A fiery REDD+ debate
While the public comment period for California’s cap-and-trade program may have ended, the debate over the inclusion of jurisdictional forest carbon credits from Acre, Brazil and Chiapas, Mexico into California’s program has not. As California policymakers weigh recommendations from the REDD Offset Working Group, REDD+ critics have written to the California Air Resources Board claiming that indigenous communities widely oppose REDD+ as a “neocolonialist scheme.” Another letter, signed by indigenous individuals and organizations, says the conversation on REDD+ has not yet reached a verdict: “We have at no point decided if we are for or against REDD projects. First we must inform ourselves and our communities of the opportunities and challenges. Both those in favor of and those against REDD must be serious and ethical in conveying correct information and establishing continued dialogue.”
All(cot) or nothing!
Allcot, a Switzerland-based carbon trader with its own project development activities in Latin America, offset 81 tCO2e in emissions associated with the G8 Young Summit earlier this month, which brought together young leaders from around the world to prepare solutions on pressing global issues for G8 heads of state. The summit’s emissions were offset using credits generated from the VCS/CCB-validated Purus REDD+ Project in Acre, Brazil, developed by the CarbonFund.org Foundation. Aside from emission reductions and forest conservation, the project’s benefits include funding new school buildings and facilities and the local community’s first health clinic.
The Government of Japan and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) recently committed $1.8 million to fund a large forest restoration project to rehabilitate degraded forest land in the western part of Cí´te d’Ivoire, particularly around the Duékoué and Scio forests. The project intends to provide environmental and social benefits to forests damaged and people displaced as a result of civil warfare by restoring 2,000 hectares of degraded land through the establishment of taungya agroforestry plantations, which will provide income and employment to local community members.
Australian wildlife in a good place
In support of UNEP World Environment Day on June 5, the UN Association of Australia is awarding innovative environmental initiatives across Australia through its World Environment Day Awards. Among those placed as finalists for the Biodiversity Award category this year is Cassinia Environmental, whose ecological offset product combines carbon credits with permanent protection for Australian wildlife on the 12,000 acres of land it owns and manages in Victoria and New South Wales. Cassinia’s reach extends beyond Australia, with the major role it played in Africa’s first large-scale CDM forestry project developed by World Vision Australia in Ethiopia.
National Strategy and Capacity Building
Kinshasa’s franc assessment
War after war has left the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in political turmoil, facing corruption and instability. However, recent research conducted by the Center for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR) and the Council for Environmental Defense through Legality and Traceability indicates that REDD+ may help to improve governance in the DRC. A recent article on Ecosystem Marketplace’s Forest Carbon Portal discusses the report, whose authors view forest protection through REDD+ as an opportunity to attract investment to the “second-largest tropical forest area in the world”. While the report acknowledges the DRC’s shortcomings in capacity, it underscores REDD+ as an avenue for re-shaping strategies for land use and forest policy in country – starting with Kinshasa, the nation’s capital.
Indeed, representatives from civil society, government, and the local university gathered in Kinshasa last month for a workshop to learn how to use the REDD+ Cost Elements Assessment Tool, a software tool that analyzes all costs tied to implementing and monitoring REDD+ activities and associated emission reductions.
Indonesia seems to be stepping up its conservation game, with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently okaying an extension on the forest moratorium for another two years, which is intended to prevent new logging and plantation concessions on forests and peatlands as well as enhance REDD+ capacity within the country. The decision follows Norway’s commitment of $1 billion toward Indonesia’s plan to reduce deforestation. To help push along reform, President Yudhoyono hopes to expedite the creation of a REDD+ agency with “broad powers over various ministries involved in forest management”.
Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of Indonesia’s REDD+ Task Force, recently asserted that Indonesia does not intend to open 1.2 million hectares of protected forest in the province of Aceh for palm oil development, logging and mining – in response to allegations made by environmentalists who feared the opposite.
On the side, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) recently revised its principles and criteria to require companies globally to end the establishment of new palm oil plantations on peatland. RSPO Indonesia plans to help lay a foundation for corporations that have already established palm oil plantations to “repay their carbon debt” by providing them a GHG calculator which will serve as a starting point for quantifying emissions.
