This Week In Forest Carbon News…

Katoomba XX kicks off on Earth Day in Lima, Peru, and just in time – new UN Food and Agricultural Organization data shows that emissions from agriculture, forestry and fisheries have nearly doubled over the past half century. At the ninth meeting of the Carbon Fund, efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation did, however, make some headway, with Nepal’s, Ghana’s, Mexico’s, and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s REDD+ proposals approved. This unlocks a potential $50 million to $70 million in financing for each country.

Katoomba XX kicks off on Earth Day in Lima, Peru, and just in time – new UN Food and Agricultural Organization data shows that emissions from agriculture, forestry and fisheries have nearly doubled over the past half century. At the ninth meeting of the Carbon Fund, efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation did, however, make some headway, with four nations’ REDD+ proposals approved. This unlocks a potential $50 million to $70 million in financing for each country.

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

 24 April 2014 | Forest Trends’ Katoomba events are known for bringing people who don’t always talk to each other – soy tycoons and environment ministers, for instance – together to discuss practical solutions to major ecosystem services problems. The twentieth event, which begins today in Lima, Peru, has this kind of ambitious agenda. The theme is alignment. Attendees will consider how climate change, forests, water and people are deeply intertwined, and how payment for ecosystem services (PES) strategies addressing these issues must align, too. Current events in Peru provide an interesting (albeit frustrating) backdrop: The country’s comprehensive PES law, in development for six years now, was finally slated to be formally debated before the National Congress last week – but that debate has been delayed yet again.  


Katoomba speakers will include Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s Minister of Environment; Almir Surui, the Chief of the Paiter Surui people in Brazil; Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change; Cesar Augusto Garcia, Director of Science and Technology at the Colombian Cattlemen Federation; and many more diverse actors from the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Discussions from the event will lead into the twentieth United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties, to be held in Lima in December.

Conversations between conservationists and big agriculture, policymakers and business executives are especially urgent in light of new UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) data that shows emissions from agriculture, forestry and fisheries have nearly doubled over the past half century and could increase another 30% by 2050. The largest source of agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is livestock methane (from belches), followed by synthetic fertilizers, methane releases in rice paddies, and savannah-burning. Net GHG emissions due to land use change (mainly forests converting to other land uses) fell almost 10% between 2001 and 2010, but still averaged four billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per year.

Efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation did, however, make some headway during the ninth meeting of the Carbon Fund held in Belgium from April 9 to 11. Launched in 2011 by the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, the Carbon Fund is meant to provide performance-based payments to countries that make significant progress in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests (REDD). Four of those countries’ REDD+ proposals – Nepal’s, Ghana’s, Mexico’s, and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) – were selected at the meeting, and may each receive between $50 million and $70 million in financing. Mexico’s National Forestry Commission has already signed an agreement to receive $3.8 million. Chile’s and the Republic of Congo’s proposals were not selected this time around, but they’ll have another chance in June when the Carbon Fund will consider five to seven more countries vying for their available $465 million.

More stories from the forest carbon markets are summarized below, so keep reading!

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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



A price tag beyond carbon?

How should non-carbon benefits (NCBs) be incorporated into REDD? Seventeen countries weighed in by submitting comments on the UNFCCC’s methodological guidance document. The comments emphasize the strong link between NCBs such as improved forest governance and enhanced forest resilience and the REDD safeguards for communities and indigenous peoples. However, countries have different opinions as to whether NCBs should be incentivized with performance-based payments. The European Union commented: “The main incentive for countries to strive for NCBs are the NCBs themselves. Hence, there is no need for dedicated payments or price premiums for NCBs under the UNFCCC.” The Philippines, on the other hand, observed that: “REDD+ finance must incentivize other key outcomes…”



A crumbling façade

Tree plantations in New Zealand removed 71.6 million tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere between 2008 and 2012, just over the country’s 70.7-million-tonne allowance, and enough to meet its Kyoto Protocol obligation. But net emissions in New Zealand are on the rise – some projections show by as much as 50% in the next 10 years – and maturing forests soon won’t be able to make up the difference. “From 2008 to 2012 the country’s 25% increase in carbon emissions was masked by carbon stored in forests planted in the 1990s,” said Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes. “As these trees are harvested, forestry will move from being a carbon sink to being a carbon source.”


