This Week in V-Carbon News: The Full Spectrum

Sometimes it’s not easy being green – but voluntary carbon market players are dipping into a broad spectrum of methodologies and partnerships to color new market opportunities. At the same time, decision-makers paint the town red with continued attacks and indecision around carbon mitigation. Follow the latest in April’s V-Carbon News.

NOTE: This article has been reprinted from Ecosystem Marketplace’s Voluntary Carbon newsletter. You can receive this summary of global news and views from the world of voluntary carbon automatically in your inbox by clicking here.

8 April 2011 | Climate mitigation is in the spotlight this week as the US government braces for shutdown amidst disagreement over redlined EPA funding and international negotiators time out in Thailand, black and blue after blows over the post-2012 fate of the Kyoto Protocol.
But it’s not all bad news (really!). Stealing this issue’s limelight are several bottom-up forest carbon mechanisms poised for use in the voluntary carbon market, and a few deals and partnerships big enough to see them through.

Since our last issue, the American Carbon Registry (ACR) approved for use its first methodology for projects that avoid planned deforestation (a REDD subcategory) – giving international projects the green light to make use of the traditionally US-facing Forest Carbon Project Standard.

The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) is wading into blue carbon with its establishment of a new initiative and working group to develop requirements for crediting wetlands conservation projects.
VCS says the effort – led by Restore Americas Estuaries – could lead to crediting for emissions reductions from mangroves and coastal and tidal wetlands.

ERA Ecosystem Restoration Associates is most likely in the black after signing a massive carbon rights agreement with the Democratic Republic of Congo to support a project expected to generate over 17.5 MtCO2 over its lifetime.

China also hoisted its red flag over the first transaction of VER credits generated from a bamboo reforestation project under its domestic Panda Standard. A leading real estate company, Franshion Properties, purchased the 16,800 VERs for ~US$9.14/tCO2e.

Westpac’s linkage with Carbon Trade Exchange is as good as gold now that the interface between the Aussie-based and voluntary carbon platform is live. Another strategic partnership between EKO Asset Management Partners (EKO) and Equator LLC will see the partners jointly develop solutions for clients across a suite of ecosystem service markets.
Read more about these and other colorful updates in this issue. And if you like what you read, help Ecosystem Marketplace (a project of 501c3 Forest Trends) keep these news briefs free!

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V-Carbon News

Voluntary Carbon

ACR REDD-y to run

ACR is officially in the running to reduce global deforestation, having recently approved its first REDD methodology for use under the ACR Forest Carbon Project Standard. The methodology – applicable to projects avoiding planned deforestation (APD) – was developed by the forest carbon team at ACR’s parent organization, Winrock International. “ACR’s methodology for avoiding planned deforestation offers not only a scientifically rigorous carbon monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) protocol, but also the opportunity to build on Winrock’s forest carbon capacity building for local governments and communities around the world,” said Nick Martin, ACR chief technical officer.

Read more from the ACR

ERA joins the Congo line

Canada’s ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd. has announced the signing of a massive carbon rights agreement with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) supporting an avoided deforestation project expected to generate over 17.5 MtCO2e over its lifetime. The project will be developed on 299,685 ha in the district of Mai Ndombe, Bandundu Province – an ecologically diverse area home to 30,000 people, along with forest elephants, hippopotamuses and endangered bonobo chimpanzees. The project – which will include both Improved Forest Management (IFM) and Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) activities – will be developed according to the VCS and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards.

Read the press release

Going, going…

…gone for two contributors to the voluntary carbon market space. Overshadowed by ERA’s million dollar headlines was an announcement this week that Stuart McNeill has resigned as a director of the company. Even more surprising was an announcement from Helen Robinson, Managing Director at Markit Environmental Registry, that April will be her last month with Markit. Robinson was the founding Chief Executive of TZ1 Registry – and transitioned to Markit when it acquired TZ1 in full in 2009. In a recent email to her carbon acquaintances, Robinson explained that since the TZ1 business has been fully transitioned into Markit, it was “a good time to step aside.”

Read the press release

What’s black and white….

