This Week in Forest Carbon

Forest carbon policy and project development have both gotten off to rocky starts in October, and so far we’re only two weeks in.

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

14 October 2010 | In Tianjin, China, REDD+ Partnership talks came apart at the seams. Although it’s a small wonder nobody lost any eyes with the number of fingers pointing around the room, most of the fingers seem to be leveled at Papua New Guinea. As co-chair of the Partnership, PNG is purported to be strenuously resisting the integration of meaningful stakeholder consultation into the Partnership’s governance. As a result of all the discord, side events that were to be held in Nagoya, Japan during the 10th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity later this month were cancelled and will be rescheduled to take place during the climate talks in Cancíºn.

On the project development front, we caught wind of several shaky starts.

Coincidentally timed with the release of a new report from Mongabay’s open access journal cautioning against engaging commercial and industrial entities to manage payment for ecosystem services (PES) projects, Indonesia announced a new public-private partnership for forest conservation with twelve major companies. Top on the list is Asia Pulp and Paper, a subsidiary of palm oil giant Sinar Mas.

Meanwhile in Africa, Aussie-based Shift2Neutral’s earlier proclamation of a country-wide REDD deal with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is now in shambles following the release of a letter from DRC’s Minister of Environment explicitly pronouncing the deal “illegal” and “void.”

As PNG’s leadership at the REDD+ Partnership meetings failed to steer clear of a rocky shore, project development in PNG may have completely run aground. Prime Minister Michael Somare is reported to have issued a letter saying voluntary carbon schemes should be put out to pasture after a string of unsavory prospective projects have emerged within the country.

Read about all this and more in this, the most recent edition of Ecosystem Marketplace’s Forest Carbon Newsletter below.

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


International Policy

Why can’t we all just get along?

The arc of REDD+ Partnership meetings ground to a screeching halt last week on the sidelines of UNFCCC talks in Tianjin, China. Co-chaired by Japan and Papua New Guinea, after a weekend of workshopping ideas on REDD, as of Thursday, the Partnership had yet to complete a single agenda item.   Numerous fingers were immediately outstretched, most seeming to point towards Papua New Guinea.   Friday morning it all came crashing down, when Ecosystem Marketplace confirmed the stalling of talks and a cancellation of the REDD+ Partnership Technical Meeting to take place in Nagoya later this month.   Instead, a scaled-down Ministerial Meeting will be the only meeting for the Partnership (scheduled for October 26) before an eventual reunion of the motley crew in Cancun later this year. To view more information about the Oct 26 meeting, see here; to attend, you must RSVP by this Friday, Oct 15.

Ecosystem Marketplace provided play-by-play accounts of the talks.   For an introduction to the various negotiating tracks REDD+ is passing through, see our opening story about the meetings here.   View breaking coverage of the stalling talks here.   And to see the dust beginning to settle with cancelled meetings, read more here.

Déjí  vu all over again

Saturday night, as UNFCCC talks ended in China, there were fewer fireworks than we saw from the REDD+ Partnership, but again, little progress.   As the New York Times sums up here, talks began to slow as negotiators rehashed any progressive steps made in Copenhagen.   Read Environmental Defense Fund’s lamentations of the talks here, including brief mention of the choices being made for forestry within the official UN negotiating tracks where accounting rules appear poised to credit forest programs that do not achieve a change from the status quo.  

Project Development

DRC to Shift2Neutral: Not so Fast, Buddy

In August, Australian carbon firm Shift2Neutral announced a deal with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).   Our friendly neighbor at REDD-Monitor wondered aloud how such a deal would be possible.   Now, according to a letter dated 1 October 2010 from the DRC Minister of Environment, the purported Shift2Neutral deal is “illegal” and “void.” The original deal was signed by the Chairman of the Board of Congo Investment and Environment Security (CIES), Modeste Mutinga Mutuishayi, who apparently lacks the authority to enter such agreements.   Read the latest on the REDD-Monitor blog here.

Cut That One and That One.   But Save That One.

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a subsidiary of Indonesian forest products company Sinar Mas, has put aside more than 15,000 hectares of peat forest already permitted for palm oil development.   The area will instead be held as forest carbon reserve for at least 33 years. The project is a collaborative effort with Carbon Conservation, based in Singapore and Australia.   Environmental groups aren’t satisfied, saying this just distracts from the reality of APP’s massive clearance of forests throughout Indonesia.   Read more about the project from Reuters here and the Financial Post here.

