This Week in Forest Carbon: Before Durban…

Forest Carbon Portal and Ecosystem Marketplace are gearing up for COP17 – but there is plenty of news to keep us occupied until then.  The UNFCC solicited views on the implications of a policy change around A/R CDM project activities.  And biofuels were under scrutiny in two reports.  Read these articles and more inside this week’s Forest Carbon News.

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 by clicking here.

10 November 2011 | We’re taking a deep breath before diving headfirst into Durban coverage, but keep your eyes on the Forest Carbon Portal and for on-the-ground reporting from COP17, as well as news and analysis to help navigate the climate talks. Now, onto the news:

The UNFCCC solicited views from parties on the implications of including reforestation of lands with forest in exhaustion as afforestation and reforestation (A/R) Clean Development Mechanism project activities. “Forest in exhaustion” refers to a plantation forest for timber that is nearing its final harvest – its inclusion in the CDM would allow land owners to generate credits by replanting plantation forests. NGO critics of the move say it’s akin to subsidizing industrial forestry.

Some parties favor expanding A/R to include forest in exhaustion, claiming that replanting the land for another harvest cycle is preferable to other probable land use scenarios in terms of reducing emissions.  

Biofuels were also under recent scrutiny. A report from the Center for International Forestry examined six biofuel sustainability standards and found little assurance that they were protecting primary forest and coming out ahead with regard to CO2. Another study examining palm oil production found palm oil for use in biofuel may be more carbon intensive than petroleum because of the large amount of plantations situated on GHG emitting peatlands.

The Asia-Pacific Forestry Week is taking place in Beijing, with delegates from the region coming together to discuss issues like governance, forest carbon management, and REDD+ activities in the region. Another event on the horizon, the Rio+20 summit, ran into some scheduling trouble – a conflict with the 60th anniversary of the Queen of England’s ascent to the throne. The conflicting events would mean representatives and leaders from the 54 Commonwealth nations would have to choose between attending a vitally important summit to move away from environmental catastrophe, or go to the Queen’s party.
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International Policy

Korearing to net reforestation

A recent study by the Center for International Forestry Research, Forest Transition in South Korea: Reality, Path and Drivers, highlights that South Korea has almost doubled its forest area since the 1950s with 60% of the country now forested. The report uses historical data between 1927 and 2007 to explain a general shift from net deforestation to net reforestation, arguing that the strong forest protection policies set out in the 1960s and the second National Forestation Plan in the 1980s were important drivers encouraging tree planting to be seen as an “act of patriotism”. Additionally, increased use of coal in the 1970s, as well as increased urbanization, led to decreased firewood consumption. Read more from CIFOR here and download the report here (subscription required).

U$AID reforesting Nepal

The US announced that it will provide $30 million of funding to combat climate change in Nepal through improved forest management and reforestation. The money will be provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Hariyo Ban Program and will allow a coalition of four leading conservation organizations in Nepal, including World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, to reduce carbon emissions by one million tonnes, reforest 50,000 hectares and pay local people to protect endangered animals. Read more from AFP here.

Will there be jubilation over new Rio+20 summit dates?

Brazil announced that it will be postponing the Rio+20 Summit to make way for the British Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The Summit was originally scheduled to take place between 4 and 6 June 2012, twenty years after the original Rio Earth Summit. However, British Newspaper the Guardian is claiming that the Summit will now be moved to 20-22 June to ensure that fifty-four leaders from British Commonwealth countries will be able to attend both the Queen’s celebration and the Rio+20 Summit. British Prime Minister David Cameron had already publicly announced that he would not attend Rio+20, leaving Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to attend instead. Despite Rio+20 being an important opportunity to renew political commitments to a green economy and sustainable development, time will tell whether a change in date will mean a change in UK and Commonwealth attendance. Read more from the Guardian here.

Asia-Pacific’s comprehensive forestry approach

At the Asia Pacific Forestry Week currently taking place in Beijing, experts called on policy officials to approach forestry in a more comprehensive manner. Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests called for greater consideration of the multiple functions of forests and the various stakeholders and interested groups that play a key role in forestry issues. The Asia Pacific Forestry Week is an event for regional and international stakeholders and is attached to the Asia Pacific Forestry Commission, comprised of thirty-three countries in the Asia Pacific Region. A second Asia Pacific Forestry Week is scheduled to take place between 7 and 11 November. Read more from CIFOR here.

A meaningful moratorium in Indonesia?

