Forest Carbon News - April 1, 2015


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April 1, 2015    

From the Editors

The Ecosystem Marketplace's Forest Carbon News
Tracking Terrestrial Carbon

March ended with a bang here at Ecosystem Marketplace with the much-anticipated launch of a new initiative and website, A year in the making, the project tracks pledges by 242 companies committing to eliminating or reducing deforestation in their supply chains. Commercial agriculture currently drives at least two-thirds of tropical deforestation, and palm oil, soybeans, beef and wood products are the major culprits.


Growing consumer awareness about the deforestation costs of many household products – and pressure from NGOs such as Greenpeace have led to a cascade of corporate commitments around palm oil and other agricultural commodities. At least one-third of new pledges on deforestation were made in 2014, according to the Supply-Change report. makes sense of more than 300 commodity commitments by companies with a total market capitalization of at least $4 trillion. These commitments differ by scope, depth, timeframe, and sourcing criteria, and the newly launched website serves as a central platform for tracking companies' progress and aggregate impact. It also gives investors the ability to drill down to the company level to look at any commitments made, self-reported progress against the goal year (with direct links to the documentation), and a common key to show the elements of the commitment, such as human rights protection, "no burning," or zero deforestation versus zero net deforestation versus zero gross deforestation.


In a webinar launching the initiative, Gabriel Thoumi of Calvert Investments said such easily accessible criteria are essential. While Calvert uses over 2,000 environmental and social governance criteria to screen its investment funds, fewer than five of these are for palm, soy, cattle, and timber, the leading sources of deforestation globally, he said.


Supply-Change's analysis of hundreds of discrete commitments revealed a few trends. Most commitments (206) include land certification, with an aggregate impact on 185 million hectares worldwide. Nearly half of the commitments (122) aim for "traceability" – or the ability to trace products' ingredients back to the forest or field where they originated. Traceability has reverberations throughout the supply chain. On average, every one commitment from a major retailer such as Walmart spurs three upstream commitments from suppliers.


The project tracked the most commitments from the food industry, including manufacturers such as Kellogg's; retailers such as Carrefour and Tesco; and restaurants such as Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's. Commitments are also being made by chemical companies such as BASF and Bayer, airlines such as British Airways, health care companies, and others.


Major retailer Marks and Spencer is one example of a quadruple commitment across all major deforestation-risked commodities. The company has committed to 100% certified palm oil (representing 2,683 metric tons), 100% deforestation-free soy, 100% recycled wood products, and 100% deforestation-free beef sourced outside of the Amazon biome.


Fiona Wheatley, Sustainable Development Manager at Marks and Spencer, said that is a welcome development since the company wants to be compared to its peers. "Deforestation is not a competitive issue," she said. Rather, companies need to work together to figure out how to eliminate deforestation from global supply chains.


And the deadlines for doing so are fast approaching: 71 company commitments cite 2015 as the target year for achievement, meaning that this year will be a critical indicator of the efficacy of voluntary corporate commitments. Another 52 companies set 2020 as the target year, in line with the New York Declaration on Forests to achieve zero deforestation by the end of this decade.


More stories from the forest carbon markets are summarized below, so keep reading!

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at



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Mexico primero

Mexico became the first developing country to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations last week, outlining the country's emissions reductions goals in the context of a to-be-determined international climate agreement. The INDC proposes an "unconditional" reduction of emissions by 25% under the business-as-usual scenario by 2030 – with a "conditional" target of 40% reduction if a global agreement addresses topics such as an international carbon price and access to financial resources and technology. The INDC also specifies that Mexico will reach zero deforestation by the year 2030 and focus reforestation efforts in riparian zones, to promote ecosystem-based adaptation in important watersheds.


This land was made for you and me

The United States released its INDC Tuesday, setting a target of reducing emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The proposed cuts were not a surprise as they matched the climate deal the U.S. cut with China in November 2014. In terms of the land sector, the country's INDC stated that it would go by the Inventory of the United States Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, which includes cropland, forests, wetlands, and rice cultivation, using a "net-net approach" that compares emissions from these sectors to a baseline year. Notably, the INDC specifies that the U.S. does not intend to use international carbon market mechanisms to meet its targets – a move that would appear to exclude mechanisms such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).


