Monday, December 5, 2011

Global Green Carbon Announces First REDD+ Project in Cameroon

The team at Global Green Carbon (GGC) is very excited to announce that in partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Center for Tropical Research (CTR), the consortium, has received official approval from the Cameroon government to implement the first ever REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation)  project within the country. The project will cover lands in and around the Dja Bioshpere Reserve. Check out GGC’s Press Release here:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ilegal Logging in Cameroon

Determining the rate of tropical deforestation is notoriously difficult with estimates varying wildly depending on their source. For example, rates can be calculated from the volume of logs and sawn timber exported, forest concessions awarded, the change in forest area (observed from the ground or from satellites), national and sub-national statistics from government and independent bodies, and from the scaling up of detailed small-scale studies. All typically give very different results.
What is thought to be almost certain is that the rates based on national statistics, used to build up the widely-used FAO “State of the World’s Forests” reports, are underestimates. This is partly because in many tropical countries corruption, weak governments and limited resources combine to enable profligate illegal logging and land clearance for agriculture to take place. It is also due to a process called degradation, sometimes known as cryptic deforestation, whereby small numbers of trees are removed from an area of forest without total clearance taking place. The resulting logs are often used for local construction purposes or for fuel, but are sometimes sold as timber too. Degradation is exceedingly hard to estimate, as it is largely invisible to satellite data. Increasingly also the boundary between the two is becoming blurred, with increasing prices for tropical timber allowing small illegal logging companies to take out the most valuable logs from a forest at a small scale, resulting in no clear-felling but a significant loss of timber and carbon from the forest, and significant disturbance.
During a recent research trip to southern Cameroon in partnership with scientists from UCLA’s Center for Tropical Research, members of Global Green Carbon team saw this process first hand. There were brazen examples of illegal logging activities, including large roads (not on any maps) built by the illegal logging companies, in the forests around the Dja Reserve.
These roads, and many other roads going through the forests in this area, have clear logging side roads branching off. In our 48-hours in the area we identified over 30 such paths in one general region.

Travelling along such logging paths one can find stumps of large timber trees, as well as large piles of sawn planks and clearings for creating temporary sawmills.

Local communities told us that trucks came to pick up these planks at night in order to avoid checkpoints, but in general this activity appears very open. The local communities do not like this theft of their principle asset, but are powerless to stop it. If allowed to continue unchecked, it will threaten their traditional way of life.

Despite this there is still incredible biodiversity and large expanses of forest left in Cameroon; but the current rate of forest loss is unsustainable, and charismatic species like the threatened Black-Cast Hornbill will be lost.
Photo: Denise Hardesty
The worry is that continued logging activities will soon encroach on this Dja reserve itself, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Already the increased access roads built by loggers into the forests around the reserve are providing access for hunters, who are depleting the large mammals living in the park dramatically.
The government of Cameroon, like that of many other tropical countries, does not have the resources to prevent such deforestation or poaching. Even if the government were able to truly prevent forest loss it is necessary to create new, sustainable livelihood opportunities for the local communities. The initial training and continued support for such efforts should be provided by a “payment for ecosystem services” system (PES), where members of the rich world can transfer money to these communities in return for the services of carbon storage, ecosystem function, climate stabilization and biodiversity conservation provided for the whole world. Such a system is REDD+: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, now a policy priority in negotiations in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Competition for land in the Rio San Juan area

Global Green Carbon has been working in the Rio San Juan region of Nicaragua since 2009. Our Project Development Forester has recently spent 6 weeks in the region, and the below is his account of the pressures on local farmers to convert their landholdings to unsustainable monocultures of exotic species, and our unique solution to this problem.

