This Week in Forest Carbon: News and Shenanigans

This week, the REDD world is reflecting on the conclusions from Nagoya and preparing for the upcoming talks in Cancun.  The news from the past two weeks has spanned coverage of everything from the forest world’s concern over corruption to the positive developments in national REDD efforts to a new way to assess forest carbon stores.  The latest in Forest Carbon News.

This week, the REDD world is reflecting on the conclusions from Nagoya and preparing for the upcoming talks in Cancun.   The news from the past two weeks has spanned coverage of everything from the forest world’s concern over corruption to the positive development of national REDD efforts to a new way to assess forest carbon stores.   It is the latest in the world of Forest Carbon.

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 Voluntary carbon automatically in your inbox every two weeks by clicking here.

3 November 2010| Last Friday in Nagoya, Japan, policymakers convened from around the world concluded the tenth Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Although biodiversity conservation has been widely-touted as a REDD “co-benefit,” efforts to link up aid from developed countries under the biodiversity convention and a REDD mechanism under the climate convention seem to be quickly falling out of reach.

Revisiting a perennial concern in forest governance and markets, more news highlighting corruption concerns emerged this month, mostly on the enforcement front.   The European Union finally codified a regulation banning illegal timber from the EU market.   And in Liberia, a carbon offset scandal that erupted this summer is moving towards resolution with allegations flying against an array of government officials while trials for the alleged perpetrators begin to be set.

National REDD efforts are also continuing to make headway.   In Indonesia, a more concrete commitment to the logging moratorium – part of the $1B agreement with Norway – was indicated by the Indonesian government.   The moratorium is even reportedly beginning to be seen in a more favorable light by local businesses.   Brazil is also looking forward to incorporating more techno-fixes to help resolve its deforestation trajectory.   From microchips embedded in trees to satellites that see through clouds, we’re witnessing steps into what seemed like science fiction just months or years ago.

Wrapping up Down Under, New Zealand calls out for public comment on a new method for forest owners to assess the carbon stored in post-1989, or “Kyoto” forests.   Neighboring Australia also shows up in the headlines as environmental consulting firm Perenia Pty signed Australia’s first assigned amount units (AAU) carbon trade agreement with forest sink developer Carbon Conscious Ltd.

All in all, we’re certainly seeing no shortage of news and shenanigans as we ramp up to Cancíºn.   Read about all these stories and more in Ecosystem Marketplace’s latest issue of the Forest Carbon Newsletter below.
—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


International Policy

Crossing Party Lines

Financing biodiversity conservation has been a hot topic at the latest Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. As laid out in coverage by Ecosystem Marketplace here, many are touting REDD as a tool to that could do just that. But while slow progress on negotiations proceeds, it remains to be seen whether safeguards will be built into REDD policy that protect biodiversity. For more detailed breakdown of the CBD COP 10, see more from Ecosystem Marketplace here.

REDD-tinted Glasses Starting to Come Off

More than 3,000 delegates from 177 countries converged on Tianjin last month. The hope was to establish broad outlines for progress on climate policy in China and finish up an agreement in Mexico next month. A very ambitious goal indeed. With REDD once perceived as a front-runner on policy progress, the crumbling of the REDD+ Partnership—a coalition of the willing on REDD+, if you will—gives foreboding glimpses of what might be yet to come in Cancíºn. Read a quick review of the Tianjin outcomes, with a fair deal of emphasis on forestry from the Huffington Post here. And see video of the scaled back REDD+ Partnership meetings on the sidelines of the CBD COP 10 here.

Carbon Company Harvesting Trouble in Liberia

In the makings of a very bad forest carbon soap opera, several government officials in Liberia, have been caught in bed with UK company Carbon Harvesting Corporation (CHC). The supposed dirty dealing involves an exchange of a Liberia’s largest forest concession for “irregular payments” from CHC CEO, Michael Foster to Liberian government officials. International watchdog Global Witness exposed the ‘deal’ resulting in the arrest and commencement of extradition of Foster and investigation of interior minister Ambulai Johnson. A Special Presidential Investigative Committee has recommended the impeachment of River Cess Senator Jonathan Banney. The former Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in Liberia, dismissed allegations of any sort of deal between the FDA and CHC, both from Global Witness and the Special Presidential Committee. According to the Director, although he was pressured to pursue carbon crediting projects, he did not accept bribes.

Making it official

EU Regulation on Illegal Logging cleared its final legislative hurdle on Monday, WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) happily reports. The new law will requires due diligence from all operators placing timber products on the market to demonstrate their products have been legally sourced. Between the new EU law and 2008 amendments to the US Lacey Act, efforts to cut down the supply-chain for illegal timber seem to be sprouting up more vigorously.

Project Development

What can $4 get you nowadays?

