This Week In Forest Carbon


Indigenous people have been developing Life Plans, the long-term sustainable methods to revive and support their way of life, for years. But as they seek funding for implementation, these forest peoples are finding their plans have a lot in common with the carbon finance mechanism that protects forests.

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

5 March 2015 | Even in the Amazon, you can’t escape PowerPoint. Last month, 80 members of the Gavií£o people met in their territory (called Igarapé Lourdes) in the state of Rondí´nia, Brazil to discuss their “Life Plan.” Dressed in a combination of traditional and western clothes feathered headdresses, ceremonial beads, and jeans the group hung shrouds around the open-air structure to block out sunlight for the presentations.

Life Plans for indigenous peoples have been proliferating across the Amazon for the last 20 years, starting in Colombia in 1992. The plans are shared visions for the future, often built around spatial maps that identify important hunting and harvesting areas, sacred sites, and forested areas, detailed with the quality of cover and species. The Gavií£o’s Life Plan is based on low-impact agriculture and the sale of native crafts and non-timber forest products such as nuts and copaiba oil. It lays out a strategy for preventing unwanted logging by building monitoring stations and strengthening cooperation with police and government agencies.

As they knock up against funding challenges, one question that many Amazonian indigenous groups are now asking is this: Are Life Plans a version of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests), the carbon finance mechanism that pays for forest protection?

At first glance, Life Plans and the project documentation required around REDD projects seems very different. REDD requires reference levels of deforestation and measurement of carbon stocks technical aspects not found in Life Plans. But the basic principle of fighting the threats to forests by creating long-term economic alternatives is analagous.

During the climate change negotiations in Lima last December, leaders from COICA (Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indí­genas de la Cuenca Amazí³nica), a federation of indigenous organizations across Latin America, discussed the idea of REDD+ Indigena Amazí³nico (RIA), or indigenous REDD.

“We’ve been working on our Life Plan since the 1990s,” said Fermí­n Chimantani, co-president of Peru’s Amaracaeri Reserve. “We’ve created governance structures, we’ve valued our ecosystem services such as water filtration, biodiversity conservation, and evapotranspiration and we’ve shown that we can use our indigenous vision to save and manage our forest.”

The Gavií£o and the Arara, a neighboring tribe, are exploring the possibility of using carbon finance not at the project but at the jurisdictional level, as has been done in the state of Acre, Brazil. There, the state handles the carbon accounting and earns payments for reducing emissions but then distributes income based on its own criteria and some of it flows to indigenous peoples. Juan Carlos Jintiach, former head of COICA, says most indigenous people will likely bypass project-level REDD which is more directly tied to the carbon markets and go the jurisdictional route.

“Think about all the mega projects that are going to be developed,” said Jintiach. “We know what´s going to happen: islands of deforestation, contamination, and criminal activities but we, the indigenous people of the Amazon, have an answer.”

Read the full story on Life Plans and Indigenous REDD from Ecosystem Marketplace.

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Unfashionably early

Switzerland became the first developed country to submit its post-2020 climate action plan last week. The World Resources Institute says the Swiss proposal is clear and comprehensive, but that the country may be relying too heavily on international offsets instead of domestic emissions reductions. More countries are expected to propose their commitments, known as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), over the coming months. But Indonesia, which displaced Brazil as the top deforester in 2012, will not be one of the countries submitting its INDC in that timeframe as government regulators say they need more time to avoid making unrealistic pledges.


Cap it off

In the first two years of California’s cap-and-trade program, the state’s economy has grown while its capped emissions have dropped nearly 4%. But offsetting the aspect of the program that allows for investments in emissions reductions in non-capped sectors such as forestry is so far underutilized. Of the potential 11.6 million offsets compliance entities could have purchased from the first compliance period (2013-2014) under the regulation, they bought only 1.7 million offsets. “On the offset side, there is still a little bit of mystery about it,” said Tim O’Connor, Director of the California Climate Initiative at Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s only really the very well-trained, well-versed, and probably well-consulted companies that have the capacity to really go out there and procure offsets.”


