This Week in Forest Carbon:Norway Keeps the Throttle Open

Norway is ratcheting up funding for UN-REDD and other bilateral efforts, but 89 out of 99 countries signed up for UN REDD+ say they aren’t up to speed on measurement, reporting and verification.  Meanwhile, Tasmania and Mozambique take illegal logging into their own hands.

Norway is ratcheting up funding for UN-REDD and other bilateral efforts, but 89 out of 99 countries signed up for UN REDD+ say they aren’t up to speed on measurement, reporting and verification.   Meanwhile, Tasmania and Mozambique take illegal logging into their own hands.

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With Earth Day fresh on our minds… Brazil steals the spotlight with its delivery of the world’s first reforestation tCERs a decade after project inception. The country’s leadership in forest carbon markets could take on a new trajectory depending on the outcome of the vote on the controversial Forest Code reforms slated for this week (translation), as well as on Brazil’s potential to develop carbon market linkages, starting with Acre’s potential supply of carbon credits to Sao Paulo.

Norway is breathing life into REDD projects in Guyana, Tanzania, and Indonesia, with additional financing going to Nigeria and Ghana via UN-REDD and other bilateral efforts. We always talk about financing, but what about the underwriting? British taxpayers may have some beef with underwriting tree-planting efforts in China. Perhaps researchers from Australia and South Africa can help with their proposal to manage risk on REDD projects using tips from the insurance industry.

A report recently published in Environmental Science and Policy says that 89 out of 99 countries signed up for UN REDD+ have “very large or medium” problems achieving measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) requirements – in large part due to insufficient funding. Where developed nations cannot always provide financing, poorer countries may need to team up to share MRV capacity-building resources. In the Pacific Islands, a new regional policy framework is taking shape that allows collaboration and pooling of resources among both larger and smaller countries.


A report by the EIA highlights illegal logging shipments from Peru to the United States, raising questions over how to make regulations more effective and the role that REDD+ could play in curbing illegal logging. Tasmania and Mozambique take illegal logging into their own hands with their new MoU.

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International Policy




A REDD+ umbrella for the Pacific Islands


Last year, the Pacific Heads of Forestry mandated a project to develop a regional policy framework to guide REDD+ in the Pacific Island countries, with assistance from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fí¼r Technische Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). These past two months, stakeholders have brainstormed in Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, and Fiji in order to help SPC produce a first draft of the framework, to be discussed at a regional meeting on April 24-26 and finalized in September. Cenon Padolina of SPC said the framework will cover both “the large Melanesian countries that can bilaterally secure support and directly benefit from REDD+” and “many small countries that may not be able to benefit directly, but are in need of support for the better management and use of their forests.”



Bilateral carbon offsets for the Koreas?

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s hard-line policy has not exactly repaired relations with North Korea, which continues to insulate itself from its southern neighbor and the international community. While there hasn’t been much luck with diplomacy vis-í -vis the Kim family tree, what about actual trees? Lee has voiced interest in launching reforestation projects in North Korea, a gutsy “win-win” which would contribute to North Korea’s environment while supplying South Korea with carbon offsets. POSCO, a South Korea-based steel company, has already been carrying out a forestation project in Uruguay to earn carbon offsets. North Korea is within closer proximity than Uruguay, and could perhaps offer significant diplomatic value.


I’ve got your border

Relations across the River Rovuma got a boost last week when Mozambique and Tanzania signed a new forest cooperation agreement to bolster their collaboration against rampant cross-border illegal logging and timber trading. The MoU between Mozambique’s National Directorate of Land and Forests and Tanzania’s Forestry and Beekeeping Division ratifies a years’ worth of work between the two, facilitated by the WWF. The two countries aim to share and collaborate over their approaches toward community forest management, REDD and other carbon credit projects. MoU provisions dealing with illegal cross border logging include establishing joint law enforcement units within boundaries, sharing intelligence, and establishing border checkpoints.