Norway's delayed landing

Norway submitted its INDC last week, committing to a target of at least 40% emissions reduction by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. However, accounting emissions from the land-use sector remains a question mark. "Net removals" of GHGs by forests accounted for 10.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 1990 – about a fifth of Norway's total emissions in that year. As forests grow, Norway projects that the land-use sector will account for 21.2 MtCO2e in net removals by 2030. The country does not currently have a final position on land-use carbon accounting but plans to work with European Union member states to come up with one. Depending on the outcome, "the commitment would need to be recalculated to ensure that the ambition level stays unchanged," according to the INDC.



Leaning in

Ghana inaugurated a sub-working group with the goal of enhancing women's participation in REDD+. Because of traditional gender inequalities, the women's role in forest conservation and management has long been ignored, said Chairperson Patience Opoku. The working group recognizes that forest governance in Ghana has two different dimensions: that of women and that of men, she added. Ghana had seven pilot REDD+ programs as of 2013, according to the REDD Desk. Donors have committed $118 million to avoided deforestation efforts in the country, the majority of that money coming from the World Bank's Forest Investment Program (FIP).



Giga opportunity

Blue Ventures Conservation hopes that its blue carbon project in southwest Madagascar will achieve validation under the Plan Vivo standard in early 2016. The project aims to conserve endangered mangroves – a goal that makes it more akin to REDD projects than blue carbon restoration methodologies being piloted in Louisiana and elsewhere. The Tahiry Honko project is based on community-led management and seeks to reduce the drivers of mangrove loss, namely wood harvesting for charcoal production, but offering economic alternatives such as wood plantations, beekeeping, ecotourism, and sea cucumber aquaculture. Destruction of blue carbon ecosystems could release more than 1 Gigatonne (Gt) of carbon dioxide annually, yet carbon finance mechanisms to conserve these ecosystems lag behind those for terrestrial forests. 


Independence Day

On October 9, 2010, the Tolo River community in Chocó Province, Colombia, voted to approve a REDD project that would ban commercial logging and the clearing of forest for cattle pasture. The vote was the culmination of a 3-year Free Prior and Informed Consent process that involved the entire community. A few days after the project was approved, the forest patrol started its work doing daily perimeter checks and reporting the geographic coordinates of newly cleared areas. Frazier Guisao, an ex-logger, was one of the first people hired as part of the patrol. It took a couple more years, but eventually the project issued 100,000 offsets under the Verified Carbon Standard and found its first buyer: the Colombian oil services firm Independence.



The Easter Bunny hates palm oil

The hunt for a deforestation-free Easter egg – with a center made creamy by palm oil – remains elusive. Earlier this month, the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) suspended 15 of its 1,700 members and suspended 61 others for failing to submit annual reports. Most companies still rely on purchasing certified palm oil on the market rather than addressing deforestation throughout their supply chains. Darrel Webber, Secretary General of the RSPO, argues that consumer uptake of certified products has been slow, undermining the efficacy of the standards. But consumers may be driven to avoid palm oil for other reasons entirely. The ingredient has a high saturated fat content, and chocolatiers such as Lindt consider its inclusion a mark of inferior chocolate.


The Elite Eight

Indonesia is set to receive $17 million from the FIP, channeled through the Asian Development Bank, to meet its REDD+ targets in West Kalimantan. The investment will fund interventions including land tenure reforms, crackdowns on illegal logging, and forest fire prevention. Ten villages have been selected as focal points for community-based forest management, with FIP monies aimed at reducing obstacles to REDD+ implementation at the provincial and local levels. The $785 million FIP is supporting REDD activities in eight countries: Brazil, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mexico and Peru.



Lingering fear

Illegal logging and fear persist in the Ashéninka territory in Saweto, Peru six months after leaders Edwin Chota, Leoncio Quincima Meléndez, Jorge Rios Perez, and Francisco Pinedo were murdered. Once a community of 106 people, less than 70 people remain in Saweto after the tragedy, even as illegally logged timber continues to be floated down the Putaya River. Two men were arrested after the killings, but are believed to have acted on behalf of a larger network.The case was recently reassigned to an organized crime prosecutor, Julio Cesar Reategui. "Investigating a criminal organization, if it exists, can't be done in a short time," he said. "The economic power of these [illegal] loggers is enormous and corruption abounds."


