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12 February 2018 | Yvo de Boer values his solitude and his garden – both of which he neglected while serving as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from mid-2006 to mid-2010.

“My work in the climate change negotiations was about a very complicated political process,” he says. “I still believe that’s important, but I also believe the simple things in life are important, and that examples of success are important, too.”

The quest for examples of success brought him to Climate-KIC, which is an angel investor of sorts that the European Commission created to finance climate-minded start-ups, and to SRI Executive Search, where he helps international aid agencies align their development and climate objectives; but his highest-profile endeavor since leaving the UNFCCC started just a few months back, on the eve of year-end climate talks in Katowice, Poland.

That’s when he became president of the Gold Standard – a global partnership of environmental NGOs that sets standards for everything from the way companies measure their greenhouse-gas emissions to the way they support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are a set of 17 goals ranging from “gender equality” to “good health and well-being” that were endorsed by every country on the planet in 2015.

The SDGs are woven into the lending guidelines of development banks and pension funds around the world, which means that billions of dollars in finance could flow into countries and companies that get them right – but how do you know that a company is getting “good health and well-being” right?

That, says de Boer, is the kind of question that drew him to the Gold Standard

Hear the Full Interview on Bionic Planet

This story is adapted from Episode 40 of the Bionic Planet podcast, which features an hour-long interview with Yvo de Boer and is available on all major podcatchers, including RadioPubliciTunesStitcher, and on this device here:

From Curiosity to Passion

Born in Vienna to two diplomats, de Boer grew up speaking German and Dutch, and he eventually became fluent in five languages.

“I went to boarding school in England, where my parents made me learn French,” he recalls. “And I went to primary school in Kenya, where I learned Kiswahili.”

After his military service, he studied social work in The Hague and began working with parolees in the Dutch city of Leiden – known to Americans as the town that British pilgrims tried before boarding the Mayflower, but known to the Dutch then as a rough-and-tumble city with high crime and low education.

“My client base was mainly comprised of young delinquents, and 94 percent of those young people were back behind bars within a year,” he says. “I thought, ‘Do I really want to spend 40 years of my life working on something with a 6 percent success rate?’”

Those five languages landed him a job in the International Department of the Housing Ministry, where he worked on affordable housing for over a decade.

“I gained a lot of practical experience there, but after a while I was looking for something completely different,” he says. “Then I saw they were looking for someone to head the climate change Department in the Environment Ministry, and I thought. ‘What can be more different from housing than climate change?’”

He got the job.

The Climate Challenge

De Boer joined the Ministry of Environment in the year 2000, which was eight years after the 1992 Earth Summit had launched the UNFCCC, and five years before the Kyoto Protocol was set to come into effect, puttin a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions from developed countries.

Within a few months, he’d become a “climate junkie.”

“Climate change is an environmental issue, but it’s fundamentally an economic challenge,” he says. “And it reaches into every aspect of our social fabric: energy, transport, agriculture – you name it.”

Within two years, he’d become Deputy Director General of the Dutch Environment Ministry, and in 2006 he was asked to head the UNFCCC.

Raising the Climate Profile

By then, de Boer had come to see climate change as an existential threat to the world economy and even to civilization itself – but he knew that few outside the community of scientists who’d studied it felt the same way.

“Having worked for an environment ministry myself, I knew that environment was generally the weakest ministry in an administration, with little or no influence,” he recalls. “They lose every single battle to the bigger economic players.”

So one of his first acts was to commission a series of analyses to identify the financial impact of climate change.

“My sense was if I if I don’t manage to get this issue onto the radar screens of heads of state and government and CEOs who can sort of look across issues, then it’s never going to be solved,” he says. “That’s why, in the run-up to the [2009] Copenhagen conference, I focused very much on the media and on getting heads of states and governments involved.”

He turned Copenhagen into “Hopenhagen” – a global event that drew more than 80 heads of state and set the stage for the bottom-up activities that would eventually lead to the creation of the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and Yvo de Boer in 2009. Source: World Economic Forum

Into the Private Sector

After his term ended in mid-2010, de Boer joined Dutch auditing group KPMG and was appointed Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Climate Change.

“I wanted to help private companies understand how they could make sustainability part of the core of their business strategies, and not just something they do for environmental health and safety or for corporate social responsibility,” he says.

In 2015, the United Nations passed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which can seem nebulous at first glance, but are broken down into 169 specific targets and more than 300 so-called “indicators of success.”