Winning the race from the middle

Developer Green Assets has completed the first avoided conversion compliance offset project in the United States. The company’s Middleton Place project has been issued more than 250,000 offsets by the California Air Resources Board, allowing the offsets to be used for compliance with the state’s cap-and-trade program. The offsets would have a total value of more than $2 million based on current prices if sold at once, said Colby Hollifield, Middleton’s woodlands manager. The project conserves more than 3,700 acres of southern coastal habitat near Charleston, South Carolina.

We love logistics

UPS won an award for Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management at last week’s Climate Leadership Awards in Washington D.C., where sustainability leaders are recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The company exceeded the carbon intensity target it set in 2011 and is also an active buyer of carbon offsets, engaging customers by allowing them to neutralize the emissions of individual shipments. The offsets are sourced from The Conservation Fund’s Garcia River Forest project in California, Wildlife Works’ Kasigau Corridor REDD project in Kenya, and others. Chevrolet also took home a top honor for its innovative partnership with college campuses around carbon offsetting.

Last lemurs standing

Offsets from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Makira Natural Park project in Madagascar are now up for sale through the Stand for Trees campaign, which allows individuals to purchase offsets from avoided deforestation projects. The 1,438-square-mile park is home to more than 20 species of lemur. Half of the revenue from offset sales goes to local communities to support initiatives such as ecotourism, improved rice cultivation, and sustainable vanilla and clove production. The project joins 10 other REDD projects that are part of the Stand for Trees campaign, with two more coming soon.


Cut off after cutting down

Multinational bank Santander announced it will not renew financing to the pulp and paper company Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd. (APRIL). This move comes after a Greenpeace campaign to share information with customers of Santander about APRIL’s unsustainable practices causing deforestation in Indonesian rainforests. Other companies and organizations are coming under increasing pressure by advocacy groups, including The Forest 500 that produces rankings, to work toward a target of zero deforestation. Greenpeace called for Santander to share and revise its forest lending policy to close loopholes. Greenpeace is also withdrawing its support for Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) after a farmer was allegedly beaten to death in Jambi province, Indonesia by guards contracted to a pulpwood supplier owned by APP. Previously, Greenpeace had supported APP’s initiatives on forest conservation after APP pledged to stop using logs from Indonesia’s natural forests. APP’s past logging practices had resulted in the loss of packaging contracts with big brands such as Kraft and Mattel.


Signs of improvement in coffee country

In Colombia, finance for REDD+ projects continues to improve, with 51% of committed funds already disbursed, observes Jessica Breitfeller, REDDX associate with Forest Trends Association, Ecosystem Marketplace’s parent organization. This flies in the face of trends in other countries that show a lag between commitments and disbursements for REDD+ finance, according to a report by the REDDX initiative. Colombia has received more than $33 million in commitments and the national government has provided over $2.1 million to private companies to implement forest carbon projects. But a recent national validation workshop highlighted continued underfunding for forest conservation projects in the country.

The Big Easy goes green

A 2-year study on blue carbon in Louisiana estimates that carbon finance can provide up to $1.6 billion to assist wetland restoration over the next 50 years. The study, supported by Entergy Corporation in partnership with Tierra Resources and The Climate Trust, estimates that restoring Louisiana wetlands has the potential to produce over 1.8 million carbon offsets annually, the equivalent to removing 350,000 cars from the road per year. The estimate of $1.6 billion is from the value of carbon offsets plus avoided loss of wetlands. Tierra Resources is developing pilot projects through private-sector partnerships with Entergy, ConocoPhillips, and others to test the efficacy of carbon finance and restoration. Listen in to their webinar this Thursday for more information.

A low-carbon loan

Guyana signed a loan agreement valued at $17.2 million with the Inter-American Development Bank for an environmental program that will facilitate consolidation of the country’s low-carbon development strategy and REDD+ activities. This includes organizing multi-stakeholder consultations, supporting the implementation of an accountability and enforcement system for forest governance, and aiding efforts to minimize and manage forest degradation from extractive activities. Nearly 90% of Guyana’s land area is covered in forest, and the South American country is an example of a place with high forest cover but low historical deforestation rates sometimes a challenge for REDD funding that is tied to reducing documented deforestation threats.