Farmers in El Castillo district along the Rio San Juan in Nicaragua, bordering the Indio Maíz Biosphere Reserve, have historically been faced with a lack of infrastructure and political instability. Over the years this lack of accessibility and stability has worked to reduce farmers’ choices in how to use their land, as there was little access to capital, and transport to markets was difficult. In the past, land use decisions were easy, deforestation followed by cattle or grain crops were the only options. Due to this productivity was low, and the area has remained among the poorest in Nicaragua, with few opportunities for the local population. Recently, as the land base shrinks and families grow, pressure on farmers to make more money per hectare has been increasing. Another recent development is the improvement of infrastructure, thereby creating easier market access, which in turn has increased the interest of foreign companies. This all cycles back as additional motivating factors of deforestation on the remaining tracts of forest in and around the Indio-Maíz Reserve. Farmers in the area now have more choices on how to use their land, and the region is facing a critical turning point.

The high annual rains and tropical climate of the region are perfect for perennial crops of which currently a few dominate; Palm oil (Elaeis guineensis), Gmelina (Gmelina arborea), and various fruiting trees such as cacao and timber trees of both native and exotic origin. Palm oil corporations generally buy land from people, and then offer factory work after the land is purchased. This is especially attractive to farmers with large plots of land, which when sold pays out well. But typically the one-off payments they receive are not well spent, and the farmers may follow on by creating a new farm in virgin forest, near or in the Indio Maíz Reserve, the further advances the “agricultural frontier”. The problem of palm oil is not only the promotion of a monoculture (a biological desert) but the drainage and deforestation also involved. It is not easy to get permission to deforest land as a palm oil company, but it is easy to stipulate that the farmer clears his/her land before the final transaction. This leads to expanding palm oil plantations taking the place of primary and secondary forest bordering the Indio Maíz Reserve.

The issue of drainage especially affects the farmers who do not sell out to the palm oil plantations. It is common practice of palm oil plantations to dig large trenches and allow water to flow out of the plantation reducing flood damage to the palms, however this is not beneficial to the areas hydrology and detrimental to neighboring farmers. The farmers who remain owners of their land surrounded by Palm oil plantations are often left with an impossible task of dealing with the erosion and flooding from the plantations. In one case witnessed by GGC a farmer’s access to his fields was severely limited by waist deep floodwaters which, before the palm oil plantations were drained, only measured a few inches deep. This further promotes expansion of the plantations and single ownership of large tracts of land by large corporations, with little regard for biodiversity, ecological value or sustainability.

As well as Palm oil often farmers are approached with the choice to plant Gmelina, a fast growing tropical tree from India. Plantations just a few years old can be seen throughout the district where there is good road access. Currently there are few mature stands in the region but farmers’ acceptance of the crop is growing along with the trees. Though the sale of the land is not required in the case of Gmelina farmers, they are persuaded into planting an unsustainable mono-culture of an exotic species to maximize short-term profitability, leaving the land all but barren of pre-existing biological diversity. The fast growth of the tree and the relatively quick profits (for trees) also persuades many farmers into deforesting existing forest cover on their land and converting it to this plantation. Indeed, despite this being illegal for a company to promote in Nicaragua, this does seem to be positively encouraged (it is not illegal for farmers to clear their own land of trees). The rapid growth of the tree with a turn-around of as little as 10 years is very attractive when viewed in the short-term. Though the Gmelina offers reforestation and can be argued as being beneficial to protecting forest resources in some cases, we believe the negative effects of it being grown as a monoculture outweigh its benefit, but the difficulty is providing the funds and expertise to the local communities so they can earn more money from a sustainable land-use.

African Palm Oil and Gmelina crops are expanding the spread of deforestation in the area and threatening the isolation of the Indio-Maiz Biosphere Reserve. Many farmers have portions of their land set aside as forest, but this has been decreasing as the years continue and families grow. In spite of growing families and economic pressure some farmers have opted not to sell their land, and are planting native tree species. When asked why, farmers often quote biodiversity as a key factor in their decision, along with erosion and water protection as additional reasons. Allowing more farmers to make this choice comes down to short-term economics and returns from crops. As in most places people in El Castillo can’t afford to make the 25 yr investment needed with native hardwoods on their land without returns in the midterm. That is why short-term profits need to be integrated with long-term goals. Agroforestry systems and plantations mimicking natural forest are some of the best options for farmers in the region looking to maintain ecosystem services without sacrificing economically.

