This Week in Forest Carbon: What Progress?

Many hoped for clear resolutions on REDD+ in Durban.  But as it draws to a close, COP17 has thus far been caught in the weeds, with the key issues of financing, safeguards and deforestation levels still in the air.

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.

9 December 2011 | At last year’s 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), REDD+ was one of the few areas where negotiators successfully made progress, and many hoped for resolutions on key issues in Durban. But as it draws to a close, COP17 have thus far been caught in the weeds. Key issues include financing, safeguards, and deforestation reference levels. As talks enter the final phase, REDD +remains in limbo. Some are going as far as saying that REDD+ may come out of Durban in worse shape than it left Cancun, while others are saying that a viable work program is in the offing. Progress often comes at the 11th hour, so stay tuned for more news to come.

One of the biggest developments has been the release of Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) text on forest reference levels, which were well received by some who note that the text should finally prompt countries to submit information on forest reference levels and baselines. John-O Niles, Director of the Tropical Forest Group, was optimistic about the decision, saying “Now (countries) have substantial and specific guidance on what information to submit.” Other observers were not as enthusiastic, saying the text didn’t provide the concrete guidance on how to establish emission levels that is needed to move REDD+ programs forward on the ground.

Meanwhile, the SBSTA’s text on safeguards received a largely negative reaction in Durban. The text will only call on parties to submit information on how developers implement safeguard measures, with no requirements for collecting data and measuring the impacts of REDD+. This approach to safeguards was likely adopted in response to pressure from developing countries, who are frustrated with the already complex and costly requirements of donors, and want to avoid further delays in receiving funding.

On Wednesday, it looked like the The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action process would end before any REDD text was produced, leaving decisions on finance for REDD+ to wait until after COP 17. Tony La Vina, the SBSTA REDD facilitator, asked that delegates create a workgroup to continue to work on the text if the LCA process fails.  

Check the Eko-Eco blog, with posts by the Ecosystem Marketplace for great coverage of REDD+ and LULUCF negotiations in Durban.

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US Policy

Carbon payments in Appalachia

Under the guidance of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development’s (MACED) Appalachian Carbon Partnership (ACP) program, payments are being delivered to owners of the   approximately 30,000 acres of land in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee that are enrolled in the program. Offsets generated by forestry management activities are certified by an organization recognized by the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certifications, marketed by MACED, and sold to businesses and individuals. Read more about the ACP program here

Project Development

Wildlife Works launches campaign aimed at private sector finance

Wildlife Works, a San Francisco-based REDD+ project development and management company, has announced the launch of CODE REDD, a campaign that aims to create a marketplace for REDD+ investment. The campaign is targeted at corporations with CSR programs and interest in offsetting their carbon emissions. ‘The goal of the CODE REDD Campaign is to dramatically increase the demand for REDD project carbon offsets now. With increased demand, REDD can scale to overcome the massive threat to the world’s forests and make a significant contribution to mitigating climate change,’ said Mike Korchinsky, Founder and CEO of Wildlife Works. Private sector organizations can join the campaign by making a specific pledge to buy VCS and CCB validated REDD credits supplied by vetted project developers. Read a press release about the campaign here

Kenya setting the stage for long-term conservation

The UNEP has announced a 3-year conservation project in the Northern Mau Forest in Kenya with over EUR20 million in funding, which will help lay the foundation for Kenya’s pilot mechanism for REDD+ by establishing an environmental monitoring system to quantify the carbon storage of the forest. The project is intended to create a sustainable basis for long-term conservation and forest management through payments for ecosystem services for river flow regulation, flood mitigation, water storage, reduced soil erosion and carbon sequestration, among others. Read about the project here, and see the UN EP’s press release here

Tanzania checking it’s pockets for REDD funding

Durban delegates from Tanzania are frustrated this week, as talks ran into difficultly coming to an agreement on a funding scheme for REDD+, putting the African nation’s REDD+ efforts in jeopardy. The five-year REDD+ pilot project is budgeted at Sh153 billion ($85 million). Tanzania, which contains almost 40% forest cover, has lost nearly 20% of its forested land since 1990, mainly due to harvesting of wood for charcoal and the expansion of agriculture and livestock grazing. There are 10 REDD+ pilot projects taking place around the country that are worth a potential $85 million, but would be in jeopardy if a financing mechanism isn’t established. In a pessimistic tone, Tanzania’s Director of Forestry in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism said that ‘the scheme would help to protect trees from being destroyed and eventually save natural forests, but hope [is] fading as chances of financing the multi-billion projects [are seeming] unrealistic.’ Read more about Tanzania’s REDD+ worries here

