This Week In Forest Carbon: Lima Call For Action Undergoes Surgery

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

The Lima Call for Action set a procedure for countries to submit their contributions to fighting climate change, but the guidance on how to include land-use is thin so far. In other news, private investors have committed $365 million to restore 20 million hectares in Latin America and the Caribbean, a REDD+ pilot in Tanzania is stalling as it waits on a second phase of investment and an airplane laser-beamed an Alaskan forest to measure its carbon.

23 December 2014 | Officials participating in the United Nations (UN) climate talks in Lima, Peru often debated well past the witching hour, but had to pare down the negotiating text to scare up agreement on a final document.
Singapore Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan offered a colorful (and somewhat disturbing) metaphor for the compromise: “Before embarking on any surgery, the most important question is whether it is necessary, and you have to ask, ‘What are the potential complications?'” he said. “If you are submitting for circumcision, be careful it doesn’t become an amputation because the surgeon used too big a knife and took too much flesh.”

The “surgery” went forward nonetheless, and the 50-page document shrunk down to a sleek 22 paragraphs. The “Lima Call for Action” set a procedure for countries to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) the country-level emissions-reductions proposals that will serve as the basis of the climate deal expected to be inked in Paris next year. While the previous document included a fair amount of detail, such as several options for including land-use provisions in INDCs, the “circumcised” one is less prescriptive, simply asking countries to explain their “land-use accounting approaches and expected use of market mechanisms.”


Going forward, a key point of contention will continue to be the decades-old rift between the developed countries that have historically emitted the most carbon dioxide and the developing countries that currently bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change. But these developing nations are also poised to spew out a dangerous amount of carbon pollution in the coming decades if they do not soon steer towards a low-emissions development path.


The Green Climate Fund (GCF) established during the 16th Conference of Parties (COP 16) in Cancun, Mexico aimed to finance this transition, with developed countries pledging $100 billion per year by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation. Countries have been slow in ponying up the dough, but the GCF did reach a critical milestone in Lima as contributions from Norway and Belgium pushed it over the $10 billion threshold.


The onus is now on the GCF to assess and secure board approval for projects ahead of COP 21 in Paris. REDD projects could be among those fast-tracked since forest management and land-use have been defined as focus areas of the GCF.


“I would be more than delighted if some of the projects approved include forestry projects,” said Héla Cheikhrouhou, GCF’s Executive Director. But given the short time frame to Paris, she warned: “Don’t bring us concepts that will take years to develop.”


Here at Ecosystem Marketplace, we’re wrapping up 2014 with some reflections, and we invite you to submit yours. What do you think were the top forest carbon stories of 2014? Rank the stories here, and make sure to give us your 2015 predictions for forest carbon, too! We’ll publish select ones in our New Year’s edition.


Wishing you a happy holiday.

The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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



Call for proposals

The Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Fund issued a call for proposals to its members for efforts to monitor, report, and verify carbon stocks; address key gap areas in the design of jurisdictional programs; and enhance alignment with national efforts to reduce deforestation. Civil society organizations are encouraged to partner with GCF tropical forest member states. Under this round, the GCF Fund is seeking to support projects in Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria. Proposals are due January 24, 2015.

More information here



Big Foot

Despite the casual dress code declared due to limited air conditioning, COP 20 in Lima left the largest carbon footprint of any UN climate negotiations, emitting more than 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Jorge Alvarez, project coordinator for the UN Development Programme broke it down: 20% of the emissions came from the construction of the venue on Peru’s army headquarters, 30% came from air travel as 11,000 people flew to Lima; 15-20% came from local transport (most delegates spent an hour or two per day on buses to get to and from the venue); and the remaining 30-35% came from electricity and food consumed on-site. The emissions were, however, offset with investments in 1,500 square miles of forest protection.


20/20 vision

Seven Latin American and Caribbean countries and two regional programs committed to restore 20 million hectares of degraded land by 2020, an area larger than Uruguay. TheInitiative 20×20, officially launched at COP 20, is a major contribution to the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to restore 150 million hectares by the end of the decade. The initiative comes with $365 million in new private investment: $120 million from Althelia, $100 million from Permian Global, $80 million from Moringa, $60 million from Terra Bella, and $5 million from Rare. Projects will restore both natural forests and mosaic landscapes of trees, crops and livestock.



Ready to get results

Heru Prasetyo, head of Indonesia’s REDD+ Agency, said the country will be ready for results-based payments for reducing deforestation by the end of 2016. The first step was submitting reference levels on Indonesia’s historical deforestation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change a task completed last week. The reference levels include both deforestation and degradation between 2000 and 2012 and projects that land-use change in Indonesia will result in 439 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year by 2020 under a business-as-usual scenario. Creating the reference level required pulling together disparate data from several sources across the country and getting different institutions to work together a massive undertaking, according to the REDD+ Agency.


A busy day in Korea

The Korean Forest Service (KFS) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Cambodia to cooperate on UN-REDD programs. “Cambodia has a big presence among the REDD+ countries. Cambodia’s experience and our business know-how from Indonesian projects will help us gain certified emissions reduction credits,” a KFS spokesman told The Korea Herald. On the same day, KFS also signed an MOU with Myanmar on investing in afforestation, in a move they hope will pave the way for future climate investments. The deals were signed at special ministerial meetings on forestry held in Busan, South Korea.