US Policy


Illegal logging imports to US raise REDD+ flag in Peru

The Laundering Machine, a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), identifies U.S. importers of shipments of illegally logged cedar and mahogany from the Peruvian Amazon. Illegal loggers and importers may face investigation under the amended U.S. Lacey Act and the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement, and both tree species receive protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna and require export documentation. Yet Peruvian and U.S. regulations are far from foolproof, with illegal shipments constituting about 35% of total cedar and mahogany shipments between the two countries. Apart from raising awareness, the EIA report may provide fodder for the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute cases. Alluding to the $150M Peru will likely receive for REDD+, the EIA report warns that REDD strategies may fall short “unless Peru and its international donors acknowledge the systemic failures of governance in the current forest sector and judicial system.” EIA’s forest campaigns director notes on the other hand in a Climatewire article that with proper enforcement, REDD+ forest conservation efforts could curb illegal logging by creating economic disincentives against illegal timber activity.

Massachusetts forests precious and under fire

Researchers at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution recently published a study on Massachusetts’ forest cover, which sequesters 2.3 MtCO2, roughly a million homes’ worth of annual carbon emissions. The downside is that if the state continues its existing pattern of deforestation over the next half century, its capacity for forest carbon absorption could fall by up to 18%. Bob Perschel, ED of the New England Forestry Foundation, expects the impulse to deforest and develop will return as the economy recovers. He notes that while Massachusetts offers tax credits of up to $50,000 for forest landowners who donate property, developers may offer millions. Read about the study here.

Project Development



Brazil reforestation issues delayed gratification with first tCERs

For the past seven years, the BioCarbon Fund has supported over 20 Afforestation/Reforestation (A/R) CDM projects. Among the several projects moving toward issuance, one has finally borne fruit. The UNFCCC has just issued over 4M tCERs to the Plantar reforestation project in Brazil—the world’s first forestry-based tCER issuance. The Brazil-based pig-iron and plantation firm has established 11,600 ha of sustainably managed tree plantations, which sequester carbon and source carbon-neutral charcoal while guarding indigenous forests and biodiversity. This project, supported by the World Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund and the BioCarbon Fund since 2001, was one of the first carbon finance projects, predating the debut of the Kyoto Protocol itself. Plantar hopes to end the historic deficit of renewable wood to fuel its industry, and the revenue from carbon credits enables the industry to use previously degraded areas while conserving native cerrado forests.



Nigeria lands $4M UN-REDD grant, needs ‘alternatives’

Nigeria’s federal government has received a $4M UN-REDD grant for capacity building, carbon mapping, and other relevant activities to nurture Nigeria’s forest cover. Most of the UN-REDD funds will go toward forest regeneration and conservation efforts in the Cross River, which constitutes 50% of Nigerian forest (translation). Some believe that the government’s current methods of cracking down on illegal logging are effective, while others believe that alternatives to illegal logging are still needed in order to truly incentivize conservation. Time will tell if programs funded by the new grant will make a difference. A 2010 MDG report noted that Nigeria’s forest cover had dropped by 18.9% to 9.9% since 1990, among the world’s highest rates of deforestation.


Japan injects $7.8M into Ghana’s forest preservation scheme

The Japanese government is backing Ghana’s forest preservation programme with $7.8M to finance a special training programme on GIS and forestry inventorying. PASCO Corporation and RUDAN are running the program with goals to promote capacity and knowledge building among key forestry personnel, capture the benefits of emerging financing for forest services via REDD, and create a geographic information system for forest-based management. Read more from The Ghanaian Times here and here.


Read the underwriting on the wall

Welcome to globalization and its discontents. Luxembourg-based European Investment (EIB) has lent China £210M to finance eight tree-planting projects. The UK has agreed to underwrite the loan, covering 16% per pound of unpaid debt (over £30M in the case of total default). EU anti-climate change loans to China, India, and Brazil – countries with competitive economies – have seen British taxpayers take on an additional £920M in liabilities this past year. While the UK government intends to stop sending aid to China, EIB taxpayers are still slated to underwrite loans. Roger Helmer, industry spokesman for the UK Independent Party, deemed the underwriting “simply absurd.” The EIB argue that the risk carried by British taxpayers is remote insofar as the bank performs careful due diligence on all projects.

