This Week in Forest Carbon: What’s On The Agenda?

Anti-REDD groups lobby California’s governor. A carbon cowboy seeks spoils and gets exposed. A government-commissioned report tells England how to step up its woodland creation, while New Zealand forest owners get vocal on barriers to project development. South-South collaboration finds a new voice as Brazil shares REDD lessons with Ethiopia.

Anti-REDD groups lobby California’s governor. A carbon cowboy seeks spoils and gets exposed. A government-commissioned report tells England how to step up its woodland creation, while New Zealand forest owners get vocal on barriers to project development. South-South collaboration finds a new voice as Brazil shares REDD lessons with Ethiopia.

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

24 July 2012 | REDD drew flak last week as 30 California-based organizations  wrote  to Governor Jerry Brown, protesting the potential use of international forest carbon offsets in California’s cap-and-trade scheme on grounds of additionality and safeguard gaps. Just days before, Liam Bartlett’s latest 60 Minutes footage  of David Nilsson’s escapades in the Peruvian Amazon served to demystify the “carbon cowboy” as he continues to seek out carbon contracts at the expense of indigenous rights and livelihoods.

England reportedly  lags behind  the UK and the rest of Europe in woodland creation, a  recent report  by England’s Independent Panel on Forestry explores ways for the government to realize the full value of woodlands – including by capitalizing more on its carbon markets.  New Zealand faces its own barriers to forest carbon project development, with forest owners  voicing concern  over the government’s latest policy that allows unrestricted use of cheaper, international carbon credits in the NZ ETS.

 In Latin America, Patagonia Sur received VCS validation  for its native-species reforestation project in Chile, while  Asorpar found fresh support for its VCS/CCB-certified  reforestation and habitat restoration project  in Colombia from  German parcel delivery firm DPD as it embarks on its new Total Zero program. Up north, an undisclosed multinational manufacturer  bought four years’ worth of carbon credits  from Pennsylvania’s Bethlehem Authority, as the authority’s new forest management plan and Forest Stewardship Council certification took effect.


In the spirit of knowledge exchange, various agencies in Brazil – including the Institute for Conservation and Sustainable Development of Amazonas (IDESAM) – are contributing REDD insights to a  REDD pilot  in Bale, Ethiopia.  Also in good company,  Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Peru  powered up  last week in MRV capabilities upon receiving training in deforestation tracking and biomass measurement at workshops organized by the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force. For the rest of us, David Barton Bray from Florida International University shares lessons from Environmental Services of Oaxaca (SAO) in helping develop Mexico’s forest carbon market – available to read  here  at Ecosystem Marketplace.  


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International Policy

Devil’s advocate

Some folks left Rio+20 quite happy about the final text’s attention to sustainable growth and agricultural production – and omission of REDD. Yusof Basiron, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, recently  described Rio+20 as a victory  for the developing world, in which “issues of poverty alleviation and food security have moved squarely to the top of the global discussion.” As stakeholders who support “onerous regulations on climate change and agricultural land use” (in Basiron’s words) work to reach across the aisle to those sharing his priorities,  his interpretation of the conference outcomes may lend insight and urgency to the need for an integrated landscape approach that can reconcile agriculture v. forests interests, as mentioned  in our last brief.


US Policy

California seeing REDD

The REDD Offsets Working Group is slated to release a paper this month that outlines options to pull REDD credits into California’s cap-and-trade program, which sits on the verge of becoming the world’s first governmental carbon trading scheme to accept REDD credits. In anticipation, over 30 California-based organizations – including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace –  wrote to Governor Brown  last week, urging him to reject the use of international forest carbon offsets in California’s scheme. They criticized the lack of accurate measurements for forest carbon stocks, the risk of industries avoiding reducing emissions locally, and the idea that the inclusion of REDD would incentivize small-scale projects and other sub-national activities – where additionality is particularly sticky issue – without adequate safeguards.


SCS outfits their toolbox

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) has expanded the scope of its carbon offset verification services  beyond forest carbon, in response to demand created by the launch of California’s cap-and-trade program. The company is now accredited to verify landfill gas offsets under the Climate Action Reserve protocol and the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). SCS is also pursuing accreditation to verify projects that destroy ozone depleting substances (ODS) and livestock methane, eventually to offer verification around the California Air Resources Board’s Compliance Offset Program.