Answering China’s call for intensified emissions targets, the nation recently saw its first transaction of VERs piloted under the domestic Panda Standard. The purchase – from a bamboo reforestation project – signals Chinese companies’ willingness to pay for (literally) home grown carbon reductions. One of the nation’s leading real estate companies, Franshion Properties, purchased the 16,800 VERs via the China Beijing Environmental Exchange (CBEEX). The price of the credits – at US$9.14/tCO2e – was lower than the going rate under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) but higher than the average price fetched by forest carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market.

Read the Ecosystem Marketplace article

EKO to leverage Equator principal

A strategic partnership announced last week leverages the resources of environmental asset experts EKO Asset Management Partners (EKO) and Equator LLC. The deal will see the partners jointly develop solutions for clients across carbon, forestry and other ecosystem service markets. The deal is not an acquisition or formal joint venture, but instead an agreement for the two firms to “interact flexibly,” says EKO Partner Otho Kerr. “Our partnership with Equator will enable us to better provide strategic, transactional and technical advice to our clients,” notes Ricardo Bayon, EKO Partner and founder. Eron Bloomgarden, Equator’s former president of environmental markets, will join EKO as Partner. Read more about Bloomgarden – this issue’s Profiled Practitioner – in our sidebar.

Read more from Point Carbon
Read the press release

“Free to those that can afford it”

For carbon market players that are fiending for an information fix, researchers at Synergyst recently released their Global Voluntary Carbon Market – Assessment of Key Markets report. Synergyst reports that the value of the voluntary carbon market increased in 2010 on the back of higher credit prices, but that market volumes were stagnant. Among other qualitative tidbits, Synergyst mentions that the 2010 market shifted from OTC to exchange trading and that the market’s private-sector-driven growth “showed the potential to surpass the compliance market in coming years.” Download the full report for (yikes) EUR€910 per electronic copy – or hold out for your free copy of the 2011 State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets report, coming soon to a carbon conference near you!

Read more from Research and Markets

BarCap-and-trade Cali offsets

Barclays Capital is banking on its first-mover advantage in the California CO2 market, after late last year completing the first forward trade of Dec. 2012 California Carbon Allowances (CCAs) with NRG Energy. Last week, Point Carbon mentioned in its weekly newsletter that Barclay’s US emissions trading director confirmed BarCap’s launch of a forward contracts for California Carbon Offsets (CCOs), ARB-compliant offset credits also slated for delivery in Dec. 2012. While no trades were reported last week, Point Carbon reports that the credits were bid at US$11.50 and offered at US$12.25.

Read more from Point Carbon

The (Tasmanian) Devil may care

The VCS is again caught up in a frenzy of forest activity. The newest project to achieve validation is one of Redd Forests Pty’s Tasmanian Improved Forest Management (IFM) projects – of which there are reportedly multiple, expected to protect up to 150,000 ha of private forest by the end of 2012. The first project will generate 40,000 Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) per year for the next 25 years. Aussie-based retailer Climate Friendly will be the first buyer of the credits that promise as a co-benefit to protect habitats for endangered species like the iconic Tasmanian Devil. The VCS has also approved a new IFM methodology, developed by Carbon Planet, aimed at preventing planned degradation by reducing selective logging.

Read more from Carbon Planet
Read more from Redd Forests

Westpac banks on Carbon Trade Exchange

Westpac, Australia’s largest bank, has linked up with the Carbon Trade Exchange to introduce an electronic interface for the voluntary carbon market that allows companies to trade as buyers or sellers from their own bank accounts. Westpac is the first bank to step up to the plate, providing carbon buyers with easy access to a range of global voluntary offset projects. “We chose Westpac as our banking partner because it’s the largest corporate bank in Australia and has relationships with some of the largest financial institutions in the world. We also wanted to make our platform as easy as possible to use,” said Wayne Sharpe, chief executive and founder of Carbon Trade Exchange.

Read the Financial Standard article

Portrait of the market as a young man

The voluntary carbon market is experiencing a host of growing pains due to its entanglement with stalled emissions trading legislation the world over. Yet as it keeps coming back for more, market players are occasionally reminded that the purely voluntary customers are still out there. Winners of ACR’s program-level awards paint a picture of innovation in the voluntary carbon market. Nike received ACR’s Commitment to Quality award for its long-standing commitment to CO2 reductions as an offset supplier; Xcel Energy received the Utility Excellence award for going beyond its mandatory renewable energy installation to offer additional consumer offsetting options; and Finite Carbon received the Innovation award for the development of the world’s first forest carbon risk mitigation product.

