19 September 2013 Carbon credits generated from protecting thousands of hectares of endangered rainforest in northeastern Madagascar have now been certified for sale, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the project's main organizer. The development represents the first time that credits generated by African government-owned project have been put on the voluntary carbon market.
The Makira REDD+ Project aims to protect 400,000 hectares of forest in a part of Madagascar that has suffered from illegal rosewood logging. Backers estimate the initiative will prevent emissions of 32 million tons of carbon dioxide over the next 30 years, or roughly the annual emissions of the state of Montana. More importantly, the project will help protect some 20 species of lemurs, including more than a dozen at-risk species, while creating new economic opportunities for locals living in and around the park, according to WCS.
"Along with its benefits to wildlife, the sale will directly benefit local communities living around the protected area by allocating 50 percent of the net revenues of carbon sales to improve local infrastructure, provide health and education services, and support training, inputs, and technical assistance for sustainable agriculture," said the group in a statement. WCS is charged with implementing the project.
The Makira REDD+ Project was conceived before the March 2009 coup that displaced Madagascar's democratically-elected president from power. The coup cut off the flow of critical conservation funds, spurring an orgy of illegal logging and poaching in Makira and the neighboring protected areas of Masoala and Marojejy. While some of the illegal logging and rosewood smuggling was linked to political officials who took power after the coup, the activity has since slowed dramatically, offering opportunities to strengthen conservation efforts in the region, including bolstering the Ministry of Environment and Forests, whose staff made heroic efforts to stave off illegal logging during the worst of the 2009 political crisis.
Accordingly, Madagascar's Secretaire General of the Ministry of Environment and Forests welcomed the milestone validation and verification under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
"Green growth is the fruit of a green economy within the context of sustainable development realized through the implementation of an appropriate management of natural resources and the valuing of biodiversity," said Pierre Manganirina Randrianarisoa in a statement. "Thus, the sale of carbon stored in the protected forests of Makira Natural Park provides a significant financial opportunity for Madagascar."
The Makira REDD+ Project is run by the Makira Carbon Company, a non-profit subsidiary of WCS. The project is part of Code REDD, a bloc of REDD+ projects that set high standards for conserving biodiversity and supporting local livelihoods. Code REDD aims to create a class of premium REDD+ offsets to set their credits apart from those generated by less stringent and more controversial projects.
WCS president and CEO Cristián Samper says the Makira project sets a good example for what REDD+ can deliver for conservation in developing countries like Madagascar.
“This sale is a major step forward for the Government of Madagascar in advancing the use of carbon credits to fight climate change while protecting biodiversity and human livelihoods,” said Samper. “WCS congratulates Madagascar and is proud to partner with them on the Makira REDD+ project.”
“The sale of these carbon credits has triple bottom-line benefits; it helps wildlife, local people, and fights climate change,” added Todd Stevens, Vice President of the Makira Carbon Company.