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Ecosystem Marketplace, Marketplace Mitigation Mail

August 18, 2015    

From the Editors

The Ecosystem Marketplace's Forest Carbon News
Tracking Terrestrial Carbon

The Mexican government officially tossed its hat into the voluntary offset market ring last week, when it launched the Mexican Carbon Norm (NMX). The norm aims to become the new, all-encompassing standard for almost all voluntary forest carbon projects in the country – except those that Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).


The government's first step is creating a national carbon accounting system; once that is in place, NMX will take stock of most existing land-based projects and create an independent regulatory body to oversee them. The registry will then validate those projects that wish to participate (regardless of pre-existing certifications) under a number of voluntary standards, including the Gold Standard, the Verified Carbon Standard and Plan Vivo. 

Though REDD gets left out in the rain, it is already the focus of a number of Mexican states – including Chiapas, Oaxaca, Jalisco and the Yucatan states – at the jurisdiction level. Elsa Esquivel-Bazán, a project coordinator for the non-profit AMBIO, thinks that these two processes can be complementary, saying that projects not accommodated in the Norm will be included in REDD readiness programs. Similar to REDD, the Norm has a distance to travel before full implementation.

While the end goal is a streamlined standard that hopes to reduce the costs of certification throughout the country, critics contend that its reporting requirements are akin to "forest carbon lite" and it misses the overall issue these forest carbon projects face: demand.

"Because there's no clarity regarding the regulations between the voluntary markets and the new markets that CONAFOR (the National Forestry Commission of Mexico) aims to build, there is no incentive for projects at the local level to certify under this Norm if they are able to certify under other voluntary markets standards whose rules are clearer," says Martínez. The problem, he says, is that by aiming to be inclusive, the NMX may end up being irrelevant. 

The country is well aware of the demand issue, as Mexico was the first country to set two goals as part of its climate plan submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In the first, the country committed to cut its emissions 25% under the "business as usual" scenario by 2030 without help; however, Mexico then announced a second goal to increase the cut to 40% contingent on receiving technical and financial support within the context of the international climate agreement – which specifically mentioned markets.

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

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

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Benin's benign carbon footprint

In recent intended nationally determined contributions news, Australia, Benin, Djibouti, Trinidad and Tobago, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have submitted their climate plans to the UNFCCC, with only the two former countries mentioning forestry. The Down Under state's contribution drew criticism (see reports by Grist and Responding to Climate Change) as Australia reiterated its continued commitment to the Emissions Reduction Fund, a reverse auction that automatically includes projects developed under the country's Carbon Farming Initiative, in place of a cap-and-trade mechanism. On a more positive note, Benin expressed a commitment to lower emissions in the agriculture and forestry sectors - among others - despite the fact that the country's land-based "sink" already absorbs more greenhouse gases than the country currently emits. 

Bifurcating views on biomass

The European Union (EU) is switching out one problem for another in its goal to shift to 20% renewable energy sources by 2020, claim environmental campaigners. They argue the inclusion of biomass as a renewable source has made it more profitable to cut a tree then plant one, and – even worse – that these actions sometimes result in even greater emissions than with traditional energy. While the European Commission has indicated it will propose a new renewable energy package, such a deal won't happen until post-Paris, said an anonymous EU official. Meanwhile, in an opinion piece on Ecosystem Marketplace, a group of bioenergy experts argue that there are plentiful "low-risk" biomass sources that can play a key role under the United States' Clean Power Plan. 


Some assembly required

In spite of the broad recognition that Brazil - home to several states in varying stages of REDD program implementation - needs to coordinate on avoided deforestation measures, the actual practice of knowledge-sharing remains limited. A new report by Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) mapped information-sharing networks with questionnaires and interviews across 56 representatives of government agencies, non-profits, civil society, the private sector and more, and found that coordination across these groups remains inconsistent. In particular, the study highlighted the absence of private sector inclusion as a key problem. Other problems, expressed by interviewees themselves, include conflicting policies around forestry, a lack of enforcement, unclear information about land tenure and more.