Global Green Carbon is pioneering an innovative model in the area with its Rio San Juan Project, which will create more profit for farmers while also increasing biodiversity and tree cover with overall local and global environment benefits. This is based around plantations combining a mix of native precious hardwood species with agroforestry crops such as cacao, with the vision that these timber plantations will be managed in perpetuity. Mixed native timber plantation, managed according to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), have been shown to support almost as much biodiversity as natural forest, while additionally providing a constant long-term income to the local farmers and a sustainable timber supply. GGC’s method of combating deforestation is to make the current degraded land and deforested land of farmers more profitable while supplying the logging industry with quality ethically sourced timber. This ultimately reduces the pressure on natural forests.

Farmers, in partnership with Global Green Carbon, are now using green investments to develop a win-win option combining agroforestry with sustainable native timber plantations which generate not only timber revenues but also carbon revenues. The farmers acceptance of this new view of land-use is the key to protecting the Indio Maíz biosphere reserve, the largest tract of primary forest in Nicaragua.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Navigating American Carbon World 2011

Last week Global Green Carbon attended the NACW conference in Los Angeles, California. Not far from GGC’s West Coast offices, the nation’s largest annual carbon industry conference was very informative.

The NACW covered a wide variety of topics including regulatory issues, current market trends, protocol workshops, and featured many keynote speakers. Among the featured speakers were former governors of California Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gina McCarthy, the Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Linda Adams, Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. Steve Schwartzman, Director of Tropical Forest Policy at Environmental Defense Fund, and Mary D. Nichols, J.D. chairman of the California Air Resources Board.

What was of most interest with regards to forestry is the continual discussion of the inclusion of international REDD projects into the CAR (Climate Action Reserve) protocols and the acceptance of those credits within CARB (California Air Resource Board) under AB32.

Some conference take-aways:

· The consensus seemed to be that international forestry projects, (primarily REDD) will be included under CARB over the second 3-yr term of 2015-2017. There is the possibility of Mexican forestry projects coming in sooner.

· The Mexican A/R, IFM and REDD forestry protocol is being developed right now under CAR and may be adopted as a protocol under CARB prior to 2015.

· There are working groups in place to create linkages (unit trading) between VCS accredited projects and CAR. Interestingly, CDM credits were not in the discussion.

· The hurdle with REDD is leakage and the requirement is for projects to be successful not only at the site specific project location but also within a broader assigned jurisdiction. This is a challenge for project developers in that the developer has no control over the variables impacting the jurisdictional level.

· The regions to focus on for international forestry to position for CAR and CARB are those under GCF due to subnational collaborations between California and 15 states and provinces in Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria and Mexico.

The NACW conference is in its 9th consecutive year. Originally established as the annual conference for the California Climate Action Registry, NACW grew in scope and scale and now has become American’s most important carbon event.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rio San Juan: El Castillo Project Moves Forward

The GGC team recently returned from a two-week trip to Boca de Sabalos, Rio San Juan, Nicaragua. The trip was organized to make the final feasibility assessment for the proposed 2500-hectare reforestation/agroforestry project.

During the extent of their visit the GGC team assessed the site and had meetings with our partners, local officials, and farmers we would be working with. The GGC team toured six farms distributed throughout the project area, and visited current sustainable precious-hardwood and cocoa plantations in the area.

According to Kirsten McGregor, President of GGC, “the trip was very successful. Being on the ground surveying the project site, as well as re-enforcing relationships with our local partners, has proved to be invaluable in moving the project forward.” She went on to say, “All our preliminary feasibility assessments have been verified. We are currently in the process of drafting the final PDD, and are confident that the project will be fully underway by the 3rd quarter of this year. This 25-year project, by combining revenues from carbon credits, premium cocoa, and high-value timber, will hugely expand the local economy and the opportunities available to the communities. At the same time the new forest, and supply of high-value timber, will reduce pressure on the exceptionally high-biodiversity Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, which is currently suffering from illegal logging and encroachment by farmers.”

