Monday, October 26, 2009

The potential and risks of Forest-based carbon offsets: part 3 - REDD: how it can actually work?

On the first part on our series on forest-based carbon credits we talked of the potential of this concept as we saw on the example of Canopy Carbon. On the second part we discussed the risks of this mechanism following the report of Greenpeace on Noel Kempff Climate Action Project (NKCAP) in Bolivia. Today on our final article in this series we try to rap it all and find out if this option can actually work.

WWF wrote couple of days ago on their website that "failure by the world’s financial leaders to support responsible forest finance will allow rampant deforestation to continue and contribute to the disastrous effects of climate change." This logic is very clear and I definitely agree with it and think that REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) can be one of the implementations that follow this logic.

But no matter how tempting are the prospects of REDD both for the environment and the participants, there are some issues that remain a problem. A big problem. Just as a reminder, here are the main issues we need to deal with, as summarized by REDD-Monitor:
  • monitoring the state of forests and the volumes of carbon either being emitted or stored;
  • in preventing ‘avoided deforestation’ efforts in one location simply shifting the problem elsewhere; and
  • finding ways that funding can be got to the people living in the forests – who should ultimately make the decisions about whether their forests stand or fall.
So what do we do? how we do it right? the answer I believe is a set of guiding rules that every REDD project will need to follow to be considered part of this mechanism. Now, it doesn't have to be necessary in a form of regulation - it can be a voluntary guidelines, just like the FSC or the Equator Principles. The only thing is that there should be only one benchmark - if every project will use its own set of guidelines, then it's worthless. Uniformity is a must here.

For example, Carbon Canopy will be using "the highest standards in the voluntary market will be used– the Voluntary Carbon Standard and Climate Action Reserve." Now, these two standards are great, but according to 'Review of Forestry Carbon Standards', a research of Paulo Lopes, a Carbon Management Consultant at Carbon Clear, when it comes to REDD, there are some couple of other standards that can be a good fit such as the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standard (CCBS), Plan Vivo, or American Carbon Registry (ACR).

So what happens if another project choose to use one of these standards? it will have a similar reliability but we won't be able to effectively follow, evaluate and compare these projects. And therefore we need all projects to follow the same set of standards and rules, and it should address all the main issues, such as how to calculate the carbon savings, additionality, leakage, benefits for local communities and permanence.

And this can and should be part of the Copenhagen Conference in December. The REDD effort can succeed if it will be a global effort and hence Europe, U.S., China and other countries should unite in Copenhagen and promote one solution for all. This is the time to do it and no better place to start with than Copenhagen.

Other parts of this series:

Part 1 - the Carbon Canopy

Part 2 - Noel Kempff and the Greenpeace report

Raz @ Eco-Libris

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