Project Development

Validators sur about Chilean project

Patagonia Sur’s native-species reforestation project in Chilean Patagonia  has received validation  under the Verified Carbon Standard, becoming the first project to reforest using trees native to Chile while focusing on restoring the country’s indigenous biodiversity. Since 2010, Patagonia Sur has been creating carbon offsets through its Reforestation and Biodiversity Project on its Valle California property in the Palena province of southern Chile. Three types of native-species beech trees – Coigí¼e, í±irre, and Lenga – are planted. Each tree is expected to sequester 0.48 tCO2 over an 80-year period. In 2012, Patagonia Sur expects to plant over 1,000,000 trees.


O little town of Bethlehem

Pennsylvania’s City of Bethlehem tapped into a new asset in its watersheds last week, when the Bethlehem Authority announced completion of its forest management plan by the Nature Conservancy, and certification from the Forest Stewardship Council – which both fed into the generation of carbon credits. According to Mayor John Callahan, the authority  sold four years’ worth of carbon credits  to a household-name multinational manufacturer  for more than predicted (in 2010, authority Executive Director Steve Repasch said the credits may net $500,000 to $1 million over a 10-year period).  Blue Source, which brokered the credits, is now marketing the remaining six years of carbon credits.  The Nature Conservancy’s William Kunze said the deal to preserve the authority’s watershed, certify timber, and market carbon credits is the first of its kind.


David Nilsson and his discontents

“Who else is giving them a better deal in the world?” said Australian property developer David Nilsson, a self-proclaimed “carbon cowboy” who signed carbon contracts with indigenous groups in the Peruvian Amazon, promising billion-dollar carbon deals that give him control over their rainforest for 200 years, half of all profits, and some of his own terms and conditions – illegible as far as the Yagua tribe was concerned when they reportedly signed off without being able to read the contract itself. The agreement’s executive summary belies Nilsson’s plans to eventually log the forests and replace them with palm oil plantations. Liam Bartlett from 60 Minutes has exclusive interview footage of Nilsson in and out of his element.


More than serendipity

Starting this month, German parcel delivery firm DPD introduces Total Zero – pledging carbon neutrality for all shipments from the UK, France, Germany, Benelux, and Switzerland – at no extra charge to customers. DPD’s parent company GeoPost will offset an initial 550,000 tCO2e through projects chosen in partnership with French offset partner CDC Climat. Among the projects supported include  reforestation and habitat restoration with Asorpar  in Colombia, certified under VCS and CCB.


SAA eyes carbon for biofuel

State owned enterprise South African Airways (SAA) is  exploring the potential  for a voluntary carbon offset project to support the development of forestry – and in turn biofuels – in the Southern African region. Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said that in order for SAA to avoid future penalties under EU ETS aviation emissions rules, it would require that biofuels constitute half of its fuel supply by 2020. SAA has convened a supply chain and technical working group and expects an initial strategy on meeting aviation biofuel requirements to be released in the third quarter of this year.


National Strategy & Capacity

Mexico blossoms with SAO

Mexican NGO Environmental Services of Oaxaca (SAO) recently saw years of hard work pay off with the opening of Mexico’s voluntary carbon market in 2008 (through the selling of carbon credits from 10 rural communities to corporations and other Mexican buyers) and recognition from Mexico’s National Forest Commission in 2010. SAO’s experience suggests that markets can be localized and built on commitments of the Mexican public and private sectors to rural development compatible with the responsible use of forests. David Barton Bray’s article relating SAO’s story originally appeared in Grassroots Development and is now available here  at Ecosystem Marketplace.


Brazil lends Ethiopia its wheel

A partnership between Farm Africa, SOS Sahel Ethiopia, and the Government of Oromia is  extending lessons  learned in Brazil to a REDD pilot in the Bale Eco-Region, located in Oromia, Ethiopia. Staffers from the partner organizations recently visited Brazil to become familiarized with REDD initiatives like the Bolsa Floresta Program and the Juma REDD Project. The delegation also visited the City of Apuí­ – a city that bears similarities to Bale, with a predominance of small and medium farms and high deforestation levels. By relating Brazil’s experience, the Institute for Conservation and Sustainable Development of Amazonas (IDESAM) will help provide guidance on structuring a local project in Ethiopia, and perhaps broader state or national REDD strategy.  