Goals in AusAID project are smaller than they appear

Over four years ago the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership, a $49M initiative by Australia’s Agency for International Development (AusAID), pledged to reduce 700 MtCO2 over 30 years. Since the initial hype, the project’s peatland reflooding target has dwindled from 200,000 to 25,000 ha, just 50,000 of an intended 100M trees have been planted, and the project is inching along relative to the rate of deforestation, according to researchers from the Australian National University. A new ANU report ” href=”” >exposes concerns about project feasibility and transparency. Funding shortfalls, land tenure questions, administrative hurdles, and slow local buy-in may explain the delays and downsized ambition. But before we get disillusioned – while Sara Moriarty of AusAID acknowledges that AusAID could have been more transparent in updating its KFCP objectives, she stresses that the project approach remains valid and important in demonstrating how REDD might work in Indonesia. ANU researchers advise AusAID to think twice about starting a similar project in Sumatra’s Jambi province, lest it spread its efforts thin.


B.C. gets Cheak-y

Managers of Whistler’s 33,067-ha Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) will soon learn whether the B.C. government will allow them to earn carbon credit revenue on leased Crown land. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations stated that it accepts in principle the CCF proposal for a carbon project, but is still working out details and would want a share of carbon credit revenue as landowner. It added, however, that it did not see this as a template for other B.C. community forests. Chairman Peter Ackhurst believed that the potential precedent set, since CCF is the first forest to seek this in B.C., could still have implications for other community forests. Studies and audits for carbon credit accreditation could cost up to $100,000, but Ackhurst has found a Victoria-based company called Living Carbon Investments to bankroll and execute the tests once the carbon credit program begins. It is unclear how much carbon credit revenue the project would earn. Ackhurst noted that Resort Municipality of Whistler, a CCF partner, spent $50,000 on carbon credits for the 2,000 tCO2 it emits annually.



Costa Rican conservation by tollbooth

BAC Credomatic and the Foundation for the Development of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range (FUNDECOR) are launching a PES project to conserve thousands of acres of primary forest and offset emissions near the Cordillera Central, a volcanic mountain range in Costa Rica. BAC seeks $455,000 to go towards PSA Solidario as part of the National Fund for Forestry Financing, which helps finance reforestation and conservation efforts. Project financing will leverage $5 fees for GreenPass, an enhanced version of QuickPass—the wireless device used to pay road tolls. BAC will allocate $1 toward QuickPass credit, while allocating the donated $4 to forest conservation. While GreenPass holders will initially shoulder the bulk of financial responsibility, BAC plans to eventually extend funding to promote carbon-neutral practices in Costa Rican schools.


National Strategy & Capacity

“Slap your veto, Dilma Veto”

…read the T-shirt worn by Adson Lima, member of a mangrove protection NGO, as he protested against the new Forest Code reforms outside the Brazilian Congress. Congress will finally vote on the new Forest Code today or tomorrow, postponed to give priority to the World Cup Bill. While supporters say the amendments make the code clearer and more enforceable, opponents urge President Dilma Rousseff to veto the agri-business-backed bill, arguing that it loosens deforestation controls that have been in place since 1965 and grants amnesty to illegal loggers. In a recent interview, economist Jeffrey Hatcher of the Rights and Resources Initiative says the Forest Code’s land-intensive model of development may not be the most rational way to develop the agriculture sector: “It might be relevant for the agriculture sector, but probably not for the whole country.”


