This Week In Forest Carbon: Auditor General Condemns Darkwoods

British Columbia’s Auditor General denounced the Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project, instigating controversy among stakeholders. The Darkwoods project, North America’s largest private forest carbon project verified to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) to date, accounts for a large percentage of the offsets purchased by the government of British Columbia in its effort to achieve a carbon neutral status.

British Columbia’s Auditor General denounced the Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project, instigating controversy among stakeholders. The Darkwoods project, North America’s largest private forest carbon project verified to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) to date, accounts for a large percentage of the offsets purchased by the government of British Columbia in its effort to achieve a carbon neutral status.

This article was originally posted in the Forest Carbon newsletter. Click here to read the original.

4 April 2013 | After some delay, British Columbia’s Auditor General last week released an incendiary audit report of the province’s Carbon Neutral Government program and the Pacific Carbon Trust, which buys carbon credits and sells them to government agencies within BC Province for offsetting purposes.

Within the report, the Auditor General condemns the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC) Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project  –North America’s largest private forest carbon project verified to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) to date – as well as the Encana Underbalanced Drilling project. Together, these projects account for almost 70% of the offsets bought by BC government to achieve its carbon neutrality claim.  

On Darkwoods, the Auditor General and NCC have markedly different answers to several questions that are key to determining the project’s baseline and additionality:

  • Would NCC have purchased the Darkwoods project area for conservation, with or without figuring in prospective carbon finance?
  • Would aggressive logging occur on the Darkwoods project area had the Nature Conservancy of Canada not bought the land and set up an offset project? What would a different buyer have done/do with the land?
  • To what extent have/do Darkwoods’ neighbors practice “liquidation logging” (uneven harvest) or “sustained yield” (even harvest)  – and how should this be reflected in the Darkwoods project baseline?
  • To what extent has NCC been earning carbon credits for doing something it has already been required to do by law?
Whatever the ultimate verdict on additionality, Darkwoods’ project proponents have voiced concerns with the way that the Auditor General conducted the audit process. They say the audit lacked transparency and expertise, ignored evidence, and failed to understand or disregarded standard rules of carbon accounting.


Beyond Darkwoods as a standalone project, a major issue at hand is the balance of power and expertise between government and third-party carbon standards. In the case that government oversight is required, to what extent should it be able to depart from existing rules laid out by established standards?


“These are rules that have evolved over 15 years of peer review and debate,” says David Antonioli, CEO of VCS, which verified the Darkwoods project. “It’s how a standard works – whether it’s an accounting standard or a carbon standard: you get agreement on the rules, and you follow the rules, and you create a process for updating the rules over time. But you don’t just let anyone come in and arbitrarily change something that hundreds of people have already agreed on.”


“If the carbon process is at risk because an unqualified auditor enters into the equation, it makes it difficult for us to enter in and take risk on the system,” says James Tansey, founder of Offsetters, one of the companies that purchased credits from Darkwoods. “This kind of audit activity is a real risk for something that you’re calling a market, and shouldn’t be within the scope of the program.”


On the other end of the debate, BC’s Auditor General remarked in his report that “the challenge of proving the credibility of carbon offsets is not limited to BC. For example, the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism, the largest offset certification body in the world, recently acknowledged that it needs to enhance its own processes and outcomes.” It remains to be seen how this controversy could affect the policy environment for BC’s participation in the Western Climate Initiative.


You can read our series of coverage to date (Part 1/Part 2) – including insights from the Verified Carbon Standard, Pacific Carbon Trust, Offsetters, and others involved on the Darkwoods project – and tell us what you think. The Auditor General, NCC, and 3GreenTree have also agreed to speak with Ecosystem Marketplace now that the audit report is out, so stay tuned as we continue to cover the issue!


Keep reading below for these and more forest carbon market news items, hot off the presses. Here in Washington, DC, the “busy season” for Ecosystem Marketplace has officially begun as we embark on our journey to aggregate data for this year’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets Report. Don’t forget to check the Forest Carbon Portal on a regular basis for featured survey respondents and their project profiles. If you have not already responded to this year’s survey, please contact  Daphne Yin  ASAP!


A special thanks to the following organizations that have contributed data to this year’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets Report, most recently including: Appalachian Carbon Partnership, Atlantica Simbios,  ClearSky Climate Solutions, Conservation International Brazil,  Ecosystem Services,  Forest Carbon,  Greenfleet,  Grupo Ecolí³gico Sierra Gorda, Pacific Forest Trust, Mazars Starling Resources, Permanent Forests International,  SPVS, Sustainable Capital Group Panama, and  Wildlife Works.