Practice makes perfect

Cameroon has been pursuing REDD since 2008, but it wasn’t until last week that the government published a guide outlining good practices. The guide was developed in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund, the German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft fí¼r Internationale Zusammenarbeit, and the Cameroon Centre for Environment and Development. It identifies steps for gaining indigenous and community consent for REDD projects, including providing full information about proposed activities and holding pressure-free negotiations.


Seeking dry land

California is going to great pains to embrace agricultural and forestry carbon offsets in its cap-and-trade program, with the state’s Air Resources Board set to considering adding a rice cultivation project type in September. But market participants see opportunities for even more land-based project types to be added to the system, including avoided grassland conversion, wetland restoration, composting and rangelands. Bringing additional land-based offsets into the program is challenging due in large part to high monitoring and verification costs, but aggregation of project activities could help solve this problem.



Safe cooking, post-danger

The Darfur Low Smoke Project was up against tough odds. It took two years for an auditor to agree to visit North Darfur to verify the 36,000 tonnes of emissions reductions achieved by the Gold Standard project, which has delivered 6,000 of its target 10,000 clean-burning liquid petroleum gas cookstoves to date. The project was launched in 2007 by the local Women’s Development Association Network, Practical Action, and Carbon Clear. Its first offsets were recently sold to a United Kingdom-based insurance firm. Carbon Clear created a micro-loan scheme to help women pay the upfront costs of the stoves, and repayment rates are now above 90% despite widespread poverty in the region. Women associated with the project have also established 42 community forests.


Yurok first to the finish

The Yurok tribe in April became the first organization to earn forestry offsets under the compliance pathway featured in California’s cap-and-trade program. The Yurok Tribe/Forest Carbon Partners CKGG Improved Forest Management Project covers 8,000 acres in Humboldt County and was issued 836,619 offsets for potential sale to compliance buyers. “We have lost many of our old trees to deforestation, and numerous native plant and animal species, especially deer and elk, are struggling because of it,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “This forest carbon project enables the Tribe to help transition these acres back into a tribally managed natural forest system where wildlife and cultural resources like tanoak acorns, huckleberry, and hundreds of medicinal plants will thrive.”


Beyond Petroleum?

The Hoopa Valley tribe of California is negotiating a potential multi-million-dollar deal with oil major BP to generate carbon offsets by preventing the chopping of old-growth timberlands in its 12-mile-square reservation, also in Humboldt County. A 2012 study by project developer Finite Carbon found that the forest could generate an impressive 250 offsets per acre for a value of $80 million to $120 million over 100 years. Some tribal members fear that carbon offset sales would damage their reputation by giving BP a ‘permit to pollute’ while others are excited about the large potential for job creation in the valley.



Conservation pays

Code REDD, a nonprofit organization that calls on major private sector players to support and scale REDD+ projects, held a high-profile event in Bogotí¡, Colombia on April 9. The location was significant in that 80% of the world’s REDD offsets originated from projects in Latin America in 2012, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2013 report. Deforestation is now estimated to cost the global economy $2-5 trillion per year in lost ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and water purification, according to a Code REDD press release. “Through our experience we have learned that conservation IS economic activity,” Chris Abrams, Director of Environment at the United States Agency for International Development, said at the event.



The good dirt

In an analysis synthesizing data from 92 forests in various climatic zones, researchers found that soil nutrients may play a larger role in forest carbon storage than previously understood. Forests growing in fertile soil were able to sequester about 30% of the carbon they acquire through photosynthesis, while forests rooted in nutrient-deficient soils retained only 6% of the available carbon, the study found. “When plants are in nutrient poor conditions, they send out more roots and produce chemicals that can help dissolve nutrients from the soil. This takes energy, though, and so the plants produce less biomass,” said Michael Obersteiner, one of the study’s authors.