The local municipal seat, El Castillo, sits along the banks of the Rio San Juan River. It was originally established as a Spanish fort in the 17th century to protect against pirates. Today, the region faces a new enemy, deforestation from unsustainable agriculture and fuel source practices. This project will create a viable livelihood for thousands of poor farmers in this vulnerable region.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Satellite Imagery for Forest Preservation Projects

Here at Global Green Carbon we are very excited about the potential of satellite data to monitor afforestation and avoided deforestation/degradation (REDD) projects. Satellite monitoring offers huge advantages compared with ground-based monitoring, by being able to cover the whole project area frequently and at a low cost.

Good quality satellite images of the Earth have been available since the early 1970s from the NASA’s Landsat satellite series [link]. These six satellites have provided high resolution images over the whole of the Earth’s surface several times per year, and since last year the whole database has been freely available [link], providing an incredible resource. Up until now most tropical forestry projects have analysed Landsat (or similar) data themselves in order to create landcover maps for the present day and back into the past, as indeed we are in the process of doing for our projects.

However, such analyses have become under increased scrutiny with the advent of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) projects: because the payments for these forest-protection projects relies entirely on the calculation of a ‘baseline’ deforestation rate – the rate of carbon loss that would have happened in the absence of the project – accurately and conservatively calculating previous deforestation rates has become vital. Equally, COP16 at Cancun agreed in December that REDD+ is to be implemented by governments across the tropics [link], so independent estimates of deforestation and degradation over huge areas have become very important.

Monitoring at this scale requires the ability to analyse vast quantities of satellite data, so perhaps unsurprisingly [link] (the not-for-profit arm of Google), in collaboration with GEO [link], the Group on Earth Observations, a collaboration of all the major space agencies, is in the process of developing a real-time monitoring service for global deforestation [link]. While the final service has not yet been released, a step towards it occurred late last year when released the Google Earth Engine [link], an analysis toolbox with access to many terabytes of satellite imagery.

However, the Google system has some weaknesses from our point of view. It is entirely centred around deforestation, i.e. the conversion of forest into non-forest. However, many forestry and REDD projects rely on more complicated conversions than this, for example preventing degradation, the loss of just a portion of biomass from a forest or, to take an example from our projects, planting trees in degraded woodland or farmland. Equally there is no attempt within Google’s system to assess the biomass of forest, so the area of deforestation cannot easily be converted into tonnes of carbon lost.

An alternative service being developed that attempts to do this and more was recently launched by Ecometrica [link], a UK-based company providing assessments of ecosystems and greenhouse gas emissions. This is called the Biocarbon Tracker [link], and currently provides a global map of aboveground biomass, and for the Amazon a unique ‘carbon risk’ map. In the near future they hope to include a real-time deforestation layer, allowing for emissions from deforestation within a particular area to be calculated.

As none of these systems are currently fully operational, we will continue to do our satellite analyses in-house. But we will continue to watch the development of these global monitoring solutions with interest.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Top 10 2010 Milestones for Forest Carbon

Last year was a tumultuous one with the financial crisis, global recession, the markets on a roller coaster of uncertainty, double-digit unemployment --- virtually no industry came out unscathed. The carbon market endured a jostling shake down while racking up major milestones in the world of forest carbon. As the dust settled the industry emerged leaner and meaner, with bright new prospects glimmering on the horizon of 2011.

Ecosystem Marketplace Forest Carbon Portal distilled the top 10 themes that emerged in forest carbon news over 2010, I think they're worth repeating...

1. The US Cap-and-Trade Meltdown

The collapse of cap-and-trade in the Senate has left the EPA to moves forward with GHG regulations, but will Republicans stand idly by and will anything the EPA puts together be as favorable to forest carbon as the earlier bills were?

2. REDD+'s Time to Shine at the UN
From the climate convention to the biodiversity convention, building from the momentum of an explicit place in the Copenhagen Accord, negotiators meeting around the world laid down the framework for how REDD+ may operate in the future, although many questions remain to be answered.