Read the Ecosystem Marketplace article

Version control

The Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) is updating its Green-e Climate Standard to version 2.0 and is currently seeking comment and input on the proposed and potential changes. The Green-e Climate Standard lays out the process and principles by which stakeholders and the Green-e Governance Board determine which GHG Project Certification Programs and GHG Emission Allowance Programs will be included in this Program as eligible sources of GHG emissions reductions to supply Green-e Climate Certified Products. The 60-day comment period will be open through May 25, 2011. Responses can be submitted electronically to Todd Jones.

Read more from the CRS
Read about the proposed changes

Compliance weighs heavy on the Carbon Conscience

Australian project developer Carbon Conscious recently signed an NZ$11 million contract with an unnamed energy company to offset its carbon liabilities. Carbon Conscious – which already has pre-compliance contracts with energy majors Origin Energy and BP – currently sells carbon credits generated by planting Mallee Eucalypts in the Australian wheat belt. It indicated that the new contract will give it an important entry into New Zealand – a country with an established emissions trading scheme. “Given the established nature of the carbon market in New Zealand we believe the New Zealand business model has the potential to be as rewarding as the company’s Australian operations,” said CEO Peter Balsarini.

Read more from
Read more from the West Australian

For peat’s sake

Belarus is poised to reap the benefits of peat through a voluntary offset deal with the German-based Michael Otto Foundation valued at an estimated €3-5 million. The country has so far safeguarded 28,200 ha under a recent rehabilitation initiative. Emission reduction credits generated from the project are currently eligible only on the voluntary market, as a Kyoto Protocol amendment that would give Belarus access to the Joint Implementation (JI) mechanism has not yet been ratified. According to Alyaksandr Kazulin, a senior researcher at the Research and Development Center on Bioresources of the National Academy of Sciences, one million ha of damaged peatlands remains in the country.

Read more from
Read more from UNDP

“Like,” plant a tree

Real estate development company Verdigris Group has expanded their corporate sustainability program to include offsets from reforestation and watershed restoration efforts. The company, which has operated as a certified carbon neutral organization since 2007, already invests in Green-e Climate Certified renewable energy offsets – and is now branching out with a new participatory Reforestation and Forest Preservation Carbon Offset Project. “For each and every person that ‘likes’ the Verdigris Group Facebook page, we commit to plant 1 tree in Colorado’s pine-beetle devastated forests,” said Garratt Hasenstab, Principal and Director of Sustainability. Upon “liking” Verdigris and posting the comment “save our forests” on their wall, Verdigris Group pledges to inform you exactly where your tree is planted, providing you GPS coordinates and progress reports about these efforts on the page.

Read the press release

If you CRT all for CAR credits

The Climate Action Reserve’s CRT Marketplace now offers prospective buyers of Climate Reserve Tonnes (CRTs or “carrots”) a one-stop portal for locating retailers, wholesalers and brokers that peddle the Cali-friendly credits. While the CAR website does not facilitate transactions directly, buyers can now locate companies that are actively transacting CRTs and access their website and appropriate contact information to make the trade. The CRT Marketplace is a work in progress and invites companies that wish to be listed to contact CAR’s Max DuBuisson via email.

Read more from CAR

C-Quest’s c-apital gets a boost…

… and it came from its own management, in the form of a refinancing deal that has provided the company with a serious cash injection. C-Quest Capital – a US based carbon finance firm – also obtained “significant” new financing from energy investor Charles Cherington. Cherington, who co-founded the $280-million private equity fund Intervale Capital, will join the firm’s board of directors. “Mr. Cherington’s initial investment will be followed by additional commitments to CQC’s attractive pipeline of projects,” the firm said in the statement. C-Quest invests in emissions reduction projects worldwide, recently linking up with Royal Dutch Shell to distribute 2 million efficient cookstoves in Nigeria – expected to generate at least 2 million carbon credits by 2012.

Read more from Reuters
Read the press release

Viva Colombian REDD!

