This Week In Forest Carbon: Indigenous REDD Explored


Two steps forward: Green Assets’ South-Carolina based improved forest management project received its first forest carbon offset issuance for the California market, and Finite Carbon registered new compliance projects in New York and New Hampshire. Two steps back: The first national-level REDD+ Agency in Indonesia may be absorbed into a climate change mitigation directorate, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has appointed a “chainsaw queen and a climate change denier to top posts.

21 January 2015  Seen from above, the indigenous territories in the Amazon’s “Arc of Deforestation” appear as solid green islands amid a sea of grey-green degradation. This bird’s eye view corroborates the studies that say indigenous peoples are the best guardians of the forest. But like all maps, they show just a snapshot in time.


The reality is that these carbon-storing oases face daily threats, and indigenous peoples are not homogenous in their strategies for facing them. A ride down Brazil’s Highway 364 reveals three distinct approaches by neighboring groups:


First, the Zor³. Though their territory along the border of the Brazilian states of Rond´nia and Mato Grosso has achieved lower rates of forest degradation than their non-indigenous neighbors, the Zor³ are actively logging their old growth teak and mahogany forests. The wood travels down Highway 364, destined for luxury furniture showrooms across Brazil and the world and only a tiny percentage of the profit flows back to the Zor³.


Down the road, the Paiter-Surui once logged their forests just as aggressively as the Zor³, but that has changed over the past five years as the Paiter-Surui harnessed carbon finance to help implement their “Life Plan” for forest preservation. In June 2013, they struck their first deal to receive payments for carbon offsets with Natura Cosm©ticos, a Brazilian cosmetics company.


Highway 364 also passes briefly through the southern tip of the Igarap© Lourdes territory, home to members of the Gavio and Arara people who have never succumbed to the economic pressure to deforest. Ironically, this creates a bit of a Catch-22: REDD financing typically flows on the premise of saving forests from imminent destruction, and it is difficult for communities with very low historical deforestation rates to prove the threat.


Jurisdictional REDD, in which an entire state gets paid for reducing deforestation, may offer a solution. Acre, a tiny state to the west of Rond´nia, has pioneered this approach and in 2013 secured a four-year, $40 million agreement from the German development bank KfW to avoid eight million tonnes of emissions the first-ever REDD payment at the jurisdictional level. Discussions about creating a state-wide REDD system in Rond´nia have already started.


But indigenous peoples are also exploring other potential sources of funding to keep forests standing. One possibility: state-level ecological taxes that allow local governments to access a refunded portion of the value-added tax collected in their states based on the amount of forest cover and water resources protected. To date, at least 24 Brazilian states already have or are debating legislation related to this “green” tax.


Another possibility is Indigenous REDD+ (known as “RIA”) which would take a jurisdictional approach to reducing deforestation and implementing indigenous Life Plans, but outside of carbon markets. Ecosystem Marketplace will soon follow with the next installment of our Indigenous REDD+ series.

The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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Winter is (not?) coming

Though the United Nations negotiations around land use and climate change have primarily focused on tropical forest loss, 19% of the world’s forests (by surface area) are located in Russia, storing between 300 and 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). However, a new study has warned this absorption capacity could drop to zero by the mid-2040s. As “Siberian” winters with minus 20-degree-Celsius temperatures become rare, pests that are usually killed off are multiplying. Russia has yet to clarify whether forests are included in its emissions reduction target for 2020, but the country’s lead climate negotiator, Oleg Shamanov, has advocated for inclusion of boreal forests in the future climate agreement.



A shorter life expectancy

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar announced plans to merge the ministry with the National Reducing Emissions from Forest Degradation Agency (BP REDD+), the first country-level REDD+ agency. Under this scenario, BP REDD+ would be absorbed by the yet-to-be-formed climate change mitigation directorate. Despite the announcement, BP REDD+ head Heru Pratseyo went forward with announcing plans for the coming year, including monitoring the forests permits moratorium, continuing the one-map program, and working towards recognizing indigenous land rights. “We will continue to work in 2015 and we want paradigm shift. It is not that the agency needs to continue forever, but the paradigm shift needs to be there,” Pratseyo told The Jakarta Post.


