Forest, Ag Projects Can Combine Adaptation And Mitigation: CIFOR Study

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18 November 2013| WARSAW | Tree planting in Uganda. Mangrove restorations along the coast of Indonesia and Vietnam. REDD in the Congo Basin and Indonesia. Proponents of projects like these have long argued that they can address both adaptation and mitigation. Now they have the data to back it up, thanks to a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

CIFOR decided to examine the growing interest in how adaptation and mitigation issues can be addressed in combination and look for win-win options, while also investigating concerns about the feasibility of this approach and the possible drawbacks, Bruno Locatelli, a scientist with CIRAD (Agricultural Research and Development)-CIFOR and lead author of this study, said at a side event at the COP19 UN climate negotiations in Warsaw last week.

During a systematic review of 139 papers, CIFOR found research that detailed how agriculture, forestry and soil management can contribute both to mitigation by, for instance, increasing carbon in soil, and adaptation by increasing the resilience of agricultural systems to climate variations. Other papers covered the impact of REDD+ projects on mitigation and adaptation, especially the use of forest projects by local communities as a method of livelihood diversification. But the papers also uncovered some trade-offs, including less water downstream, more vulnerability of watersheds and REDD+ projects that result in less access by local communities to the forest resources. “So it’s not only about synergies,” Locatelli said.

“In terms of the science, we still have a lot of gaps in knowledge, especially on the social aspects of the synergies,” he continued. “We need stronger evidence, especially at the local level.”

The CIFOR study examined 235 adaptation and mitigation projects in different portfolios, including Clean Development Mechanism projects and Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard (CCB) certified projects. “We found that many projects have the potential to contribute to the other goal,” Locatelli said.

Of the 123 mitigation projects evaluated, 71 projects were not considering adaptation while 15 were explicitly considering adaptation and 37 projects provided evidence of adaptation consideration. Of the 112 adaptation projects examined, 89 were not considering mitigation contributions at all while only 22 were explicitly considering mitigation and only one additional project was explicitly considering mitigation and giving evidence of it.

“It is a question of motivation or rationale,” he said. “Given that funding streams differentiate adaptation and mitigation, an adaptation project receiving adaptation money has no reason to demonstrate a contribution to mitigation even if it has one.”

For example, one adaptation project in Colombia proposed to implement resilient agriculture practices, promote livelihood diversification and ecosystem restoration with flood resistant trees to reduce flooding downstream, integrating adaptation throughout the project. At the same time, the project was expected to achieve mitigation benefits such as increased carbon storage in soils and trees, but these benefits were not explicitly recognized in the project documentation, Locatelli said.

“Project analysis shows that many projects have the potential to have synergies between adaptation and mitigation, but the rationale for doing it is not so clear,” he said. “I think we have to move beyond this project document analysis and go to see how projects are developing in the field to get more sense of this rationale.”

Overall, 78% of the adaptation projects examined had the potential to report a contribution to mitigation because the activities had an impact on the carbon in forest or soils. Meanwhile, 100% of the mitigation projects had the potential to contribute to adaptation. “It doesn’t mean they will automatically contribute to adaptation,” Locatelli said. “They may have to adjust their project design, but they have the potential to do it.”

CCB Rules

The study also revealed that mitigation projects certified by the CCB have a greater potential to integrate adaptation benefits because of the guidelines and incentives proposed by the standard, with 46 CCB projects evaluated in the study. “It was interesting to see how CCB was moving things along in terms of synergies with adaptation and mitigation,” he said. “You can really see a difference between CCB projects and others.”

The CCB standards were originally developed for climate change mitigation and to help draw investment and support to projects that also deliver community and biodiversity benefits. The organization eventually added a gold level designation for adaptation. The projects have to perform modeling on climate change in the area and how it is going to impact people and biodiversity in the area and explain why their activities are going to help communities adapt to climate change, said Joanna Durbin, director of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance.

“What we’re interested in is, ‘will the market pick up on that’?,” she said.

In September, the Oddar Meanchey REDD+ project in Cambodia became the first in the world to complete verification of emission reductions under the Verified Carbon Standard with a triple gold CCB accreditation, which signals that the project is delivering the highest community, biodiversity, and adaptation impact benefits along with robust accounting for emission reductions.

In Indonesia, REDD is part of the presidential agenda because 78% of emissions come from the land-use sector, said Pak Heru Prasetyo, Deputy Head of President's Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight. Of the country’s 41% by 2020 emissions reduction target, 83% should come from the land and forest sector. REDD projects that achieve both adaptation and mitigation goals are crucial to meeting these goals, he said.

“Mitigation is definitely important, adaptation is unavoidable and has to be done right away,” Prasetyo said.

However, there are many perceived barriers to the integration of adaptation and mitigation into these projects, including the different rationales driving their implementation, according to the study. There is a school of thought, for example, that mitigation projects should be implemented in locations and sectors where they are most cost-effective or have the highest emissions, while adaptation projects should be targeted for the most vulnerable areas. In addition, the funding for adaptation and mitigation projects often comes from government agencies with different agendas that do not overlap.

Financing the Linkage

The CIFOR analysis incorporated 22 interviews with major fund representatives to investigate their views on integrating both adaptation and mitigation benefits into forestry and agriculture projects. All agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that there are clear benefits in integrating adaptation into mitigation projects, with one of the fund managers responding that it would be difficult if not impossible to undertake REDD+ projects successfully without incorporating adaptation.

In contrast, only 75% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the premise that there are clear benefits of integrating mitigation into adaptation projects, while 17% were uncertain and 8% disagreed with the statement.

“Adaptation objectives into mitigation projects provide benefits for the project –permanence/sustainability, acceptance/legitimacy – while adding mitigation objectives into adaptation projects has not so clear benefits for projects,” Locatelli said.

While fund managers are interested in projects that achieve these synergies, very few have actually taken steps to pave the way for such integration, the CIFOR study found. Only 37% had plans to better harness these synergies. About 32% said projects with adaptation and mitigation synergies were more likely to be accepted for funding, but only 11% provided guidance on such synergies to project developers.

The Humanitarian Approach

In Uganda, a campaign to engage children in planting thousands of trees has been underway, as well as local districts implementation of policies that ban the cutting down of trees for specified timeframes, said Shaban Mawanda, Senior Programme Manager-Disaster Risk Reduction, Uganda Red Cross.

“Of course, we think this is something good,” he said. “It’s not a perfect solution because if you tell the local people not to cut down trees, there must be an alternative because they have to eat, they have to live. But we believe this is something that we can build on.”

“We believe that both adaptation and mitigation will be achieved if we focus on the simple, low-cost, local community actions that can easily be replicated by the communities themselves,” Mawanda stated.

In response to the constant flooding and typhoon threat posed to the coasts of Vietnam, the Vietnam Red Cross has been engaged in an extensive mangrove plantation effort for about 20 years. But the mangroves are estimated to have absorbed 16.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2025, at a value of about $18 million.

“It was not started as a climate change adaptation or climate change mitigation project,” said Susil Perera, IFRC Secretariat. “It was started as a disaster preparedness and a disaster restoration program.”

For Indonesia, projects that integrate adaptation and mitigation are incredibly personal, following the devastating impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which instigated immediate discussions during the rebuilding effort in the affected Aceh province on how to adapt to the impact of the tsunami and mitigate the impact of similar events in the future. Mangroves were planted along the coast to help protect against another potential tsunami.

“Adaptation and mitigation for us is very close to our heart and is something we see as inseparable,” Prasetyo said.

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Gloria Gonzalez is the Senior Associate in Ecosystem Marketplace's Carbon Program. She can be reached at
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