SDG 3, for example, aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for people of all ages.”

While that might seem fuzzy, the Goal is further broken down into 13 specific targets, many of which involve specific mortality rates for specific hazards and diseases, like traffic fatalities, heart disease, and malaria.

These targets are then broken down into specific indicators, such as hospitals per village or mortality rates per 1,000 people.

The Quantification Conundrum

For these to become investor-grade criteria, they need to be measurable and verifiable, and that’s where the Gold Standard comes it.

It was created by WWF and a handful of other NGOs in 2003 to provide a global, science-based way of evaluating the environmental integrity of carbon offsets, and today dominates the sector, along with Verra (formerly the Verified Carbon Standard).

Last year, it launched the Gold Standard for the Global Goals, with the aim of providing standardized ways of evaluating the impact that activities have on specific SDGs. (Verra has launched a similar initiative called SD VISta, and we will be exploring both in more detail down the road.)

Clean-Burning Stoves: Carbon to SDGs

The Gold Standard started on familiar territory – evaluating the health impacts of clean-burning cookstoves, which also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, stoves are often financed through the sale of carbon offsets, which funnel over $40 million per year into clean cookstoves, according to Ecosystem Marketplace research.

Indoor pollution from coal-, dung- and wood-burning stoves and fire pits kills nearly two million people each year – including half of all children under the age of five who die from pneumonia – and NGOs have already created a metric for measuring their impact on health:  “ADALYs”, or Averted Disability Adjusted Life Years, and Gold Standard published mythologies for quantifying that in 2017.

More recently, it launched SustainCERT, which is a social enterprise that will help companies evaluate their social impacts, and it’s teamed up with EIT and Climate-KIC to publish three sets of guidance that companies can use to measure greenhouse-gas emissions in their supply chains, then to cut those emissions, and finally to help small farmers improve their soil.

It’s that partnership that also brought de Boer to Gold Standard.

“I met Marion [Verles, CEO, of the Gold Standard Foundation] at a Climate-KIC strategy session,” he says. “I think that’s what prompted her to ask me to join the Gold Standard.”

He accepted the offer in November, 2018, but still hopes to find time for is garden come springtime.

The post Former UNFCCC Boss Yvo de Boer Still Working the Climate Puzzle, but From a Different Angle appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

8 February 2019 | Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and veteran Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) lit up the internet this week with their proposal for a “Green New Deal,” which does what US negotiators refused to do at recent climate talks in Katowice, Poland: namely, it recognizes scientific consensus and sets ambitions based on it.

Lost in the internet kerfuffle is the massive support for natural climate solutions and support for family farms, which have the potential to mop up massive amounts of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and methane – three powerful greenhouse gasses.

We’ve seen plenty of griping about how this plan will kill jobs by hurting the fossil fuel sector, but those gripes miss a major point: that profits aren’t jobs. In fact, they’re often the opposite: companies save money by cutting jobs.

Now, cutting jobs can sometimes benefit the economy if those jobs aren’t adding value, but the jobs that the New Green Deal generates do add value by paying farmers to plant trees and use winter cover crops that improve soil fertility and provide raw materials for biofuels. They also pay ecosystem entreprenerus to restore rivers, and to turn soggy, unproductive land into wetlands that filter water, purify air, and slow climate change – jobs that exist because companies that damage our environment have a responsibility to make us whole.

“Companies that don’t pay are guilty of theft,” says University of Chicago Professor Steve Cicala. “If someone has a better way of describing [the act of] taking something from someone without their consent and without compensating them, I’d be happy to use that term.”

This isn’t pie-in-the sky. Those jobs are already part of a $25 billion “restoration economy” that directly employs 126,000 people and supports 95,000 other jobs – mostly in small businesses – according to a 2015 survey that environmental economist Todd BenDor conducted through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

That’s more jobs than logging, more than coal mining, and more than iron and steel, as you can see here:


The restoration economy is already providing jobs for loggers across Oregon, and even some coal miners in Virginia, but it could disappear if the GOP environmental rollback continues. Here are 11 things you need to know to understand it.

1.   It’s not Solar and Wind

The restoration economy is not to be confused with the renewable energy boom that employs 374,000 people in solar parks and 101,738 on wind farms. Like those, however, the restoration economy is part of a burgeoning “green economy” that’s transforming forests, farms, and fields around the world.

