This Week In Forest Carbon: Discourse At The Fringe

Long Beach, California and Arizona’s White Mountain Apache look at tapping into forest carbon to balance their budgets. The REDD+ playing field sees the emergence of a REDD+ expenditures tracking project, bottom-up methodology on REDD+ costs, and REDD+ compensation mechanism without reference levels. At the fringe of terrestrial forests, biomass and blue carbon confront some tricky questions.

Long Beach, California and Arizona’s White Mountain Apache look at tapping into forest carbon to balance their budgets. The REDD+ playing field sees the emergence of a new REDD+ expenditures tracking project, bottom-up methodology on REDD+ costs, and REDD+ compensation mechanism without reference levels. At the fringe of terrestrial forests, biomass and blue carbon confront some tricky questions.

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

20 August 2012 | California’s new cap-and-trade scheme might be able to provide relief for a couple of forest owners when it comes to their financial woes. Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske of Long Beach, California  – which is grappling with a projected deficit in 2013  – is  pushing a proposal  to register the city’s urban forest as an offset project, sales from which would help defray the city’s multimillion-dollar annual cost of tree trimming. Meanwhile, Arizona’s White Mountain Apache tribe has  allocated  a parcel of pine forest it hopes will be eligible for crediting within the California scheme, seeking carbon credit revenue to pay off the tribe’s debts.


Coverage is out on knowledge-sharing workshops carried out between  Guyana and Suriname, as well as among countries in Melanesia  and the  Himalayas. Mozambique scores high in capacity-building efforts, as a  new study  shines light on the country’s remarkable ownership over its REDD+ readiness process and engagement of local stakeholders. In support of safeguards, civil society groups and local communities in Liberia gave breath  to a new REDD resolution, while a REDD-Net guest post discussed threats to safeguards in the Philippines.


Fresh research is lending new tools and ways of thinking to existing practices in REDD+ finance.  Exclusive coverage  from Ecosystem Marketplace provides a rundown on the REDD+ Expenditures Tracking Project, which is being spearheaded by Forest Trends with support from  the  Rights and Resources Initiative, the Skoll Foundation, and the International Climate Initiative. The project  follows the REDD+ funding commitments made to 13 countries, aiming to better inform governments and aid organizations as to where their donations are going. In a departure from prevailing aggregated, top-down approaches, a  study by researchers from UNIQUE Forestry and Land Use GMBH and LTS International presents a bottom-up methodology  for assessing REDD+ costs. Another study, by L. R. Carrasco from Kings College, introduces a REDD+ compensation mechanism that doesn’t rely on reference levels, which he believes shortchanges countries with historically low deforestation levels.


Discussions continue over the effectiveness of carbon markets at the fringe of terrestrial forests. Environmentalists fear that the EU ETS’s assumption that biomass fuel use is carbon neutral – which has greatly bolstered the EU’s reliance on biomass – misrepresents the reality of the world’s forests and EU progress on emissions targets. And while Juha Siikamaki of Resources for the Future and colleagues show  that mangrove preservation could be an affordable way to mitigate carbon emissions, others express reservations over including mangroves in carbon credit arrangements  –  arguing that the economic benefit would rely on current global carbon prices.


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International Policy

The reality of RIL

Proceedings  were released last week for a workshop in Malaysia on reduced impact logging (RIL), which was organized by the USAID-backed Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests (LEAF) program and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) back in May. Government officials from Indonesia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Malaysia, along with university faculty and representatives from UN-REDD, USAID, and others discussed challenges and opportunities around RIL implementation in Asia, helping inform the drafting of policy briefs and a communications plan to promote increased adoption of RIL as a mechanism for improving forest management and emissions reductions.  


Project Development

California finds a forest funding fix?

Arizona’s White Mountain Apache tribe has  designated  100,000 of its 770,000 acres of pine forest to be included in the California scheme, hoping that income from forest carbon credits can help the tribe retire its debt and invest in economic development efforts. The credits are projected to be sold through an intermediary, and the first payments delivered late 2012 or early 2013.


Long Beach, California may also be looking to tap into California’s new carbon market, as its leaders grapple with another projected deficit in 2013 (covered by  Reuters  and  Press-Telegram). Long Beach Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske said on Tuesday that she plans to ask the city’s office of sustainability to review her proposal to enroll its 393,000-tree urban forest as an offset project. Income from credits would help defray the multimillion-dollar annual cost of tree trimming. To enter the carbon market, Long Beach would need to validate its tree inventory and meet other state criteria. Elsewhere in California, Santa Monica has already listed an urban forest offset project under the Climate Action Reserve (CAR).