When Indonesia enacted a moratorium on clearing rainforest as part of their $1 billion agreement with Norway, many were skeptical about what the moratorium would ultimately accomplish in the quest to reduce deforestation. Critics cited instances of exceptions in the presidential decree that could allow for continued deforestation and pointed to the apparent eleventh hour dispensation of land-rights to pulp, timber, and palm oil companies as evidence of the still-cozy relationship between industry and the government. Now an analysis of the moratorium by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has shown that only 22.5 million hectares – less than half of what the government estimated – is under protection. Additionally, secondary forests weren’t included under the moratorium, meaning millions of hectares of biodiverse and carbon rich forests are without protection, despite their potential to sequester carbon and act as habitat for endangered species. Read more about CIFOR’s anaylsis here, see the key findings and download the report here.

US Policy

Investments uncapped and already trading in California

As we have reported, the California cap-and-trade provisions have been approved and will come into effect in 2013. The cap-and trade program will require between 18 and 27 million tons of pollution reductions by 2020 from around 600 different facilities in California. However, while these targets are still some way off, the legislation is already driving private sector investment in carbon credits. Businesses are starting to look at likely price ranges for credits (which will likely fall between $17 to $22.25) and plan accordingly, while other companies like Shell – which bought 100,000 tons of California Carbon Allowances in late August – are trading allowances as derivatives on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) and the Green Exchange. The scale of early investment will be closely monitored, especially with the California Air Resources Board now developing a market tracking system that will monitor trading activity and other elements of the market. Read more from the Environmental Defense Fund here.


Project Development

Carbon offsets are the right drug for Novartis

Pharmaceutical giant Novartis has presented a plan to generate credits with a reforestation project in Argentina. The credits generated by the project, which began in 2007 and resulted in the planting of 3 million trees, will help Novartis fulfill its voluntary obligations under the Kyoto protocol. The company is also pursuing certification for a jatropha plantation project in Mali, as well as an afforestation project in Sichuan, China of 3,800 hectares. However, with Novartis attempting to have the credits certified as tCERs, under Kyoto protocol rules they’ll have to look for non-forest carbon credits when the current crediting period ends. That is, if Kyoto sees another crediting period. See the story from Argentina’s Misiones here (translated into English here).

Finance and economics

Public-Private Partnership Pushes Fund into Play

Conservation International announced yesterday a new partnership forming the Althelia Climate Fund (ACF) to provide $1.35 million in jumpstart cash for sustainable land use investments over the next three years. The fund intends to focus primarily on forest carbon, ecosystem services and particularly REDD+ projects (2/3 of fund allocation, according to Point Carbon). ACF investments in REDD+ projects will seek certification under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards with projects to be developed in Latin America, Africa and the Southeast Asia / Pacific region. The fund has a goal of reaching $275 million over three years and developing a portfolio of 20-25 forest carbon projects. The Althelia fund is set up as a public-private partnership involving several partners, including forest carbon market veterans such BNP Paribas and interesting newcomers like the Church of Sweden. CI also says it will contribute scientific, project development, policy, standards and markets expertise to the effort. Read more about the Althelia fund here.

A beautiful fund

Terra Global Capital has announced $40 million of funding for “the world’s first globally diverse community based REDD and land use carbon fund”, which will be known as the Terra Bella Fund. Approval for the funding has been provided by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). The funding will provide project finance capital to community-based forest and land use carbon projects in developing countries and is expected to invest in between ten and twenty projects in the first three years. Longer term, the fund aims to invest in over sixty projects. Read the press release from Marketwatch here.


Methodology & Standards Watch

Expanding the definition of A/R could leave you exhausted

The UNFCCC has published a document synthesizing the views of eight parties on the possibility of expanding the definition of afforestation/reforestation (A/R) projects to include ‘forests in exhaustion’. The ambiguous term actually refers to land that contained a plantation forest on 31 December 1989, and would essentially allow the replanting of plantation forests to generate credits as an A/R project under the CDM. Countries such as Brazil argue that it is beneficial for the aims of the CDM to include forests in exhaustion, because if the plantations are not replanted the lands will be converted into farmland or another land use ‘as per the most likely regional economic scenario’. The organizations present, Global Witness and the Global Forest Coalition, expressed concern that including forests in exhaustion would merely subsidize industrial plantations. Read about the views on forest exhaustion here and access the document here.

News from Carbonfix

Carbonfix released their latest newsletter in September highlighting developments from the standard. Among them was an announcement of certification through the Rainforest Alliance of their first PoA (Program of Activities, or a grouped certification project), consisting of around 2,000 land owners in Peru, and there are plans to register 3 more PoA projects in 2012. The standard also plans on releasing version 3.2 before the end of the year. Read more here.

