This Week in Forest Carbon: Lofty Goals in Indonesia

This Week in Forest Carbon includes news on Face the Future’s forest carbon work in Africa and American Carbon Registry’s new methodology focusing on wetland restoration.  Readers also have a chance to chime in about about the Indonesian President’s lofty environmental goals.

NOTE: This article has been reprinted from Ecosystem Marketplace’s Forest Carbon newsletter. You can receive this summary of global news and views from the world of forest carbon automatically in your inbox by clicking here.

30 January 2012 | Before we get to the news, we wanted to thank McGuire Woods for hosting a Durban Debrief organized by Ecosystem Marketplace and Climate Focus, bringing together a panel featuring Henry Derwent, President and CEO of the IETA, Bob O’Sullivan, Executive Director of Climate Focus, and David Antonioli, CEO of VCS. If you missed it take a look at our coverage on the Eko-Eco blog.
Indonesia’s President continued to make the environment, or at least pledges to the environment, a central issue during his remaining time in office. This time, he’s pledged to set aside 45 percent of Kalimantan, the Indonesian territory on the island of Borneo, establishing stronger environmental regulations and pushing the extractive industries to become sustainable. That’s in addition to the “7/26 objectives” and last year’s moratorium.
Critics have already pointed out that it will be difficult to adequately protect the land when the region is intended to become a coal and energy exporter, and that only 30 percent of the island is forested. As one commenter on the Jakarta Globe website remarked, “For the next 2 years, we will expect (the president) to give more of these over-committed illogical unreasonable promises… his mind is simply to do everything it takes to be the next Secretary-General of the United Nations!”
So what do you think? Are President Yudhoyono’s lofty goals moving REDD+ forward, or setting up the country and international community for disappointment? You tell us in this issue’s reader poll.
Forest carbon continues to make strides in Africa, with Nedbank and Face the Future partnering to develop projects throughout the continent. They’ve cemented the relationship with Nedbank’s purchase of 50,000 VCUs from the Kibale National Park reforestation project.  
Face the Future is also extending its involvement in the Africa Terrestrial Carbon Center, which, currently in its early stages, has proposed helping local groups to develop 15 first generation terrestrial carbon finance projects. Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo launched its very snazzy National Forest Monitoring System (NFMS) to address its MRV reporting requirements, and will be a valuable tool as REDD+ demonstration activities get underway.
Although there was good news out of Africa, there was also the unfortunate death of a Wildlife Works ranger and the injury of another after an encounter with poachers in the Kasigau Corridor, the site of a Wildlife Works VCS REDD project.
Last week Ecosystem Marketplace reported on a new American Carbon Registry methodology. The methodology focuses on wetland restoration in the Mississippi Delta – with the goal of bringing carbon finance to the multi-billion dollar effort to undo the damage of hurricane Katrina, the Horizon oil spill, and regional development that has degraded and destroyed much of the regions wetlands. And while the ecosystem services offered by wetlands are hugely valuable, a new study has shown that restored wetlands rarely store as much carbon or attain the same levels of biodiversity as original wetlands.
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International Policy

Putting REDD in Mexico in five year plan

The US and Mexico have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will establish the Climate Change Cooperation Mechanism, which will act as a framework for a five year initiative to set new climate change mitigation policies while strengthening existing ones, and build capacity for future REDD+ projects. The initiative, which is being labeled a ‘preparation program’, is part of the Global Climate Change Program (GCC) that USAID is conducting in Mexico and elsewhere, laying out a five year environment development program. Under the MoU with Mexico, program activities will be implemented by the government of Mexico, NGOs, and academic institutions from both Mexico and the US. Read more about the plan here