2.   It’s Government-Driven

State and federal governments helped the wind and solar sectors get off the ground, but both of those sectors are humming along on their own now because they provide a cost-effective way to produce electricity, which everyone needs.

The demand for restoration, however, isn’t as automatic as the demand for electricity is, because most companies and even some landowners won’t clean up their messes without an incentive to do so.

Economists call these messes “externalities” because they dump an internal responsibility on the external world, and governments are created in part to deal with them – mostly through “command-and-control” regulation, but also through systems that let polluters either fix their messes or create something as good or better than what they destroy.

Under the Endangered Species Act, for example, a local government that wants to build a road through sensitive habitat can petition the Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to do so. If permission is granted, it still has to make good by restoring degraded habitat in the same region.

3.   It’s Often Market-Based

Pioneered in the 1960s, environmental markets offer flexibility in meeting commitments. That local government mentioned above, for example, can either restore the land itself, or it can turn to a “conservation bank”.

These are usually created by green entrepreneurs who identify marginal land and restore it to a stable state that performs ecosystem services like flood control or water purification. They make money by selling credits to entities – personal, public, or private – that need to offset their environmental impacts on species, wetlands or streams.

At least $2.8 billion per year flows through ecosystem markets in the United States, according to Ecosystem Marketplace research.


4.   Infrastructure Also Drives Restoration

The federal government – especially the military – holds itself to high environmental standards, as do many states. Government activities alone support thousands of restoration jobs.

Government agencies are big buyers of credits, often to offset damage caused by infrastructure projects, but the link between infrastructure and restoration goes even deeper than that. In Philadelphia, for example, restoration workers are using water fees to restore degraded forests and fields as part of a plan to better manage storm runoff. In California, meadows and streams that control floods are legally treated as green infrastructure, to be funded from that pot of money. “Green infrastructure”, it turns out, is prettier than concrete and lasts longer to boot.

Trump wants to “expedite” infrastructure roll-outs, and he can do so without weakening environmental provisions by removing unnecessary delays in the permitting process (see point 11, below).

5.   Markets Can Reduce Regulations

Nature is complex, and rigid regulations often fail to address that complexity, as environmental economist Todd BenDor makes clear when he points to regulations requiring the placement of silt fences in new subdivisions along waterways.

“They’re supposed to prevent erosion, but they often fail or are put in the wrong places,” he says. “Markets can simply enact a limit on erosion, allowing the landowner the freedom to be creative and efficient in any way they see fit in order to meet that limit.”

Done right, environmental markets can replace overly prescriptive regulations, but they still require government oversight and regulation.

“Markets are entirely reliant on strong monitoring, verification, and enforcement of limits,” says BenDor. “Provisions must be made to ensure that, but in reality it’s often a problem.”

6.   Restoration Stimulates Rural Economies

In 2015, BenDor published a study called “Estimating the Size and Impact of the Ecological Restoration Economy”, which found restoration businesses in all 50 states. California had the most, but four “Red” states filled out the top five: Virginia, Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. Last place went to North Dakota.

By their very nature, restoration projects are located in rural areas, and a study by Cathy Kellon and Taylor Hesselgrave of EcoTrust found that Oregon alone had more than 7,000 watershed restoration projects, which generated nearly 6,500 jobs from 2001 through 2010. Many of those jobs went to unemployed loggers.


“The jobs created by restoration activities are located mostly in rural areas, in communities hard hit by the economic downturn,” report authors wrote. “Restoration also stimulates demand for the products and services of local businesses such as plant nurseries, heavy equipment companies, and rock and gravel companies.”

7.   It’s been Mapped

Last year, the US Department of Agriculture’s Office of Environmental Markets, together with Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends and the Environmental Protection Agency, published an online Atlas of Ecosystem Markets, which you can access here.

8.   The Jobs are Robot-Proof

Environmental regulations didn’t kill coal; natural gas and renewables did. Regulations didn’t stifle the western oil boom, either; that was low energy prices. Even if Trump & Co do prop the coal sector, jobs won’t go to people; they’ll go to machines, which took most of the jobs America lost in the last decade.

BenDor’s research shows restoration jobs are evenly divided between white-collar planners, designers, and engineers and the green-collar guys doing the actual earth moving and site construction.

Almost all involve time in the great outdoors, and they can’t be exported or done by robots.

