Forest Carbon News - April 21, 2015


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April 21, 2015    

From the Editors

This week in V-Carbon...

Australia's Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) underwent its first test last week when it held its inaugural reverse auction to purchase carbon offsets. Did it pass or fail? We don't know yet since the auction results are not currently available. But participants were holding their breath to find out what benchmark price the government would submit as the maximum amount it would pay per tonne of emissions reductions. Their sense was that offset prices might plummet after the repeal of the AU$23 carbon tax last year.


Forest and agriculture projects developed under the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) will be automatically registered under the ERF, which will also accept offsets from energy efficiency improvements in the commercial building sector, according to the Clean Energy Regulator. While offset project developers are thankful that the ERF may accept more, not fewer, project types than were eligible under the carbon tax, they fear that the AU$2.6 billion ERF may be quickly exhausted, and that potentially lower offset prices may not incentivize new project development. Only 21% of Australian businesses engaged in the carbon market believed that the ERF would provide opportunities to fund their emissions abatement projects, according to a poll by the Carbon Markets Institute.


"The way Australia has implemented the Emissions Reduction Fund is not using markets so much as just using government money, which can provide support to some projects, but is not fully harnessing the market and directing private capital into markets," said Jerry Seager, Chief Program Officer for the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). 


Australia has committed to a 5% cut in emissions below 2000 levels by 2020 – a target that a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment called "ambitious and comparable to other developed countries' targets." However, some advocacy groups disagree. Oxfam Australia has calculated that a fair contribution for Australia would cut domestic emissions by at least 40% by 2025, based on the country's share of the global carbon budget.


Australia is expected to officially submit its climate plan – known as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, or INDC – to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change mid-year, but a spokesperson said the government has no plans to revisit a carbon tax.


"Australia, for reasons we may never understand, is swimming against international trends," said Simon Bradshaw, Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator for Oxfam Australia. "They really did paint themselves into a corner with this and they may regret that" as the need to reduce emissions becomes clear. "It's hard to see how that's not going to involve carbon pricing."


More stories from the voluntary carbon market are summarized below, so keep reading!




Call for reviewers

Ecosystem Marketplace is seeking a panel of expert reviewers to offer insight for our upcoming State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2015 report. The review entails two rounds of feedback: one on the draft figures for the report and one on the draft text. Reviewers must be active in the voluntary carbon market, have responded to our annual survey, agree to maintain confidentiality, and offer comments in a timely manner. Please send expressions of interest to Allie Goldstein ( by Thursday, April 23.


Invest in a transparent market


Last year's State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets report has been downloaded 53,000 times and informed consultations with noteworthy private sector stakeholders ranging from IFC to Nestlé regarding the structure of their sustainability policies and offset purchases/investments, as well as governments designing carbon pricing programs – including South Africa, South Korea, and Japan. This year, we're at it again, looking at the motivations of voluntary buyers; how offset prices varied by project type, location, and standard; and emerging trends among project developers and investors. Interested in supporting this work? Check out our SOVCM Sponsorship Prospectus and get in touch with Gloria Gonzalez at for more details.

For comments or questions, please email:

V-Carbon News

Voluntary Carbon

The Dutch have a sweet tooth

Fueled by a $7 million investment by Althelia Climate Fund, the Peruvian NGO Asociación para la Investigación y Desarollo Integral helped to found a farmer's cooperative in the buffer zone of the Tambopata National Reserve in Peru. The cooperative aims to produce 3,200 tonnes of Fair Trade, organic cocoa per year, and the project is expected to avoid the deforestation of 1,189 hectares of biodiverse forest annually. The Tambopata project has so far verified 108,355 carbon offsets under the VCS and has found investors in four Dutch companies – the development bank FMO, carpet maker Desso, and energy competitors Eneco and Essent – as well as the Peruvian insurance company Pacífico Seguros.

-Read more from Ecosystem Marketplace

Nonstop to neutrality

JetBlue will purchase 500,000 offsets from Foundation to offset the emissions from all of the airline's flights in April. The offsets will be sourced in part from an avoided deforestation project in Brazil as a part of the airline's "One Thing That's Green" annual campaign. JetBlue has worked with for the past seven years, and its customers have offset 158,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to date. JetBlue's head of sustainability Sophia Mendelsohn notes that jet fuel is still crucial to the airline's operations, so emissions cannot be completely eliminated. "Protecting existing forests is a logical way to fund emissions absorption and helps us all adapt to a changing climate," she said.

-Read more from 3blmedia


Compliance Carbon


Several U.S. states are considering joining existing cap-and-trade programs such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to comply with pending federal carbon limits on power plants. "The waters are warm – dive on in," said Janet Coit, Director of RGGI member Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management. But despite the open arms, potentially interested states – such as Virginia and Colorado – might not have enough time to make it through RGGI's rulemaking process before the summer 2016 deadline for submitting their plans to the Environmental Protection Agency. The tight deadlines, if left unaltered, could have the "unintended consequence of discouraging people from exploring regional solutions, and I think that would be a shame," said Martha Rudolph of Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment.

-Read more from Ecosystem Marketplace

India prepares a two-step

India, the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), is waiting to see what other countries will do before submitting its INDC. But the commitment is likely to take on the form of Mexico’s two-part INDC, with both an unconditional pledge and another more ambitious target predicated on international support. In 2010, India pledged to reduce its GHG intensity – or the emissions generated per dollar of GDP – by up to 25% under 2005 levels by 2020, and former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh argued that an extension of this goal would be a “straightforward option” for India’s INDC. The country last week reversed its position on hydrofluorocarbon gases, agreeing to phase out these climate pollutants within 15 years.