Quality over quantity, at quantity’s expense

Recent tree-planting stats published by the Forestry Commission show that England  lags behind  the rest of the UK and the rest of Europe in woodland creation. The Forestry Commission attributes the decline in tree-planting in the early 2000s to the government’s policy slant toward improving existing woodlands rather than creating anew. In order to properly work the value of woodlands into decision-making, the Independent Panel on Forestry’s new report stresses the need for government to establish a standardized methodology to account for the greenhouse gas benefits of wood and timber products and permit its use in carbon accounting. The report notes that the woodland carbon market still has a long road ahead – asserting that the price that owners receive doesn’t reflect full benefits and most owners remain unaware of the Woodland Carbon Code.


NZ holds the door open for Europe

A day after Australia kicked off its carbon tax, New Zealand’s government said it would continue allowing carbon emitters to offset  just half of their emissions  until at least 2015, in order to avoid putting NZ firms under more financial strain. The government will also allow unrestricted use of cheaper, international carbon credits in the NZ ETS through 2015 and cap the price at NZ$25/tCO2 ($20.09). Forest owners said  the government seems unconcerned about EU carbon credits flooding onto the NZ market, which may hurt incentives for forest carbon project development.  The Carbon Forestry 2012  conference on August 22-23 in Auckland, NZ may  shed more light  as traders, forest and land owners, and analysts provide local insights on forest carbon market prospects.


The natural rubber lobby redux

Back in 2002, the UN Conference on Trade and Development wrote a  proposal  to explore CDM opportunities in rubber commodities. Dr. N. Yogaratnam (of Commodity Watch on Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror) recently revived the issue with a  call to action  for Sri Lanka to advocate for explicit representation of natural rubber (NR) plantations under the CDM, claiming that the level of CDM funding that NR plantations are theoretically eligible for under A/R far exceeds the financial assistance available through the Sri Lankan government. He recommends building awareness of the potential for NR plantations under the CDM among relevant stakeholders and ensuring NR interests are well represented in future COP talks.


MRV power up!


Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru  got a boost  last week in MRV capabilities with a technical training session organized by the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF). Government and NGO representatives from the four countries gathered at Stanford University and Google’s Silicon Valley campus to receive training on the latest version of CLASlite forest monitoring software, an intro to Google’s Earth Engine intended to help find satellite data to feed into CLASlite, and  the use of biomass maps to convert deforestation and degradation data into emissions estimates.


Pakistan takes the plunge

With Pakistan joining the Global REDD Partnership back in 2010, the  REDD+ Preparedness Phase for Pakistan  is finally set to help the country build capacity on REDD+ and develop a domestic REDD+ forum – with the ultimate goal of developing a  national REDD+ project document and preparing Pakistan for REDD+ project implementation. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) launched the 12-month preparedness phase with a presentation in May, working jointly with One UN Joint Programme on Environment, the Office of the Inspector General of Forests in Islamabad, and WWF Pakistan.


Methodology & Standards Watch

Natural Forest Standard v1.0

The first version of the Natural Forest Standard (NFS)  has been released for public comment. The standard is intended for use by developers of medium and large scale projects (of over 20,000 ha) who wish to conserve and restore natural forests at risk from deforestation and degradation in areas that are not under community/smallholder control or management. The UK-based Ecosystem Certification Organization (ECO) and Ecometrica jointly developed the NFS.


A new crop of ACR offsets

Today, the American Carbon Registry (ACR) announced the approval of a performance-based AFOLU  methodology  that enables farmers to generate carbon offsets by reducing the amount of nitrogen  fertilizer applied to crops. The methodology, developed by Michigan State University (MSU) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), currently focuses on corn crops in the Midwest but allows for expansion of eligible crops and regions based on submission of peer-reviewed scientific data.  The methodology uses empirical equations and regional data to set conservative estimates for emission reductions –  in contrast to ACR’s 2010 methodology on nitrogen fertilizer, which was broader but based on a highly parameterized model that required more input data.


Science & Technology Review

REDD in orbit

Current methodologies advocated within the UN require the use of forest audits based on traditional forestry management methods of the developed world, often too expensive to work in the developing world. The only way REDD+ can be made to work on a global scale in a truly open, transparent way is satellite imaging, according to Jim Lynch from UK-based satellite imagery and services provider DMCii. In a new  Ecosystem Marketplace article, Lynch discusses his efforts to help develop standardized, affordable information products for forest monitoring, tailored to the requirements of REDD+ as well as comparable international forest monitoring schemes.