Smoker’s lungs

The “lungs of the Earth” won’t be able to breathe as well if they’re on fire. In fact, fires in the Amazon rainforest could turn the largest carbon sink in the world into a source of carbon emissions, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week. While temperature increases and precipitation decreases have long been included in climate models, “it’s only in the past couple of decades that fire has even been recognized as a major disturbance,” said Jennifer Balch, who co-led the study. The problem is not specific to the Amazon. The Indonesian province of Riau made headlines last week for its burning peatlands.



Hands off our rainforest

On April 12, the civil society group Yasunidos delivered 54 boxes containing 756,291 signatures to the Ecuadorian capital. Its aim? To keep the 846 million barrels of crude oil beneath Yasuní­ National Park underground. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa had sought $3.6 billion from the international community in exchange for keeping intact the biodiversity and carbon sequestration the Park provides but abandoned the plan in August when only a fraction of the money had been raised. However, the signatures are more than the 600,000 needed to bring the issue to a popular vote. First, though, 30 people will spend a month verifying the signatures, with another 30 observers from Yasunidos overseeing the process.


Don’t hate me because I use palm oil

Major palm-oil user Proctor & Gamble, the maker of products such as Bounty paper towels and Pantene shampoo, announced a commitment to no deforestation in its supply chain, upping the ante from its previous promise to purchase only certified palm oil. The announcement came after a Greenpeace report claimed that Proctor and Gamble’s suppliers in Indonesia were causing deforestation and that less than 10% of its supply chain was actually certified. A Greenpeace exposé also led to paper packaging giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) to announce a zero deforestation policy a year ago.


Ready for their close-ups

What do you do when thousands of scientists issue a dire warning for the planet (for the fifth time) and policymakers still drag their feet? Well, one new idea is to pull in celebrity ‘correspondents’ such as Jessica Alba, Matt Damon, and Arnold Schwarzenegger to report the story in a fresh way. The first episodes of Years of Living Dangerously aired on Showtime in April. Indiana Jones star and Conservation International board member Harrison Ford is the ‘face’ of the series on deforestation in Indonesia, which explains the REDD mechanism to a lay audience. “This series has a reach … which exceeds nearly every other public climate change communication project that has been done,” said co-producer Jeff Horowitz in an interview with


Just say no (to deforestation)

We’ve heard of ‘leakage’ in relation to forest carbon projects, but new research by geographer Kendra McSweeney shows that it may also apply to the ‘war on drugs’ in Mexico, which has been causing narco-traffickers to ‘leak’ their operations south to Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. This has an unfortunate side effect for forests as the landing strips and roads associated with the drug trade lead to increased rates of deforestation. In Honduras, for instance, annual deforestation quadrupled between 2007 and 2011 in coincidence with a surge in cocaine trafficking. And this may lead to yet another unfortunate side effect: Those that get rich off the drug trade tend to invest their profits in cattle ranches and palm oil – more drivers of deforestation.



SMUD getting its feet wet

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), one of the largest publicly-owned utilities in the United States, is joining forces with the American Carbon Registry (ACR) to develop a methodology to quantify and credit emissions reductions from restoration of California deltaic and coastal wetlands. The protocol would allow offsets from restoration projects to be sold on the voluntary carbon market and – they hope – would eventually make their way into California’s compliance market. The potential is huge: ACR estimates that between 7-26 million tonnes of emissions reductions could be achieved through wetlands restoration in California. But SMUD understands that protocol adoption is a long process, so wetlands offsets would likely not be included in California’s compliance regime until 2018, at the earliest.


Greening China’s grass

A new methodology just approved by the Verified Carbon Standard could help farmers in China and other countries tap into the carbon markets to help them manage their grasslands more sustainably. The methodology, developed by the FAO, the Chinese Academy of Agriculture Science, the World Agroforestry Center and the Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, could be particularly useful in mitigating the impact of China’s growing population on its carbon footprint. Projects under the methodology, which helps overcome the major hurdle of high measuring and monitoring costs, could also be recognized by the China Certified Emissions Reduction offset program.


