Forest Carbon News - September 3, 2014


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September 3, 2014    

From the Editors

The Ecosystem Marketplace's Forest Carbon News
Tracking Terrestrial Carbon

Following the tragic death of Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos in a plane crash earlier this month, Marina Silva, Campos' running mate and a celebrated environmentalist, is taking his spot on the campaign trail. Recent polls predict that Silva will narrowly beat current President Dilma Rousseff, who previously served as Brazil's Minister of Mines and Energy.


Silva has a green track record. The daughter of rubber tappers, she was a friend of the late activist Chico Mendes, with whom she helped to lead nonviolent protests to protect the Amazon. Under her leadership as environment minister from 2003 to 2008, deforestation rates plummeted by almost 80% as Silva led a crackdown on illegal logging that shut down over 1,500 operations as she worked to establish 20 million hectares of protected areas.


"It was thanks to treating the issues in a transversal way — involving different sectors of the government, the scientific community, NGOs, and local communities — that we achieved this important result, which even led us to reduce approximately four billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), causing Brazil to become the first developing country to adopt CO2 reduction targets," Silva said in an April video address to attendees of Katoomba XX, a global meeting hosted by Forest Trends. (The original address is in Portuguese.)


However, a reform to Brazil's Forest Code in 2012 that reduced the amount of forested land that private landowners (mostly farmers) were required to maintain revealed how delicate these gains were.


"The lack of integrated vision [and] lack of commitment to a strategic agenda caused Congress to change the law protecting forests, and this led to a major setback, the setback of fragmentation: of isolated approaches to forest, water, agriculture [and] communities, causing deforestation to resume growing — already up 28% in this past year of 2013," Silva added.


Silva hopes to reverse this trend. In policy proposals released last Friday, she said that, if elected, she plans to put a price on greenhouse gases and implement a national carbon market. The presidential hopeful is also a strong supporter of payment for ecosystem services programs that channel investment to protect landscapes such as forests that perform essential ecological functions, including carbon storage. She is a native of Acre, Brazil, a state at the forefront of developing a jurisdictional avoided deforestation (REDD) program. The German development bank KfW has committed to spend $24.2 million in Acre through 2018, and part of that agreement involves Acre's commitment to deliver eight million tonnes of emissions reductions between 2013 and 2016 through avoided deforestation.


But halting deforestation in Brazil is difficult and often dangerous work. Just last week, Brazilian police arrested eight members of a "deforestation gang" responsible for an estimated 1,550 hectares of deforestation in the state of Pará. Six other suspects are on the run. The group is suspected of burning down rainforest and then selling the land to farmers and grazers, earning an illegal $220 million


More news from the forest carbon markets is summarized below, so keep reading! 

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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With or without you, Congress

It's unlikely that two-thirds of the United States Senate will agree on anything in the next two years, let alone approve an international climate treaty. But the Obama administration recently made it clear that it will find a way to make headway without the legislative branch. US climate negotiators have been meeting with diplomats from other countries to pave the way for a legally binding emissions reduction deal at the 2015 United Nations (UN) climate summit in Paris. Experts see a place for market-based mechanisms, including REDD, in an international agreement, and the United States' involvement will be key to getting the countries with the fastest-growing emissions – namely China and India – to sign on. 



I've got my eyes on your forests

Cameroon has launched a new forest monitoring system, funded by the African Development Bank and the Congo Basin Forest Fund, that includes satellite surveillance to track deforestation (and its reduction). "The forest carbon monitoring system is the hallmark of the plan of action by the government to not only protect the country's rich forest but also reap significantly from the carbon market," said Ngole Philip Ngwesse, the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife. Cameroon's REDD+ readiness proposal was approved by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in early 2013, unlocking $3.6 million in funding. The government's REDD+ expert, Joseph Armarthe Amougou, thinks Cameroon could earn up to $28 million a year for protecting its forests once the program is fully operational.


Holding their feet to the fire

In a major ramp-up of oversight, Indonesia's REDD+ agency is auditing 18 companies with licenses to clear peat lands and rainforest. Licenses can be revoked if companies failed to comply with mandatory environmental assessments or used bribery to obtain land concessions. Heru Prasetyo, the head of the national REDD+ agency, said that three companies are being prosecuted so far. As part of a $1 billion REDD deal with Norway, Indonesia has a moratorium on deforestation that is set to end in May 2015. But top advisers say that Joko Widodo, the president elect, plans to extend it.  