Just deserts

Ezequiel Antonio Castanha was detained this week by Brazilian authorities, and will face charges for illegal deforestation and money laundering with a potential sentence of 46 years in jail. Castanha is being held responsible for clearing about 58 square miles of government-owned Amazonian rainforest, equivalent to two and a half Manhattans, and selling the land to cattle grazers. Deforestation in the Amazon may be one of the culprits in the current drought facing southern Brazil. Scientists have shown that because of deforestation, vapor clouds are unable to reach the south and central areas, ultimately preventing rain delivery. Without rain, these areas will desertify and the economic powerhouse of South America will disappear, they warn.

Are we out of the woods yet?

In the eyes of his government Mr. Aboubakar, a carpenter in Cí´te d’Ivoire, does not exist nor do any of the hundreds of thousands of people who are directly or indirectly involved in the artisanal timber sector throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Domestic timber production and demand in African countries is missing entirely from international and national databases, according to a 7-year study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the French agricultural and development research center CIRAD. Although the artisanal sector is fragmented, efforts are being made to integrate artisanal logging operators into roundtable discussions with government officials, large industrial timber companies, and the European Union (EU) to bring African countries in line with EU regulations under the new Voluntary Partnership Agreements.


But, which way?

A new study by University of Maryland (UMD) determined that tropical deforestation increased by 62% over the last two decades. The findings run contrary to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) assessment of a 25% slowdown. UMD researchers analyzed Landsat data and found the deforestation rate across 34 forested countries holding 80% of tropical forests rose from four million hectares annually between 1990 and 2000 to six-and-a-half million hectares annually between 2000 to 2010, equivalent to the size of Sri Lanka. Tropical Latin America had the greatest increase in annual net loss, followed by Asia and Africa respectively. The FAO study relied on on-the-ground tree surveys supplemented with imagery, and reported zero deforestation for 16 of the 34 countries.


No chores, no allowance

A Center for Global Development paper, The Indonesia-Norway REDD+ Agreement: A Glass Half-Full, evaluates the origins, successes, and lessons learned from a pay-for-performance agreement between Indonesia and Norway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The authors find that pay-for-performance has been a success and has at least moderately strengthened the hand of advocates who are in favor of controlling deforestation and protecting indigenous rights. And by not paying when Indonesia failed to meet its deforestation target, it is a successful case of “non-payment for non-performance.”


Specialist in Landscape Modelin Thí¼nen Institute

Based in Hamburg, Germany, the Specialist will conduct multi-temporal analysis of deforestation and reforestation patterns based on Landsat, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, or other data sources, conduct landscape modeling based on land-use simulation models and incorporate policy scenarios. An advanced degree in geography, forestry sciences, landscape ecology, or related discipline is a must, doctoral degree is an asset.

Program Associate Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Based in Palo Alto, California, the Associate will support the Program Director and Officers of the Andes-Amazon Initiative. The primary responsibility will be grant process management and program coordination for the Initiative. Successful candidates will hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field, have proven experience in administration, and be proficient to fluent in Spanish and/or Portuguese.

Africa Forests Associate II Global Forest Watch

Based in Washington, D.C., the Associate will support Global Forest Watch activities in East and West Africa. The position will focus on supporting the World Resource Institute’s engagement in countries outside of the Congo Basin, and support on-the-ground implementation of tools and information to improve land use decision-making and resource monitoring in priority countries. A master’s degree or greater in geography, environmental science, natural resource management or a related field plus a minimum of five to seven years of experience is required.

Special Assistant to the Executive Director Green Climate Fund

Based in Incheon, South Korea, the Special Assistant will support the day-to-day running of the Secretariat, including stakeholder communications, operations oversight, and Board meeting preparation. The position requires seven years of professional experience, and an advanced university degree in economics, international relations, law or related subjects. Specialized studies relevant to climate finance or policy, public policy, or related areas are an advantage.

Researcher, Integrated Landscapes Project Global Canopy Programme

Based in Oxford, United Kingdom, the Researcher will undertake in-depth analysis on integrated landscape approaches and synthesize desk-based research for the forthcoming publication “The Little Book of Integrated Landscapes,” and support the delivery of research outputs and communications. A master’s in environment, natural resource management, agriculture or similar field is desired. Strong knowledge of policy challenges relating to sustainable natural resource management and at least 3 years of post-master’s work experience.


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