At the end of May, RRI plans to launch a publication that analyzes the evolution of forest ownership across 50 countries since 1992. Hatcher says the report will cover what Brazil has done in terms of laws and regulations and what is possible in terms of protecting rights, but also point to the threat posed by the Forest Code reforms. Read about dynamics surrounding the vote (translation) and a recent discussion of Brazil’s 2020 reforestation goals here


Acre credits seed fellow Brazilian interest

With no plans to impose industry reduction targets by sector, Brazil’s Sao Paulo state is hungry for other means to satisfy its reduction target of 122 MtCO2 in 2005 to 98 MtCO2e in 2020. Sao Paulo recently signed an MoU to buy avoided deforestation credits from Acre, an Amazon state with 7.4M ha of protected forest. While Acre is in talks to participate in California’s ETS, a lawyer advising its government said Sao Paulo could demand more credits than California would. Acre would have to compete with other international sources of forest-originated carbon credits to supply just 2% of California’s ETS (200-260 MtCO2e up to 2020), a supply that Sao Paulo would exceed in demand within one or two years. The head of Acre’s Climate Change Institute said Acre may start offering credits in 2013, with the longer-term goal of integrating all nine Amazon states under one model.


Understanding Panama

In March, the Carnegie Institution for Science finished the first nationwide survey of tropical forest carbon stocks using airborne LiDAR technology in Panama. 3D landscape-level maps of carbon stocks, forest habitat and biodiversity will fill crucial gaps in carbon estimation and monitoring that are instrumental to climate change mitigation policies. In tandem, the UN-REDD Programme is helping Panama explore which options of REDD+ could capture the greatest range of benefits. A team of local and international experts met in Panama City in March to report their progress on modeling deforestation drivers in Panama and how deforestation may advance based on shifts in the intensity or location of those drivers—important in informing a REDD+ cost-benefit analysis.

Nepali participation behind closed doors

Nepal’s Forestry Act-1993 has given high priority to community forestry management with a participatory model. The country, however, witnessed massive deforestation in 2009-2010 due to illegal timber trading and poor management. Privately, the Nepali government is considering a report from a high-level commission that recommends amending the Act by curtailing the rights of community forestry users’ groups (CFUGs), which operate some 17,000 forests. Currently, district forest offices are authorized to hand over community forests to local CFUGs based on their proposed action plans. The recommendations suggest requiring CFUGs to reapply and obtain approval from local and national government entities before receiving rights, and increasing revenue collection from community forests. The government has kept the report discreet. Forest activists say the report has been kept private due to concerns that the government is backtracking away from honoring community rights. The report also supposedly contains a list of high-profile forest officials, former ministers, and politicians involved in deforestation.

Good governance is greater than REDD

As part of its series with key REDD actors in Indonesia, REDD Monitor recently interviewed representatives from Kemitraan, an NGO that works as a convener to support governance reform in Indonesia. Avi Mahaningtyas of Kemitraan says the organization is interested foremost in ensuring that discussions surrounding REDD engage all stakeholders and acknowledge safeguards. Only to the extent that REDD can be aligned with good governance does it present an outlet for Kemitraan’s agenda. She says the $1B deal between Norway and Indonesia is a game changer in asking questions previously not discussed in public – including those regarding tenure, indigenous rights, forest and peatland definitions, and legal jurisdiction. Domestically, Mahaningtyas and her colleagues state that political reform is needed in order to see REDD implemented, particularly given conflicts between Indonesia’s economic development target and any commitment to reduce emissions from deforestation.


Guyana gets $70M for REDD+ and model to boot

The Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund has just received $70M out of $250M promised by Norway’s government for its conservation efforts in the Amazon. Recently, under the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Enhancing Environmental Services in Tropical Forests Programme has developed a national forest estate model for Guyana to guide decision-making for sustainable forest management. The model estimates forest resource value across forest estates, with a spatial feature that lets the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) model physical and financial aspects of financing mechanisms for environmental services. In allowing GFC to manage forest resources while monitoring changes in forest cover, the model may help lay the groundwork for Guyana’s REDD+ efforts.


Around the Bolivian bend for credits

The best answers aren’t always straightforward. A recent study by members of the Nature Foundation, presented as a part of a series of publications on the Amazon basin in Bolivia, offers a cost-benefit analysis on building a road through the heart of Bolivia’s Indigenous Territory and National Park of Isoboro Secure (TIPNIS). According to the authors, diverting road construction would not only reduce deforestation in the TIPNIS region, but earn $270M in voluntary carbon credits over the next 18 years (translation). Now how much does road diversion cost?

Finance & Economics



Where there’s a will, where’s Norway?