FCO bullish on Code REDD

Virginia-based Forest Carbon Offsets (FCO) recently upped the volume on its support for forest carbon offsets as an outlet for corporate social responsibility. FCO  became a partner  in the Code REDD campaign, which seeks to match high-quality forest carbon offset projects with corporate buyers. FCO’s featured Code REDD project is the VCS/CCB-validated Bull Run REDD Project in Belize – the second VCS-validated project in Central America. In addition, FCO’s Jeff Waldon and Carl Gade published an  article  in Ethical Corporation last week that promotes forest carbon offsets as an area that can provide high returns on CSR investments through combined benefits in climate, biodiversity, and community.


Plan Vivo’s cup of tea

Project developers Conservation Carbon Company and Rainforest Rescue International recently  received  Plan Vivo validation for their Hiniduma Biolink Project in Sri Lanka – the first project in Asia to receive Plan Vivo validation. Aiming to create a biodiversity corridor between two rainforest patches in Galle District, the project works with smallholders, mainly tea farmers, in a reforestation programme using over 90 tree species. It has so far piloted systems over 11 ha and will scale up gradually over the project lifetime, aiming to eventually reforest and restore over 2,000 ha between World Heritage forest sites at Singharaja and Kanneliya. Further Plan Vivo validations are underway in India and Nepal.


National Strategy & Capacity

Seeking liberty in Liberia

In a new resolution, civil society groups and local communities hailing from nine counties in Liberia recently called on Liberia’s government to ensure that the country’s REDD program  –  currently still in the midst of readiness efforts  – will provide equitable benefits such as funding for community development, concerned that the promise of REDD funds could lure powerful elites at the expense of indigenous or rural people. In the background, Liberia is still reeling from a scandal involving UK-based Carbon Harvesting Corporation (CHC), which allegedly bribed Liberian officials to secure a 400,000-ha forest carbon contract. According to The Guardian, the contract – based on flawed emissions estimates – could have left Liberia liable to make up a difference of up to $2.2 billion had the forests failed to deliver the expected total of carbon credits, based on a minimum and very high target price of $13.5/tCO2.



Mozambique plays its own hand

A new CIFOR  study  finds Mozambique’s approach to REDD+ readiness efforts to be remarkably independent compared to those in other countries, largely thanks to its strong tradition of stakeholder consultation. Departing from norms, Mozambique’s government decided to draft its REDD+ strategy prior  to instead of after requesting support from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). The government also contributed its own legwork without relying exclusively on outside consultants, and led large-scale consultations with both government and the public. The country’s more inclusive approach has ultimately helped it resist pressure from politically connected carbon-trading firms and other vested interests seeking control over the REDD+ process. Mozambique  has now moved on to implementing its REDD+ readiness preparation proposal, after receiving FCPF’s green light back in April.


Guyana and Suriname put their heads together

Building off their bilateral assistance framework, government representatives from Guyana and Suriname recently held a  knowledge-sharing workshop  on climate policy, strategy, and stakeholder engagement. Guyana, which received recognition at Rio+20 as having the second largest interim REDD+ mechanism in operation and the first national-scale REDD+ model, is sharing its experience with its neighbor Suriname as the latter formulates its own climate policies and REDD+ strategy. Topics covered included Suriname’s preparation of its Readiness Preparation Plan under the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility – which Guyana already has experience in – and the MRV systems being established under Guyana’s low-carbon development strategy, which is in the process of receiving a  third tranche of finance  from Norway.


Himalayas find direction with pilot up high

Visitors from International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) partner organizations in Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, and Pakistan recently visited the Kayerkhola watershed in Chitwan, Nepal to learn about ICIMOD’s ongoing pilot REDD+ project there and relay lessons back home. Topics covered included promotion of biogas and improved cook-stove technologies among Community Forest User Group (CFUG) members to reduce forest dependency, social and gender-inclusive approaches, and the role that communities can play in reducing forest fire incidences. The next challenge is to leverage the REDD+ pilot experience as a basis for developing a national REDD+ strategy in Nepal and to link up with other REDD+ initiatives in the region and beyond.


New Zealand’s New Zeal for Offsets

According to a report  by the Ministry for the Environment, high-emitting New Zealand firms regulated under the NZ ETS capitalized upon the dwindling global carbon price to offset their emissions in 2011. Ultimately, 73% of all units surrendered in 2011 came from offshore sources. Surrendered CERs from foreign programs totaled at 4.2 million in 2011, skyrocketing from 133,150 in 2010. In contrast, forestry-based NZUs surrendered in 2011 amounted to under half of those surrendered in 2010. Roughly 73% of all units surrendered came from international sources. With European carbon prices facing historic lows, the EU recently proposed a plan to bolster the market, which has seen NZU prices drop to $4.55/tCO2.