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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



US Policy

Jurisdictions as guardian angel?

An  Ecosystem Marketplace article  provides takeaways from the REDD+ Offset Working Group’s (ROW) recent workshop on incorporating safeguards into California’s potential carbon market linkage with jurisdictions offering REDD credits. “Jurisdictions can do things that project developers and NGOs can’t,” says Steve Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund. Each state in Brazil, for example, is constitutionally responsible for protecting the environment and rights of indigenous people. Although California can’t force jurisdictions to implement safeguards, it can require that certain protectionary measures be taken in order for jurisdictions to participate.


California lowers barriers to REDD+ participation

The new four-week  Advanced Terrestrial Carbon Accounting course  being launched this August by the University of California San Diego, The Tropical Forest Group, and the World Wildlife Fund offers REDD+ training to professionals around the world for a hefty $12.5K fee. To help offset the cost, course director John O Niles says that the program is looking to provide subsidies or scholarships to some applicants, with a priority on those hailing directly from developing countries in need of REDD+ capacity building. For international applicants requiring visas, the application deadline is April 15. Over 60 people from 30 countries have already applied; only five hail from the United States. Ecosystem Marketplace sheds more light  here.  


A leap for the Rainforest Alliance  

Rainforest Alliance – recently accredited as a verification body by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) –  discusses its new role  in conducting audits of forest carbon projects to ensure they fall in line with the Climate Action Reserve’s (CAR) protocols eligible under California’s cap-and-trade scheme. To date, this includes audit work for Finite Carbon’s Farm Cove Forest Carbon Project in Maine – the only forest offset project listed so far on the ARB’s registry of compliance offset projects. During the audit process, the audit team replicated the project developer’s methodology and collected data to measure the carbon sequestered on the project area and compare it against the forest inventory data used by the project.


Project Development

A Dark(woods) outlook

After some delay, British Columbia’s Auditor General last week released an incendiary audit report of the province’s Carbon Neutral Government program and the Pacific Carbon Trust, which buys carbon credits and sells them to government agencies within BC Province for offsetting purposes. Over the past year, BC’s Auditor General John Doyle has been examining both the Pacific Carbon Trust – which facilitates carbon credits to offset British Columbia’s emissions – and its supported VCS-verified Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project, which stands as North America’s largest private forest carbon project verified to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) to date. Ecosystem Marketplace provides a look into the audit, the actors, and the issues (see  Part 1/Part 2).


Bamboo beyond the Great Wall

Last month, the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) signed a five-year  Memorandum of Understanding  with forestry start-up African Bamboo to establish a pilot forest carbon project in Ethiopia based on bamboo afforestation – the first outside of China to test out the carbon accounting methodology developed for bamboo afforestation by INBAR and Chinese partners. INBAR is currently working to demonstrate use of the methodology outside of China in different conditions, with support and funding from GIZ and the China Green Carbon Foundation. Under its agreement with African Bamboo, INBAR will provide technical assistance, prepare project documentation and execute the first monitoring to support potential VER generation. INBAR is currently working on defining the project baseline.


Zanzi-bars deforestation  

Off the coast of Tanzania, the REDD+ Hifadhi ya Misitu ya Asili (HIMA) project is back in action as more than 7,000 households are slated to receive cooking gas. After an initial hiatus,  Zanzibar will resume its delivery of free cooking gas  and continue to focus on reducing emissions from deforestation by encouraging reforestation efforts and implementing forest patrols. If all goes according to plan, the HIMA project will expand from 27,650 ha to 60,000 ha in the future, providing carbon income for local citizens and improving forest management for the community as a whole.  


The SCS Stamp of Approval

SCS Global Services recently  certified six carbon offset projects  around the world. In Ghana, SCS validated and verified Form Ghana’s reforestation project in the Asubima Forest Reserve to VCS. In Uruguay, SCS validated three projects developed by Carbosur – the Forteko, El Arriero, and the Intercontinental Timber Asociacion Agraria afforestation projects, to VCS. In the US, SCS validated two projects developed by the National Forest Foundation covering reforestation in California’s Angeles National Forest, as well as reforestation in Colorado’s Sun Juan National Forest – both to the American Carbon Registry standard.


Trees a crowd

What’s next in online crowdsourcing? Crowd-offsetting. Andreas Birnik, an adjunct sustainability professor at the National University of Singapore, took full advantage of the well-established crowdsourcing concept and recently beta-launched  CarbonStory, an engaging platform that  allows users to trade or offset their individual emissions  with carbon credits that fund reforestation projects and other climate change mitigation efforts. Instead of listing unspecified projects for sponsorship and offering a calculator that is only configured for a few countries, CarbonStory’s innovative approach provides a more standardized and location-specific calculator as well as transparency in projects marketed for sponsorship. The consumer-based carbon offset programs allows the public to choose which projects to support, and even share their celebrated carbon neutral status through social media outlets like Facebook.  