The newest players in the voluntary carbon market may be a group of over 1,000 families in the municipality of Acandi, Columbia, aiming to protect their resources and livelihoods. Spearheaded by North American anthropologist Brodie Ferguson, the initiative aims to reduce emissions from deforestation by 50,000 tCO2 annually while providing benefits in the form of education, employment and financial rewards to participating families. The project is seeking certification under the CCB Standards and the VCS. “My hopes in this project are many, because I think it is the most direct way we have as collective landholding communities to access resources,” said Everildys Cordoba Borja, a community leader and local coordinator for the initiative.

Read the AlertNet article

Reduce & Retire: The Latest on Carbon Neutral

One pill makes you small…

…or can at least shrink your carbon impact. Last week drug megalith GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) released its 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, which – along with other environmental and ethical goals – outlines the company’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, GSK became the first company to achieve the UK Carbon Trust Standard global certification in 2010. It’s now going even further, with an environmental strategy that includes its carbon neutral commitment and plans to cut water consumption by 20 percent by 2015 and send no waste to landfill by 2020.

Read more from Reuters
Read the press release

Climate North America

EPA authority hangs in the balance

A mere 24 hours after the Senate rejected a series of amendments designed to block the EPA’s climate rules, the House of Representatives voted 255 to 172 in favor of similar legislation that would strip the Agency of its right to regulate GHG emissions. Although the win was largely symbolic – it is unlikely to pass through the upper house – it does increase pressure on the Senate to reach a compromise deal. A recent analysis revealed that over 60 Senators voted in favor of one or more of the four amendments. The contentious issue is rumored to be a make-or-break issue in the budget talks aimed at avoiding a government shutdown. According to Senate majority leader Harry Reid, “the only things holding up an agreement are women’s health and clean air.”

Read more from Ecosystem Marketplace
Read more from BusinessGreen
Read more from Argus Media

Pawlenty of apologies to go around

As election season approaches, conservatives nationwide are being forced to explain their about-face on the issues of cap-and-trade and climate science. The wave of aired apologies for climate-friendly voting records is in stark contrast to the once-popular conservative support for the mechanisms. “Even though it was invented by Republicans, it has been demonized by Republicans,” said Jim Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy. Among the repentants was Tim Pawlenty, who pointed out that “everybody in the [presidential] race, at least the big names in the race, embraced climate change or cap-and-trade at one point or another, every one of us…” while Newt Gingrich flip-flopped from “strong support” for carbon caps to proposing the abolition of the EPA for its attempts to regulate GHGs in Jan. 2011. Meanwhile, an MIT building named for billionaire conservative climate policy opponent David Koch saw multi-million dollar energy efficiency upgrades, partially funded by Massachusetts’ RGGI auction revenues.

Read more from Politico
Read more from the Wonk Room
Read more from Climate Progress

Woe is RGGI


RGGI announced today that member states will hold the program’s 12th allowance auction on June 8, 2011. The program took a hit last Wednesday, as New Hampshire’s House of Representatives passed a bill to withdraw the state from the initiative in a 251 to 108 vote. The bill now goes to the Senate where, if it passes, will make NH the first to withdraw from the 10-state program. Maine is now facing a similar bill, sponsored by only one Senator but with the support of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity group.


Also last week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie expressed reservations about his state’s participation in RGGI, indicating that the program could be excluded from the state’s new master energy plan. His position has already set off environmental groups: “As he has become a climate skeptic, he has been pulling out of lawsuits, eliminated the Office of Climate Change, took over $400 million in energy funds, and now is talking about pulling out of RGGI,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Read more about New Jersey
Read more about New Hampshire
Read more about Maine

So much for my happy ending

Talks between the California Air Resources Board (ARB) and environmental justice groups broke down last week, raising fears that the implementation of AB 32 may be delayed or – worse yet – come to a grinding halt. The parties met to discuss how to proceed in the wake of the March 18 court ruling that the ARB violated state law by failing to properly consider alternatives to setting up a cap-and-trade program.”We were unable to reach an agreement with the Air Resources Board that would allow the good parts – the great majority of the measures – of AB 32 to proceed,” said Caroline Farrell, Executive Director of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. “The Air Resources Board is driving AB 32 off a cliff.” According ARB spokesman Stanley Young, the ARB will appeal the final order.