Many Hands Make Light Work
Environmental Science and Policy recently a published a study called REDD+ Policy Strategy in Cameroon: Actors, Institutions and Governance that highlights the need for “governance beyond government”, in other words, REDD+ expertise outside of the public sector. The involvement of local civil society organizations and the private sector could strengthen existing capacity and offer alternative insights. While the government of Cameroon has taken proactive steps in forest policy, beyond that “it is critical that the state reinvent itself as a learning organization”, states co-author Denis Sonwa. Tensions between the Ministry of Forest and Wildlife and the Ministry of Environment and Nature Conservation have hampered in-country REDD+ efforts, further emphasizing the need for increased coordination among REDD+ actors.
Forests for Fiji
Meanwhile in the Fijian capital of Suva, a workshop was held to improve logging practices and to further develop in-country REDD+ efforts through the country’s REDD+ strategy, first introduced in 2011. Coordinated by the Fiji National REDD+ committee, the REDD+ development process brought together both local NGOs and landholders. “Not only do the landowners see the financial benefit from this, they also have a strong attachment to the forest culturally and socially,” comments Christina Fung, a German Technical Cooperation land use planning and facilitation specialist. A REDD+ pilot site established in Fiji in 2012 has reportedly already garnered the support of local landowners.
Methodology and Standards Watch
Third time’s the charm
Until May 31, the Climate, Community, & Biodiversity (CCB) Alliance is accepting public comments on the draft Third Edition of the CCB Standards. In response to user feedback, the CCB Standards will undergo revisions to better support community- and smallholder-led carbon projects through more user-friendly requirements regarding project benefits. Interested parties are encouraged to submit comments here. To date, CCB has been most frequently tagged on to VCS certification, last year launching a joint approval process designed to lower transaction costs for forestry and land-use projects seeking credit for both emissions reductions and co-benefits.
On May 10, the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) released a memorandum outlining verbal guidance from the California Air Resources Board for project developers/Offset Project Operators and verifiers of forest carbon projects under the early action and compliance offset programs. The ARB will in effect be granting the option to estimate tree height using a subset of inventory measurements – a policy in line with CAR’s existing guidance to forest projects reporting under the Forest Project Protocols and not predicted to significantly impact project developers’ and verifiers’ work. The Reserve also published a Policy Memorandum that allows project developers that miss the verification deadline to be notified and given the choice to cancel or continue the project by initiating verification using the relevant protocol.
Australia’s recently approved 2013-2014 budget will allow the Australian Government to account for cropland management, grazing land management and revegetation within its national GHG inventory as part of its reporting of land sector emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. As a result, carbon offset activities covering these categories would be eligible to generate Kyoto-compliant credits under the Carbon Farming Initiative. Yvette D’Ath, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation, affirmed that liable emitters under Australia’s Carbon Pricing Mechanism could purchase offsets from participating farmers and landholders, expanding the breadth of the Carbon Farming Initiative and Australia’s compliance scheme by extension.
In Cameroon, rural forest communities often remain isolated from modern communication and basic technology, forced to rely on radio for news and information. A pioneering radio program by CIFOR’s Climate Change and Forests in the Congo Basin Program, “Au rhythme de saisons,” educates listeners on climate change and broadcasts trends in deforestation and forest degradation and the potential impacts of REDD+ activities. Listeners in both rural urban areas of Cameroon can tune in on a monthly basis. Community radio journalists and COBAM officials alike hope the program will spread to other countries such as the DRC, Central African Republic and Rwanda.
Righteous, Prior, and Informed Consent
Prompted by a petition on behalf of Indonesia’s national indigenous peoples’ alliance (AMAN), a recent ruling on Indonesia’s 1999 Forestry Law clarified the distinction between customary forests belonging to customary communities controlled indirectly by the Indonesian state and state forests controlled directly by the state through the Ministry of Forestry. A turning point in an ongoing dispute regarding the role of community ownership of forests in reducing deforestation, the decision intends to ensure that large concessions do not take place without Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and expects to foster collaboration between local communities and other stakeholders.