At 100, still some Entergy left for PES

As New Orleans-based utility Entergy celebrates its 100th anniversary of services to southern US customers, the company is casting a broad net to identify environmental improvement projects to support through its shareholder-funded Environmental Initiatives Fund. The fund is targeting offset projects, as well as other energy and wetlands restoration innovations. Qualification requirements can be requested by providing your contact information and an email address to  [email protected]. Proposals must be submitted by midnight this Friday, April 5. Entergy has previously supported wetlands restoration in Louisiana, reforestation in Mississippi and Arkansas, among other projects.


What’s new for CO2?

The Australian carbon world continues to expand as project developer CO2  registered its first projects  under the Clean Energy Regulator using the reforestation and afforestation methodology approved by Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency earlier this year. Overseeing 39 million trees, CO2 manages tree plots on behalf of large carbon emitters in addition to plots in which it has full or partial ownership. Andrew Grant, Chief Executive of CO2 stated, “We are actively in the market to secure favorable sales terms around the supply of ACCUs [Australian Carbon Credit Units] from our projects.” The project is slated to generate carbon credits for clients to offset their carbon liabilities or trade them under the Australian Carbon Pricing Mechanism.


National Strategy & Capacity

Central Kalimantan tries to buy itself some time

The REDD+ National Strategy Working Unit recently  encouraged Indonesia’s government to extend its forest moratorium policy  (slated to expire this May), arguing that the extension would provide time to legally clarify and coordinate management of concessions, as well as time to map concessions across the 11 priority REDD+ provinces. Since the founding of Indonesia’s REDD+ program two years ago, Central Kalimantan – Indonesia’s pilot province –  has confronted a variety of challenges, including disputed forest concessions between customary landholders and logging and mine concession licensors. To address these issues, the REDD+ Taskforce and Central Kalimantan government have also been reviewing existing logging licenses within selected districts, and exploring legal options for indigenous rights.


Follow the REDD+ brick road

Myanmar recently completed a draft of its REDD+ roadmap and  should have a final version by June, according to Dr. Rosy Ne Win from the country’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry. The plan is a long-time coming in a country that continues to witness increasingly high rates of deforestation, and is slated to renew exports of timber  to the European Union. Myanmar’s new developments come on the heels of the Ministry of Forestry’s plan,  stated last year, to scale back on logging and ban exports of raw teak and hardwood starting 2014.


You better Belize it!

In celebrating the (very first) annual International Day of Forests, Belize’s Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and Sustainable Development Lisel Alamilla reiterated the ministry’s commitment to sustainable forest management by  signing a co-management agreement  for Shipstern, a 20,000-acre biodiverse area, in partnership with the Shipstern Nature Reserve. Beyond isolated forest management agreements, the country’s Chief Forest Officer Wilber Sabido notes that the Forestry Department is in discussion with a regional project financed by the German government, which has signaled that it could potentially help finance a broader carbon market strategy. Sabido notes Belize still needs to quantify its forest carbon storage and establish supporting policy on land tenure and indigenous rights before it can scale up carbon market activities. To date, there has been limited REDD project development in Belize.  


Suriname takes it to the Bank

Suriname recently presented its REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal to the World Bank, represented by John Goedschalk – the climate adviser of Suriname’s President. The document was highly anticipated since the country first began drafting the document in 2009.. In turn, the Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF)  has granted Suriname $3.8 million  for REDD+ project preparation. Suriname hopes to utilize its forests in a long-term plan for sustainable development. Jerrel Pinas, the REDD+ project coordinator described the presentation results as “overwhelming” and is optimistic for the continuation of sound forest management. FCPF has made Suriname’s full R-PP available  here.


Forestry players undergo spring training

Civil society target groups from countries in the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC) recently convened in Cameroon at a training workshop organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as part of a broader project to  bolster participation of Congo Basin stakeholders  in REDD+ activities at national, sub-regional, and international levels. Experts from Université Laval and the REDD+ National Coordination in Congo provided technical support at the workshop, with the goal of having participants write position papers on REDD+ in order to hone their abilities to advocate for REDD+ activities.