Homegrown solutions

Oregon-based The Climate Trust just agreed to purchase 245,000 verified carbon emissions offsets from the Oregon city of Astoria's Bear Creek Watershed Forest. The city plans to harvest only a third of the annual forest growth in coming decades, an amount significantly under the legal maximum but one that will protect critical wildlife habitat and provide clean water. Carbon finance is critical to this plan, as Ken Cook, City of Astoria's Public Works Director, explained, "In the absence of carbon revenue the project activity of limiting timber harvest could not be sustained, as it is important that city assets, like the Bear Creek Watershed, generate long-term sustainable revenue for the benefit of its citizens." The city of Astoria will seek verification of the credits under the American Carbon Registry.


Conservationists give yellow light to new study

While companies around the world have increasingly made sustainable palm oil commitments, those are only words printed on (hopefully) recycled paper. In practice, there is no one pathway to achieving zero deforestation or forest protection – or, indeed, even a clear definition of what constitutes a "forest". A new draft "High Carbon Stock Study," released last month by an independent team of 50 scientists for consultation, attempts to answer this by classifying different types of forests into three categories: red, yellow and green. The middle ground remains the most contentious, with the "yellow zone" – likely young regenerating forest and other types of degraded forests – calling for subjective decisions about balancing carbon storage with local livelihood needs and opportunities. 

Frying bigger, more sustainable fish 

To avoid or not to avoid? That may be the wrong question, argues Doug Boucher, Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative in a recent publication to the Journal of Sustainable Forestry. He contends that policy makers should bypass the REDD debate in favor of focusing political will power on encouraging zero-deforestation business models around beef, palm oil, soy and timber. "Far more urgent than continuing the debate about whether forest carbon markets are a solution or a threat, is the question of how to change the behavior of the industries and commodities driving deforestation so as to move them to a zero-deforestation business model," Bucher argues. In his view, policy makers should stop worrying about forest carbon and more about forest commodities.


Overcoming poverty through 'regreening'

recent report out of the World Resources Institute speculates that 'regreening', the process of reversing deforestation across landscapes, can help boost food security, chronic poverty and even stem the flow of refugees from rural communities in developing countries. The report, which bases its conclusions off of case studies across Africa, shows that in cases where trees and shrubs had been allowed to regenerate, local population dynamics improved as well as the availability of income-earning opportunities. Much of this regeneration has occurred through farmer-managed natural regeneration, where farmers incorporate ecological restoration into their land management strategies. The authors promote 'regreening' as a low-cost method to improve socioeconomic conditions across rural Africa and help limit emigration.

No reward for good behavior

While local communities can successfully implement REDD initiatives, their hard work may not pay off according to a report on REDD+ pilot projects in Tanzania. Key findings, gathered from 2009 to 2014, were presented in a workshop held by the national government with the Norwegian Embassy to debate how the pilots can help the country transition into broader REDD+ readiness activities. Of the nine pilots, seven have successfully implemented REDD and benefitted from resulting livelihood projects such as increased agricultural production. However, the end goal – carbon offsets – wasn't nearly as encouraging: the report found that "carbon prices are low and the community based initiatives are struggling to sell carbon on flooded markets."


The drought deficit

A new study found that forests recovering from drought take longer to return to normal carbon storage capacity, with implications for the world's leading climate models. The study, published in Science, reveals that forests take up less carbon dioxide during a severe drought – and that lower rates continue for another two to four years after. With climate change predicted to cause more droughts in the future, this could lead to a downward cycle between drought caused by climate change, and decreased carbon storage capacity of forests. The good news is that this research can help refine current climate models. Steve McNulty, an unaffiliated scientist at the U.S. Forest Service's Southern Research Station says, "The paper spells it out. If you have a model that doesn't account for this ecosystem response (drought), it's going to overpredict carbon sequestration."


Sowing discord and deforestation

A new publication by Forest Trends, titled "Conversion Timber, Forest Monitoring, and Land-Use Governance in Cambodia," indicates that Cambodia is losing its natural forests at an alarming rate – about 804 square miles a year. Land concessions are the driving factor behind this deforestation, granted by the government to large-scale commercial agriculture companies yet illegally allocated in accordance with the country's Law on Protected Areas. The researchers say these findings highlight the need for better regulatory and enforcement unity across all levels of government before the country is equipped to participate in international forestry programs like REDD+.