REDD+ project a first for Cameroon

Global Green Carbon Corporation and the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Tropical Research have received Letters of Approval from the Cameroon government to advance feasibility assessments for the country’s first REDD+ project, which will be carried out at the sub-national level. The project will be centered around the Dja Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO world heritage site, and aims to reduce deforestation and degradation and encourage an increase in carbon stocks in 1,228,500 hectares of forest in the Congo Basin. In addition, the project includes an integration land management strategy benefiting the Baka and Bantu communities, as well as a research facility and educational eco-tourism lodge. Read more about the first REDD+ project in Cameroon here and here

National Strategy & Capacity

Straight out of Durban

Coming into Durban many expected progress for REDD+, which has been advancing as a viable mechanism to reduce emissions while conserving and expanding forests. Observers and negotiators hoped the mechanism would overcome some of the final hurdles preventing it from being widely adopted as a global strategy to achieve emission reduction targets. However, a draft text to be discussed in a plenary session has postponed a crucial decision on REDD+ financing – a decision both governments and the private sector have been anticipating to move forward. The safeguards question was answered in a fashion that disappointed many – SBSTA, which guides the COP in technical matters, has released a draft text which has disappointed many observers in its “weak” language on safeguards, which reduces requirements from collecting data and measuring impacts of REDD+ to simply reporting how developers implement safeguard measures. The move was likely prompted by frustration of developing countries, who see current donor requirements as complex and costly and aren’t interested in adding more hurdles to funding REDD+. Read more about the progress of REDD+ at the Eko Eco blog, as well as here and here. And read the SBSTA’s draft text on REDD+ here and here

You can’t have your cake and protest it, too

The Democracy Center has published a new report on Bolivia’s role in shaping REDD+ discussions on compensation for conservation efforts in tropical countries. They argue that given Bolivia’s large tracts of Amazon rainforest and high deforestation rates, the country could benefit financially from participating in carbon market schemes. However, Bolivia has not taken full advantage of this opportunity, having been a critic of REDD+ and an ally to movements opposing carbon markets – a position on full display at the COP 17 negotiations in Durban. Bolivia maintains that forest conservation alone will not be an effective tool against greenhouse gas emissions without substantial emissions reductions from industrial activities in rich countries. Instead, the Bolivian government has affirmed its intention to work toward a vision of integrated management that does not ‘commodify’   Bolivian forests. Read about Bolivia’s position on REDD+ and climate finance here


Java seeks clarity from its government

West Java Vice Governor Yusef Macan Effendi is asking the government in Jakarta to provide a clear definition on forestry sector carbon trading mechanisms. Yusef hopes to encourage provincial administrations to participate in forest carbon trading schemes through fostering increased clarity on forest carbon regulations, which have not been forthcoming from the Ministry of Forestry or others in Jakarta. Currently, carbon deals for forested land in Java is being managed by the Ministries of Forestry and Finance, limiting the ability of the regencies to offer financial incentives for forest conservation to land owners in their province, according to Yusuf.   Read about the West Java conundrum here

Brazil’s Forest Code passes senate, draws ire

Controversy is brewing over Brazil’s proposed revised Forest Code, which has come under attack by various environmental groups. In defense of the law, Andrea Correa, Brazil’s chief climate negotiator, has said that he does not see any risk to Brazil’s forest conservation ambitions, and that provisions to restore parts of the deforested land would help Brazil meet its targets of 36.1 to 38.9% emissions reduction by 2020. On the other hand, environmentalists say that the revised land-use rules are skewed towards the interests of the farm lobby, and could spur further illegal deforestation and degradation, with Greenpeace warning that a forest area the size of Sweden could be lost as a result of the law. Read about the revised Forest Code here and here

