This Week in Forest Carbon: Taking to the Front Lines

From the formation of an international alliance of domestic legislators to push REDD policy to the lingering debate over Guyana’s REDD+ Investment Fund, there appears to be no shortage of pioneers taking to the front lines for REDD.  Read all the details on these and other stories in this weeks Forest Carbon News.

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.

23 May 2011 | From the formation of an international alliance of domestic legislators to push REDD policy to the lingering debate over Guyana’s REDD+ Investment Fund, there appears to be no shortage of pioneers taking to the front lines for REDD.   Rainforest Alliance has responded to charges from watchdog NGOs regarding its verification of Guyana’s REDD readiness, and Ecosystem Marketplace probes into the nuts and bolts of the new paradigm for REDD payments being developed between Norway and Guyana.
Papua New Guinea looks to rein in corruption as the Prime Minister calls a halt to the massive lease program that has signed over more than 10% of PNG’s land area to private interests within the past five years.     And in Indonesia, the latest news is that the long-awaited Presidential Decree formalizing a 2-year moratorium on forest clearing has finally been signed.   Although the decree simply gives a formal seal and fills in some of the rules for a moratorium that was unofficially begun January 1, few have forgotten the issuance of vast concessions on the eve the moratorium.  
In the carbon markets, VCS made new steps into South America, establishing a branch office in Santiago and partnering with Fundacií³n Chile.   Meanwhile, registry records show hundreds of thousands of credits issued to several new forest projects around the world, including the first credits issued to a Latin American VCS project.   The pioneering project developer of Indonesia’s Ulu Masen REDD project is not so lucky though, having recently been acquired in a contentious deal by a mining company with its eyes on rolling out a “green” goldmine in Aceh.  
On the home front, Forest Trends (the non-profit organization that publishes Ecosystem Marketplace) is pleased to announce we have received a four-star rating for the second year running from Charity Navigator based on an independent assessment of our financial performance and tax filings.   Please take the chance to show us what our hard works means to you by supporting our efforts here.  
All in all it’s been a busy couple weeks in the world of forest carbon, and those are just a taste of the headlines.   What’s more, stay tuned for Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2011 report debuting June 2 in Barcelona at Carbon Expo.  
Read on below for all this and more in Ecosystem Marketplace’s latest Forest Carbon News Brief.
—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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


International Policy

Moving Beyond the Baseline: Guyana’s New REDD Paradigm

Guyana and Norway signed a deal last year to funnel millions of dollars to fund Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy in exchange for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. While you might normally expect this to mean Guyana should have to improve its deforestation rate in order to receive payments, you’d also be wrong. With an eye towards pioneering a new model for REDD payments for countries like Guyana with high forest cover but low historical deforestation rates, Norway and Guyana are writing the rules for a bold new REDD scheme that has several observers crying foul. Get a deeper view of this ground-breaking policy from the Ecosystem Marketplace feature article here.


Grading Norway’s REDD Investments

Norway’s Department of Evaluation has released its first report covering Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI). The evaluation team reviewed Norway’s work on REDD strategies and readiness efforts with five countries: Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guyana, Indonesia, and Tanzania. The report concludes that NICFI has had a stimulating effect on REDD+ progress, but has an evolving role for promoting discussion and can improve in several ways, such as by changing the way it provides aid towards more of a performance-based system, providing clearer criteria to host countries for developing their low carbon strategies, and putting safeguards in place to protect indigenous people and biodiversity. Read the report at the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation’s website here.


Illegal logging agreements branch out to Indonesia and Liberia

Indonesia and the European Union signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement last week to enforce a ban on illegal timber trading. The agreement will require timber companies to verify the sources of their timber and allow forest communities to push for the suspension of a company’s timber exports if evidence of illegal harvesting is found. According to the European Forest Institute 40% of timber exported from Indonesia is illegally-sourced. The EU also signed a deal with Liberia and had previously signed bi-lateral agreements with a number of other African countries, but its agreement with Indonesia is the first in Asia. Read a press release from the European Forest Institute here (PDF) and check out coverage from the Economist here and Eco-Business here.