A neutral meeting

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) committed to purchasing 1,070 carbon offsets to neutralize the emissions from an international event organized by the council. The offsets will come from a REDD+ project in the Shipibo Conibo and Cacataibo indigenous communities in Ucayali, Peru. Developed by Peruvian project developer AIDER under the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standards, the project is expected to reduce almost a million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Kim Carstensen, FSC Director General, noted it is difficult for an international organization to avoid travel (and the related emissions) altogether. “The fact that the carbon footprint of an event in Spain can be neutralized by communities in Peru is evidence of the truly global nature of sustainability,” she said.


Not the greatest expectations

In 2009, the Jane Goodall Institute received $20,000 in start-up money from Norway to pilot REDD+ in seven villages in the Kigoma region of Tanzania. The villages competed for the cash based on their forest management efforts and even started using innovative smartphone monitoring. Everything seemed to be moving forward but then the first installment of funding dried up, with uncertainty about a second phase. “Everyone Norway and the proponents underestimated the amount of money and work needed to do REDD+, to set up the process. They expected that by now we would be selling carbon, but that has not yet happened,” said Demetrius Kweka, a researcher who has been analyzing REDD initiatives for a new book.



Coffee as collateral

Althelia Climate Fund has issued Peru’s Cordillera Azul National Park a loan secured by more than eight million carbon offsets for forest conservation and agro-forestry, including activities such as coffee and cocao production. The agreement was announced by Peru’s Environment Deputy Minister Gabriel Quijandria and US Ambassador to Peru Brian Nichols at an event at COP 20 last week. The loan will go to the Center for Conservation, Research and Management of Natural Areas, which manages the 1.4 million hectare park.Cordillera Azul spans tropical cloud and montane forests in the regions of San Martí­n, Ucayali, Huanuco and Loreto in Peru.



Front-line monitors

new video released by AIDESEP, a national group representing Amazonian indigenous peoples in Peru, explains their “Veedurí­a Forestal,” a community-based forest monitoring system that is projected to cover the 12 million hectares of titled forests that their communities inhabit. Through the program, forest monitors are trained in local forestry laws and to create a management plan in order to keep tabs on tree extraction, much of which is illegal. “It’s important for us to have sufficient financing, to be able to guarantee that illegal logging doesn’t continue in native communities,” said Daysi Zapata, the Vice President of AIDESEP. Communities are waiting for official title to an additional 20 million hectares of land that are, in practice, community-managed.


Marching to the beat

Modeled after the People’s Climate March in New York City last September, thousands of people took to Lima’s streets on December 10th for their own call for climate action  the largest ever in Latin America. The marchers included Peruvians, Bolivians, Ecuadorians and many others, including strong indigenous contingents from all over the world many of whomrisk their lives to oppose extraction projects and are skeptical of pro-business solutions proposed within the UN climate negotiations. “It’s very important to say there is no homogenous position regarding development,” Ivonne Yí¡nez of Accií³n Ecolí³gica/Oil Watch in Ecuador told The Guardian. “A lot of the people here reject oil, reject mining. They even reject business projects that are supposed to be for forests.”



Not much on the menu

A world without forests would be a hotter and drier one, with serious implications for food production, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change. Even without taking into account the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation, a world with forest-bare tropics would be 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer and deforested areas would receive between 10% and 15% less rainfall, on average. “Tropical forests are often talked about as the ‘lungs of the earth,’ but they’re more like the sweat glands,” said Deborah Lawrence, the study’s lead author. She found that there are likely “tipping points” of deforestation and that forest clearing in the tropics can affect climates in agricultural regions thousands of miles away.


Inhale, exhale

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) just released its estimates for GHG emissions from the agriculture, forestry and land-use sector in 2012. Here’s the damage: 5.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) from agriculture, 3.7 billion tCO2e from land conversion (a proxy for deforestation), 0.8 billion tCO2e from degraded peatlands, and 0.4 billion tCO2e from biomass fires. On the other side of the equation, forests absorbed 1.9 billion tCO2e in 2012. The numbers represent an all-time high for agricultural emissions, up 1% over 2011 due to increases in synthetic fertilizer applications, but land-use change emissions decreased as deforestation rates in several countries declined.


The best game of laser tag ever

For five weeks last summer, a flying, carbon-counting laser flew over the Tanana Valley of Alaska, which contains an Iowa-sized chunk of boreal forest. Throughout the mission a sensor called G-LiHT fired three different sensors at the landscape lidar lasers to create a 3-D model of the trees; a hyper-spectral camera to pick up color changes that could indicate trees’ age, type, and health; and a thermal camera that determines whether the soil is frozen, melted or dried-out. The data will be used to create a detailed inventory of the forest’s stored carbon, but there is more work to be done. The Tanana Valley contains only about a fifth of Alaska’s unmapped carbon.



The best possible outcome

The Global Landscapes Forum that was sandwiched in between two busy weeks of negotiations in Lima drew 1,700 participants from around the world, and an outcome statement outlines nine key messages that emerged from the event. Among them was the need to scale up landscape finance by reducing risks for investment and transforming capital markets. “Neither REDD+ nor supply chain action can succeed on their own, but these two approaches combined have the potential to achieve the goal of halting deforestation by 2030,” the document states.


A multitasking plant

Bamboo forests could store more than one million tCO2e in China alone by 2050, according to a new report from the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR). Because bamboo grows quickly and can thrive on degraded sites, it could be used in efforts to combat climate change, according to INBAR,which includes 40 member countries. The plant has multiple uses, from construction to fuelwood to furniture, and in Rwanda there is a legal mandate to plant it along riverbanks to control erosion. In May, EcoPlanet Bamboo verified the first carbon offsets from a bamboo plantation. The company’s Nicaragua project is expected to reduce 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over 20 years.



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