Forest Carbon News April 30, 2015

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April 30, 2015    

From the Editors

The Ecosystem Marketplace's Forest Carbon News
Tracking Terrestrial Carbon

What if offsetting your carbon footprint was as automatic as swiping a credit card? Arthur Newman, CEO of Sustain:Green, thinks it should be. In a move combining American finance, Brazilian forestry and individual consumers everywhere, Newman is trying to jump start a so far latent aspect of the offset market.


Individuals made up less than 1% of voluntary demand for carbon offsets in 2013, according to Ecosystem Marketplace's State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2014 report. Newman, who previously worked on Wall Street, hopes to create a 'micro-market' for voluntary carbon offsets by removing some of the barriers to entry for individuals, including high transaction costs and a lack of small-scale buyer-seller linking mechanisms. Newman's Sustain:Green business model plans to make carbon offsetting accessible to individual consumers so long as they have or want to open up a line of credit.


Sustain:Green supplies consumers with a credit card similar to others, except in lieu of cash-back rewards, the company uses the return interest (of 2.7%) to purchase carbon offsets through the American Carbon Registry (ACR) at a small discount to the market price of offsets. There is no extra charge to the consumer for these offset purchases.


Sustain:Green partnered with Mata no Peito, a coalition initiative to support organizations and communities to protect and replant forests throughout Brazil. Mata no Peito is funded through the retirement of Nike carbon offsets, the originators of the project. When Sustain:Green, or any of the other participants, purchases and retires certain carbon offsets, all of the money is donated to the Mata no Peito fund, which provides seed investments to projects in the Brazilian rainforest.


Newman describes the organization as "effectively a Kickstarter for the Brazilian rainforest. They come up with market-based solutions for deforestation. In other words, they're looking for the root causes of deforestation, and trying to develop projects that address causes of deforestation and some of the impediments to reforestation. Money that is donated gets the projects off the ground, and projects are designed to generate their own offsets, which are then sold to provide continuous financing."


More news about the forest carbon marketplace is summarized below, so keep reading!

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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Lumbering along

Mexico was the only Latin American country to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) plan on climate change action to the UN by a March 31st deadline. The delayed INDCs from other countries in Latin America has garnered criticism from regional NGOs. The majority of Latin America's emissions are due to deforestation and land-use change, driven by the agricultural and energy sectors. For instance, Argentina's laws on forest and glacier protection "are poorly enforced and the budgets for the different programs are declining," said María Marta di Paola a researcher with the Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, an Argentine NGO. Country officials cite the lack of programmatic experience and technical know-how about delivering national emissions reductions strategies as reason for the delays.



China's not so Great Wall

A new study shows that even though global aboveground biomass has increased since 2003, China is the only country that can take credit for this carbon sink in its national emissions budget. While a mix of environmental and economic conditions have resulted in natural forest regrowth in Australia, Russia and across Africa, China has actively planted 100,000 square miles worth of trees along the Gobi Desert since 1978. This reforestation, however, has not occurred without criticism. Engineering a forest along a desert raises long-term ecological integrity questions, according to David Shankman, a professor emeritus at the University of Alabama and a prominent critic of China's Green Great Wall project. 



Guarding gardens

The Climate Trust, a carbon offset facilitator and financier, was at the center of a landmark offset transaction when it purchased 243,375 offsets from the Middleton Place avoided forest conversion project in South Carolina. Developed by Green Assets, the project is the first avoided conversion project in the United States to transact offsets under California's compliance cap-and-trade program and guarantees the continued environmental integrity of the historical Middleton Place gardens. In addition to preserving more than 3, 700 acres of southern coastal habitat, the deal also ensures co-benefits for the surrounding community through outdoor recreational opportunities and local biodiversity protection.


The (environmental) knights who say Ni

The Apache word "ni" can mean either "land" or "mind", explained Jonathan Brooks, the Tribal Forestry Director and carbon project manager of the White Mountain Apache Tribes' Improved Forest Management (IFM) Project, during his acceptance speech at the  ACR's annual awards ceremony. His tribe, along with the Round Valley Indian Tribes, jointly won the Commitment to Quality award for their IFM projects. Other awardees included Terra Global Capital, Environmental Defense Fund, Marin Carbon Project and Silver Lab at U.C. Berkeley, who were all awarded the Innovation award for their development of a methodology that quantifies emissions reductions from the application of compost to rangelands.



