This Week In Forest Carbon: Lessons For Government Oversight

The Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project controversy continues to unravel, revealing essential documents and highlighting the role of government oversight in future carbon offset project developments. Meanwhile, California Governor Jerry Brown’s approval of the proposal to tie California’s cap-and-trade scheme to Quebec’s builds capacity for prospective linkages between project-level activities like REDD+ and established emissions trading schemes.

The Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project controversy continues to unravel, revealing essential documents and highlighting the role of government oversight in future carbon offset project developments. Meanwhile, California Governor Jerry Brown’s approval of the proposal to tie California’s cap-and-trade scheme to Quebec’s builds capacity for prospective linkages between project-level activities like REDD+ and established emissions trading schemes.

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

16 April 2013 | In Ecosystem Marketplace’s last issue of Forest Carbon News, we  fielded a few concerns  surrounding the recent audit report released by British Columbia’s Auditor General that challenged the baseline and additionality of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC) Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project.

Since then, we have released the  next article  in our series on the controversy, unearthing key documents and insights through interviews with individuals involved on the project, the lead auditor himself, timberland consultants, and a competing property bidder.


Regarding the audit report’s conclusion that carbon credits were not a critical part of NCC’s decision to purchase the Darkwoods property, there are documents (here  and here) showing that NCC had not only considered carbon credits but actively sought partners to buy them – written more than a year before the purchase. The auditor’s team never asked to see them.

Christian Schadendorf – who advised the former Darkwoods owner on his sale of the property – stated that they had “had calls from several timberland buyers who would qualify as ‘liquidation loggers,’ but NCC got there first.” This is in sharp contrast to the Auditor General’s report finding that no companies interested in a “liquidation logging scenario” had bid on the property prior to sale.


The overall episode offers lessons for cases down the line where government oversight is necessary in vetting carbon offset projects. Darkwoods’ experience may be a relatively isolated occurrence for now, but government oversight is becoming an increasingly relevant issue in the forest carbon arena – particularly as we see momentum building for jurisdictional linkages and jurisdictional REDD+ approaches that wed broad-based government targets with project-level activities.


Read our coverage  here, and stay tuned for the next piece in the series as we delve deeper into the Darkwoods rabbit hole and look at how the Darkwoods deal came to be, what the neighbors actually do, and what the baseline models say.  

Keep reading below for more forest carbon market news items, hot off the presses. Here in Washington, DC, we are busy aggregating 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 big thank you to the following organizations that have most recently contributed data to this year’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets Report, including:  Bosques Amazí³nicos, Conservation Fund, Finite Carbon, Future Camp, Green Energy Corporation, and  Offsetters.


—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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



Tapping into the REDD-X Files

In an effort to provide information that will help governments and other REDD+ stakeholders better assess where REDD+ finance is flowing (and where it isn’t), Forest Trends has just launched its new REDDX website (! “REDDX” is short for Forest Trends’ REDD+ Expenditures Tracking Initiative, which provides analysis of financial flows targeted at REDD+ activities in participating countries. The website will initially cover REDD+ finance data from Ecuador, Brazil, Ghana, and Vietnam, and is slated to expand its coverage to additional countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Tanzania, and Colombia.  


The birth of a new REDDcommunity

With the launch of, REDD+ practitioners around the world can now access a free and open online community and learning platform.  WWF’s Forest and Climate Initiative  developed the website as a capacity building tool for REDD+ practitioners – including representatives of governments, non-profits, community organizations, multi-national organizations, development organizations and businesses. This innovative platform allows REDD+ stakeholders to connect with one another, access technical information, learn about upcoming REDD+ related events, sign up for free REDD+ related webinars, and share their experiences – enabling them to advance REDD+ and harness its benefits to people and nature.  


International Policy

The golden link

Case studies conducted by the UN-REDD Programme, the Forest Policy Team of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO), and the EU-FAO Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Programme (FLEGT)  reveal key linkages  between REDD+ and FLEGT initiatives in countries like  Cameroon  and the  Central African Republic. The studies indicate that synergies between REDD+ implementation and FLEGT bilateral trade agreements known as Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) may help streamline common work areas as parts of national forest policy planning processes. There is much work left to be done on opening up lines of communication between relevant sub-national and national level actors, and integrating REDD+ and VPA processes into national forest policies and laws. The UN-REDD Programme and partners are slated to host a meeting and workshop later this year. Case studies on Ghana and Liberia will be available soon.