That would be a TON of temporary carbon credits. No, really. The World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund is buying up half the carbon stored through 2017 from an Ethiopian forestry project at $US4 per credit (tCER). The Humbo Assisted Natural Regeneration Project is among Africa’s first forest projects under the CDM. Read about the deal between Christian humanitarian organization World Vision, who helped develop the project, and the World Bank from Carbon Positive here. Learn more about this project from its inventory listing on the Forest Carbon Portal here.

Carbon trading deals (down) under way

In a first of its kind exchange under the Australian government’s Carbon Farming Initiative which connects domestic landowners to carbon markets, Bloomberg reports forest project developer Carbon Conscious Ltd. has been contracted to supply 10,000 future internationally-exportable Australian government backed assigned amount units, or AAUs. The trade will involve the planting of thousands of eucalyptus trees on marginal Western Australian farmland for a delivery price from AU$16 per unit. Learn more about the Carbon Farming Initiative here.

Home Tree Advantage

Director of the blockbuster film Avatar, James Cameron, is hoping to plant a million trees around the world in 2010 to offset the movie’s production emissions. A new story out of Canada highlights the work of several groups, including Manitoba high-schoolers who have helped plant 150,000 of those trees. Read more about the Avatar Home Tree Initiative, which has achieved about 25% of the 1 million tree goal thus far, here.

National Strategy & Capacity

REDD Fox Guarding the Henhouse?

Brazil has been patting itself on the back recently for reportedly dramatic reductions in its deforestation rate. In efforts to further reduce illicit logging, the national government is now planning to auction off large swaths of Amazon forest to logging companies. In reviving concessions – increasing from the current 150,000 hectares to nearly 11 million over the next 4 to 5 years – the hope is to improve forest management and reduce illegal practices (e.g. slash-and-burn). Read more about these next steps as reported by Reuters here and about some of the concerns over this privatization of national forests in Mongabay here.

Clearly time for a carbon counting consultation

A public consultation has begun in New Zealand on a new method for forest owners to assess carbon sequestered in trees of post-1989 forests. The rules would apply to owners with 100 hectares or more of forest in the nation’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) or Permanent Forest Sink Initiative, a move away from the current look-up table approach to quantity the carbon stored in their forests. And if you’re looking for a refresher on the NZ ETS, look no further! The Greenhouse Policy Coalition put together a little factsheet on the ETS, and even compared it against the EU ETS and the (now shelved) Australian Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Read more about the carbon counting consultation, which closes November 16, on Voxy here and check out the factsheet here on Scoop.

No Sleep, till…Moratorium!

Civil society and environmental groups in Indonesia issued a joint statement urging the Indonesian government to follow through with logging moratorium plans, as described here in The Jakarta Post. Voice of America News is also reporting businesses in Indonesia have also started to warm to the idea of the logging freeze, including a spokesperson from Asia Pulp and Paper who said that the freeze would provide a good opportunity to take a step back, take stock of what has gone wrong, and then fix it. The government has indicated the moratorium will go ahead as scheduled, explained by The Jakarta Post here.

Finance & Economics

Where did everybody else go?

After sprinting out to the front of the donor pack, committing $1 billion to Indonesia and $250 million to Guyana, and $80 million to Tanzania, Norway may be pausing to catch its breath and let other donor countries step up. Norway is sounding a new call to the international community to contribute more funds to conserve Indonesia’s forests, particularly targeting the US, EU, and Japan to step up their commitments. Read Reuters’ take here.

Demand showing up as fast as Godot

The developer of a vast REDD pilot project in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province is voicing concern that demand for credits produced by REDD projects will not be sufficient without mandatory emission schemes in larger markets, especially the U.S. He’s seen U.S climate legislation fall apart, and is increasingly skeptical about Australia’s intentions to pass a climate bill. As for the UN? He says a UN-backed scheme will be ready at the earliest by 2013, at the latest 2017, or afterward when “a lot of disasters” caused by climate change will move people to act. Read what Mr. Hartono has to say here.

Silver Lining on a Cloudy Market

As Ecosystem Marketplace reported in our State of the Voluntary Carbon Market 2010 report, it’s been a rough ride for voluntary carbon markets over the past year. And then there was forestry. Carbon Positive takes stock of the recent developments in the supply and demand for forest carbon and sees some silver lining on an otherwise cloudy time for voluntary carbon markets. Read Carbon Positive’s article here.

Greenpeace Looks to Put PNG in REDD Time-Out

Wary of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) declared intent to be leader in REDD, Greenpeace is heading the charge to nip PNG’s REDD hopes in the bud. A report released last week concludes that corruption, problems with “carbon cowboys”, and a lack of political leadership place the rainforest nation in a unacceptable position for international REDD funding. A historically cozy relationship between the government and logging and mining interests has made the international community skeptical, not to mention the ever-present concerns about the erosion of indigenous rights in PNG. Read more from Mongabay here and from Reuters Africa here.