Korea reaches out

An interview with Lee Don-koo, Korea’s Forest Service Minister, gives a glimpse into Korea’s initiatives to combat deforestation and push for green growth. In particular, Don-koo speaks about the Asia Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO) agreement with Association of South East Asian Nation member states, born out of Korea’s low-carbon, green-growth policy, that will develop ties with nations developing REDD+ projects in order to meet the country’s self-imposed carbon emission reduction targets. Although currently classified as a developing country, and exempt from mandates to reduce carbon emissions, Korea may lose that designation and wants to gain access to REDD+ markets. Read the interview here

Opportunity for a fair dinkum partnership

Australia and New Zealand have announced their intention to link carbon trading schemes, possibly as soon as 2015, when Australia begins their market-based trading scheme. EU Climate Change commissioner Conne Hedegaard also met with Australia’s Climate Change minister, Greg Combet, resulting in the release of terms of reference for top-level talks next year on linking Australia’s market to the EU ETS. There are currently worries that if Australia’s cap-and-trade scheme is isolated, costs will soar – hence their desire to link up with other national and regional programs. However, given New Zealand’s recent experience with depressed NZU prices, Australian project developers pursuing domestic projects may get the short of the stick from such a deal. Read about the potential partnerships here and here

C’mon, get mappy!

Reference levels for forests are being discussed at high levels at COP 17 in Durban, but it isn’t always easy to understand the implications on the ground. Ecosystem Marketplace chronicles the efforts of Ghana to map its forests, navigating the technical and policy challenges of setting baselines for REDD+. Using satellite images, measurements on the ground, and other remote sensing tools, a team was able to establish a map of Ghana’s forests that sets the stage for a REDD+ strategy based on an actual inventory of forest stocks. “Without that map, we wouldn’t have known what we had,” says Kwakye, one of the researchers involved, “It made it possible for us to formulate a strategy based on a realistic understanding of our resources.” While the country moves ahead in its monitoring capacity, it still has a ways to go in establishing a legal framework for REDD+. Read more about the saga of Ghana’s forest mapping here

2011 Progress and Updates from the GCF

At COP 17 in Durban, Governors Climate and Forest (GCF) Taskforce members and other delegates convened to demonstrate how sub-nationals are making progress in REDD+. Updates from the GCF members include logging bans, wall-to-wall land-use zoning and rural law enforcement programs. Some GCF members are in the process of adopting state-level REDD+ and enacting legislation for incentives for forest protection. The GCF Fund, an independent climate finance facility, contains an initial contribution of $1.5 million for improved forest carbon accounting and stakeholder processes. Looking forward, the GCF is seeking additional funding of $4.5 million for the GCF Fund to support 2012-2013 initiatives. Also, GCF has announced that it will be making its database of REDD+ in GCF tropical forest jurisdictions available for public use in 2012. Get the update here (PDF)

Finance & Economics

Private sector pushing for a sign

The private sector is putting pressure on key decision-makers to define the role private capital will play in financing REDD+ projects. ‘Private capital will be deterred if we don’t see significant progress soon,’ warns Abyd Karmali, Global Head of Carbon Emissions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. In response to this concern, Chris Knight, Assistant Director of Sustainability and Climate Change at PricewaterhouseCoopers, highlights several possible methods for integrating private capital into REDD finance. Potential methods include the Green Climate Fund for fast-start REDD+ funding, bilateral programs to complement existing multilateral initiatives, and a flexible finance facility that could provide support as direct finance or guarantees. Since 2007, approximately $500 million in private sector funding has been made available for REDD projects. Read about the private sector’s take on future REDD+ financing here

New Zealand’s carbon trading takes a tumble

The collapsing EU ETS market and the strength of the New Zealand dollar against the Euro is being blamed for New Zealand Units dropping below NZ$10 for the first time. CERs, which are tradable in the NZ ETS, continue to fetch low prices due to an oversupply as well as the Eurozone’s economic woes, depressing the prices of NZUs (the tradable unit of the NZ ETS). However, carbon traders in New Zealand don’t think that many NZUs are being sold, as foresters, who make up the lion’s share of sellers, are unlikely to sell credits at such a low price, according to carbon traders active in the New Zealand market.   Read about the decline of NZU prices here