The Philippines Aims for Safeguards

In a REDD-Net guest post, independent consultant Marlea Munez expresses concerns regarding the climate for REDD+ safeguards in the Philippines given current intergovernmental relations and previous as well as current national forest policies. Despite the establishment of the Philippine National REDD+ Strategy and the Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) Strategic Plan, CBFM received less government funding than previous years from 2008-2011. In 2011, an indefinite moratorium, prohibiting cutting and harvesting of timber, was set without consulting with forest communities. In reforestation efforts, the National Greening Program initially excluded forest communities lacking legal personality. Munez highlights that the continuation of conflicting policies such as these may weaken REDD+ safeguards.


Fiji On Forest Ownership

The “Carbon Rights and REDD+”  workshop  held recently in Fiji aimed to provide a platform for government representatives, forest owners, NGOs and the forest industry to discuss legal and policy options for clearly identifying the owners of forest carbon  –  particularly salient given Fiji’s strong customary land tenure and control of natural resources. The national-level workshop is a part of a broader regional study by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the German Agency for International Co-operation (GIZ) on forest carbon rights and REDD+ in Melanesia, intended to boost capacity building and knowledge sharing among Melanesian countries on the topic of carbon rights regulation. Fiji adopted a  REDD+ policy  early last year, and is on its way to developing a national REDD+ strategy.


Extending Tantalus’s reach in the Amazon

CIFOR recently released a publication  on the scope of REDD in the Brazilian Amazon. Findings favor climate change mitigation options based on forest conservation rather than on land use change, particularly in terms of higher potential additionality in emissions reductions. While low-cost mitigation options do exist in use-modifying agriculture and forestry, they tend to be technologically complex and require more costly intervention schemes. CIFOR’s review discusses performance indicators that can be used to identify low-hanging fruits for mitigation.


Agricultural reform settlements in the Brazilian Amazon, often tied to high deforestation rates, represent a critical base for REDD+ initiatives in Brazil. A recent CIFOR  article  discusses how differences in deforestation and economic development conditions among settlements may require flexibility in the design of such initiatives.


Finance & Economics

Separating the payers from the posers

Developed nations have pledged over $7.3 billion to help developing countries get up to speed on REDD+, with $4.3 billion of that slated to be delivered by the end of this year. It remains unclear how much of that money has been delivered or how it is being used. In response, Forest Trends is implementing a project that will follow the REDD+ funding commitments made to 13 countries, aiming to achieve greater transparency in REDD+ financial flows in order to better inform governments and aid organizations as to where their donations are going. Exclusive coverage  by Ecosystem Marketplace provides a rundown of how the tracking is happening.


Bottoms up on the cost of REDD+

Existing studies on the cost of REDD+ have drawn largely from aggregated top-down approaches. In contrast, a  new study  by researchers at UNIQUE  Forestry and Land Use GMBH  and LTS International – published in Carbon Balance and Management  – presents a bottom-up methodology for assessing REDD+ cost elements.  The researchers demonstrate the approach by calculating costs for three REDD+ pilot projects in Tanzania, accounting for regional variations in economic conditions and carbon stocks.  The study argues that compared to the top-down approach, the bottom-up approach captures a fuller spectrum of REDD+ costs based on separate estimates of opportunity, implementation, transaction and institutional costs of REDD+.  


A playing field without reference levels

In a new  study, L. R. Carrasco from Kings College argues that REDD+ compensation based on reference levels of deforestation is politically controversial and unfair to countries with historically low deforestation rates. In search of a simpler, more transparent solution, Carrasco proposes a reference-free, assumption-free, and international leakage-immune mechanism based on balancing compensations for carbon sequestration services with capped penalizations for annual deforestation emissions. Using this mechanism, he provides estimates for countries with high deforestation rates  – which would forgo compensation for carbon sequestration  – while those with low deforestation rates and high forest stocks would receive net annual payments.


Methodology & Standards Watch

Biomass at the stake

Under the EU ETS, biomass used as fuel is counted as carbon neutral, pushing the EU to increasingly rely on biomass fuel. Environmentalists, however,  fear that this accounting misrepresents the state of the world’s forests and EU progress on emissions targets – claiming that shipping and burning wood pellets adds to emissions. The European Panel Federation wants the carbon life-cycle of wood to be accounted for and more wood to be used in construction and furniture as a carbon store. The latter may not necessarily help, however, if the biomass were shipped from non-Kyoto Protocol signatories where it is not accounted for at point of harvest. Recent European Commission proposals seek to tighten accounting, but still don’t set emissions targets or change the ETS assumption of biomass fuel use as carbon neutral.