The Dish on Durban

What does the wait until a post-2020 Kyoto agreement hold for carbon market players? Expert panelists from IETA, Climate Focus and VCS shared their insights on this question with a full audience at our DC Durban Debrief event organized by Ecosystem Marketplace and Climate Focus, and hosted by McGuireWoods LLP. The panelists touched on topics ranging from emerging domestic initiatives to market-based approaches for REDD finance. From the conversation, it was clear that many broader doubts remain that only the international community can dispel — but has yet failed to do so. A take-home message for all was that a crucial piece is missing that maybe only 2020 will bring: “Demand, demand, demand,” to quote IETA chief Henry Derwent. Read coverage of the debrief here


Grievances of a Greeny

An interview with Roman Czebiniak, a political advisor with Greenpeace, reveals his opinion on some of the more controversial aspects of REDD+. Hot off the heels of Durban, Czebiniak speaks on the lack of guidance decision-makers have given to civil society, donors, and investors — resulting in increased environmental and social risks for REDD projects, while opening the door to “irresponsible companies who profit from forest destruction.” He also addressed other controversies arising from the Durban negotiations, including the potential for REDD+ to perversely fund activities such as plantation conversion and degradation of tropical forest. However, Greenpeace does insist that scaled-up finance is required in order to protect forests, and publicly called for the establishment of a separate forest window under the Green Climate Fund. Read the interview with Czebiniak here


US Policy

Forest offsets in wine country

The Planning Commission of Napa County in California unanimously approved a plan that would require developers to offset forest clearing by funding local projects and programs that reduce carbon emissions. Development proposals, which in Napa county includes a lot of vineyards, would have to establish the business-as-usual emissions for a development, then reduce that amount by 38 percent, with offsets as an option. Although offset types have yet to be clearly defined, Steve Lederer, the director of the county’s Department of Environmental Management, listed the installation of renewable-energy generators, planting vegetation, setting up ride-share programs among the possibilities. The plan also calls for a mechanism that would force developers to mitigate the loss of forests, although critics of the plan have said the current plan is merely an “accounting mechanism” and doesn’t lay out how that mitigation would be achieved. The plan will go before the Board of Supervisors for a vote in late March. Read about Napa’s offset plan here


Project Development

And the ayes have it: Credit Agricole employees vote for trees

Year after year, Credit Agricole offsets their corporate emissions by purchasing carbon offsets. This year the financial services provider is looking to the trees for its offsets. That’s right – Credit Agricole for the first time is offsetting its corporate emissions with REDD+. The project they have selected is none other than the Kasigau Corridor in Kenya. Notably, the Kasigau Corridor, managed by project developer Wildlife Works, is the first REDD+ project to achieve VCS verification for its offsets. In addition to being a carbon sink, the Kasigau Corridor is also a hotspot of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Credit Agricole based its offset selection on employee vote – the people have spoken, in favor of trees! Read about the offset purchase here


National Strategy & Capacity

Indonesia’s president moves to save “the lungs of the world”

Indonesia’s president has announced a new regulation that would set aside 45 percent of Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, noting that the rainforests of the island are “the lungs of the world” (we’ll see what everyone in the Amazon has to say about that). The plan will establish a network of conservation areas linked by corridors, while strengthening regulations on protected areas, controlling agricultural expansion, and rehabilitating degraded land. However, it is unclear how this new plan will jive with the previously stated plan of making the coal-rich Kalimantan energy self-sufficient and a national energy producer by 2025. The president also announced the expansion of rubber, palm oil, and pulp plantations, listing them as “sustainable forest products.” Read about the president’s Kalimantan plan here and more coverage from the Jakarta Globe here


Getting grassroots off the ground in Africa

The proposed Africa Terrestrial Carbon Centre (ATCC), an initiative of Nature Conservation Research Centre and Forest Trends, is seeking funding for a project to develop a pool of fifteen first-generation terrestrial carbon finance projects. The ATCC’s stated outcomes are fourfold: Increase technical expertise at the pilot level, enhance the capacity of African civil society actors and national institutions, provide site-level mentoring and financial support to national and site-level projects, and establish commercial linkages between projects and financiers. ATCC envisions that as a result of this project, African civil society organizations will have increased capacity to implement terrestrial carbon activities. A proposed Africa Fund would be the first purchaser of carbon emissions reduction certificates. Read about the Center here