COONAPIP calls it a day
On May 6, UN-REDD Programme observers met with the traditional authorities of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama, part of the National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples of Panama (COONAPIP), to reveal the reasons behind its recent withdrawal from the UN-REDD Programme. COONAPIP authorities allege that Panama’s REDD+ Programme disrespected cultural aspects and held inequitable rights over their territories. Betanio Chiquidama, General Cacique of Embera Wounaan Congress, an organization that is part of COONAPIP, affirmed, “We are not radicalized against the REDD+ Programme, but cannot continue as it stands. Our approach is to redesign, with real indigenous participation mechanisms…”
Science & Technology Review
University of Maryland researchers recently developed a 30-meter resolution forest cover dataset that combines data from a 250-meter resolution Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) and 30-meter Landsat imagery. The resulting MODIS-based Vegetation Continues Fields (VCF) dataset, available on the Global Land Cover Facility (GLCF) website, reportedly more accurate than the industry standard for global forest measurement, can track land-use changes that occur at a sub-hectare scale, thereby localizing deforestation and involving local stakeholders at the ground level. Researchers believe the VCF dataset will be a “game changer” due to its 30-meter resolution as well as its ability to classify forests in terms of percent tree-cover. The development has the potential to greatly improve tracking mechanisms for REDD+ and other forestry efforts.
Biomass REDD-y for Takeoff
The European Space Agency recently selected ‘Biomass’, a satellite intended to track the amount of biomass and carbon stored in the forests around the world, as the seventh Earth Explorer mission, slated for launch in 2020. Engineered to provide the first P-band radar measurements from space to measure carbon and biomass with greater accuracy, the satellite could potentially aid in the implementation of REDD+ activities through long-term monitoring of tropical forest biomass.
Speed vs. Size
Generally, the size of a plant determines the amount of CO2 it removes, indicating trees as the most effective plants for carbon sequestration. However, recent studies on bamboo show that a plant’s rate of growth may also determine the amount of carbon sequestered. Research conducted by the Universidad Nuestra Seí±ora de La Paz in Bolivia concludes that bamboo has the ability to sequester equivalent amounts of carbon as large tree species. Due to its rapid growth rate and ability to survive on small amounts of water, bamboo could potentially become a key element in offsetting carbon emissions. Groups like the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) have been piloting bamboo forest carbon projects both within and outside of China.
Publications & Tools
Whose forest is it anyway?
A new World Resources Institute (WRI) analysis of 32 REDD+ readiness grant proposals that were submitted to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and the UN-REDD Programme highlights the need for stronger commitments and strategies to address obstacles in land and forest tenure. WRI emphasizes “clear and secure land and forest tenure rights” in its eight pillars of foundational REDD+ readiness. However, the efficacy of REDD+ programs is often limited by the lack of property rights of indigenous people and forest communities, land laws that encourage forest clearing as well as complicated land registration processes.
Reflections back on the first mile
Part of a multi-country assessment of REDD+ capacity building efforts, the Assessment of REDD+ Training Needs and Supply in Six Countries in the Africa and Pacific Region – put together by members of the Alliance for Global REDD+ Capacity – takes stock of REDD+ initiatives that were put into practice in Cambodia, the DRC, Indonesia, Liberia, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea between 2010 and 2012. The report describes training supply and the capacity building needs of REDD+ stakeholders, intended to aid organizations that fund REDD+ capacity building to more effectively target their efforts.
Finance for Smallholders held back
Highlighting the need for an innovative approach to climate finance that has the ability to connect public and private finance with smallholder farmers, the World Agroforestry Centre’s Climate Finance for Agriculture and Livelihoods speaks to the challenges and opportunities of financing climate change mitigation and adaptation and sustainable agricultural practices in developing countries. The policy brief stresses the need for scaled-up upfront public sector financing (insofar as carbon revenues are delayed or insufficient and the private sector is risk averse), improvements in local institutional capacity, and the closing of research gaps (e.g. to investigate innovative ways to lower the premiums of adaptation insurance).