Biofuel standards are messy

The Center for International Forestry Research has surveyed the environmental standards of six major biofuel sustainability frameworks and found a number of problems that could offset the positive greenhouse gas abatement benefits that come from using biofuels. The standards were often unclear on what kinds of degraded lands could be used for new plantations and did not address how new plantations could cause land-use change in virgin forest when biofuel plantations competed with agricultural production. The author of the report suggests that national governments establish mandatory requirements for biofuel plantations which could complement voluntary schemes and that a broadly agreed upon definition of “degraded lands”. Read about the review of biofuel standards here and download the report here.

UK sets standards for sustainable forestry

The UK government published a new sustainable forest management standard 3 November which sets out the conditions for felling trees, conducting woodland operations and receiving woodland grants. Through the standard, the UK hopes to ensure that it is complying with and applying international agreements and conventions on sustainable forestry, climate change and biodiversity. It also provides the basis for the new Woodland Carbon Code, a voluntary code which is aimed at encouraging greater consistency in woodland carbon projects, and offer clarity and transparency to customers about the carbon savings. The UK government has made clear that the new standard will not increase the regulations or burdens on those involved in sustainable forestry management. Read more from the UK Forestry Commission here.

Human Dimension

Forest management: child’s play?

A report for the Center for International Forestry Research has shown that children in West Africa are increasingly boosting household incomes by selling non-timber forest products. This activity highlights an opportunity to involve children more in defining the future role of forests. CIFOR cautions, however, that programs involving children in wider discussions about forest management and protection will need to tread a fine line, being careful not to promote child labor. While research into the role of children in non-timber forest products and forestry more generally remains in its infancy, the research calls for children to be included in forest management-related education and even contribute to the design of both education and management schemes. Read more from CIFOR here and access the report here.

A little bit of people power

A UNFAO study has found that ‘assisted natural regeneration’ (ANR) programs, which are relatively passive, cheap, and involve local communities, have been effective in reversing deforestation trends in the Asia-Pacific region. ANR converts grasslands into product forests planted with indigenous species. They generate increased biodiversity and carbon sequestration, along with job opportunities and income. The results of the report were presented at the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week in Beijing, China. Read more from the BBC here and download the report here.

Science & Technology Review

Institute funds research on British Columbia’s forests

Five teams of researchers from institutes and universities have received a total of $450,000 from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions to study the effect of climate change on British Columbia’s forests. In addition to modeling the carbon dynamics of the region’s forests, a team from University of Northern British Columbia and the University of British Columbia study the effects of the pine beetle on 17.5 hectares of forest. Another study will compare the climate impacts of allowing wood to decompose, turning it into lumber or using it as biofuel. Two studies will investigate the potential impact of climate change on the region’s forests. Read more about the projects here and read descriptions of each project here.

Palm oil fuels the carbon emissions fire

A study by the University of Leicester for the International Council on Clean Transportation argues that palm oil is more damaging to the environment than previously thought. Through conducting a literature review of existing estimates of palm oil CO2 emissions, scientists argue that the scale of emissions from palm oil on peat has been underestimated as a result of limited data in previous studies and the failure to recognize a significant number of uncertainties. The results of the literature review were then applied to recent International Food Policy Research Institute modeling of the European biofuel market which suggested that – on average – biofuels in Europe will be as carbon intensive as petrol. This research is expected to impact forthcoming emissions reductions schemes such as California’s cap-and-trade. Growth in palm oil production has been a key component in meeting growing demands for biofuels. Read more from Newsroom America here and Red Orbit here and download the study results here.

Secondary forest should be of primary REDD concern

A REDD Monitor story discusses the wider implications of a scientific study published in Forest Ecology and Management. This report specifically notes that secondary forests, or forests that have re-grown after a man made (timber felling) or natural (fire) disturbance can be a major carbon sink. While the Forest Ecology and Management report goes on to argue that the amount of carbon stored in secondary forest is difficult to estimate, it is unequivocal in suggesting that secondary forests should be included in REDD. Chris Lang, of the REDD Monitor questions Indonesia’s moratorium on forest loss, emphasizing that it only applied to primary, natural forest and therefore fails to consider the implications of secondary forest cover and points to an Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) resolution which strongly recommends that REDD should “include explicit land zoning and resource use considerations for existing primary forests as well as for secondary forests in different degrees of succession”. Read more from REDD Monitor here.


Can you see yourself working as a Research Officer at the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor, Indonesia? How about taking on a Project Manager role for the TREES program at the Rainforest Alliance in several US locations? Check out these and other job opportunities on the Forest Carbon Portal’s Jobs page, where you can also post your own job listings.


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