9.   The Jobs are Cost-Effective

Because restoration work is labor-intensive, the money goes to people instead of machines, and every $1 million invested generates 33 jobs on average. Every $1 million invested in oil, on the other hand, generates 5.2 jobs per $1 million invested. In coal, the figure is 6.9 jobs.


10.  It Doesn’t Stifle Business

Some industry groups claim the Endangered Species Act blocks development, but researchers reviewed 88,000 consultations between 2008 and 2015 and found that no projects had been stopped or even changed in a major way to protect habitat.

Even proponents of the system concede, however, that the permitting process is slow and tedious.

11.  It Can Be Improved

While the FWS administers credits for mitigation of endangered species, the Army Corps of Engineers approves mitigation credits for streams and wetlands, and they’re notoriously underfunded. This leads to long and costly delays, according to unpublished research that BenDor conducted with Daniel Spethmann of Working Lands Investment Partners and David Urban of Ecosystem Investment Partners.

Delays are so costly, they argue, that companies in the restoration sector might be better off paying 50-fold higher permitting prices that would give the agencies the staff needed to properly process permits, akin to expedited building permits, rather than paying banks the interest on loans for land where environmental improvements are being held up.

This story is adapted from a piece we ran in 2017. Click here to view the original.

The post New Green Deal Can Boost the Restoration Economy. But What IS the Restoration Economy? appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

7 February 2019 | Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and veteran Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass), who co-authored the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, have finally unveiled their nonbinding resolution for a “Green New Deal” to ensure the United States does its part to keep global temperatures from rising to a level more than 1.5°C (2.7ºF) above pre-industrial levels.

The 14-page resolution calls for a massive restructuring of the US energy sector that will eliminate fossil fuels and promote sustainable agriculture, among other things.

By design, the proposal offers little detail but provides a framework withing which details can emerge, and it’s clearly been developed with existing efforts in mind: it calls for increased support for public transportation and alternative energy technology, support for indigenous people who have long been among the world’s most responsible stewards of the land, and support for family farms and climate-safe agriculture, among other things.

It also comes one day after eight hours of congressional testimony showed that the United States is finally having the only climate debate that matters – namely, not whether climate science is real, but how to work together to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Natural Climate Solutions

The resolution builds on last year’s  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) October analysis of the changes needed to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5ºC, and includes support for family farm and climate-safe agriculture, which can turn the country’s forests, farms, and fields into a carbon sink that absorbs massive amounts of greenhouse gas.

This is critical, because a 2016 survey of available research showed that natural climate solutions can deliver 37 percent of the mitigation needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s 2-degree Celsius target, while the October IPCC report focused on practices needed to meet the more ambitious 1.5-degree target.

This story continues below.

Congressional Hearings: Little Denial, Plenty Debate

The proposal comes one day after the US House of Representatives held two simultaneous hearings on climate change — one in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which oversees the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and one in the House Committee on Natural Resources, which oversees the Department of the Interior. Both hearings are scheduled to begin at 10am Eastern Time.

Testimony, for the most part, focused on how to meet the climate challenge, with Republicans like John Shimkus (R-IL) acknowledging the reality of climate science and Greg Walden (R-OR) not only acknowledging the science but emphasizing the role of healthy forests in acting as a bulwark against climate change.

There were some bizarre exchanges, such one between freshman Republican Kevin Hern (R-OK) and climatologist Judith Curry, during which he implied (wrongly) that the costs of imposing new regulation aren’t factored into cost/benefit analyses and she deployed her usual argument that the science is too complex to build projections on.

For the most part, however, the focus was on how we can best meet the greatest challenge of our day.

The Social Component and the Restoration Economy

Several witnesses focused on the need to develop green infrastructure, and the jobs that come with it.

“For too long, the debate on the economic impact of climate action has been framed as either disaster or miracle, yet neither aligns with the complicated realities in which American workers live,” said Mike Williams, Deputy Director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations.

“This flawed debate has prevented us from addressing climate change at a level commensurate with the size of the challenge,” he continued. “The driving forces behind the challenges of climate change and inequality are intertwined and we must tackle them together as equal priorities. We will only overcome these twin challenges if good jobs and working families are at the center of a massive economic transformation.”

And many of those jobs will come in rural areas, said Rev Leo Woodberry of the Kingdom Living Temple Church and New Alpha Community Development Corporation.