Fora on Flora

Through April 19, high-level officials and ministers from 197 member and observer states are gathering in Istanbul for the UN Forum on Forests to  discuss and establish  appropriate policies to improve sustainable forest management. The conference meets every two years and highlights the importance of forests and their relation to deforestation, poverty, and global warming. The forum is slated to discuss appropriate financing mechanisms  related to sustainable forest management, with side events covering issues ranging from social and economic considerations on REDD+ to forest conservation alternatives to REDD+. You can follow the forum live and access archived footage  here.


US Policy

A price on rice?

Just prior to California Governor Jerry Brown’s  approval of the proposal  to link California’s cap-and-trade scheme to Quebec’s, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)  declared its formal support to incorporate the first agricultural offset protocol into California’s cap-and-trade scheme. Robert Parkhurst   – Director of EDF’s agricultural offsets program and former policy lead for Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) AB32 compliance strategies  – believes offsets from rice farming would benefit California’s economy, allow rice farmers to become a part of the climate change solution, and help designate California as an archetype for cap-and-trade programs worldwide.  “Agriculture is vital to making the California greenhouse-gas market work and rice farmers are ready to provide offsets to the nearly 400 businesses that must comply with AB 32’s cap-and-trade program,” says Parkhurst, “but they need the right signal to know that their efforts will be cost-effective and efficient. Adopting the rice offset protocol can be that sign.”


Project Development

The Darkwoods documents

Two weeks ago, British Columbia’s Auditor General said that the Nature Conservancy of Canada had issued carbon credits by exaggerating the number of trees that its VCS-verified Darkwoods Carbon Project had saved. Ecosystem Marketplace continues its coverage in its latest article on the issue  here, building off of key documents and statements made by individuals involved on the project and audit, as well as competing property bidders and timberland consultants. Specifically, the article looks into the issue of whether carbon offsets were an essential consideration of NCC’s decision to buy the Darkwoods property, whether the Darkwoods project meets the regulatory surplus test, and the discrepancies between baselines determined by the project developer compared to the one used by the auditor.


Into the carbon Delta  

In a celebratory commemoration of Earth Month, Delta Airlines and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are teaming up  to match customers’ carbon offsets contributions  up to $25,000. Purchased offsets will help to conserve tropical forest and wildlife habitat in Belize through TNC’s VCS-verified Rio Bravo Project. Through Delta’s offset program, travelers can purchase and retire offsets tracked by Markit Environmental Registry, year-round at $15/tCO2e. Delta’s commitment to carbon offsets began in 2007 with its Tensas River Basin Project, validated to VCS, which reforested 406.3 acres in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Delta customers and Delta Airlines bought a combined total of 4,472 tCO2e of carbon offsets in the last year.  


Of Epic proportions  

Epic Displays, a primary supplier of trade show booths and event materials, intends to plant one tree for every online sale through its “Epic Forest – One Tree Per Order” initiative. Since planting its first seedlings in Alberta last year, Epic Displays has furthered its commitment to sustainability and expanded its land plot to 200 square meters. Traditionally part of a high waste producing industry,  the Epic Forest program seeks to offset emissions  related to packing materials and air travel in partnership with The Carbon Farmer, a carbon offset supplier based in Canada.  


Tanzania in its clayday

In the past two years, over half of the 354 households in Tanzania’s Sakale village have started tapping into fuel-efficient cow dung/clay soil stoves as part of an improved cookstoves initiative  intended to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions while improving livelihoods. While there have been challenges introducing the stoves to rural areas, people in the broader Muheza District generally remain enthusiastic about the initiative. The Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund (EAMCEF) is backing the initiative as just one of 150 forest conservation projects it has funded in the area. EAMCEF’s work operates off of a $5.9-million injection from the Norwegian government, as well as support from the Tanzanian government, the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, and the UN Development Programme.


National Strategy and Capacity

Big money for small businesses

Representatives from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Guyana’s Finance Ministry recently signed a $5M grant agreement to fund low-carbon, alternative livelihoods for vulnerable groups in Guyana. The Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) Trust Fund  will finance the grant program through 2015,  with implementation support by Guyana’s Small Business Bureau, IDB, Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the World Bank’s International Development Association. The new grant scheme aims to assist recipients with seed funding and technical and business development training, as well as establish a credit guarantee fund and an interest payment support facility to support recipients’ creation and expansion of small businesses. Funding for the grant program draws from Norway’s $250 million forest protection agreement grant to Guyana.


A win for Brazil

The United Kingdom’s International Climate Fund and the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs will  aid small and medium Brazilian farmers  in developing sustainable, low-carbon farming methods to restore forests. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) will manage the project in partnership with the Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply Ministry of Brazil. The sustainable farming project intends to build capacity and knowledge among farmers,    improve forest management, lower carbon emissions, and reduce poverty. Seven Brazilian states, Mato Grosso, Parí¡, Rondí´nia, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Paraní¡, and Rio Grande do Sul, are scheduled to receive additions to funding already in place. In January of this year, Mato Grosso Governor Silval da Cunha Barboso  enacted a law to create the State System of REDD+, providing provisions for the increase of forest carbon stocks.  