Methodology & Standards Watch

New methods in REDD+ madness

Australia’s Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE) recently  approved two VCS REDD+ methodologies, enabling projects using these methodologies to be eligible under Australia’s National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS). The  first methodology  consists of modules for REDD+ that measure GHG emission reductions and removals from avoiding unplanned and planned deforestation and forest degradation, allowing the incorporation of sustainable timber production as a part of a sustainable management plan. Australia-based project developer Citola is in the midst of developing several REDD+ projects using this methodology. The  second methodology  estimates GHG emissions from areas where unplanned deforestation is taking place and quantifies the emission reductions achieved by curbing deforestation from both frontier and mosaic deforestation.


Finance & Economics

Lucky number six

If all went according to plan, Chile, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, Thailand and Vanuatu have received shares in a $23 million fund for REDD+ readiness programs. The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s (FCPF) participants committee recently met in Washington, DC to  approve funding for the six countries  through FCPF’s Readiness Fund, as well as adopt an Emission Reductions Payment Agreement term sheet to undergird the FCPF’s Carbon Fund, which is intended to provide performance-based payments to countries that have made significant progress in their REDD+ readiness efforts. Separately, participants of the Carbon Fund approved the first emission reduction program idea note at national scale, with a maximum contract value of up to $63 million in the Fund’s pipeline.


A shifting carbon tide

Despite their projections for overall increases in global carbon market volume and value in 2013, analysts at Point Carbon  expect just 1.3 billion CERs to be transacted this year, merely half of the 2.4 billion traded last year – effectively reducing the CDM’s global market share from 20% down to 11%. Transactions of ERUs under the Joint Implementation scheme are expected in turn to fall to just 1% of the total market. Many offset suppliers are already considering if not already seeking entry into alternative markets. How these projected trends might impact prospects for project development and routes to market for forest carbon activities in the long run could depend largely on compatibility with emerging domestic carbon markets and the appetite of voluntary buyers.


Human Dimension

Only you can prevent forest fires!

For decades, residents of Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province have used slash-and-burn on degraded peatlands. Indonesia’s REDD+ Program is  taking a Smokey-the-Bear approach  to prevent peatland fires by funding high-quality firefighting equipment, protective gear and fire safety training for Central Kalimantan residents. However, given deeply rooted slash-and-burn practices, residents voice skepticism that farming practices will move away from fire – or rice, which requires a significant amount of land clearing – suggesting a long road ahead for REDD+ capacity building unless communities are given better income opportunities that are also compatible with environmental protection.


REDD+ initiatives in other parts of Central Kalimantan are  testing out alternative income opportunities. In Manteran II, Indonesia’s REDD+ taskforce and the National Program for Community Empowerment are slated to provide training on oyster mushroom cultivation. In the village of Henda, another REDD+ initiative is providing rattan weaving training for housewives.


Science & Technology Review

Muddy waters

The mangroves of Kalimantan are a land/seascape perpetually in flux. At high tide, they are floating forests; during low, a twisted ecosystem of tangled prop roots.  CIFOR-published research  suggests these mangroves contain more than three times the CO2e of terrestrial forests. Despite accounting for 0.7% of forests, mangroves emit 10% of all deforestation GHGs. Research on mangrove carbon remains murky – even muddy. The CIFOR study finds 49-98% of the carbon sequestered in mangrove forests is in the rich soils submerged beneath the tides. To investigate the carbon density, scientists must excavate submerged roots and take core soil samples  –  or in this case mud samples  –  after cutting and weighing the trees, leaves, and aerial roots.


Publications & Tools

SWAMPed with strategies  

Sustainable Wetlands Adaption and Mitigation Program (SWAMP)  –The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) recently launched an overview publication on the Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP), highlighting the role of the project in educating national and international policymakers on the potential to incorporate mangroves and peatlands in both adaptation and mitigation strategies.  


A lesson well learned

Free, Prior and Informed Consent for REDD+ in the Asia-Pacific Region: Lessons Learned  – This UN-REDD Programme publication discusses field-level experiences with free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) in the Asia-Pacific region. The UN-REDD Programme regional workshop in April 2012 gave stakeholders in Indonesia and Vietnam the opportunity to share practices and discuss future opportunities in relation to FPIC, laying the foundation for this new publication.


REDD+y or not

Carbon Rights Legislation: Not Yet Ready for Private Sector REDD+  – The International Institute for Environment and Development provides a review of private sector REDD+ projects that finds that without consistent carbon rights legislation, private sector actors resort to reinterpreting land and forest legislation to establish carbon rights. Often, conditions for benefits sharing are often found unclear, or in some cases, absent entirely – leading to most benefits accruing to the private sector rather than communities or state.



