This Week In Forest Carbon: Ten More INDCs Since June

Since June, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has received a flurry of climate plans as the climate talks in Paris loom ever closer. And while these carbon-cutting plans are complex and varied, many of them include concrete objectives regarding forests and land use.

30 July 2015 | Climate change itself may be a feverish nightmare, but figuring out what countries’ climate plans mean is an environmental economist’s nerdy dream.  
Since June, 10 new countries – Morocco, Ethiopia, Serbia, Iceland, China, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, and the Marshall Islands – have submitted their carbon-cutting intentions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (They join previously submitted plans from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Russia, and Gabon.) Determining whether these climate plans, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or “INDCs”, will keep global temperatures from rising by no more than 2 degrees Celsius is the key task of this year’s upcoming negotiations in Paris, France – and it’s no easy math problem.


Even less straightforward is the role of forests and land use in the global carbon equation, but some of the latest INDC submissions shed light on countries’ positions ahead of the Paris negotiations.


China’s target to peak emissions by 2030 was expected given its previous deal with the United States, but the leading global emitter didthrow in a couple of surprises, including a goal to “vigorously enhance afforestation” by 4.5 billion cubic meters by 2030. Forest and land use experts were at first perplexed by this number since China did not provide a hectare equivalent. But by early July the World Resources Institute crunched the conversion, estimating that China’s forest goal would translate to between 50 and 100 million hectares of reforestation – creating a 1-gigatonne carbon sink.


Japan also set a concrete goal for land-use and forestry within their target, aiming to cut 37 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (tCO2e) through the land-use sector. This contributes a 2.6% reduction within an overall goal of slashing emissions 26% under 2013 levels by 2030.


Across the Sea of Japan, South Korea unexpectedly bumped up its target to a 37% cut under business-as-usual. The country launched a cap-and-trade program this year with a forestry-inclusive offsetting mechanism but its INDC remains undecided on whether or not it will cover land-use sources and sinks.


Morocco became the second country, after Mexico, to set both a “conditional” and an “unconditional” target, saying it will reduce emissions 13% under a business-as-usual scenario by 2030 but could cut an extra 19% with support “on the order of USD 45 billion.” The country set a goal of afforesting 50,000 hectares annually and advocates for an international carbon market.


New Zealand on the other hand became the first country to set an entirely conditional target, saying that its goal to cut emissions 30% under 2005 levels by 2030 is “provisional.” The country won’t commit until it knows it has “unrestricted access” to global carbon markets and “confirmation of the approaches to be taken in accounting for the land sector.”


More news from the forest carbon markets is summarized below, so keep reading!


Calling all forest carbon developers

If your organization develops forest carbon projects for voluntary or compliance markets and has not yet responded to Ecosystem Marketplace’s 2015 survey, we need your help! We’re collecting data for two exciting new reports this year: Tracking Forest Carbon Finance in 2015 and Forests in the Anthropocene. The first is a new collaboration with Forest Trends’ REDDX initiative to offer a comprehensive picture of forest carbon finance ahead of the Paris negotiations. The second is a deep dive into the “beyond carbon” benefits of forest carbon projects. We rely on your response to ensure that our data is truly representative. Access our survey here( and contact Allie Goldstein at [email protected] with any questions, or if you are interested in sponsoring our forest carbon work this year.

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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



Power couple

China’s so last year. The U.S. and Brazil just announced a joint statement on climate change. In addition to reiterating their high hopes for the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris later this year, Presidents Barack Obama and Dilma Rouseff also focused on the need to cooperate on sustainable land use. Per the announcement, both countries will work to launch a Binational Program on Forest and Land Sector Investment, convene a public-private Forum on Innovative Forest Investment and launch a Binational Expert Group of government agencies to improve the conditions of forest investment in both countries. Brazil plans to restore 12 million hectares of forest by 2030.



Going once…

With the Australian government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) here to stay, project developers are still trying to make sense of the new reverse auction mechanism. The fund dominated as a topic at the eighth National Carbon Farming Conference earlier this month, with discussions revolving around how to apply and what strings are attached. During the first auction in April, the $2.55 billion ERF paid out $660 million to prevent the emission of 47 million tCO2e from 147 projects. But a recent study by energy market analysts RepuTex estimates that the ERF will run out next year and fall short of helping Australia meet is goal of cutting emissions 36% under 2005 levels by 2025.