-Read more from Responding to Climate Change

Japan saves the date

Japan's INDC will target a 20% emissions cut from 2013 levels by 2030, according to reports this month in a Nikkei newspaper. The official INDC is expected to be released at the Group of Seven summit to be held in Germany in early June. Japan originally considered using 2005 as the baseline year but instead opted for 2013. This later date comes after Japan's nuclear plants were shut down following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011 and the country reverted to more fossil fuel-based energy use. The government plans to meet the target by ramping up the share of renewable energy from around 10% today to up to 25% by 2030 while also promoting energy conservation.

-Read more from Nikkei

A blank sales sheet

Over-the-counter transactions of Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) fell to zero in March for the first time since a brokers association started tracking market activity in 2011. Regulated factories and power stations in Europe are soon expected to exhaust a quota for CER use of about 1.5 billion tonnes for the 2008-2020 period. However, the UN has approved more than 2.4 billion CERs – and companies regulated under the EU’s Emissions Trading System have historically been the largest market for those offsets. Developers with extra CER issuances are now selling them on the voluntary market, where prices are higher. The future of the CDM under a post-2020 international climate agreement remains uncertain.

-Read more from Bloomberg

Right time, wrong price

Fabrice Le Saché founded Ecosur Afrique in 2006 with $21,000. Today the company works in 17 African countries and sells offsets from 40 carbon reduction projects under the CDM. These offset projects include a Bagasse Cogeneration plant in Senegal, a solar farm in Mauritius, a landfill gas project in Cameroon, and more. "It is the right time for the CDM [in Africa]," Le Saché told Forbes. "A large-scale low carbon economy is ready to take off across the continent but we miss an attractive carbon market price to enhance and foster this bright future." Ecosur Afrique expects to reach $30 million annual turnover in the next three years.

-Read more from Forbes

The public has spoken

Sixty-one percent of Americans support taxing corporations for their carbon emissions, according to results from a poll by Stanford University and Resources for the Future released last week. The support for a carbon tax that would provide rebates to American households was higher: 67%. The poll also revealed that two-thirds of Americans would be less likely to vote for a political candidate that calls climate change a hoax. "If a Democrat wants to win by recruiting some Republican votes, this is a good way to do it," said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford professor who oversaw the poll.

-Read more from E&E News


Carbon Finance

Walk, don’t run, to the bank

The INDCs being submitted by governments should be seen as "investment prospectuses" for businesses, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said in a recent media briefing. Though an INDC should not prompt business to "run to the bank," it does identify the sectors within a country where there is potential to mitigate GHG emissions, she said. The comments were made ahead of the Business and Climate Summit for private sector leaders to take place on May 20-21. Nigel Topping, the CEO of We Mean Business, said that the meeting would define the "new normal" for climate-responsible companies, citing recent zero deforestation pledges from consumer goods companies as a sign that business is paying attention.

-Read more from Responding to Climate Change

Ki-moon shoots for the moon

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he will be looking for clearer climate finance commitments at a meeting in New York next month. “We need a credible trajectory for realizing the $100 billion goal per year by 2020, as well as the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund,” he said. According to the World Bank, funding could be freed up by pricing carbon and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. A coalition of eight countries – Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland – pointed out that governments spent $548 billion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2013, more than five times the $100 billion target for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

-Read more from CNS News

To 2020 and beyond

Ministers attending the African Carbon Forum (ACF) in Morocco this month called for scaled up climate finance linked to results and a continuation of market-based tools similar to the CDM to stimulate emissions reductions. "There is a great opportunity for the private sector to invest in a low carbon future for Africa, using market forces to bring innovative technologies so that the continent can develop in a sustainable way," said Dirk Forrister, the President and CEO of International Emissions Trading Association. Participants emphasized that the CDM's rules for monitoring and verifying results would be especially useful as countries submit their INDCs to the UN. Less than 3% of CDM projects are located in Africa, but developers say the mechanism has not reached its full potential.

-Read more from Ecosystem Marketplace


Standards & Methodology

Home on the range

The Climate Action Reserve (CAR) has released the first version of its grasslands carbon methodology for public comment. Projects developed under the methodology would slash GHG emissions by avoiding the conversion of grasslands to crop cultivation, either through a conservation easement or the transfer of land ownership. Projects may be grouped under "cooperatives," and the methodology is limited to the United States. A public workshop about the protocol will be held on April 28 at the Navigating the American Carbon World conference in Los Angeles. CAR develops projects for the voluntary carbon market but also serves as an Offset Project Registry for California's cap-and-trade market.

-Read more from the Climate Action Reserve


Science & Technology

Robot gardener for hire

Oxford-based BioCarbon Engineering plans to plant one billion trees per year using drones. The technology will use unmanned aerial vehicles to map terrain, design appropriate planting patterns, and then plant up to 36,000 seeds per day. (In comparison, two human planters could do about 3,000 seeds per day.) BioCarbon Engineering is collaborating with the Brazilian NGO Imozen, with plans to kickstart the planting in either Brazil or South Africa within the next year. The organization won a $1 million United Arab Emirates Drones for Good competition. "We believe that industrial-scale deforestation can only be countered with industrial-scale reforestation," said Susan Graham, an engineer for BioCarbon Engineering.

-Read more from Wired

A slow, but scary thaw

Permafrost soils in Alaska, Russia, and other Arctic and sub-Arctic regions contain twice as much carbon as is currently present in the atmosphere. In original climate change scenarios, scientists feared that this carbon could be released suddenly in a permafrost "bomb" as these soils thawed. However, a study published recently in Nature finds that it's more likely that the carbon in permafrost will "seep out slowly in small amounts in a very large number of places" according to Ted Schurr, a biologist at Northern Arizona University. The slower timeframe may give humans more time to prepare for the consequences.

-Read more from Tech Times


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