What Project Developers Want

The Rimba Raya project is in the news again, with coverage from Looking at the carbon standard being used for that project, the author investigates what practitioners and developers are looking for in a voluntary carbon standard: a stringent standard that doesn’t put overbearing cost on the developer and is broadly applicable. For a deeper dive into the meaning of the methodology, see earlier coverage of the project and its standard on the Forest Carbon Portal here.   For a bird’s eye view of the project and the broader carbon landscape, visit here.

Carbon Deliverance

Dogwood Carbon LLC, a carbon project developer based in St. Louis, Missouri headed down to the Ozarks to talk with land-owners about keeping forests standing, and making some money in the process. Based on their experiences with these landowners and forest carbon project development the two then penned an op-ed for the St. Louis Post Dispatch about why skeptics should take another look at forest carbon.   Read it here.

Insurance Group Gets Into Carbon Offsets

Western Australia has been pretty quiet forest carbon-wise recently; however, a deal was signed between Wesfarmers Insurance and local firm Carbon Conscious to plant 26,000 eucalyptus trees in order to offset the insurance company’s carbon emissions. Read a brief snippet about the project from Bloomberg Businessweek here.

National Strategy & Capacity

Hold the Phone!

More news from Indonesia this month.   Coming from scientists and other forest experts, we saw complaints published in the Jakarta Post here decrying the disconnect between the ideas and actions of the country-wide forest clearing moratorium.   The Indonesian government is also indicating it may seek to postpone the initial disbursement of the money from Norway REDD deal in order to complete preparatory steps first; however, perhaps not too surprisingly, another government official said that such a decision had not been made.   Read about the mixed signals about disbursing Norway’s funds here.   And in other news, the national government is reporting signing an MoU with twelve large companies to set aside existing concession areas, including the deal announced by APP above.   Read about the planned “public-private partnerships” for forest carbon in the Jakarta Post here.

At stake: Brazilian Presidency and Forests

Following on earlier coverage of the slated changes to the Brazilian Forest Code (refresh your memory here), we now learn of a survey completed earlier by four candidates vying for the Brazilian Presidency; all four reported opposition to key components in the proposed changes to the Forest Code.   All four also responded that passage of the “reform” as it stands would make it impossible for Brazil to meet its emissions reduction targets.   The election has since gone to a run-off which be decided 31 October.   Read a more general update on the Brazilian presidential elections from The Economist here).

Filipino Log Jam

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Philippines has issued a moratorium on future permits of timber contracts with logging components, effective immediately, and will even put pre- existing permits under review.   Furthermore, the Secretary of DENR is encouraging fast-tracking permits for plantation-style reforestation/afforestation projects on idle, denuded and degraded areas.   Read about this gear shift on iStockAnalysis here.

GRIF Gets Gold

In the opening of GuyExpo – Guyana’s largest trade and investment event – President Jagdeo announced Norway would be depositing the first $30M installment into the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF).   A week later, Guyana held a stakeholders’ workshop on the EU Forestry Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Program to demonstrate its willingness to improve its forest management track record and to fulfill requirements from the Norway-Guyana deal to open a formal dialogue with the EU leading to more formal arrangements with the FLEGT Program.   Read more about the GRIF from Guyana’s own Stabroek News here and see the official press release from Norway’s Ministry of Environment here.   For more about the about the stakeholder workshop for FLEGT here see the Stabroek News coverage here.

Who speaks on behalf of PNG?

Tying together threads from disparate stories this month, we saw a challenge emerge in deciding who could be expected to speak on behalf of the people and forests of Papua New Guinea.   At the same time the REDD+ Partnership falls apart with a foreign national speaking on behalf of PNG, the government’s position towards voluntary emissions-reduction markets is muddied with conflicting public statements from different government officials.   What’s more, public feedback (PDF) from a local NGO is suggesting that PNG policymakers may be taking a back seat to McKinsey & Co, whom have been contracted to help craft a national REDD plan.   Ecosystem Marketplace’s Steve Zwick is driven to ask: Is PNG too risky for the carbon market? Read his take here.

Finance & Economics

Buyers Beware

Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) has been a rising star for international conservation over the past decade, and has found a particularly prominent home of late in REDD.   A recent study in Mongabay’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science, however, argues that who funds PES may be as important as what is funded, cautioning that corporate interests may offer problematic issues for ensuring the environmental effectiveness and sustainable development goals of PES schemes. Read about the findings on Mongabay here and access the full study “Upscaling Payments for Environmental Services (PES): Critical issues” here.