Enrolled in the UN-REDD programme back in 2008, Tanzania plans to finalize its national REDD+ strategy by December of this year. More could be done, however, and faster. Dr. Felician Kilahama, Director of the Forestry and Beekeeping Division in the Ministry of National Resources and Tourism, stressed this month that more support from developed countries would help expedite government efforts to manage forest resources. The Tanzanian government has in particular called on developed countries to honor the resolution they made five years ago at COP-13 to finance REDD efforts in Tanzania and other poor countries. While Denmark, Japan, and Spain have pitched in, Norway by far leads in UN-REDD contributions with $105.8M and sustained commitment notwithstanding Tanzania’s REDD embezzlement issues back in February.

Invoking the rich man’s burden


Tanzania is far from alone in its call for help. An Earth Times article highlights a report recently published in Environmental Science and Policy that says that 89 out of 99 countries signed up for UN REDD+ have “very large or medium” problems achieving measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) requirements. Most non-Annex I countries are not meeting the standards for forest cover monitoring and carbon stock assessments. Co-author Louis Verchot of CIFOR says, “REDD+ is assumed to be a performance-based mechanism and its supporters need to be realistic about what developing countries can do in terms of MRV, at least at this point in time. The international community needs to commit the human and financial resources to address the gaps in MRV capacity if they want REDD+ to work.” Apart from landing support from developed nations, the article notes that another option may be for smaller countries to team up to share MRV capacity-building resources.


iREDD: win-win damage control

No, iREDD is not an Apple gadget nor an internet meme. A new paper in Conservation Letters proposes to address three major problems plaguing REDD—leakage, permanence, and additionality—by using insurance policies and premiums to create a new scheme dubbed iREDD. Under iREDD, the buyer and seller of carbon offsets together gauge, agree on, and purchase insurance for the risk in a forest conservation project. Professor Corey Bradshaw of the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute, a senior author of the paper, says, “If the sellers fail, then the buyer is compensated and can invest elsewhere. If the sellers do well, they get more money.” This way, both seller and buyer are protected.





Methodology & Standards Watch


REDD+ SES Version 2 ready for comments

The REDD+ Social & Environmental Standards Version 1, launched back in 2010, served as a starting point for supporting a higher level of social and environmental performance from REDD+ programs through safeguards, with special attention given to human rights and the nurturing of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Since then, jurisdictions in Brazil, Indonesia, Ecuador, Nepal, and Tanzania have gained some firsthand experience using the guidelines. Driven by the need to clarify and streamline guidelines and eliminate any gaps in coverage on the Cancun safeguards, the REDD+ SES Secretariat has recently revised the guidelines, incorporating feedback from stakeholders in user countries, as well as guidance provided by the COP-UNFCCC. Public comments on ways to clarify or improve the guidelines document are welcome up until June 4.



UNFCCC releases submissions on financing REDD+ results-based actions

The UNFCCC Secretariat has released 18 submissions from countries and NGOs regarding their views on modalities and procedures for financing results-based actions and considering activities related to decision 1/CP.16 of the Cancun Agreements relating to policy approaches and positive incentives on REDD+ issues in developing countries, in particular the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. The submissions are available on the UNFCCC website, and will be considered by the UNFCCC’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention at its 15th session, scheduled for Bonn, Germany, from May 15-24.


Unearthing the x factor

The fate of unprotected forests prone to deforestation lies largely in the hands of geographic accessibility, but a study in Conservation Letters finds that previous studies that control only for geographic access may poorly gauge the effectiveness of protected areas. The confounding factor—land use regulations. Based on the 110,000 sq km protected area network in Sumatra, Indonesia, the study’s results show that measures of the effectiveness of protection varied depending on the land use regulations governing unprotected lands outside protected areas. Government-sanctioned access to industrial agriculture, for instance, could drive up deforestation rates. Measurements that control for government-mediated access may provide a more accurate benchmark for informing conservation policy, particularly in helping provide baselines for allocating REDD funds and evaluating conservation efforts. For every tree, there could be a logger, regulation, or conservationist watching over.

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