“Forests are our greatest carbon sink,” he said. “Federal support can also provide jobs to assist people in recovering from lost and damages while they clean out and restore drainage systems, particularly rural areas that for far too long have been left unattended.”

The Competitiveness Argument

Republicans have, in the past, argued that US emissions will amount to nothing if China and India continue to emit, and some of that emerged in Wednesday’s debates, but most witnesses focused on the need to improve US competitiveness in a carbon-constrained world.

“There is a common, outdated, perception that cutting greenhouse gas pollution is expensive and other countries are therefore doing nothing about their emissions,” said Richard Duke of Gigaton Strategies. “In fact, every country other than the United States remains committed to the Paris Agreement, and all of our major trading partners are taking action.

Carbon Pricing and Alternative Energies

Many of the legislators who endorse the New Green Deal also support a price on carbon, but two points of contention appeared to emerge in Wednesday’s testimony. One is the role of alternative energy sources, especially nuclear energy, and the other is the role of markets.

Rich Powell, who runs a self-described “conservative nonprofit” called ClearPath, criticized the Trump administration in no uncertain terms, but also pushed back against a growing sense that advocates of the New Green Deal will oppose market mechanisms in implementing the strategy.

“The federal government, where appropriate, should enable private-sector solutions through market-oriented policies,” he stated, while also stressing the low-carbon nature of nuclear energy and hydropower.

In the end, he also made the competitiveness argument.

“We have a choice,” he said. “We can bet that the Chinese and their partners shut down their coal-fired power plants at the expense of economic growth; or we can develop, demonstrate, and export US-based emissions control technologies.”

The post With Green New Deal, the US is Finally Having the Only Climate Debate That Matters appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

6 February 2019 | The US House of Representatives is holding two simultaneous hearings on climate change this morning  — one in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which oversees the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and one in the House Committee on Natural Resources, which oversees the Department of the Interior. Both hearings are scheduled to begin at 10am Eastern Time.

The Energy and Commerce hearing is entitled “Time for Action”, and is being live-streamed (and archived) here.

The Natural Resources hearing is entitled “Climate Change: Impacts and the Need to Act”, and is being live-streamed (and archived) via Facebook.

The hearings come as veteran Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) prepare legislation designed to flesh out Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal for a “Green New Deal” that will eliminate fossil fuels in transport and manufacturing. While serving in the House of Representatives, Markey co-authored the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that Republicans killed ahead of the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen.

Next week, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will conduct a hearing entitled “The State of Climate Science and Why it Matters,” and Rep. Cathy Castor’s House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is set to convene soon as well. This is the reconstituted House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which existed from 2007 to 2011.

NOTE: when the hearings end, we will convert this page to a summary of the proceedings. Be sure to check back. 

The post US House of Reps Begins First Climate Hearings in Over a Decade. Here’s How to Watch appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

31 January 2019 | Legal scholar Zechariah Chafee, Jr, said it best: “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins,” he wrote in 1919, attributing the quote to an unnamed judge – and reflecting the fundamental challenge of all regulation, including the rules and laws that protect the waters of the United States.

The Clean Water Act (CWA), for example, evolved over decades, as have the rules that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) develop for implementing it.

At the core of these rules is the acknowledgement that it sometimes makes sense to build a road through a wetland or dredge a stream, but only if the developer gets permission from competent authorities and makes up for the damages by restoring degraded areas of equal or greater environmental value.

For years, companies were trusted to either fix their own messes (permittee-responsible mitigation), pay environmental NGOs to do good (in-lieu fee or “ILF” payments), or work with “mitigation bankers” who proactively restore degraded waterways and sell credits to developers.

By 2008 it had become clear that third-party mitigation offered advantages over permittee-responsible mitigation, particularly where advance mitigation, long-term stewardship assurances, and a watershed focus were implemented. The EPA and USACE issued the Final Rule on Compensatory Mitigation for Losses of Aquatic Resources in April of that year, declaring a preference for offsets from mitigation banks (first preference) or ILF programs (second) as opposed to permittee-responsible offsets (third).

Some mitigation bankers at the time thought the Final Rule could triple business.

Real outcomes weren’t quite that spectacular, thanks to the Great Recession. But ten years on two EPA staffers – Palmer Hough, who was lead author of the 2008 Rule, and Rachel Harrington – have published a new paper in the Environmental Law Reporter looking back on what actually did happen. Drawing on data from USACE’s RIBITS database and input from stakeholders, Hough and Harrington say that the Final Rule has been good for both the restoration industry and for the companies that seek mitigation permits, although there is room for improvement.