Methodology & Standards Watch

Busy, busy, busy for VCS

Two Improved Forest Management methodologies have moved to the second validation stage under VCS. The first, Carbon Planet’s “Estimating GHG Emission Reductions from Planned Degradation (IFM),” is designed to reduce emissions by targeting selective logging rates. The second, GreenCollar Climate’s “Improved Forest Management – Logged to Protected Forest Methodology,” covers projects that protect tropical forests that would otherwise be logged.   In addition, read more about these methodologies and other interesting developments at VCS including efforts to launch a Kazakh carbon market in the latest VCS Association newsletter here (PDF).

Human Dimension

Socio Bosque Turns Two

More coverage of Ecuador’s Socio Bosque program emerged this month.   With the program approaching its third year in action, Agencia EFE reports the program has penned 631 agreements involving some 60,000 landowners in exchange for $30/hectare for forest conservation.   Ranging from landowners holding as few as 1.7 hectares up to communities managing nearly 90,000, Socio Bosque is now involved in the preservation of over half a million hectares of native forest. Read the most recent coverage from Agencia EFE here (Spanish).

Morales directs a knee at REDD cheaters

Just a week before delivering un gran rodillazo to the teammate of a political rival in a friendly soccer game in La Paz, Bolivia’s Evo Morales directed his ill-intentioned knee towards REDD supporters in a new letter.   Entitled “Nature, Forests, and Indigenous Peoples are Not For Sale” Morales’ epistle criticizes REDD as an extension of capitalism and a mechanism whereby developed countries have “cheated” on their emissions reductions.   Morales builds upon the sentiments that emerged from the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, concluding that REDD undermines property rights regimes and compromises the sovereign rights of developing countries.   Read the letter from the Bolivian President here.  

Science & Technology Review


A team of scientists from Berkeley and Oak Ridge National Laboratories published a study last week in a special section of Bioscience providing new hope that genetically altered trees could sequester more carbon than your plain old regular tree and serve a dual role as a bioenergy crop.   In a companion piece, University of Leeds researcher Emily Boyd argues efforts to engineer “super carbon-absorbing” trees demand an open debate.

Estimates of peatland emissions in flux?

A local research group has come out against commonly held notions about the carbon footprint of converting tropical peatlands to palm oil plantations. The head of the Tropical Peat Research Laboratory Unit of Sarawak is heralding “breakthrough” research and claiming that carbon dioxide emissions from oil palm plantations on peatland are lower than that of forest peat swamp. The Laboratory’s research, though still unpublished, has already been used as justification to reject a proposal to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil that GHG emissions accounting be a required component of sustainability certification.   Read more from Malaysia’s The Star here.

Publications & Tools

The following publications and tools are a sampling of those that are available and posted daily to the Forest Carbon Portal.   Find more resources at our resource page here.

That’s a lot of trees

Emerging from China’s pledge in Copenhagen to reduce carbon emissions by 40-45% by 2020, the China Green Carbon Fund is intended to provide financial support for carbon projects and strengthen the government’s commitment to increase forest cover by 40 million hectares by 2020. Projects have now taken place in Beijing, Shanxi Province, Wenzhou City and Dalian City. A recent paper by Dr. Li Nuyun, the Deputy Director General of the Office for Combating Climate Change in the State Forestry Administration backs up China’s forestry plans by outlining forest carbon activities and strategies across the country.   Read more about the announcement event from Lin’an News here (Chinese), or translated roughly by Google into English here.   Read the report in English outlining China’s strategy for forest carbon on the Forest Carbon Portal here.

School for Central American PES

The final report from an early-August capacity-building workshop in Honduras focusing on community issues and PES in Central America is now available in Spanish.   The meeting, hosted by ELTI, Forest Trends, EcoLogic Development Fund and the Rainforest Alliance welcomed a total of 70 attendees and community organizations from 10 countries. To learn more about the workshop and access the report, go to the Forest Carbon Portal here.

Reporting Back on the Mesoamerican Dialogue

The Rights and Resources Initiative put out a final report on the “Mesoamerican Regional Dialogue on Forests, Governance and Climate Change” it hosted a month ago in San Salvador, El Salvador.   Check out the summary report from RRI here.

Additional resources

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