VCS & SOCIALCARBON's Brazilian honeymoon

The Ecomapuá Amazon REDD+ project in Pará, Brazil became the first project to certify both emissions reductions under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and contributions to sustainable development under SOCIALCARBON. The two standard bodies announced their partnership three months ago and aim to streamline certification of projects that achieve multiple benefits. The Ecomapuá project protects 86,000 hectares of tropical forest on Marajó Island, at the mouth of the Amazon River, and also provides tangible benefits to locals. Investor Bio Assets Ativos Ambientais and project developer Ecomapuá Conservação Ltda provided building materials for a tree nursery and are planning a scholarship fund for students to attend university.



Flying high... on deforestation?

Garuda Indonesia, the country's national airline, plans to mix palm oil-based biofuel in with avtur (aviation turbine fuel) in an effort to reduce its carbon emissions. The announcement comes after the government set a target of using 2% biofuel in the airline industry by 2016 and 3% by 2020. But an increase in biofuel use could have the opposite effect as desired on carbon emissions if the expansion of palm plantations drives deforestation. Garuda would need about 40 million liters of palm oil a year to meet the 2% target.


A donut-sized disaster?

Burger King and Tim Hortons merged forces last week to become the world's third-largest fast food company – a "blockbuster deal", according to Forbes. But environmental groups warn that the deal may accelerate deforestation in Southeast Asia. "Both companies have appalling track records on palm oil," Lael Goodman of the Union of Concerned Scientists said. Burger King claims that it uses palm oil that meets Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards, but groups such as the Rainforest Action Network say that RSPO has a spotty track record, and that companies need to do more. General Mills and Colgate-Palmolive announced no deforestation commitments that go beyond RSPO earlier this year, and ConAgra made a similar sustainable palm pledge last month.



Not-so-fast-start finance

Colombia has so far received $7.7 million from the World Bank and the United Nation's REDD program. The country's program has a couple of things going for it: Many indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in Colombia have private communal rights to their land, and an acre of forest in the Chocó stores seven times the carbon as an acre in the Amazon. These factors – and a desire to keep trees standing – have allowed communities such as the Tolo River people to pursue REDD financing. But some say the government is moving too slowly. "It [the government] has now spent years in the pre-pre-preparation phase of the strategy," says Natalia Arango of Colombian NGO Fondo Acción. "...We in the civil society think we need to go a bit faster because the forest is going very fast."


A no brainer

Saving the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, a threatened biodiversity hot spot, would cost just $198 million per year – about 6.5% of what Brazil spends on agricultural subsidies – according to a recent study published in Science. The forest is home to 23,000 plant species that are found nowhere else in the world, as well as megafauna such as jaguars and tapirs. Saving these species would require paying landowners to restore the forest on private lands, and agricultural GDP would drop just 1% as a result, the researchers estimate. "Only rarely are the trade-offs between ecological gains and economic costs this simple," they write.



Hi, my name is X, and I'm an illegal logger

"I make six times the amount of money logging as I would working my small plot of land or even working legally in a pulp and paper or palm oil plantation," an anonymous illegal logger in South Sumatra, Indonesia told journalist Robert Eshelman. The logger would prefer to work his rubber trees full time, but he harvests trees when he needs to make ends meets. There is no police patrol at all in the rainforest, but sometimes the police confiscate logs as they're transported downriver – and then sell the contraband to middlemen themselves. The logger says that 80% of villagers in his area also log illegally, but with the right infrastructure in place, rubber could become more lucrative.


Adaptation specialists

We all know that forests inhale some of the CO2 that humans emit, but can they also help us adapt to climate change? Researchers with the Center for International Forestry Research are beginning to build the case, conducting a comparative study of villages in Peru, Burkina Faso and Indonesia. In Indonesia, they've already found preliminary evidence that communities are using forests to help mitigate the damage of extreme climatic events: One village bans tree cutting along the river to help control flooding and another has a customary rule that 15% of high-value wood sales go towards helping villagers make repairs after inundations.



Ooh, that's peaty

The VCS has approved a new methodology to address drained peat lands. Tropical peat forests are often cleared and drained during the development of oil palm plantations – a process that leads to oxidation and subsequent loss of soil carbon. The methodology, developed by WWF-Germany, supports the construction of dams and other structures that achieve peat land rewetting and thereby halt the oxidation reaction. The methodology is approved for use in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. Southeast Asia contains more than 27 million hectares of peat lands and only 10% remain unaffected by drainage, development and deforestation, according to Wetlands International.