Publications & Tools

Mapping Madre

The World Wildlife Fund released a  report  last week (Spanish only) that provides a mapping of REDD+ stakeholders, institutions, and programs in the Madre De Dios region of Peru. It identifies who they are, their roles in regards to deforestation, the main barriers to REDD+ implementation, and the REDD+ funds and programs that are active in the region. It was commissioned for WWF’s Forest and Climate Initiative as part of the initiative’s “REDD+ for People and Nature” program.


Defining in sharp re-leaf

The USAID-funded Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests (LEAF) program, jointly implemented by Winrock International, SNV and Climate Focus, recently launched the  LEAF South and Southeast Asia REDD+ Atlas. The atlas provides a public collection of standardized information on the region, including maps and tables of data on forest cover, biomass carbon stocks, and carbon emissions from deforestation, as well as land-based biophysical and socioeconomic factors that can be used to understand patterns of land cover and land use change.


A growing family

Comprehensive new REDD Readiness research for Peru and the Dominican Republic  is now available  on the REDD Countries Database, a project of the Global Canopy Programme and the Forum on Readiness for REDD. the database includes information on the state of REDD Readiness in each country, including coverage of REDD policies, plans, laws, activities, statistics, activities, and financing. The total countries online has reached ten, including Brazil, Cameroon, Laos, Mexico, Vietnam, Guyana, Sri Lanka and Ecuador, in addition to another four soon to be published (Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya and Tanzania).



MSU launches forest carbon science program

Beginning this fall, Michigan State University’s Department of Forestry will offer a  graduate certificate  in forest carbon science, policy, and management that focuses on the use of forest management to mitigate global climate change. This first-of-its-kind program is expected to attract students from Michigan, other states and other nations, especially from developing tropical countries that have abundant forests but lack forestry expertise.




Fancy being part of the team? Join the Carbon Program in Washington, DC and have a hand in our work on voluntary and forest carbon markets, and the preparation of the State of the Voluntary and Forest Carbon Markets report and other publications. Candidates will preferably have a relevant graduate degree. Read more about the position  here.



Based in Los Angeles, the associate will be responsible for maintaining, implementing, and updating existing protocols and assisting in the development of new project protocols. Candidates should have a BA/BS degree (MA/MS degree preferred), and 1-2 years’ work experience. Read more about the position  here.



Based in Vientiane, Laos, the expert will be responsible for providing technical direction and assistance for all forest management and forest carbon related activities in Lao PDR and Thailand, working with the forest carbon development team in Lao PDR and Sri Lanka in PDD development, validation, and verification. Candidates should have a BA/BS in natural resource management, forestry, biology, environmental science, or related field, 3+ years’ experience working in forest carbon project development, and understanding of forest carbon activities in the Asian region. Read more about the position  here.



Climate Change Senior Specialist – Development Finance Bank and Research Institute

Based in Washington, DC, the specialist will support and provide technical leadership in the field of carbon sinks, helping to identify new interventions and sources of funding that would support initiatives to reduce emissions from land use change in Latin America. Candidates should have a Master’s in engineering, applied science, or environmental studies (or related field), 8+ years’ experience in climate change mitigation projects in the AFOLU sector, 3+ years’ experience in an international environment, and fluency in English and Spanish. Read more about the position  here.



The consultant will carry out scoping assessments to determine past and on-going activities being implemented in Indonesia and develop country-specific activities for an Indonesian REDD+ strategy. Candidates must include a short description of the methodology to be used for the action plans. Read more about the position  here.



Based in Guatemala City, the specialist will maintain the monitoring and evaluation systems and tools defined under the Performance Monitoring Plan for the Climate, Nature, and Communities in Guatemala (CNCG) project in Guatemala to facilitate adaptive management activities for the USAID-supported CNCG project. Candidates should have a degree in environmental studies, economics, or a related field, 5+ years of experience in monitoring and evaluation, and fluency in both English and Spanish. Read more about the position  here.


Based in London, The unpaid intern will work in the Marketing and Communications Department, generating data and facts from publications to disseminate via social media, helping build media lists for different purposes, and identifying media opportunities. Candidates may be part-way through their degree or newly graduated, though interested parties at all levels of experience will be considered equally. Read more about the position  here.



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