Tanzania takes “Centre” stage

With funding from the government of Norway, Tanzania  plans to create a National Carbon Monitoring Centre  – recently revealing that a proposal for the centre is ready. To date, the Tanzanian government has already completed a national forest resources assessment and approved a national REDD+ strategy, which the Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, says provides a foundation for carbon quantification statistics that will enable it to better support REDD+ project development. Nyalandu emphasized the multitude of REDD+ pilot projects currently underway on both the mainland of Tanzania as well as on the islands of Zanzibar.  


Good intentions

A new study by the Center for International Forestry Research finds that while Nepal continues to show back REDD+ and other forest management policies, the nation  continues to suffer from worsening forest conditions  in some areas due to land ownership disagreements, poverty, and poor governance. The state-owned southern lowlands of Terai and inner Terai in particular bear the burden and face vast deforestation due to an informal “open access” forest policy. And while community-managed forests have made progress in reversing deforestation, they too have struggled with governance issues. Naya Paudel, lead author of the study, believes positive incentives, governance and forest tenure reforms, along with a shift in attitude on the part of government and NGOS are critical to slowing deforestation.


Cambodia dives into REDD+ Community Carbon Pools

Launched in June 2011, the EU-funded REDD+ Community Carbon Pools Programme allows countries in Southeast Asia to share practices and experiences on the pooling of community forestry, which allows them to cut REDD+ certification costs through economies of scale. In partnership with Fauna & Flora International,  Cambodia became the most recent nation to join the programme, which to date also includes Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Cambodia’s REDD+ project activities will take place at 11 sites and continue until July 2014. In an effort to inform the design of a REDD+ conflict resolution system in country, Cambodia’s UN-REDD National Programme held a field meeting earlier in the year to discuss  appropriate methods for handling forest disputes  and the types of deforestation that often cause conflict.


Bangladesh braces for REDD+

After initially joining the REDD+ initiative in August 2011,  Bangladesh plans to implement a three-phase approach to tackle deforestation  and to improve forest management. At a recent REDD+ roadmap workshop in Dhaka, Dr. Hasan Mahmud, Minister of Environment and Forests, declared REDD+ as a device not only for climate financing, but as a means to curb deforestation and to sustainably manage Bangladesh’s forests. Steps towards REDD+ readiness are currently underway as FAO and UNDP work with the Government of Bangladesh – with funding from UN-REDD – to complete REDD+ support activities on corruption risk assessment, social impact assessment, and systems for measuring, reporting and verification (MRV).


The perfect FIP

The REDD Desk recently  added a profile for a new sub-national initiative under Mexico’s Forest Investment Program (FIP), which seeks to create readily available financing for low-carbon activities that reduce deforestation and land degradation in Mexico. The five Mexican states with the highest levels of forest loss –Oaxaca, Yucatí¡n, Quintana Roo, Jalisco, and Campeche – are slated to receive $15 million in funding to build technological capacity and combat deforestation, with implementation support from the Inter-American Development Bank and Mexican government agency Financiera Rural. In addition to providing a credit facility, the FIP initiative will support the piloting of public-private partnerships and capacity-building among various stakeholders to scale up innovative strategies for low-carbon project finance.


Methodology & Standards Watch

You can bet the farm

Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Industry, and Innovation – Yvette D’Ath – along with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry – Joe Ludwig – disbursed the first round of a $7.7 million grant to  fund five methodology development projects  involving agriculture, landfill and vegetation. The funding will allow farmers and landowners to transform their ideas into methodologies that will allow relevant projects to minimize emissions and earn carbon credits under the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI). Recipients of the funding include the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (reforestation modeling for complex biodiverse systems), the University of New England (controlled supplementation of livestock; application of biochar to soil), RAMP Carbon (woodland rehabilitation), and Econtext (passive landfill gas drainage and biofiltration).  


Science & Technology

Fundamental fungi

A study led by Karina Clemmensen of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and published in Science provides evidence that a common fungi, Mycorrhizal mycelium, is  a chief component of carbon sequestration in boreal forests, which cover 11% of Earth’s land area and store 16% of global soil carbon. Based on boreal forests on islands in northern Sweden, the results show that the carbon fluxes in these boreal forests are directly dependent on shifts in mycorrhizal fungal communities associated with heightened concentrations of carbon dioxide, higher rates of nitrogen enrichment, or increased incidence of fire. In a follow-up perspective in Science, ectomycorrhizal fungi were to shown to decline near agricultural and urban areas or when exposed to wildfire or high levels of CO2, disrupting boreal forests’ ability to store carbon and potentially impacting the global environment as a whole.