Taking down the mob

In Diamer, Pakistan, it doesn't pay to be legal. Smugglers offer local people between $5 and $8 per cubic foot of illegally cut timber, while the government offers about $0.4 per cubic foot for legally sold trees. As a result, Diamer's forest cover has fallen from 35% in 1990 to 20% today – echoing the overall situation in Pakistan, which has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. However, through a new initiative in the region, the government has given village committees the power to detain and fine members of the timber mafia. Local authorities found to be involved with smugglers can be ousted. Villagers hope to earn income by harvesting non-timber forest products such as cumin and pine nuts.


In bad company

Nito Silva, a former cassava farmer and father of seven in Mozambique, illegally cuts down about 40 trees per day – exotic species such as ebony, chanate, and panga panga. Chinese businesspeople lent him a chainsaw eight years ago and now come by every week to pick up the trees, paying him between 160 and 300 Mozambican meticais (about $5 to $8) per trunk. Mozambique has been China's largest African wood supplier since 2013, and the British Environmental Investigation Agency estimates that 93% of all logging in Mozambique is illegal. One Chinese businessman said his company buys from individuals to increase its profit margin. "All rangers, police officers and politicians are criminals over here," he said.



How degrading

First, the good news: Greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation are down 25% from 2001, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. With progress by countries including Brazil, China, Philippines, and Turkey, global emissions from deforestation declined from 3.9 Gt at the beginning of the century to 2.9 Gt this year. However, emissions from degradation of forests, the second "D" in REDD, have more than doubled from 0.4 Gt to 1 Gt due to logging, fire, and other factors. On the other side of the equation, forests absorb 2 Gt annually, with 60% of this sequestration occurring in developed countries, mainly due to new planted forests.



Myth busters

Companies that include offsetting as part of a carbon management strategy are not greenwashing but rather engaging in activities that reduce emissions at a higher rate compared to companies that do not offset, according to a new report by Ecosystem MarketplaceMore than 200 companies – 14% of those publicly disclosing climate change information to CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) – engage in offsetting. They often do so to address indirect (and unregulated) emissions that occur downstream in customers' use of their products or upstream in the supply chain. On the voluntary side, automaker General Motors, Barclays bank, utility Pacific Gas & Electric and cosmetics company Natura Cosméticos were the leading buyers, and REDD was the most sought project type.

Lying fallow?

Myanmar is losing 1.2 million acres of forest annually, according to a new report released by Forest Trends. Rather than being sourced from historical harvest areas managed by the government, much of the country's timber is being cut in High Conservation Value areas on private land, making way for commercial agriculture, mining, and large hydro projects. Yet only a quarter of the forestland cleared for agriculture has actually been used for that purpose. In the Tanintharyi region, of the 1.9 million acres allocated for palm oil, only 360,000 have been planted – casting doubt on the government's efforts to grow Myanmar's economy through agribusiness. Deforestation has also led to an increase in land conflicts, with forcibly evicted communities challenging land concessions. 



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Forestry, Agriculture and Climate Change Expert – South Pole Carbon

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Forest Monitoring Coordinator – BioCarbon Partners

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Based in Palo Alto, California, the Program Associate will support the Andes-Amazon Initiative's goal of conserving forests and habitat in the Amazon basin. The position involves providing general program support including proposal review, drafting and editing grant recommendation documents, analyzing budgets, and helping to organize conferences and workshops. The successful candidate will have a bachelor's degree in a related field, proven experience in administration and/or project management, and demonstrated interest in Amazon basin-related social and environmental issues.

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Based in Ambanja, Madagascar, the Fisheries Scientist will guide Blue Ventures' mangroves fisheries work in the context of engaging local people around sustainable management. The position requires a scientist who is passionate about applying their skills to real-life scenarios in coastal Malagasy communities. The successful candidate will have excellent communication skills (both verbal and written) as well as the ability to work independently and solve problems in challenging environments.

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Multi-species reforestation in Mato Grosso, Brazil

Based in the municipality of Cotriguaçu in Mato Grosso, the small-scale reforestation project aims to restore forest cover on 1,096 hectares of land eligible for carbon accounting under the Verified Carbon Standard. Aside from the carbon-accounted forest plantations with 30 local tree species, the project includes restoration along a degraded riverbank as well as management of an additional 7,260 hectares of natural forest. Developed by ONF International, the project also provides various co-benefits to local people, offering training to 500 people in technical skills such as Brazil nut production, accounting, and cooperative management.

Read more about the project on the Forest Carbon Portal



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