GLOBE Legislator Forest Initiative Launched

Legislators from Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, and Mexico met to begin an initiative for cross-country collaboration in developing complimentary legislation for REDD. Legislators at the launch vowed action, but also stressed the need to develop programs that are equitable and transparent. The lead organization behind the Legislator Forest Initiative, GLOBE International, was founded in 1989 by legislators from several countries to help solve environmental challenges by coordinating national policy. The initiative will also be supported by the UN-REDD Programme, UNEP, the Global Environment Facility and the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. Read the press release from GLOBE International here.



Project Development

Married to a Gold Digger?

The first project developer to deliver successful validation of a forest project under the Climate Community & Biodiversity Standards has now been bought out by a mining company. For the princely sum of $500,000, East Asia Minerals acquired a 50% stake in Carbon Conservation and gains control over several projects including the 700,000 ha Ulu Masen REDD project in the Indonesian province of Aceh. But Makmur Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Aceh Administration, thinks the forest project may be short-lived. “We may even cancel the contract if we find that they’ve abused the agreement [by selling the rights to a mining firm],” he said. According to East Asia Minerals, the investment will help fund a “green mining project.” Read the East Asia Mineral press release here, see a bit more context from Mongabay’s coverage here, and read about the shocked responses of officials in Indonesia from the Jakarta Globe here.


Of Gods and Forests

Monks in Cambodia who have fought local officials and illegal loggers to protect their forest are now seeking to raise money by certifying the forest for carbon credits. The Oddar Meanchey project has served as an early example of integrating community management into the modern forest carbon market. TIME Magazine swooped in for a feature story on the groundbreaking project, which you can read here. See the Forest Carbon Portal’s project listing for the Oddar Meanchey project here.




National Strategy & Capacity

Indonesian Forest Moratorium Signed into Law

President Yudhoyono signed Indonesia’s long-awaited forest moratorium into law on Thursday, May 19th. The two year moratorium will halt permitting for land-use conversion on 64 million hectares of Indonesian forest and peat lands and allow permitting for 35 million hectares of degraded forest, according to President Yudhoyono’s climate change advisor. The signing of the decree into law marks a step forward for Indonesia’s $1 billion REDD deal with Norway, but environmental groups are wary the decree will fall short of the action necessary to change the status quo. Although it is unclear which draft of the presidential decree was signed, look for the final version of the presidential decree to be released for public view today, for the specific language and details of the moratorium. Read more at Jakarta Globe here and Reuters here.

PNG Suspends and Calls for Inquiry into Leases

Prime Minister Sam Abal of Papua New Guinea has suspended a controversial land lease program and called for a committee of inquiry into the program’s operations. In the past five years alone, the Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) program has handed over more than 10% of PNG’s land area to private interests in the past five years under 99-year leases. The SABLs were originally intended to allow the indigenous peoples of PNG who hold customary rights to 97% of land in the country to accept private investments for agricultural and forestry projects to be developed on their lands. The program also allows the companies to side-step environmental regulations on forest clearing. The rapid expansion of SABLs coincides with a 2010 PNG Parliamentary decision to strip communal landholders of the right to challenge these private companies in court for any damages incurred by their projects, fueling concerns the SABL program encourages corporate land-grabs at the expense of indigenous landholders whose rights are being infringed upon. Read more about the Prime Minister’s decision at Mongabay here and at PNG’s own Post-Courier here.


Deforestation Jumps While Legislators Grandstand

Brazil’s legislators are revisiting early rumblings of a major revision to the country’s longstanding Forest Code. The law stipulates landowners must keep 80% of their forests intact – a rule that has often gone unenforced, but has been leveraged recently to stave off cattle ranchers from expanding further into the Amazon. After much heated debate, the vote is now apparently scheduled for today. Read the latest from Mongabay here. This debate comes amid unwelcome news that Mato Grosso, the leading state in Brazilian deforestation, has seen a dramatic upswing in deforestation over the past year. For a quick review of the latest information from Brazil’s rapid satellite-based deforestation detection system, see the story from Mongabay here.