Keeping tabs on forests in the Congo

In response to the UNFCCC’s call for robust national systems for REDD+ monitoring and reporting, the DRC has developed its own National Forest Monitoring System (NFMS)—which is said to be a gold standard tool for forest management, even outside of the REDD+ world. The NFMS draws on available data and mapping technologies as well as existing collaborations between groups to strengthen the country’s technical capacity for land monitoring. The NFMS will become the national instrument for monitoring the country’s REDD+ policies and measures, and very likely the permanent long-term monitoring system for the DRC’s Ministry of Environment, Conservation of Nature and Tourism and its continuing REDD+ efforts. Read about the DRC’s monitoring system here


Consultation workshop keeps the REDD ball rolling in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has been pursuing REDD Readiness assistance through the UN-REDD Program since 2009, completing its National Programme Document in 2011. Earlier this month forest stakeholders gathered for a consultation workshop to develop a proposal which will open the doors for Sri Lanka to receive FAO, UNDP and UNEP assistance to participate in global REDD programs and finally advance REDD readiness activities. The country’s Department of Forests convened the workshop of over 50 forestry experts and stakeholders, agreeing to form a national REDD Taskforce and Technical Working Groups in the near future, and requesting $4 million over the next three years to implement the country’s program. Read about Sri Lanka’s REDD readiness here


Indonesian officials reflect on Durban outcomes

Two members of the Indonesian presidential Office on Climate Change have written an editorial for the Jakarta Post reflecting on where the country stands after the dust has settled at that Durban climate talks, held at the end of last year. On the plus side, guidance on reference levels and requirements for social and environmental safeguards will help Indonesia advance REDD at the national level. However, like other national governments eager to see REDD funds start flowing, the lack of progress on REDD financing was a source of frustration. Indonesia was in favor of a financing structure that would mix market-based funding with public funds. Read the editorial here


Finance & Economics

Nedbank teams up with Face the Future

Netherlands-based Face the Future has signed an MoU with South African banking firm Nedbank to develop sustainable forestry projects in Africa, with Face the Future providing forest carbon project expertise and Nedbank providing access to carbon finance and market networks. Nedbank has already purchased 50,000 VCUs from the Kibale National Park reforestation project, which is managed by Face the Future and was issued a total of almost 370,000 credits last September. With another project in Senegal, Face the Future is likely to eye other project development opportunities across the continent. Read about the partnership here


Methodology & Standards Watch

Wetlands methodology born on the bayou

By now it’s well understood that many of the losses from Hurricane Katrina – of lives, homes and infrastructure – could have been prevented with greater attention to New Orleans’ aging infrastructure and emergency management. But what about shoring up the “disappearing coastline” itself – where now-degraded wetlands were once the region’s first line of defense against storm surge and flooding? Enter the American Carbon Registry’s (ACR) proposed methodology for the Restoration of Degraded Deltaic Wetlands of the Mississippi Delta, written by Tierra Resources and contributors, and released Wednesday for public comment. Assuming it passes technical muster, the methodology could guide the United States’ first approaches to coastal wetlands restoration. The methodology development was supported by Entergy, which is in the process of writing its next 5-year environmental goals – which may include further project support. Read more about the wetlands methodology here


Human Dimension

Taliban illegally clearcutting forests

Eclipsed by other atrocities, the Taliban’s widespread destruction of forested land in northwestern Pakistan receives less worldwide attention than do its other violent acts. However, forestry officials in Pakistan are shedding light on the Taliban’s clearcutting for timber, which provides funds for its operations whenever in need of supplemental revenue. It is believed that before the onset of Taliban militancy in 2005, forested areas in the Pakhtunkhwa province once accounted for 40 percent of the country’s forest resources. Today it is believed that 80 percent of forested land has been clearcut. Sarhad Awami Forestry Ittehad, an organization founded in the region to restore forests, has distributed 1.5 million plants among the local residents and planted tens of thousands of saplings, but notes that only strong environmental regulations, awareness among the locals, and a change in the Taliban’s practices, will bring about any change. Read about the Taliban’s forest clearcutting here