Methodology and Standards Watch

Vine and Wine puts a cork on emissions

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) has announced a new protocol for wineries trying to establish their carbon footprint. The protocol takes into account whether or not the winery uses natural cork stoppers or plastic and aluminum stoppers – the former being carbon positive and the latter being carbon negative – according to a life cycle analysis conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers/Ecobilan. There are around 6.6 million acres of cork oak forests in the Mediterranean, and the continued use of cork stoppers promotes the sustainable management of those forests, according to the (OIV).     Read about the cork emissions calculations here

VCS peer reviewers needed

The VCS Association seeks qualified individuals to assist in a peer review of draft requirements for Wetlands Restoration and Conservation (WRC) GHG benefits crediting. The draft requirements, which have been developed by the VCS Wetlands Technical Working Group, will be incorporated into existing VCS requirements for AFOLU. Peer reviewers are expected to vet the draft to ensure that requirements are conceptually rigorous, scientifically robust and workable in practice. Applicants should have significant expertise and experience with WRC. Familiarity with VCS methodology development and assessment is useful but not essential. Answer the call here


Science & Technology Review

Mapping for Rights is right on

In conjunction with the 17th UN Summit on Climate Change, Rainforest Foundation, a UK-based NGO, has helped create digital maps of African forests, including use areas, parks, and threats such as logging and mining. The website includes interactive maps, photos, and video from the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Gabon. Notably, aims to show that it is possible to provide mapping of forest use and ownership at reasonable cost and scale. Simon Counsell, director of Rainforest Foundation, says that the map will help REDD target forest protection payments to the right people and communities. Helping indigenous people protect their land is part of the key to protecting tropical rainforests, explains Counsell. Read about the project here

Satellites shed new light on deforestation rates

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released results from a new satellite-based survey, which provides more accurate insights on changes in the world’s forest cover. Findings suggest that world averaged 14.5 million hectares of deforestation per year between 1990 and 2005 – mostly in the tropics. Worldwide, the net loss in forest area between 1990 and 2005 was offset by gains in forested areas, which were greater than previously estimated. Overall, the rate of deforestation determined by FAO is consistent with previous estimates.   Other insights include a more accurate estimate of forest cover – 3.69 billion hectares, or 30 percent of global land area in 2005.
Read about the FAO’s results here

CIFOR puts REDD+ on the map

Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), has launched a new interactive tool that combines CIFOR research with existing REDD+ data to give users a global overview of 340 REDD+ programmes in 52 forest-rich countries around the world. The tool takes the form of an interactive map, and is aimed at helping government ministries, policy makers and project developers of REDD+ programmes benefit by sharing progress updates and lessons learned from existing REDD+ programmes. Unlike other REDD+ websites and portals that share information to a very high level of detail, the CIFOR tool aims to create a ‘sense of what [is] happening globally, and to see which countries are making progress and which are being left behind,’ said William Sunderlin, Principal Scientist at CIFOR. Read about CIFOR’s REDD+ maps here


Publications & Tools

Yes! A tool for safeguards

Forest Trends (the publisher of Ecosystem Marketplace), in collaboration with the CCB Alliance, Flora and Fauna International and the Rainforest Alliance, has developed the ‘Social and Biodiversity Impact Assessment (SBIA) Manual for REDD+ Projects.’ The SBIA Manual is a guide for REDD+ project developers to adhere to the safeguards protecting local communities. Notably, it is more user-friendly than the traditional practice of relying on an annex of CCB standards and suggested approaches. The manual divides the impact assessment into seven iterative steps called the ‘SBIA stages,’ resulting in a participatory design process for CCB compliance. Although the SBIA Manual is oriented for CCB, it is a useful tool built upon the ‘Theory of Change’ approach, and can also be applied to other benefit standards and to PES. Read about the new tool here


Calling REDD+ expert reviewers

UN-REDD has released two documents for public review, and seeks input from REDD+ experts. The first, the Programme Guidelines on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is a normative, policy and operational framework for UN-REDD Programme partner countries seeking FPIC. These guidelines have been developed through a consultative process with indigenous communities and civil society representatives in UN-REDD regions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The other document for review is the UN-REDD Programme Draft Social and Environmental Principles and Criteria (SEPC) – Benefits and Risks Tool, a tool intended to contribute to the UN-REDD’s framework for promoting social and environmental benefits and reducing risk from REDD+ implementation. Read the documents and submit your comments for FPIC here and SEPC here


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