From REDD to blue?

Recent  research  conducted by a US-based team suggests that “blue carbon,” which includes mangroves, could serve in a similar fashion as REDD in climate policy schemes after conducting high-res surveys of global mangrove biomass. Dr. Juha Siikamaki, a coauthor from Resources for the Future, states, “We make the surprising finding that in most places, preserving mangroves is justified solely based on the avoided emissions, without any regard for the many other ecological and economic benefits mangroves are particularly well known for.” However, others have expressed reservations over incorporating mangroves into carbon markets, arguing that the economic benefit would depend on current global carbon prices.



Save the date

The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) is hosting  Carbon Forum North America 2012  on October 1-2 in Washington, DC  – now open for registration. The conference will cover  the latest developments in carbon markets and policy, including those related to the rise of the Western Climate Initiative, RGGI’s 2012 review, innovative climate finance to emerging carbon markets, and new regulatory developments at the EPA. The program also includes a forestry update on REDD+, from international negotiations to regional programs.


Cast a vote

The UN-REDD Programme is seeking four civil society organization (CSO) representatives for its Policy Board – one CSO from each of the Programme’s three regions (Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America-Caribbean) and one from a developed country. Through August 31, CSOs can  vote  for one representative per region from existing nominees. The Bank Information Center is conducting the self-selection process.



Director, Business Development (UK & Europe)  –  Code REDD

Based in London or other major European city, the director will lead the campaign’s European corporate pledge, fundraising, and policy advocacy efforts in Europe and the UK. Candidates should have a Bachelor’s at minimum, 5+ years’ experienced in related corporate sales and marketing, and fundraising experience with nonprofits from major European foundations. Read more about the position  here.


Climate Change Technical Advisor – Chemonics

Based in Washington, DC, the advisor will be responsible for spearheading the climate change component of the Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaptation, Research, and Economic Development (PREPARED) project and assisting the Chief of Party in managerial functions. Candidates should have an advanced degree in climate science, meteorology, environmental science, physics or other related field and ten years’ experience in climate change research/modeling or climate change adaptation programs. Read more about the position  here.


Program Associate, Forest & Climate Initiative  –  WWF

Based in Washington, DC, the associate will be responsible for ensuring that the Forest & Climate Initiative’s Communications and Knowledge Sharing work is strategically coordinated and implemented. Candidates should have a Bachelor’s  and 2+ years’ experience in environmental communications or education. Read more about the position  here.  


Manager, Protected Areas Conservation – WWF

Based in Malaysia, the manager will be responsible for providing direction and guidance on protected area matters within the Malaysia Forest Landscape. Candidates should have a post-graduate degree and/or professional background in natural resource management, conservation biology, forestry, tourism, sociology or other subjects related to protected areas. Otherwise a minimum of five years’ working experience on protected areas. Read more about the position  here.  


Two Positions, Asia  –  RECOFTC

Based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the  Training Officer  will assist in the development, implementation, and M&E of training program activities for projects in Cambodia. Candidates should have a Bachelor’s in education or NRM, 3-5 years’ relevant work experience, and be a Cambodian national or non-Cambodian national residing and working in the country. Based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the  LEAF Coordinator  will deliver a PES awareness raising and training program in Thailand. Candidates must be a Thai national, have a Master’s in forestry, NRM, or relevant field, and 5-7 years’ relevant training experience.


Associate, International Policy  –  Pew Charitable Trusts

Based in Washington, DC, the associate will be responsible for ensuring the professional and efficient functioning of the Pew Environment Group’s International Policy Program. Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of one year of relevant professional experience in a fast paced, dynamic environment. Read more about the position  here.  


Project Officer, Conservation – Wildlife Trust of India

Based in NOIDA, India, the officer will be responsible for assisting the Chief of Conservation in executing all programmatic activities and monitoring the activities concerning depth projects. Candidates should have a post-graduate degree in a life science and two years’ experience in a similar position. Read more about the position  here.  


Policy Officer on Climate and Energy – European Environmental Bureau

Based in Brussels, the officer will be responsible for reviewing and revising the F-Gas regulation, assisting in the implementation and review of the Energy Efficiency Directive and tracking developments of EU climate policy. Candidates should have a relevant academic degree and two years’ experience with EU environmental policy, preferably but not necessarily with NGOs. Read more about the position  here.


Senior Policy Researcher, AFOLU Climate Change Mitigation Policy  –  SEI

Based in Seattle, the researcher will lead research activities that assess and advance the contribution of AFOLU to climate mitigation. Candidates should have a PhD with 4 years’ work experience, or an MS with 8 years’ work experience, with a publication record in AFOLU-related fields. Read more about the position  here.



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