Reversing the tide on mangrove deforestation

Previous findings that mangroves may hold as much as five times more carbon as an equivalent area of rainforest have clear implications for Indonesia. The country is home to nearly 1/4th of the world's total mangroves, making the ecosystem a key bargaining chip in the upcoming climate change negotiations in Paris later this year, say authors of a new CIFOR study published in Nature Climate Change. The study reports that Indonesia is currently clearing its mangroves faster than any other country (except the Dominican Republic), and efforts to turn the tide back in favor of mangroves will require a "back-to-basics approach" by coordinating with relevant ministries and convincing local governments of the ecosystem's importance.


Carbon Farming Spatial Analyst - Climate Friendly  

Based in Sydney, Australia, the spatial analyst will analyze forest cover checks and stratification, map property boundaries, and assist with the Australian Projects Geographic Information System (GIS) Program as the first point of call for all client managers. Successful candidates should possess both spatial analysis and people skills, alongside at least two years of work experience. This position is a six month contract.

- Read more here

Conservation Planning and Spatial Assessment Lead - Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

Based in New York City, the Conservation Planning and Spatial Assessment Lead will be responsible for supporting spatial planning activities and promoting best practice in the field of conservation decision making in WCS Land and sea-scapes around the world. The successful candidate should have a minimum of a master's degree in landscape ecology, conservation biology or a related field; four or more years of professional experience; and strong skills using spatial and quantitative analytics platforms (ArcGIS, R, Python).

- Read more here

International Consultant, REDD+ Participatory Approach Specialist - United Nations Development Programme

Based at home, with travel to Papua New Guinea, the International Consultant will ensure that gender responsive and inclusive consultative and participatory REDD+ mechanisms are in place, while gender aspects are clearly articulated and mainstreamed into the draft REDD+ Policies.The successful candidate should have a PhD or master's in anthropology, development studies or a related field; 10 or more years of experience working in natural resource management or social development; and experience working in the Pacific Islands. All candidates should be fluent in written and spoken English.

- Read more here

Senior Advisor for Land Use, New Climate Economy - The World Resources Institute

Based in Washington, D.C., the Senior Advisor will lead the overall scoping for research in the land sector of the New Climate Economy program, focusing on developing engagement strategies and key research questions in collaboration with partner institutes and members of the Global Commission on Economy and Climate.The successful candidate should have a master's degree in economics, public policy or agricultural development; at least seven years of experience working in a relevant field with specific experience in program management and implementation; and experience working with developing countries. 

- Read more here 

Director, Ecosystem Analysis - Conservation International

Based in Arlington, Virginia, the Ecosystem Analysis Director will conduct applied research on habitat mapping and monitoring, near real-time decision support, spatial modeling, and cartographic presentation to contribute to Conservation International's global efforts to promote healthy, sustainable societies. The successful candidate should have an advanced degree in environmental science or a related field; at least seven years of experience in scientific research and/or managing conservation projects; and a proficiency in using statistical and spatial analytical software systems (ERDAS, ESRI, R) and applying results.

- Read more here

Analyst/Forestry Consultant - Poyry

Based in London, England, the Analyst/Forestry Consultant work with the Forestry team in London delivering management consulting assignments across the entire forest value chain, from resource assessments, a range of forest investment services through supply chain logistics and market studies. The successful candidate should have two to three years of professional experience working in the forestry sector; a proficiency in quantitative analytics and statistics; and be fluent in English.

- Read more here 

Forestry Project Manager - Zoological Society of London

Based in Cameroon, the Forestry Project Manager will lead the delivery of established forestry projects aimed at working with timber companies to improve wildlife protection in timber production forests. The successful candidate should have a master's degree in forestry or natural resource management; practical knowledge of logging issues in tropical forests; skills in ArcGIS software; and a strong written and spoken fluency in both French and English.

- Read more here



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Zhaotong Forestry Project
Zhaoyang Project  

Based in the Zhaoyang Municipality of Yunnan, China, the Zhaotong Forestry Project is a pilot project run in collaboration with the local government to demonstrate the benefits of community-inclusive reforestation of mixed species trees over mono-plantation programs. The area has faced a shortage of labor in recent years, as almost 1/3rd of the rural inhabitants have left since 2004 for jobs in the cities, and remaining families have often had to abandon their lands. The project aims to plant mainly native tree species to reduce erosion, enhance biodiversity, and improve the land with nitrogen-fixing species. Non-environmental benefits include economic revenue to local farmers through the sale of fruits and non-timber forest products including nuts and wood.

- Read more about the Zhaotong Forestry Project on the Forest Carbon Portal


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