Finance & Economics

UNEP pitches REDD to potential investors

The United Nations Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative debuted a new report this month prepared by Ecosecurities investigating the opportunities for engaging the finance sector in REDD. The new report, “REDDy-Set-Grow: Opportunities, Risks, and Roles for Financial Institutions in Forest-carbon Markets,” aims to provide the financial sector with an overview of how to mobilize investment for protecting standing forests and creating new sustainably managed forests. The report is the first of two UNEP FI plans on REDD finance, the second of which will target policy-makers on the available policy options for scaling up private finance. Download the report or executive summary from the UNEP FI website here and read press coverage of the event at BusinessGreen here.



Methodology & Standards Watch

Bienvenido a Chile

The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) announced last week the opening of its first global satellite office in Santiago, Chile. Partnering with Fundacií³n Chile, the expansion hopes to promote the uptake of VCS and support project developers throughout Spanish-speaking South America. The public-private partnership Fundacií³n Chile recently joined forces with Chilean brokerage Celfin to launch the Santiago Climate Exchange, on which VCUs will be accepted for trade. Read the press release from VCS here (PDF) and check out an article about the partnership on Forest Carbon Portal here.


How Does Your Standard Measure Up?

As project developers, credit buyers, and policymakers interested in forest carbon are no doubt familiar, the practical differences and implications of the proliferation of standards can be hard to grasp. A new article out in the journal Forests assesses 10 different forest standards, including carbon, co-benefits, and general sustainability and production on six criteria related to carbon sequestration, co-benefits, accountability, and certification procedure. The study finds that, while there is no standard that currently meets all the needs for REDD+, the standards collectively provide useful practical experience for REDD+ policy formulation. Find out who takes the highest marks by reading more about the study and seeing the article for yourself from Carbon Positive here.


Registry Issuances Show Gates Swinging Open for Forest Credits

From Colombia, South Pole Carbon Asset Management was pleased to announce the issuance of more than a hundred thousand credits under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) for their pioneering Afforestation/Reforestation project. The project, formally known as the “Restoration of degraded areas and reforestation in Cí¡ceres and Cravo Norte” joins a growing cadre of forest projects quietly accruing hundreds of thousands of credits without much hub-bub. See the press release from South Pole here(PDF). See the burgeoning millions of forest credits listed on Markit’s Environmental Registry here, and see growing list of VCS-specific projects from the standard’s own project inventory here. Who knows what you might find…



Human Dimension

Competing Voices on REDD and Corruption?

Norway’s Environment Minister Erik Solheim renewed calls for the international community to deliver on REDD+ pledges face a stark reality that corruption in many forest nations is not likely to be resolved before millions in REDD support will begin to flow. As Solheim has been one of the few voices to speak publicly that the REDD issue is too urgent for donors to reasonably expect a resolution of all corruption concerns, critics remain concerned that the funds will be stolen, misused, or poorly managed by recipient governments. Solheim’s call came the day before a Transparency International released a new Global Corruption Report focusing on the need to combat corruption and strengthen international mechanisms used for fighting climate change. The report argues the global trade of $10-23 billion worth of illegal timber must be clamped down before a REDD scheme can succeed. Read Reuters’ coverage of Norway’s plea here and the corruption report here. Access the full report from the Transparency International website here.


Indigenous Coalition Draws REDD Line in the Sand

A group of 22 Latin American indigenous groups have published a strongly-worded statement defining their position on REDD and other payment for ecosystem services mechanisms following from a workshop in Peru. The document, “Declaration of Iquitos: No REDD+ without Territories, Rights, and Autonomy of Indigenous Peoples,” outlines the fundamental criteria for any REDD program to be tolerated, namely a recognition and resolution of indigenous land rights and control over land-use and the process of free, prior, and informed consent. While the declaration decries the potential abuses that have been witnessed in specific instances around the world, it is also important to note the declaration does not foreclose on all REDD interventions, even calling specifically for targeted investments by the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and Forest Investment Program. One unlucky Australian project developer also gets singled out with a call for his expulsion from Peru after alleged nefarious dealings with a local community. Read more about the workshop and declaration here and read the declaration for yourself (in Spanish) here.