The Brazil chain saw massacre

After being elected for a second term as Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff has now appointed two people to top positions that environmentalists are less than pleased about. Katia Abreu, nicknamed “chainsaw queen” for her call for more roads through the Amazon and her past role in weakening Brazil’s forest code, will be the country’s new agricultural minister. Aldo Rebelo, a climate change denier, will be the new science minister. The appointment “completely unnecessarily makes Brazil look really provincial and silly on the world stage,” wrote Steve Schwartzman, Director of the Tropical Forest Alliance at the Environmental Defense Fund, in a recent op-ed.


Offsets off the table

Though at least two states Georgia and Kentucky have expressed interest in using carbon offsets from forest projects to meet their obligations under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new carbon regulations for power plants, the EPA probably won’t allow it. “While states have significant flexibility in the development of plans to comply with the rule, their plans must include measures that reduce CO2 emissions from affected sources: power plants,” a statement from the agency said. Though the EPA has paid attention to state or regional-level cap-and-trade programs as a potential mechanism for meeting the regulation, they have specified that states must hit federal targets without the use of offsets.



Sweet home Carolina

An Improved Forest Management project covering more than 4,000 acres in coastal South Carolina has been issued more than 160,000 compliance-grade carbon offsets under California’s cap-and-trade program the first project in the Southeast to be issued offsets by California’s Air Resources Board (ARB). Developed by North Carolina-based Green Assets, the project includes the forestlands of Brookgreen Gardens, a working woodland that includes a famous sculpture garden. “We are proud to be early participants in the new carbon economy,” said Bob Jewell, Brookgreen’s President and CEO. Green Assets is currently developing several forest carbon projects for the California market, including the Middleton Place project in South Carolina.


The projects of champions

Project developer Finite Carbon registered two new compliance forestry projects with ARB on behalf of timberland investment management organization The Forestland Group: the Champion project in New York’s Adirondack Mountains and the Connecticut Lakes project in northern New Hampshire. The Champion project was previously registered with the Climate Action Reserve and received more than 136,000 compliance-grade offsets when it transitioned to the ARB. The Connecticut Lakes project is registered with the American Carbon Registry and was developed specifically for compliance. It received more than 1.1 million offsets upon registration. Together, the projects generated nearly $12 million in offset revenue for The Forestland Group.



Promises to keep

Developed countries have pledged over $7.3 billion to support REDD+ Readiness by 2015, but information on how much funding has reached the ground is still hard to come by. Forest Trends’REDDX initiative is aiming to change that by working with country partners to map REDD+ financial flows. Just released, the first installment of this data tracks REDD+ finance in seven pilot countries between 2009 and 2012, finding that about a third of the $1.2 billion committed in this time period was disbursed. Though most REDD+ finance (78%) came from bilateral government donors chiefly Norway and Germany between 2009 and 2012, multilateral funding and domestic contributions are ramping up. REDDX currently operates in 14 countries, and more data is forthcoming.



A point of carbon clarification

Some village and clan leaders have called for a review of the Surui Fund, a governance apparatus developed to manage community finance, including funds from the Surui’s forest carbon project. Income from the sale of carbon offsets flowed quickly into the community in early 2014, but slowed as the year progressed. Signatories of a “letter of clarification” to the Federal Public Ministry say that though the Surui Fund’s manual describes a participatory, decentralized process, the reality has been more concentrated power. Some community members have continued logging in the protected territory as a means of survival because “legal and bureaucratic obstacles delayed the availability of financial resources,” they wrote.



Sliding scales

The Verified Carbon Standard announced changes to its fee structure. These include a sliding scale on the issuance levy for Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) to accommodate emerging jurisdictional governments and projects capable of reducing millions of tonnes of emissions annually. Projects issuing less than one million VCUs will still pay 10 cents per VCU, but those issuing one, two, or four million VCUs at a time will be charged reduced fees. Other changes include a registration fee for new projects (effective July 1, 2015) and changes to the methodology approval process.


The rice is still simmering

California once again delayed the potential adoption of a new offset protocol for rice cultivation projects that reduce methane emissions. ARB officials project potential offset supply under the new protocol in the range of 500,000 and 3,000,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas reductions through 2020 the scheduled end date for California’s cap-and-trade program. Stakeholders widely praised the ARB’s efforts to include forestry projects located in Alaska in the program, but objected to several proposed technical updates to the forestry protocol, including planned changes to standards for even-aged management of forest stocks. California regulators also took some flak for the market uncertainty created by their recent invalidation of ozone-depleting substances offsets.



