Forest Carbon Offsets for Sale: To You and Me

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By Gloria Gonzalez

The People’s Climate March in New York City demonstrated that individuals are engaged in addressing climate change, demanding action not just from government and business leaders, but from themselves. A new initiative called Stand for Trees aims to tap into that energy to inspire these individuals to support avoided deforestation projects.

2 October 2014 | More than 400,000 people took part in the People’s Climate March in New York City last week – the ultimate call to arms demanding government and business leaders take action to address climate change. But many of these marchers are not just sitting around and waiting for others to act. Tthey are moving beyond advocacy and taking whatever steps they can in their personal lives to reduce emissions, perhaps driving less or improving energy efficiency in their homes and eating less or no meat .

Code REDD is hoping to harness the enthusiasm demonstrated by these marchers and like-minded individuals to tap into a new source of potential support for REDD+ (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) projects.

The organization’s strategy for increasing demand for REDD has always centered on corporate education, public policy and REDD+ community building, said Kate Dillon, Director, Membership Development, for Code REDD. “But we realized there was a piece missing and that piece was people,” she said at a Climate Week NYC 2014 event. “People drive demand. People are what motivate the private sector and the public sector decision making, so we feel it’s essential to engage the general population in forest conservation and helping them to understand the role of forests in climate regulation.”

Governments such as Norway and corporations including Disney and Microsoft have been the major buyers of verified emissions reductions from REDD+ projects. But this new initiative is premised on the notion that anyone can buy REDD+ offsets to neutralize the personal emissions that they can’t avoid.

“We realized we needed to do more than just raise awareness,” Dillon said. “We needed to inspire and we needed to provide a clear pathway to action because people want to do something. They don’t just want to talk about it.”

Code REDD has partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development, Citizen Group – which helped produce the Risky Business report on the economic risks of climate change – and Markit for an integrated multimedia campaign called Stand for Trees. The centerpiece of this campaign will be a mobile web solution – not an app – to facilitate sales of REDD+ offsets to the general population in half tonne and tonne denominations, which would be retired under technology being developed by Markit . The partners will reach out to potential individual buyers of REDD+ offsets through video and social media, quantifying the climate challenge in ways people can understand and explaining how forests fit into the equation.
“Our goal is to connect people to forests in a personal and emotional way,” Dillon said.

A person standing on an airport security line, for example, could scroll through the mobile website to look at REDD+ project pages and purchase offsets to counter the emissions being generated by his or her trip and then share news of the purchase on their favorite social media platforms where their friends and acquaintances would learn what REDD is.

Individuals currently make up just 0.3% of demand for forest carbon offsets, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2013 report.

The mobile web solution will only facilitate sales of carbon offsets from Code REDD member projects such as Wildlife Works’ Kasigau Corridor in Kenya and South Pole Carbon and Carbon Green Africa’s Kariba REDD+ project in Zimbabwe that have been verified to the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard in the beginning. But the partners envision using the technology to expand the options to other REDD projects and fully scale up the initiative.

Code REDD envisions that this campaign targeting individual actions will complement its work to spur demand in the public and private sectors.

“In the interest of time and scale, we need to do everything,” she said. “We need the right public policy incentives, we need to engage the private sector, but we also need to engage individual opportunities and really take advantage of this opportunity for citizen engagement.”