Program Manager – The Governors’ Climate & Forests (GCF) Fund

Based in Boulder, the Program Manager will support the Executive Director in developing an evaluation process for the Fund’s activities and develop and deliver presentations about the Fund to the Board, donors, and GCF Task Force. Candidates should have a Graduate Degree in a related field and 5-7+ years of experience in a program management role or a related field in the non-profit sector. Read more about the position  here.


Ecosystem Services Officer, Environmental Markets – Fauna & Flora International  

Based in London, the Ecosystem Services Officer will provide technical input and support on ecosystem services evaluation and assessment on a range of biodiversity and ecosystem service projects. Candidates should have an advanced (MSc or PhD) degree in environmental economics, ecosystem valuation, or other relevant field and 3+ years of experience working on environmental issues, in particular ecosystem valuation and biodiversity conservation. Read more about the position  here.  

Intern, International Climate, REDD+ and Agricultural Commodity Supply Chains Project – Environmental Defense Fund

Based in Washington, D.C., the Intern will research current deforestation monitoring systems and write short descriptions of their capabilities and shortcomings and monitor the UNFCCC negotiations and other international forums where REDD+ policy is being developed. Candidates should have a demonstrated interest in environmental science, international relations, public policy, business or related fields. Read more about the position  here.  


Chief Program Officer – Verified Carbon Standard

Based in Washington, DC, the Chief Program Officer will lead and manage delivery of all strategic program initiatives, including work on the jurisdictional and nested REDD+ framework and the continued evolution and expansion of the program scope. Candidates should have a Bachelors’ in Environmental Sciences and 8+ years of business experience. Read more about the position  here.  


2 Positions, East Africa – Winrock International

Based in East Africa, the  Senior REDD+/Sustainable Landscapes Advisor for Climate Change Mitigation Programs  will provide technical and scientific support and leadership for field-based pilot projects that demonstrate opportunities for sustainable land management and/or showcase REDD+ methodologies. Candidates should have an advanced degree in natural resource management, forestry, resource economics, or other relevant field and 8+ years of experience. Also based in East Africa, the  Chief of Party for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Programs  will provide overall technical leadership on the project and oversee its financial and administrative aspects . Candidates should have an advanced degree in natural resource management, forestry, natural science, or other relevant field and 10+ years’ experience.  


Director, Environment and Climate Change – Counterpart International

Based in Arlington, the Director will lead the strategy development of coastal ecosystem services and design a community guide for REDD+ project application and approval. Candidates should have a Masters Degree in climate change, environment, economic development, development studies, or a related field and 7+ years of relevant professional experience. Read more about the position  here.  


Senior Policy Researcher – Climate Change Mitigation Policy in Forestry, Land Use and Agriculture – Stockholm Environment Institute

Based in Seattle, the Senior Policy Researcher will plan, develop and implement innovative research projects addressing policies and actions to enhance biological carbon sequestration and reduce GHG emissions from agriculture, forestry, and other land use management. Candidates should have an advanced degree, significant work experience, and a publication record in a related field such as forestry and agriculture mitigation. Read more about the position  here.  


Lawyer/Project Leader, Rights and Governance (Africa) – ClientEarth

Based in London, the Project Leader will be responsible for strategic development, management, implementation, and administrative oversight of the Africa projects and will be an integral part of the Climate & Forest Programme team. Candidates should have an advanced degree in law or a related field and 5+ years of relevant legal or project management experience. Read more about the position  here.  


Chief Adviser, Forests – World Wildlife Fund  

Based in the United Kingdom, the Chief Adviser will lead the development of policy positions for WWF-UK/Network based on specialist knowledge and develop and keep abreast of specialist knowledge required by WWF to influence policy and design effective programs and communication. Candidates should have a Masters Degree or relevant professional qualification and/or experience in this area. Read more about the position  here.  


Senior Analyst, Climate Mitigation and MRV – Conservation International

Based in Virginia, the Senior Analyst will co-lead the coordination of revisions of the Forest Carbon, Markets, and Communities manual on REDD+ measurement and will conduct assessments of national REDD+ capacity or of USAID and partner projects and programs. Candidates should have a PhD degree in geography, forestry, environmental science, natural resource management, or a relevant field and 8+ years’ experience in technical work related forest and GHG inventories and monitoring. Read more about the position  here.  



The Forest Carbon Portal provides relevant daily news, a bi-weekly news brief, feature articles, a calendar of events, a searchable member directory, a jobs board, a library of tools and resources. The Portal also includes the Forest Carbon Project Inventory, an international database of projects including those in the pipeline. Projects are described with consistent ‘nutrition labels’ and allow viewers to contact project developers.

Additional resources

Please see our Reprint Guidelines for details on republishing our articles.