Ain’t nothing but a gold digger

The rising demand for gold has spurred mining activities that caused around 1,680 square kilometers of tropical deforestation in South America between 2001 and 2013, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Puerto Rico, published in Environmental Research Letters. The study used a geographical database of newly developed mines to show that forest loss due to gold mining has been concentrated in four regions. “Although the loss of forest due to mining is smaller in extent compared to deforestation caused by other land uses, such as agriculture or grazing areas, deforestation due to mining is occurring in some of the most biologically diverse regions in the tropics,” said Nora lvarez-Berr­os, the lead author of the research.


Put charcoal in that Christmas stocking

For REDD+ to be effective in Zambia and neighboring African countries, the emissions associated with charcoal production for which people chop trees near their homes need to be calculated. But typical forestry tools may not work, according to the Center of International Forestry Research. Remote sensing is difficult in southern Africa because agricultural lands and dry forests look similar from the air. There is a licensing system for charcoal producers, but many people produce without a license. Drones could one day be used to collect better data, but for now, careful monitoring at a small scale is the best way to get accurate information, says David Gumbo, a Zambia-based scientist.


Little book in the big REDD sea

What steps have countries taken to prepare their legal frameworks for REDD+? The Little Book of Legal Frameworks for REDD+ has the answers. Published by the Global Canopy Programme this (literally) little book offers a crash course on the key elements of a legal framework including policies, regulations, statutory law, and customary law and how domestic actions line up with international requirements. The book finds that there is often a choice between relying on policy or taking the additional step of developing legislation, but the right path can only be determined on a case-by-case basis.



Carbon Research Assistant Ecosystem Marketplace

Based in Washington D.C., the Research Assistant will be able to commit to 35-40 hours per week to support a range of activities under the Ecosystem Marketplace Carbon Markets Program, including supporting the development of the State of the Forest Carbon/Voluntary Carbon Markets reports. The ideal candidate will have a graduate degree, an interest in conservation finance/payments for ecosystem services and basic knowledge of the carbon markets or another ecosystem service market; excellent writing, verbal communications, research and organizational skills; and excellent working knowledge of Microsoft Excel.

Read more about the position here


AIME Program Manager Forest Trends

Based in Washington D.C., the Accelerating Inclusion and Mitigating Emissions (AIME) Program Manager will oversee a 5-year, $13 million program that seeks to build capacity of indigenous peoples and other forest-based communities to improve the governance of their territories and forests while designing REDD+ compatible Life Plans. The program operates in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Central America, and Mexico. The Program Manager will be responsible for managing compliance with US Agency for International Development cooperative agreement requirements, providing logistical support for program meetings, and overseeing the program budget.

Read more about the position here


Vice President, Forest Carbon Projects Blue Source

Based in Utah, the Vice President of Forest Carbon Projects will work closely with the Blue Source forestry teams based in San Francisco and Salt Lake City to identify and contract new forest carbon projects. The position requires leading business development and outreach to forest landowners, negotiating landowner contracts, and supporting analysis of management plans and projection of timber and carbon revenue. The successful candidate will have a Bachelor’s or graduate degree in forestry, a personal network of forest owners, a proven track record of business development, and at least five years of experience in forest property and timber sales.

Read more about the position here


Forest and Climate Change Consultant – “sterreichische Bundesforste AG

Based in Pummergasse, Austria, the Forest and Climate Change Consultant will work with the international consulting department of Austrian Federal Forests to acquire projects, network with partners, and carry out short- and medium-term consultancy missions. The successful candidate will have a university degree in forestry or a related discipline and at least three years of post-graduate work experience. Familiarity with international policy negotiations related to REDD+ is a plus, as are technical skills in conducting terrestrial forest inventories through remote sensing.

Read more about the position here


Staff Auditor Rainforest Alliance (RA)

Based in New York, the Staff Auditor II will conduct carbon certification audits for RA-Cert’s Carbon Services, including audit scheduling, on-site visits, and report writing. Successful candidates will have a Master’s degree in forestry, ecology, or natural resource management and a minimum of four years of field work experience in forest management, geospatial analyses, forest carbon project development or a related field.

Read more about the position here

ABOUT THE FOREST CARBON PORTALThe 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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