked with an advisory team led by the Climate Neutral Business Network with support from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the U.S. Green Building Council (USBGC) and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The methodology uses a combination of performance benchmark and project method approaches to assess additionality and quantify campus-wide and/or building-specific emission reductions.

“We’re excited that there is a durable methodology and we’re excited that Chevy’s investment actually supports project teams on the ground,” said Chris Pyke, vice president, research for the USBGC.

Valencia College

Valencia College

It really provides an integrated solution from the sense that it provides not only the methodology, but also the underlying financing,” said David Antonioli, Chief Executive Officer, VCS Association.

Chevrolet hopes other corporates will follow its lead and commit to purchasing carbon credits from higher education institutions under the new methodology, Tulauskas said.

“Once Chevy has stepped out of the picture … we’re still positioned as an institution to continue to play in (the voluntary) market,” Koester said.

Writing About Food Security?
Say It With Pictograms!

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

7 February 2014 | Big Facts is an open-source, online library of pictograms designed to illustrate the nexus of climate change, agriculture and food security. It is intended to provide a credible and reliable platform for fact checking amid the range of claims that appear in reports, advocacy materials and other sources. Full sources are supplied for all facts and figures and all content has gone through a process of peer review.

Anyone is free to download, use and share the facts and graphic images.

The Big Facts project is led by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). CCAFS is a strategic partnership of CGIAR and Future Earth, led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). CCAFS brings together the world’s best researchers in agricultural science, development research, climate science and Earth System science, to identify and address the most important interactions, synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture and food security.

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