In February, the Center for People and Forests, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry brought together 11 climate change and forestry experts to discuss the implications of the COP 18 hosted in Doha, Qatar. Forests and Climate Change after Doha: an Asia-Pacific Perspective summarizes their responses to key questions with relevance to the forestry and climate change in the Asia-Pacific region. On forest carbon specifically, the report discusses prospects for the Framework for Various Approaches (FVA) and the New Market Mechanisms (NMM) to supplement efforts under the Kyoto Protocol, where the only mechanism currently available under Kyoto for forestry – the CDM A/R methodology – has failed to scale up investment in the sector.
Cambodia a click away
Earlier this month, the Cambodia REDD+ National Programme launched its website (cambodia-redd.org) as a component of the country’s REDD+ readiness roadmap – one of few to establish a comprehensive national REDD+ website. The website intends to facilitate communication with international stakeholders, local authorities and NGOs on the progress of domestic REDD+ developments and events. The website offers information on program structure, implementation, and supporting institutions, with extensive written and video documentation of Cambodia’s experience with REDD+ to date.
Research Assistant, Carbon Program – Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace
Based in Washington, D.C., the Carbon Program Research Assistant will provide support in preparation of the State of the Forest Carbon Markets report including corresponding with survey contacts, data collection and reviewing results. Candidates should have a Bachelor’s Degree (Graduate Degree a plus) and an interest in conservation finance/payments for ecosystem services. Read more about the position here.
Program Officer – Verified Carbon Standard
Based in Washington, D.C, the Program Officer will provide guidance and support to project developers, methodology developers, validation/ verification bodies, registries and other stakeholders using the VCS. Candidates should have a university education in a relevant field and an understanding of GHG concepts. Read more about the position here.
2 Positions – National Wildlife Federation
Based in Washington, D.C., the Tropical Forest and Agriculture Project Coordinator will help verify deforestation-free supply chains and link these efforts with jurisdictional REDD+ programs in three countries and lead outreach to non-profits and companies in the US and overseas. Candidates should have a Master’s in agriculture, natural resources, environmental policy, or biology and 4+ years’ experience. Based in Greenbelt, Maryland, the Remote Sensing Scientist will analyze patterns of commodity production, post-clearing land use and deforestation and communicate results of project activities to diverse audiences in the REDD+ community. Candidates should have a Master’s or PhD in a related field with 7+ years of experience.
Outreach Intern, Global Forest Watch 2.0 – World Resources Institute
Based in Washington D.C., the Outreach Intern will help draft and edit material for the Global Forest Watch 2.0 blog and support outreach efforts on social media sites. Candidates should have an undergraduate degree in international relations, journalism, public relations, or communications and experience representing an institution or organization on social media. Read more about the position here.
Project Officer, Africa Programme – Forest Peoples Programme (FPP)
Based in Cameroon, the Program Officer will manage the implementation of FPP’s EU funded project ‘Legitimate decision making and effective representation of the indigenous forest peoples of Cameroon’ and strategize and work in coordination with the Cameroon Project Coordinator. Candidates should have a Master’s Degree or higher in a relevant field experience working and/or living in Africa. Read more about the position here.
Ecosystem Services Student Intern – Colorado State Land Board
Based in Denver, the Student Intern will determine potential for carbon sequestration on state trust lands through four low-generation sources, research measures used to quantify potential carbon assets, and conduct water market demand investigation for wetland and stream mitigation credits. Candidates should be current students. Read more about the position here.
Conservation Scientist, Tropical Agriculture and Biodiversity – The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
Based in the United Kingdom, the Conservation Scientist will work on three science projects, one of which involves establishing a baseline for a future proposed REDD+ scheme, to examine how various land use strategies can meet the requirements of biodiversity and livelihoods. Candidates should have a PhD in conservation biology or a related subject and a proven ability to carry though research programs. Read more about the position here.
Postdoctoral Researcher, Vital Signs – Conservation International
Based in Santa Barbara, California, the Researcher will develop and implement an analytical framework and methods for measuring inclusive wealth as a framework for tracking socio-agroecosystems. Candidates should have a PhD in economics, quantitative ecology, or sustainable development and 5+ years of relevant work experience. Read more about the position here.