Publications & Tools

Incentives matter

Incentivizing the Involvement of the Private Sector in REDD+: A Review of Early Experiences and Lessons learned in the Forest Investment Program  – This report from Climate Investment Funds takes a closer  look at the private sector and discusses the challenges and opportunities private investors confront when engaging in REDD+ activities. The document features a variety of perspectives based upon consultations in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, and Peru and discusses FIP’s incentive models and their relation to REDD+ investments.  


Learning from experience

Trees On-Farm: Removing the Obstacles to Enterprise  – A review of current climate-smart tree-based experiences in Malawi – Malawi, a chiefly agricultural country, faces increasing deforestation and degradation, an unpredictable climate, and multitude of other environmental challenges. The report discusses REDD+’s role in strengthening Malawi’s future agroforestry and on-farm tree planting prospects and stresses the importance of trees in food security, soil conservation, and local energy supply.  



REDD+ Specialist II – Rainforest Alliance

Based in Guatemala City, the REDD+ Specialist II will provide leadership and support to lay out participatory approaches to promote momentum of REDD+ readiness and will provide ongoing technical support to regional and national REDD+ roundtables. Candidates should have a Master’s Degree in forestry, ecology, environmental science, or policy and 5+ years of experience working in forests and climate change. Read more about the position  here.  


Short-Term Consultant, BioCarbon Fund – Carbon Finance Unit, The World Bank

Based in Washington, D.C., the Short-Term Consultant will assist the Fund Managers in coordinating the work of the various teams involved in delivering the funds’ work program and assist in preparing the long-term financial plans. Candidates should have a Master’s Degree in business, environment or economics and have a good understanding of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. Read more about the position  here.  



3 Positions – Winrock International  

Based in Sacramento, the  Program Associate / Winrock Fellow  will provide support to ACR’s role as an Offset Project Registry for California’s Cap and Trade program and help coordinate ACR’s three step methodology review process. Candidates should have a Bachelor or Advanced Degree related to sustainable business, environmental management, or economics and 2+ years of relevant carbon market experience. 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.


Project Manager, Advisory Services – Offsetters  

Based in Vancouver, the Project Manager will manage and conduct greenhouse gas assessments in a variety of contexts for companies, products, services and events and support the continuous development of analytical models and tools for Advisory Services. Candidates should have a university degree in environmental sciences or business management and 2+ years of analytical work experience. Read more about the position  here.


2 Positions, Indonesia Forest and Climate Support Project – Tetra Tech

Based in Indonesia, the  Landscape Support Specialist  will assist field teams to develop scopes of work and budgets for activities and facilitate coordination with other donor and NGO activities in the region. Candidates should have an advanced degree in management or environmental management and 8+ years of programmatic development experience. Also based in Indonesia, the  Forestry Advisor  will provide senior level policy advice to the Ministry of Forestry (MOF) on recommendations related to existing laws and regulations and advise the MOF on how to best incorporate indigenous and rural communities in forest management. Candidates should have an advanced degree in forestry management or environmental management and 10+ years of experience.  


Conservation Business and Finance Specialist – The Nature Conservancy  

Based in Mexico City, the Conservation Business Specialist will analyze both public and private existing financial and market based instruments and propose alternative ways to make them more efficient under a vision of sustainability for the region. Candidates should have a Bachelor’s Degree in economics or public policy and 4+ years of experience in natural resources or economics. Read more about the position  here.  


Senior Scientist, Forest Ecology and Forest Management – Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

Based in Indonesia, the Senior Scientist will work primarily on the ecological basis of tropical forest management and will research the biophysical dimension of forest ecosystem services in relation to management options including carbon sequestration. Candidates should have a PhD in forestry and/or forest ecology and 10+ years of experience in collaborative research. Read more about the position  here.  


Project Officer, Forestry – TFT

Based in China, the Project Officer will provide business minded sustainable forest management support to forestry operation and work closely with forest management operation, communities, farmers, and government agencies to implement agreed Action Plans. Candidates should have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher in natural resource management, forestry, agronomy or related field and 5+ years professional experience. Read more about the position  here.  


Postdoctoral Associate, Tropical Forest Ecology and Biodiversity – Conservation International

Based in Arlington, the Postdoctoral Associate will conduct research using existing data from across the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network to advance understanding of the dynamics of tropical forest biodiversity and will collaborate with other scientists across the TEAM Network. Candidates should have a PhD in ecology, conservation biology or computational ecology. Read more about the position  here.  



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