Correlation, not causation

What drives deforestation, and what stops it? This question is the topic – and in fact the title – of a recent meta-analysis published by the Center for Global Development that looked at 117 peer-reviewed studies, analyzing the relationship between about 40 different variables and deforestation. The surprises? The study found that indigenous peoples' forests are associated with less deforestation, but there was not enough evidence to show that recognition of land tenure actually made a difference. Only one study looked at time-series data before and after legal recognition of territorial rights, and it was inconclusive. "There are still far too few causal studies that try to break the chicken-and-egg problem," study co-author Jonah Busch explained in a recent webinar.


Farm to readiness

Despite its challenges, the REDD+ readiness process does hold some lessons that could be applied to the agricultural sector, according to a new analysis by Climate Focus researchers. The authors found that REDD+ financing at the country level has "proven to be a more expensive, complex, and protracted process" than originally anticipated, and that though most countries prioritize governance, the majority of concrete funding went to support monitoring, reporting and verification. Given that agricultural emissions are highly dispersed and sometimes difficult to measure, the authors suggest that "agricultural readiness" be put in a broader context of low-emissions development and climate resilience. For instance, multiple funders could support aspects of a country's technical and capacity building process for lower-carbon farming.



Livelihoods Manager, Zambia – BioCarbon Partners

Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the Livelihoods Manager will implement conservation farming, livestock and other income-generating activities in the context of the BioCarbon Partners' expanding REDD+ project in Zambia. The Manager will supervise the Community Engagement Team staff and work to strengthen market linkages and improve trade of commercially viable non-timber forest products. The successful candidate will have a strong background in the technical aspects of livelihood activity implementation and demonstrated field experience in rural development in Africa. Fluency in English is required.

Read more about the position here


Business Development Specialist, OpenTreeMap – Azavea

Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Business Development Specialist will identify potential customers and markets for OpenTreeMap, an online, collaborative platform that enables communities to improve their urban tree inventories and assess the ecosystem services value of trees. The successful candidate will be interested in urban ecosystems as well as technology, be experienced with product and/or business development, and have confidence with public speaking and networking.

Read more about the position here


Advancement Director – Dogwood Alliance

Based in Asheville, North Carolina, the Advancement Director will develop and execute strategies to expand engagement in and support for the Dogwood Alliance's mission to increase protection for millions of acres of forest in the Southern United States by transforming the way that corporations, landowners and communities value them. The successful candidate will have an impressive track record related to advancing and diversifying an organization or company's reach, engagement and income, as well as excellent staff, team and budget management skills.

Read more about the position here


Director, International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC) – The Pew Charitable Trusts

Based in Seattle, Washington, the Director will lead IBCC staff in the United States and guide the policy analysis and advocacy of a large number of consultants and partners in Canada, including Ducks Unlimited and Aboriginal First Nations. The position requires a minimum of 10 years of experience in public policy advocacy work, strong interpersonal skills, and experience writing clear and cogent materials that synthesize scientific and policy issues for various audiences.

Read more about the position here


Intern, REDD+ Social and Environmental Safeguards (SES) – Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance

Based in Arlington, Virginia, the Intern will assist in uploading information on the REDD+ SES website and help to organize events. The position is part time (about 10 hours a week) for nine months. Candidates must be current students with web management and communication skills as well as an interest in conservation. Fluency in Spanish and knowledge of REDD+ preferred.

Read more about the position here



The Forest Carbon Portal provides relevant daily news, a bi-weekly news brief, feature articles, a calendar of events, a searchable member directory, a jobs board, a library of tools and resources. The Portal also includes the Forest Carbon Project Inventory, an international database of projects including those in the pipeline. Projects are described with consistent 'nutrition labels' and allow viewers to contact project developers.



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Located in Puerto Barrios on the eastern coast of Guatemala, the Fundaeco afforestation/reforestation project aims to plant five million trees of various species – citrus, cardamom, cocoa, mahogany, laurel and cedar – and is expected to sequester two million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) over its lifetime. The project was launched in November  2013 and is being developed under the Verified Carbon Standard to sell offsets on the voluntary carbon market. Livelihoods Fund has so far invested 2.3 million euros in the project to establish tree nurseries and provide technical support, and the government of Guatemala has pledged another 1.8 million euros through PINFOR, the national reforestation program fund. The project is being developed in collaboration with local NGO Fundaeco and will generate new economic activity for farmers in the project area through the planting of agroforestry cash crops such as coffee and rubber.


View the project on the Forest Carbon Portal



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