Changes under the 2008 Final Rule

In addition to a preference for third-party mitigation, the Final Rule also introduced equivalent and effective standards for all mitigation plans, whether they were put forward by banks, ILF projects, or a permittee-responsible project. It introduced a watershed focus and gave preference to larger, landscape-scale offsets created before the impact. (Previous guidance favored on-site restoration.) And the Rule required clear and enforceable performance standards, as well as timetables for interagency review teams’ decisions on project approvals. (For more information on the story of the Final Rule, as well as other key influences that have shaped today’s compensatory mitigation markets, take a look at our latest report.)

So what happened?

Some key takeaways from the paper:

The Final Rule has almost certainly resulted in more mitigation banks, more ILF programs, and more credit transactions

Hough and Harrington chart a greater than 50% increase in the average rate of approvals each year in the decade since the Final Rule (2008-2017) compared to the previous decade (1998-2007). Stream bank approvals were even higher, increasing by about 200% from the previous decade. A dozen states saw their first mitigation banks open after the Final Rule. Credit transactions also jumped by similar margins. Thirty-five new ILF programs have been established since the Final Rule went into effect, including in 12 new states.

Although we can’t directly attribute all of this activity to the Rule, “this growth happened in spite of the fact that this time included a historic downturn in the commercial and residential development market, a significant driver of permit requests and compensatory mitigation demand,” Hough and Harrington point out.

The Final Rule has been very good for permit applicants

Thanks to the Rule, permittees have more compensation options available to them than they used to. Today, all or part of 46 states are covered by banks or ILF programs. The data suggests that permittees are making good use of these options: “In 2017, the percentage of permits using mitigation bank credits and ILF credits was about 60% and 17%, respectively, nearly double the percentage of permits using these mechanisms in 2010 (about 30% and 8%, respectively),” write the authors.

Permittees also enjoy a faster permit process than they did ten years ago. Hough and Harrington also show that permit processing times are approximately cut in half when mitigation banks or ILF credits are used, compared to traditional off-site permittee-responsible mitigation.

Not incidentally, these benefits are now at risk. Another recent Environmental Law Reporter publication shows how recent actions under the Trump administration have made compensatory mitigation options less available to developers; while an Ecosystem Marketplace series shows that the administration’s efforts to rewrite the governing rules could leave most of the nation’s wetlands unprotected.

A decade later, full implementation has yet to take place

The Final Rule was designed to create a level playing field for all compensatory mitigation providers by requiring high standards of all projects. Hough and Harrington suggest that although these high standards are showing up in mitigation plans, in practice monitoring, long-term management, and reporting can often be improved.

Additionally, “stakeholders have suggested that Interagency Review Teams are not adhering to the time lines outlined in the 2008 rule, and feel there are opportunities to improve…efficiency.” The paper notes some of the recommendations put forward by the Ecological Restoration Business Association to speed up approvals, including enshrining the 2008 Rule’s timelines in the form of Government Performance and Results Act performance metrics, using “after action reviews” post-approval to identify ways to improve the process, and investing in project management training. ERBA also calls for making ORM data more readily available to improve transparency around credit supply and demand – a cause close to Ecosystem Marketplace’s heart, obviously.

Hough and Harrington note another interesting recommendation from stakeholders: “adopting, at Corps district level…science-based crediting/debiting and service area methodologies…standard operating procedures [and]…templates for bank instruments, site protection instruments, financial assurances, and long-term management plans.” More harmonized regulatory protocols and guidance, the thinking goes, would go a long way toward improving permitting predictability and efficiency.

It’s time to revisit the question of compensation performance

Hough and Harrington make an important closing observation: although “the assumption is that the effectiveness of compensatory mitigation projects has improved over the past 10 years. However, robust independent evaluations of compensation performance have been on the decline [emphasis added], particularly since issuance of the 2008 rule.” We know very little about whether wetland and stream mitigation is actually working as expected, because we’re not measuring it.

I’ve always felt this is a gap in Ecosystem Marketplace’s own tracking of compensatory mitigation: given the enormous challenges inherent in defining and collecting data on whether a project or larger program actually is delivering on expected results, we have always had to settle for very imperfect metrics, such as simple acreage, that don’t really capture “performance.”