3. California Stays in Front of the Pack
California gave the final blessing a landmark cap-and-trade program and the final compliance adoption of the Climate Action Reserve's forest protocols. Governors of California, Chiapas, Mexico, and Acre, Brazil took the first step forward to operationalizing the first regime to welcome international REDD offsets.

4. Standards Set the Mark
From the first forest methodologies for VCS, to the first steps beyond the buffer pool by the American Carbon Registry, the stage is set for a major standardization across the market. While the sun began to set for the Chicago Climate Exchange, the sun rose in the east with the emergence of China's Panda Standard.

5. An Explosion in Project Development
2010 saw a dramatic growth in the number of projects popping up all over the globe. The Forest Carbon Portal's Project Inventory tripled over the course of 2010, and multi-million dollar deals between investors, buyers, and project developers were becoming more common.

6. Emerging National Conservation Strategies
Countries around the world developed innovative new policies to value the services provided by forests and other ecosystems. From Vietnam to Brazil, and Colombia to Zambia, expect 2011 to be the time where most of these new policies will begin to exert their first meaningful impacts.

7. Public Pledges Outpace Private Purse for REDD+
As major multi-lateral REDD+ initiatives began to roll with billions in pledges beginning in Copenhagen, the prospect that public-financing for REDD will eclipse private investment for the near future is now old news. How these funds perform as they begin to disburse the bulk of fast-start finance and how they begin to interact with markets will be major trends to watch over the next year.

8. Beyond Project Scale Intervention
The calls for national-level accounting, monitoring, and performance for forest-based emissions reductions are now resounding. In the interim, the concept of "nesting" projects within provincial and other jurisdictional levels for accounting is receiving significant attention and interest.

9. Growing Pains for the REDD+ Partnership
The 71-country REDD+ Partnership was eventually able to shed its "Interim" moniker, but is still struggling to find confident footing. Looking forward to 2011, the future is wide open for the Partnership, but will the relatively new organization be able to rise to the challenge?

10. Growing the Money for US Forest Conservation
A handful of innovative conservation finance programs emerged across the US this year, and Ecosystem Marketplace dug in deep for the details. From a watershed restoration program in Denver to a health-care connection in Oregon, creative conservationists were busy finding money around the country.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's a New Year...let's call it the International Year of Forests!

It’s a new year, and as we at Global Green Carbon launch our new blog, B.Green, we thought it would be appropriate to burst on the scene with some uplifting news for forests! What better than an international declaration which aims to build awareness, conservation and sustainable management for forests throughout the world!

The United Nations officially declares 2011 The International Year Of Forests
In an effort to build a greater understanding of not only one of the major causes of climate change, but potentially its greatest hope, The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 The International Year Of Forests. The declaration aims to bring awareness for the sustainable management, conservation and development of forests throughout the world.

UN resolution 61/193 adopted by the general assembly during the 83rd plenary meeting held on the 20th of December 2006, states the following:

1. Decides to declare 2011 the International Year of Forests;

2. Requests the secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the Secretariat, to serve as the focal point for the implementation of the Year, in collaboration with Governments, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and international, regional and sub-regional organizations and processes as well as relevant major groups;

3. Invites, in particular, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as the Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, within its mandate, to support the implementation of the Year;

4. Calls upon Governments, relevant regional and international organizations, and major groups to support activities related to the Year, inter alia, through voluntary contributions, and to link their relevant activities to the Year;

5. Encourages voluntary partnerships among Member States, international organizations and major groups to facilitate and promote activities related to the Year at the local and national levels, including by creating national committees or designating focal points in their respective countries;

6. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session on the state of preparations for the Year.

To help facilitate The International Year of Forests, the UN created a website in which you will find information regarding various events being organized throughout the Year. Additionally, interactive web tools and resources are available to promote dialogue on sustainable management, conservation and development of forests. The UN welcomes and encourages you to share how you plan to celebrate “Forests for People” during 2011.  The UN will honor your participation and contributions by showcasing your stories and initiatives via their website.

For more information click the link to visit the UN’s official website for The International Year Of Forests.