The grazing could always be greener

ACR recently released a new methodology for avoided GHG emissions on grazed grasslands for public comment. Developed by Terra Global Capital with support from the Environmental Defense Fund, Silver Lab at the University of California Berkeley, and the Marin Carbon Project, the methodology provides an accounting framework for the carbon storage achieved by adding compost to fields – both by enhancing plant growth and by diverting organic waste that would otherwise decompose in landfills, releasing methane. If approved, it would generate offsets for the voluntary carbon market. The public comment period is open through May 14.



I’ll pay you unconditionally

A new report by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), The challenge of establishing REDD+ on the ground, examined 23 subnational REDD+ initiatives in six countries – Brazil, Cameroon, Indonesia, Peru, Tanzania, and Vietnam. Among other findings, researchers stated that 18 of the 23 initiatives have or will implement conditional incentives, but only nine viewed them as the single most important thing that would reduce deforestation, calling into question whether performance-based payments – once considered the cornerstone of REDD – are as central as previously believed.


Burning up in sub-Sahara Africa

Current climate models predict that average temperatures in Central Africa will be 1.4 degrees Celsius hotter in 2050 than today. But a recent study published in the Journal of Climate finds that deforestation in the Congo Basin could add another 0.7 degrees Celsius to that figure. “Once deforestation has occurred, the solar energy that rainforests would otherwise use to evaporate water accumulates near the Earth’s surface, causing the atmosphere to warm,” the authors explained.



Director of Governance Research – CIFOR

Based in Bogor, Indonesia, the Director of Governance Research for the CIFOR will be responsible for the development, management, delivery and scientific quality of the organization’s governance research. The position requires managing a multidisciplinary research team, fostering partnerships, and representing CIFOR at key international forums. The successful candidate will have a PhD in a relevant discipline, extensive research management experience, and a proven fundraising record.

Read more about the position here


President – Microsol

Based in Paris, France, Lima, Peru, or Mexico D.F., Mexico, Microsol’s President will lead teams over these three geographic locations and pursue Microsol’s work in the generation, certification and sale of high-social-impact carbon projects in Latin America. The successful candidate will have a master’s degree or equivalent and at least seven years of experience in a similar position; be able to ensure the firm’s financial health; possess strong leadership and negotiation skills; and speak French, English and Spanish.

– Read more about the position here


Northwest Site Manager – Blue Ventures Conservation

Based in Ambanja, Madagascar, the Northwest Site Manager will manage the field implementation of Blue Ventures Conservation’s community-based Verified Carbon Standard mangrove project in the Ambaro and Ambanja Bays of Northwest Madagascar. The manager will also help start up a fishery and aquaculture scheme, and help develop a sustainable mangrove timber harvesting approach.

Read more about the position here


Finance Associate / Business Manager – BioCarbon Group

Based in New York, New York, the Finance Associate / Business Manager will provide key financial leadership to the BioCarbon Group, an international investor in land-based carbon projects, such as forests and cookstoves. The successful candidate will have three years of experience in investment banking, managing consulting, or financial services; an understanding of corporate financial statements; experience in environmental markets and carbon project development; and working experience in developing countries, particularly Africa/South America.

Read more about the position here


Communications Manager, Energy and Finance Program – Rainforest Action Network

Based in San Francisco, California, the Communications Manager will shape the communications strategy for Rainforest Action Network’s Energy and Finance Program, which has pushed leading banks to pass policies that curb investments in companies that contribute to deforestation. The job involves writing op-eds, letters to the editor, talking points and other media materials; training staff and volunteers in media skills; and creating press lists and keeping the media contact database current. The successful candidate will have three years’ experience as a media liaison or journalist, with a strong public relations component.

Read more about the position here


Applied Forest Scientist – Climate Smart Land Network (CSLN)

Based in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Applied Forest Scientist will support the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences’ CSLN, which is designed to help large-scale forest landowners integrate climate science into their forest management and planning. The position requires synthesizing existing science on climate change adaptation for forests; structuring monitoring protocols for regional threats; working with CSLN members to link this information to their planning, management, and monitoring processes; and documenting how CSLN members are responding to climate change. The successful candidate will have a master’s or PhD in forestry and strong analytic skills.

Read more about the position here


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