Friends vs. foes

Despite company promises to cut down on deforestation, palm oil goliaths Golden Agri-Resources and Wilmar are under the environmental spotlight for accusations of dubious business practices and causing disputes within local communities. In one particular case, Wilmar is being sued for its alleged illegal displacement of Ugandan farmers to make way for a 40,000 hectare plantation. Wilmar denied the allegations in Uganda, releasing a statement that said "the Government of Uganda was responsible for the acquisition of land for the project."


Big Mac, little deforestation

McDonalds has joined other fast food chains in a pledge to axe deforestation from its supply chain. As the fast food giant directly sources from over 3,100 suppliers, this new commitment will be challenging to drive through. But it has potential large-scale effects, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which advised McDonald's on its commitment. The company committed to ensuring its sourcing of beef, poultry, coffee, palm oil and fiber-based packaging will be completely deforestation free. The commitment is effective immediately, though the company says full implementation time may take up to 15 years. 



In collaboration with The Conservation Fund, Apple recently announced it will be investing in the protection of over 36,000 acres of American working forests to source sustainable paper products and conserve US forests for future generations. The company is investing in the Reed Forest of Aroostook County, Maine and the Brunswick Forest in North Carolina. The paper fiber produced from these two forests "is equivalent to nearly half of the virgin fiber than went into iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac and Apple TV packaging last year," Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson and The Conservation Fund President and CEO Larry Slezer wrote in a statement.



Responsible returns

Norway's Government Pension Fund Global, the largest capital wealth fund in the world, has just announced it plans to begin divesting in companies with ties to tropical deforestation and other environmentally harmful business practices. The fund currently invests 137 billion Norwegian kroner (USD $19.7 million) in sectors contributing to deforestation. However, it plans on rectifying this by demanding higher transparency from recipient firms, requiring them to disclose climate change risks and put strategies in place to reduce deforestation. Because the fund still has stakes in major resource extraction and harvesting industries, these improved standards send a strong signal to retailers, producers of consumer goods, traders, banks and transportation services, said Lars Løvold, Director of the Rainforest Foundation Norway.


Capital questions

European Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) towards protecting tropical forests increased three-fold to $532 million from 2002 to 2012, but there are concerns over capital efficacy and equity. While history shows that an effective way to ensure sustained conservation is to tie funding to local communities within the context of long-term resource rights, research reveals that this rarely happens, wrote Saskia Ozinga, co-founder of the environmental justice NGO FERN, which monitors the European Union's action on forests. The World Bank is the major recipient of ODA funding, and a report leaked last week found it plans to relax the safeguard policies surrounding the $50 billion annually it lends to developing countries.



This land was our land 

While Indonesia's Constitution technically protects citizens against federal land expropriations, these land grabs still happen regularly, according to an investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency. An unexpected slowdown of palm oil production in Nigeria and Cameroon this month due to unrest associated with the Islamic militant group Boko Haram has shifted production pressure back to Indonesia. The autonomous government of Aceh's pro-palm plan could threaten two of the three largest remaining orangutan populations on Earth. "Members of the local governments are actually encouraging people to grab land that's under control of the central government," said David Gaveau, a scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research.


Offsets earning street cred

In a short video titled "Sorry", Prince EA, a philanthropic rapper who often weighs in on social injustices, delivered a warning about the consequences of rampant deforestation, species extinctions and global habitat loss. The video has already drawn 25 million views since Wednesday. Despite its title, the sentiment of the video is not a universal apology to future generations but rather a call to action with the message of "it's not too late". EA also raises awareness for Stand for Trees, a platform that allows individuals to buy forest carbon offsets from a dozen avoided deforestation projects.



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 greenhouse gas 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 U.S. A public workshop about the protocol was held Tuesday at the Navigating the American Carbon World conference in Los Angeles. CAR sets some standards for project development for the voluntary carbon market but also serves as an Offset Project Registry for California's cap-and-trade market.



Amazonian diet

new study in Nature reveals the Amazon's annual carbon dioxide sequestration rate has halved since its recent peak in the 90's. This shift has global implications since the Amazon accounts for approximately 20% of Earth's terrestrial carbon sink. Lower sequestration rates may signal the beginning of a saturation period for global tropical forests, which would be a monumental curve ball to climate models and international abatement strategies. The study's authors posit that past surges in productivity have been offset by increasing tree mortality.