Crossing out deforestation

Nigeria’s Cross River State signed an agreement with the United Nations to conserve one million hectares of forest through the development of an avoided deforestation (REDD+) framework earlier this month. During the signing, Governor Ben Ayade unveiled his plan for ensuring protection of the state’s forests against illegal logging. “To achieve this, it dovetails into my political ambition that we are going to create about 1,000 jobs for young men and women in a program which we call the Green Police,” he said. The Cross River State is a biodiversity hotspot and a large carbon sink for Nigeria.



Get with the program

Plant Your Future, a British nonprofit, validated their agroforestry project in the Peruvian Amazon under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards. It is the first grouped VCS project to also use the programmatic approach under CCB, which allows for the project area to expand after the initial validation. “Smallholder projects are better suited for starting small and then expanding over time by adding more land and smallholders,” the project developer explained in a press release. Plant Your Future’s goal is to reforest 300 hectares, working with 100 families over five years.


Trees don’t trump

British home products maker Reckitt Benckiser has promised to review its criteria for buying land in British Columbia and its consultations with community groups after its tree-planting program received negative publicity. The company attempted to target already degraded land for its 10,500-hectare carbon offset project, where it planted seven million trees to counter the emissions from its manufacturing operations through 2017. But farmers complained that they were being outbid by the company on land purchases. Company officials met with representatives from the Peace River, Fraser Fort George, and Cariboo regional districts in June. “We believe that it is important to pause and reflect on our approach to ensure the program continues to meet our objective,” said Reckitt spokesperson Lynn Kenney.



Good for our hearts, bad for our forests

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced recently that it will require food manufacturers toeliminate trans fats by 2018 – a move that the agency expects will prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks each year. The new rule is likely to increase demand for palm oil, a common substitute for trans fats that can contribute to tropical deforestation. Many food manufacturers and retailers have already phased out trans fats from their products, contributing to a surge in palm oil consumption over the last decade. Between 2002 and 2012, U.S. imports of palm oil increased by 352%.



No thanks to trickle-down economics

At least $50 million for REDD has been allocated for indigenous peoples, according to Chris Meyer of the Environmental Defense Fund. But indigenous coalitions don’t always benefit directly from that money. Last year, Norway pledged $20 million annually to help indigenous people secure their rights, but only five indigenous organizations were among the 53 finalists for the funding, according to Juan Carlos Jintiach of COICA, an indigenous coalition of the Amazon. “They can’t just dump a bunch of money on us. I understand the need for accountability, but I think we can deliver that accountability,” said Jintiach. COICA last month announced an Indigenous Amazon Fund that will act as a kind of central bank for indigenous people across the Amazon.



Everything but the missing sink

As the Earth’s “lungs”, the world’s some 400 billion trees breathe carbon in and out in a constantly changing cycle. If countries are to be paid for forest protection, more accurate measurements of this fluctuating carbon content will be needed, journalist Gabriel Popkin writes in a nbsp;recent issue of Nature. That’s not to say there haven’t been improvements already: In the 1990s, scientists were puzzled by the “missing carbon sink” that is now thought to be absorbed by forests. But where, exactly? Major forest inventory projects in the Amazon and Africa provide on-the-ground measurements of hundreds of thousands of trees, but the future of forest carbon measurements may lie in the skies. NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 launched a year ago and uses spectrometers to measure CO2 concentrations within a few parts per million. The first data will be available by the end of 2015.



Throw that rice at California, not the bride and groom

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) approved its rice cultivation carbon offset protocol after several delays. Under the protocol, growers who use approved methods for dry seeding, drainage practices, and handling rice straw may receive offsets for avoided emissions of methane, which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. ARB also approved amendments to its forestry protocol that will allow forest carbon projects in Alaska as long as they are outside of national forests (previously the protocol had been limited to the lower 48 states).