Read more from Reuters
Read more from KQED news
Read more from CAIVN

Kyoto & Beyond

Thai-ing up loose ends

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries gathered in Bangkok, Thailand, this week to develop mechanisms for implementing agreements laid out in Cancíºn. The week-long meeting is followed next week by the first 2011 meeting of the REDD+ Partnership on April 10-11. Analysts say the talks at Bangkok re-opened old wounds between developed and developing nations amidst disagreements about the 2011 negotiations agenda, developing nations’ emissions cuts and the fate of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. US climate envoy Todd Stern suggested that US was not opposed to binding international obligations if they apply to all major emitters, but – to the chagrin of developing nations pushing a tough international pact – said such a goal is unnecessary because “it is the national plans for countries, written into law and regulations that count and bind.”

Read more from Ecosystem Marketplace
Read more from Reuters

United Arab carbon credits

The United Arab Emirates is leading the low-carbon way in the Persian Gulf, becoming the first GCC country to generate UN-backed carbon credits under the CDM. The project – a waste heat recovery initiative developed by Masdar – received 79,960 Certified Emission Reduction credits (CERs) on April 1 and is expected to generate over €1.5 million per year. “It’s a good start,” said Shibu Davies, the regional general manager for TUV, which audited the project. “This will be a lead model for most organizations to follow.” Energy trading giant Vitol has reportedly entered into a contract to purchase the credits, and it awaiting the approval of the Swiss government.

Read more from Bloomberg
Read more from the National

Global Policy Update

Norway coughs up climate cash

Finally, some reassuring news for climate change financial pledges: Norway is making good on its commitment to preserve Guyana’s rainforest, recently announcing that it will pledge an additional US$40 million as part of an agreement to incentivize the South American country to maintain its low rates of deforestation. Norway has previously deposited $30 million into the World Bank fund as part of the 2009 agreement, which could see Guyana receive up to $250 million by 2015. Ethiopia has also revealed plans to reduce deforestation as part of a climate change and renewable energy plan to become carbon neutral by 2025. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi announced last week that 15 million ha of degraded land would be reforested as part of the strategy.

Read more from Bloomberg
Read more from Carbon Positive

Guangdong still going strong

Back in Cancun, we brought you news of “China Blossoming” when Chinese representatives discussed plans to target key provinces and cities for pilot low-carbon programs in pursuit of the country’s ambitious national target – reducing emissions 40-45% by 2020. Well, it’s a little closer to full bloom now, with the Guangdong region reportedly set to establish a provincial-level carbon market within three to five years. According to the official Southern Daily newspaper, a voluntary industrial sector carbon trading scheme could begin as early as next year in the heavily industrialized region, with a cross-provincial trading platform in place by 2020. Guangdong has already reportedly reduced its energy intensity by 16 per cent from 2005 to 2009 through an ambitious local program.

Read more from Reuters
Read more from Ecosystem Marketplace

Carbon Finance

GreenX marks the spot

2011 has been quite a year for the Green Exchange (GreenX) – at least judging by its first 56 days. The exchange recently announced that its year-to-date trading volumes for 2011 have already surpassed the total recorded volume for all of 2010. At market close on March 24, 107,027 contracts had been traded, compared to 104,159 last year – a clear sign of progress for the platform, which is the only tradig platform currently listed in the CRT Marketplace. “Today’s news literally speaks volumes and is especially impressive when viewed against the current challenges that our industry is facing,” said Tom Lewis, CEO of GreenX. “We enthusiastically look forward to continuing our growth during 2011 as GreenX consolidates its position in the top tier of environmental commodities exchanges.”

Read the Commodities Now article

Science & Technology

If you like pina coladas…

… then add that to the list of “co-benefits” from forest carbon projects, because a recent study suggests that coconut plantations could act as productive and sustainable carbon sinks. Presented by Dr. Severino S. Magat of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) during a seminar in the Philippines, the paper – titled “Coconut: Its Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change” and sponsored by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) – described how coconut lands could be used to sequester carbon and generate credits for the carbon markets. As a crop with a high carbon storage capacity requiring almost no burning of crop residues, coconut could prove to be a promising (and tasty) carbon sink.

Read the Philstar article

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