Beyond Forests

Blue could be the next REDD

Although only accounting for 0.5 percent of seabed cover, mangrove forests, sea grass beds, and marshes account for 70 percent of the oceans carbon sequestration capacity. Known as “blue carbon”, the idea of utilizing the ocean’s carbon sequestration potential is making inroads in scientific and policy circles, while others are envisioning “blue carbon” as the next REDD, adding a whole new color to our pun arsenal. Expanding aquaculture, agricultural development, and pollution are contributing to the degradation of ocean carbon stocks, and a accounting framework for ecosystem services, including carbon, was proposed as a possible mechanism at the Eye on Earth summit in Abu Dhabi. That strategy discussion is expected to be picked up at Rio+20 in Brazil this June, driven by Conservation International, IUCN and UNESCO. Read more about the future of blue carbon here


Wildlife Works mourns death of project ranger

The Wildlife Works Kasigua Corridor projects has been one of the biggest success stories of REDD so far, as the first project to earn credits from the Verified Carbon Standard. Sadly, we have to attach an addendum to the success story, as two Wildlife Works rangers were attacked by elephant poachers, with one receiving a fatal gunshot wound and the other sustaining extensive damage to his shoulder. Wildlife Work’s Founder and CEO, Mike Korchinsky, spoke from the funeral of Abdullahi Mohammed, expressing his condolences to the family, and pointing to “an escalation in violence caused by the increasing demand for ivory in the far eastern markets, especially China,” as a cause of the first death of a ranger in the 15 years Wildlife Works has been active in the area. Read more about the incident here


Science & Technology Review

The original can’t be beat

A meta-analysis of wetlands restoration projects across the globe reveals that that restored wetlands are rarely “recovered” to the same state as natural wetlands. The assemblage of plants and amount of organic soil carbon are lower, affecting the benefits offered by wetlands, including biodiversity conservation, water purification, erosion control and carbon storage. David Moreno-Mateos, who is leading the study, says that the degradation of wetlands pours of massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and restored wetlands contained about 23 percent less carbon than untouched wetlands. So while restoring degraded wetlands is a good idea, Moreno-Mateos suggests protecting it from degradation in the first place. A methodology, developed by Tierra Resources LLC (, for the restoration of wetlands in the Mississippi Delta is currently undergoing approval for use by the American Carbon Registry. Read more about why restored wetlands don’t stack up here


Calling all remote sensing and modeling geeks

Clark Labs has announced the upcoming release of its updated IDRISI geospatial software, which is used to monitor and model the Earth system, allowing researchers to examine changes in land cover and its effect on cloud formation, for example. The latest version, known as Selva, offers modeling enhancements and a set of tools for its Land Change Modeler to support research into REDD, as well as accounting methodologies required for REDD projects, such as the estimation of baseline emissions from carbon pools. Read more about the software here


Publications & Tools

Legally REDD

National laws provide critical context for REDD+ implementation, but there has been little word on the experiences at the country level in navigating the legal aspects of REDD+. To fill this gap, UN-REDD, FAO and IDLO carried out studies on Mexico, Vietnam and Zambia in 2011 to explore the legal challenges associated with REDD+. These three reports touch on issues close to the heart of REDD+ participants all around the world such as land tenure, safeguards and benefit sharing, and reveal that existing frameworks and domestic legal innovations could in fact offer solutions for effective REDD+ implementation. A follow-up roundtable held later at COP17 featured these studies, and in the presence of speakers from each of these governments, became an engaging space where issues around strengthening legal and institutional capacity for REDD+ were further drawn out. Read about the legal state of REDD here



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