Taking standards to standard

Some companies seeking to reduce deforestation along their supply chain see no reason to reinvent the wheel. Instead, a host of voluntary sustainability initiatives (VSI) exist already that specify sustainability, social, and other guidelines that enjoy market recognition. But despite overlaps between current REDD+ standards and voluntary standards, a new report by the United States Agency for International Development’s Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests program found that hardly any VSI elements ensure significant contribution to REDD+ outcomes. While few VSIs provide enough detail on the location of farms or plantations, or on the monitoring, measurement and reporting requirements and guidelines, the report cited the provision of timelines and non-compliance requirements as key strengths in voluntary initiatives.


This palm reading’s way off

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been undercounting emissionsfrom draining peatlands, according to recent research published in Environmental Research Letters. Researchers from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and from the Union of Concerned Scientists examined water table depth in Southeast Asian peatlands and found an annual loss of 20 tonnes of carbon per hectare – almost double that of the IPCC’s calculation. However, all cards aren’t on the table, yet. Researcher Kimberly Carlson cautioned that estimates of peat-carbon loss remain uncertain and more empirical measurements are needed.



Manager – Ecosystem Marketplace

Based in Washington, D.C., the Manager will support and grow Ecosystem Marketplace’s range of activities, products, readership, and profile across ecosystem research areas (forestry, water, biodiversity, and agriculture). The successful candidate must be committed to the mission of Forest Trends; hold a master’s-level or equivalent degree; have excellent research, organizational, and communications skills; and know Excel. Fluency in the lingo of environmental markets is a plus, as is research and/or journalistic writing experience.

Read more about the position here


Climate and Ecosystem Services Manager – African Wildlife Foundation

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, the Climate and Ecosystem Services Manager will support the African Wildlife Foundation to expand, develop, and grow its ecosystem services program, helping the organization to optimize market-based opportunities related to REDD+. The position requires a postgraduate degree, at least five years of work experience in ecosystem services, as well as direct experience with project development and ecosystem services valuation in Africa. Fluency in English is required and French would be helpful.

Read more about the position here


Director of Forest Campaigns – Climate Advisers

Based in Washington, D.C., the Director of Forest Campaigns will develop, launch, and implement high-impact projects designed to build U.S. and global political will to tackle tropical deforestation and global climate change. Climate Advisers is seeking a director with 10 to 15 years of practical experience advancing forest and climate policy objectives; a deep knowledge of global supply chain campaigns and commitments; and the ability to secure financial resources from large foundations or governments.

Read more about the position here


Director, Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program – Conservation International

Based in Arlington, Virginia, the Director of Conservation International’s Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program will track global policy negotiations and decisions and lead the creation of training tools and capacity building programs on issues related to stewardship of forests. The successful candidate will have a master’s degree or equivalent education; five to eight years of experience in program management related to indigenous peoples’ organizations; and a working familiarity with climate change mitigation and adaptation, including REDD+.

Read more about the position here


Forestry Program Officer – American Carbon Registry (ACR)

Based in Sacramento, California, the Forestry Program Officer will provide support to the Director of Forestry and other members of ACR staff on all aspects of registry management, including, but not limited to, reviewing project listing applications, data reporting and verification documents for the approval of carbon offset projects under the California Air Resources Board. The successful candidate should have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in forestry or a related field; at least five years of experience working with projects in the forestry, carbon or other environmental markets; and expertise in GHG accounting under the California compliance and voluntary carbon markets.

Read more about the position here


REDD+ Safeguards Specialist – United Nations Environment Program

Based in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, the REDD+ Safeguards Specialist will focus on information needs for each safeguards indicator and develop monitoring and assessment plans. The successful candidate will have an advanced degree (master’s or PhD) and a minimum of 10 years of progressive experience in forest, land use, or sustainable development policy, as well as knowledge of REDD+.

Read more about the position here


Ecosystem Services Technician – Ducks Unlimited

Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, the Ecosystem Services Technician will help to forward Ducks Unlimited’s ecosystem service market programs in water, carbon, and mitigation. The position requires strong communication skills, the ability to be self-initiating, and an interest in nonprofit management and environmental conservation.

Read more about the position here


The Forest Carbon Portal provides relevant daily news, a bi-weekly news brief, feature articles, a calendar of events, a searchable member directory, a jobs board, a library of tools and resources. The Portal also includes the Forest Carbon Project Inventory, an international database of projects including those in the pipeline. Projects are described with consistent ‘nutrition labels’ and allow viewers to contact project developers. 

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