Science & Technology Review

The Gospel of LiDAR

Ensuring the integrity of carbon sequestered in forests has long been a sticking point for scaling up monitoring and verification of REDD. In a Fast Company guest commentary, World Wildlife Fund US’s CEO Carter Roberts, lays out WWF’s experience utilizing a remote sensing technology known as LiDAR (short for Light Detection and Ranging) in Nepal and plans for rolling out the airplane-bound monitoring scheme to Thailand. Read the full commentary here.


Lost in the Fog

Scientists at McGill University decided to investigate the quality of emissions data in a single REDD country, Panama, and found errors of up to 50% when compared with a reference emissions level. Johanne Pelletier, who led the team, says the errors are mostly due to the fact that forest carbon stock data was not collected with carbon accounting in mind, “making it unsuitable for REDD estimates.” Another huge factor in errors in Panama has been dogging other REDD countries as well – satellite data. Panama, along with with other REDD countries, often finds its forests difficult to photograph via satellite because of cloud cover, leading to maps that are composed of satellite images from any image with the least cloud cover, so maps end up as mosaics of images from multiple years. The team concluded that Panama would likely produce estimates that are too uncertain to allow a clear detection of emission reductions, and that if emissions do or don’t occur, the results could be blamed on data errors. Read about the study here.



Publications & Tools

Getting to the Details of “Nesting”

Forest Trends (the publisher of Ecosystem Marketplace) has released a new report, “Nested Approaches to REDD+.” The report explores and synthesizes the latest thinking on options for how REDD+ projects can be integrated into regional and national schemes to ensure the integrity of the overall system while mobilizing finance in a timely way. REDD+ policy is currently developing in tandem at the local, regional, and national levels, with REDD+ projects at the local level playing a vital role in building capacity and providing information to policymakers for formulating regional and national strategies. As REDD+ funding shifts to the national level, concerns are arising about how to ensure the environmental and economic integrity of emissions reductions being made with local projects. Check out Ecosystem Marketplace’s article summarizing the report here and read the report for yourself here.


Another Website for Your REDD Bookmarks

The Alternatives to Slash and Burn Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins at the World Agroforestry Centre (ASB-ICRAF) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) have developed a new website to encourage South-South exchange of information and resources on REDD. The platform is another component of the collaboration, which has already yielded a REDD Development Dividend (REDD-DD) Task Force and a series of workshops and policy papers. Over 120 government negotiators, land managers, representatives of non-government organizations and climate change scientists from Africa and Asia attended the first workshop held May 10 through 12 to learn about REDD+, with a second workshop to follow later in the month. Read about the new platform here and the workshops here.




Proposed Amazonas Law Open for Public Comment

The Amazonas State Secretariat of Environment is seeking input on its proposed law to develop a legal framework for environmental services and forest conservation. The current draft has language specifically promoting the creation of management instruments that would facilitate and execute REDD projects in the state. The draft is available on the Governor’s Climate and Forests Taskforce Website in English (PDF) and Portuguese (PDF). Public comments on the proposed law must be completed using this form and submitted via email to [email protected] or by fax 92.3659.1821 by June 22, 2011.



Climate Action Reserve Survey for Forest Owners


The Climate Action Reserve has put out a short survey to collect data on how forest property is capitalized in the United States. The data will be used by CAR to help determine whether it should change some of its requirements to reduce a landowner’s contribution to the buffer pool that insures projects against unavoidable reversals in their carbon stocks. The survey asks forest owners some basic questions about financing and their property, such as what the loan to value ratio is and whether or not their property has been refinanced. View the survey, which has a June 1 deadline, here.



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