Going, going, gone  
Without intervention, up to 650,000 square miles of carbon-rich forests could be gone by 2030, according to a new report by WWF. The report identifies the 11 most at-risks forests in the world. They are: the Amazon rainforest; the Atlantic Forest/Gran Chaco that spans Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina; Indonesia's Borneo rainforest; the Brazilian Cerrado; South America's Choco-Darien; the Congo Basin; Eastern Africa; Eastern Australia; South Asia's Greater Mekong; New Guinea; and Indonesia's Sumatra rainforest. WWF identifies a number of actions that can be taken to curb deforestation, including financing conservation through REDD+ and committing to deforestation-free supply chains.


Program Associate - ACR 

Based in either Sacramento, California, Little Rock, Arkansas, or Arlington, Virginia, the Program Associate will support senior ACR staff on all aspects of registry management regarding California's cap-and-trade market, including: reviewing project listing applications, data reporting and verification documents, formulating responses to technical questions raised by project developers and verification bodies. This position requires a bachelor's or advanced degree in the natural sciences or engineering, at least two years of experience working with projects in the carbon or other environmental market and familiarity with greenhouse gas accounting principles including verification and auditing.

 - Read more about the position here


Junior Policy Officer - Climate Action Network (CAN) 

Based in a flexible location, the Junior Policy Officer will assist in the policy activities for the Network by coordinating various thematic CAN policy working groups and member activities during and between various negotiating sessions, coordinate policy submissions and other publications and assist in the preparation of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sessions. The position requires a minimum of two years of experience in the development and/or environment sector, knowledge of UNFCCC processes, excellent interpersonal skills, fluency in English and an aptitude for Microsoft Office packages and web tools. The preferred candidate will be from a developing country. 

- Read more about the position here


Advisory and Research Associate - ClimateWorks 

Based in San Francisco, California, the Advisory and Research Associate will provide research and analytical support to ClimateWorks and its partners. Under the leadership of the Director, the Associate will design and manage complex analytical assignments and provide additional project management and communications support. This position requires a bachelor's degree (master's preferred) with coursework in either data science, finance, economics, or public policy, at least one to two years of experience post-degree in analytical work and familiarity with spreadsheet modeling, superior Microsoft Excel skills, experience with other statistical software tools and data visualization platforms desirable. 

- Read more about the position here


Cloud Forest Conservation & Sustainability Volunteer(s), Ecuador - WorkingAbroad Projects 

Based in Ecuador, the Volunteer(s) can work from one to 12 weeks on any of four different projects, which include the Cloud Forest Conservation Programme, the On the Way to Sustainability Programme, the Social/Education Programme or the Travelling, Volunteering and Learning Programme. Depending on the project, the Volunteer(s) will help plant native trees, work in organic vegetable gardens, help maintain trails, work with sustainable farmers, collect research data and/or learn ecological field methodologies. 

 - Read more about the position here


National Protected Area and Forest Ecosystem Specialist - United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Based in Vientiane, Laos, the National Protected Area and Forest Ecosystem Specialist will work on a UNDP project that aims to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services in the Savannakhet Province.The Specialist will serve for a full-time 10-month consultancy to evaluate current threats to protected areas and identify innovative financing mechanisms to be incorporated into the project design. The successful candiate will have proven experience in forest management and work experience in Laos. 

-Read more about the position here


Foundations Manager - Rainforest Action Network (RAN)

Based in San Francisco, California, the Foundations Manager will oversee the editing of content for  RAN's proposal and report submissions to foundations.The position involves creating and implementing a fundraising plan to support RAN's work to challenge corporate practices that threaten  forests and the climate. The ideal candidate will have a proven track record of haivng solicited grants from foundations and be adept at working with senior management.

-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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Rimba Raya REDD

The Rimba Raya avoided deforestation (REDD) project in Borneo, Indonesia consists almost entirely of tropical peat swamps, some of the most biodiverse and carbon-rich rainforest on the planet. The project was developed by InfiniteEARTH, which partnered with the Orangutan Foundation International Rehabilitation Center that aims to conserve the remaining habitat of wild orangutans. Rimba Raya covers 640 square kilometers of peat forest threatened by palm oil development and has avoided the emission of 21 million tonnes of carbon dioxide since its inception in 2009.

Read more about the project on the Forest Carbon Portal



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