Methodology & Standards Watch

Joint (non)Implementation

Hoping to bolster Kyoto’s little-used mechanism for emissions reducing projects in developed countries, a new agreement has been reached to simplify the offset rules under the Kyoto Protocol’s Joint Implementation mechanism. Formerly, there existed two tracks for approving carbon offset programs under the scheme: Track 1 consisted self-vetting project eligibility while track 2 had the Joint Implementation Supervisory Committee oversee the projects. Now, the tracks will be merged, potentially creating a universal system for approving carbon offset projects. Read about the agreement from BusinessGreen here.

CDM Board crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s

Two public commenting periods have closed on new CDM proposals last month. The first, dealing with “excess issuance” of offset credits spells out clawback procedures and the second, dealing with the concept of “materiality,” lays down clearer guidance for verifiers on what information can go without verification. Both received public comments which can be viewed here. View the comments on “excess” crediting here.

A Meeting of the Agricultural Minds

The Climate Action Reserve (CAR) wrapped up the last of three scoping meetings last week on proposed agriculture protocols. The meetings were held in order to solicit feedback on proposed new project types of nutrient management, cropland management, and rice cultivation. CAR staff have prepared several issue briefs in support of these news proposals. Read about the meetings, the issue briefs, and supplementary materials here.

ADP Methodology Moves to Second Assessment

The Avoided Deforestation Partner’s REDD Methodology Modules has successfully cleared the first of two validation hurdles in the process to become a new VCS methodology. Rainforest Alliance will now step in to evaluate the Modules following initial approval by the Swiss Association for Quality Management Systems. Among the more anticipated REDD methodologies, the modular design has been intended to maximize the flexibility and applicability for a wide array of REDD project types and conditions. Read about the methodology here.

Carbon Fix 3.1

The CarbonFix standard has now been updated to version 3.1 with substantial new additions. For one, the validity of an additionality check is now limited to 10 years and restricted to the A/R CDM additionality tool. The new version also differentiates in its certification procedure between three different types of certification – “Initial certification”, “Monitoring certification”, and “Management Unit certifications” – and provides guidelines to avoid double‐counting of projects in industrialised countries. The standard now accepts certification bodies accredited by the UNFCCC and ANSI. Read about the update here.

Science & Technology Review

More Brazilian Forest Technologies of Tomorrow, Today!

Brazil, already known for advanced deforestation-tracking satellites, is getting even more high tech. A new satellite system, INDICAR – Imaging and Radar Deforestation Indicator, allows for enhanced imagery even under cloudy conditions – a pretty good feature when you’re taking pictures of a thing called the rainforest. And what’s more, a pilot project is underway attaching microchips to trees. Although the system isn’t cheap, the assurance it provides customers about the non-illegal origin of the lumber could allow such products to garner an increased market price. Read about the new satellite system here and here.

Taking stock of American carbon reserves

New estimates by the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service report that 41.4 billion metric tons of carbon is currently stored in the nation’s forests and 192 million metric tons of carbon is sequestered each year, mostly due to increases in the total area of forest land and increases in the carbon stored per acre. Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. Warmer summers, changing precipitation patterns and a thinning snow pack are reducing the amount of carbon trees can sequester, particularly in the U.S’s western forests. See coverage of the new report by Reuters here. Read more about forest carbon, including a link to the new study from the Forest Service here.

Publications & Tools

REDD Alphabet Soup

Learn to decipher the acronym melee that has beset forest conservation and climate change discussions from a new REDD glossary brought to you by the non-profit Pact’s REDD Initiative here.

Making REDD work for Tanzania

In the second, of two, the Tanzania Forestry Working Group released it’s a new issue brief from the Making REDD work for communities and forest conservation in Tanzania project. The brief discusses key design questions and options with relation to the risks and benefits of a national REDD program in Tanzania. Read about, and access, the brief here.

Structuring REDD Finance

PricewaterhouseCoopers has released a review of REDD-funding designs across six country case-studies (Brazil, Cambodia, DRC, Indonesia, Madagascar, and Peru). Read a quick breakdown of “National REDD+ Funding Frameworks and Achieving REDD+ Readiness” and access the full report on the Forest Carbon Portal here.

A REDD Sector in Brazil

A new report commissed by the Electric Power Research Institute digs in to sectoral REDD offsets in the Xingu River Basin in the eastern part of the Amazon. As an ecologically sensitive area and home to several indigenous groups, the creation of a REDD program in the region is both an attractive prospect for rainforest conservation, but will face difficulties in design and implementation. Get the full report here (PDF).


REDD Funds to Brainstorm

A joint meeting of the UN-REDD Programme and World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and Forest Investment Program will be taking place in Washington, DC on Saturday, November 6. To see the agenda for the meeting and RSVP, read more on the Forest Carbon Portal here.


Looking for work as a Carbon Development Specialist in Malawi? How about UK-based forest finance work with extensive travel to West Africa and Indonesia? For the US crowd, learn more about open opportunities with the Pacific Forest Trust in California, and Resources for the Future in DC. Find out about all these and more on the Forest Carbon Portal’s job page here, where you can also post your own job listings.

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