EPA is taking steps to improve the situation, the authors say. “For the past year,” they write, “EPA has been working with representatives from state and federal agencies to produce a technical document that will help states and other interested parties implement…a long-term approach to compensation performance evaluation and help ensure more regular and robust independent evaluations of compensation projects.”

This is excellent news. The point of compensatory mitigation in the United States is to ensure “No Net Loss” of aquatic resources. Without a robust, independent approach for evaluating performance over time, we’re flying blind when it comes to knowing whether No Net Loss is being achieved.

The post How the 2008 Mitigation Rule Helped Developers and Built a Restoration Economy appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

29 January 2019 | “How the world deals with large and serious problems is almost certainly going to shape our collective future” is the second line – and a promising start – in this edited Springer volume titled “Rethinking resilience, adaptation and transformation in a time of change”. The volume is edited by Wanglin Yan and Will Galloway, both based in Japan, and many of the contributors were in Japan during the massive disaster that struck the country’s Northern coast in March 2011.

Springer’s ‘about this book’ states the following: “This book contributes to the literature on resilience, hazard planning, risk management, environmental policy and design, presenting articles that focus on building resilience through social and technical means. Bringing together contributions from [mostly] Japanese authors, the book also offers a rare English-language glimpse into current policy and practice in Japan since the 2011 Tohoku disaster. (…) The ability to bounce back from hardship and disaster is essential to all of our futures. Yet, if such ability is to be sustainable, and not rely on a “brute force” response, innovation will need to become a core practice for policymakers and on-the-ground responders alike.”

The first chapter “understanding change through the lens of resilience”, by the editors, goes through the definitions of resilience, adaptation and transformation, and then looks at how we could move from resilience to transformation.

While I appreciate the table on resilience, adaptation and transformation, it is a pity that a few pages further, they limit themselves by putting everything in a figure where adaptation and transformation is only seen as a process. And while the adaptive cycle is discussed, the figure feels rather static and not cyclical. However, they make up for this with an interesting discussion on rethinking change through a resilience lens.

Part II Recognizing vulnerability. Chapters 2 to 6 make up part II of the edited volume, which focuses on recognizing vulnerability. Two chapters relate to the triple disaster that hit Japan in March 2011, while other chapters cover vulnerability issues in Tunisia, Brazil and Mongolia.

It was the Mongolia chapter (Chapter 6) that touched me the most, discussing the vulnerability of pastoral social-ecological systems, impacted by climate extremes, and how vulnerability has changed, and still is changing during the country’s transition to capitalism. Two self-organizing processes are ongoing, being the migration from rural to urban areas, and the emergency of traditional pastoral networks, where households group together or form communities. Two developing pathways can be recognized in Mongolian rangelands; predominantly private land ownership versus the traditional land-use culture operated by traditional, resilient pastoral networks. It is very interesting to read how this has influenced, and at times limited, their adaptation options.

Part III Awareness and preparedness for change. Chapters 7 to 12 focus on how change and disaster are being prepared for, from the local to the global scale.

Chapter 10 discusses the development of an international institutional framework for climate adaptation and practice in adaptation planning in developing countries. That development is clearly a work in progress, and my feeling is that we all tend to move too quickly to the next best thing, without properly learning from what we have just introduced… This publication doesn’t even touch upon the Green Climate Fund (GCF), but we tend to move from one fund to the next, to the next, when these existing funds are underfunded and full of exciting proposals that need funding. This means that the governments in receiving countries – who are already spread thin – need to do yet another baseline assessment and rewrite everything to the GCF’s objectives after they just submitted it to the LDCF/SCCF to find out there is little money. Equally, 50+ countries completed their National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), to find little funding for their implementation, now developed their National Adaptation Plans (NAP) – yes, with a longer time horizon, to then find out they now need to come up with Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that also touch upon adaptation… We keep ourselves very busy, but we learn little from the past.

Part IV Tools and methods for building resilience. Chapters 13 to 16 focus on ICT-based toolboxes and planning tools for building resilience, ranging from conceptual – what kind of information, and how, do you need to support decisions in sustainable development and a resilient society – to the more practical examples on urban disaster resilience planning.

Chapter 16 stood out, because of its focus on ‘swarm planning’, something I had heard of, but I am not familiar with. Swarm planning departs from current spatial planning practice, adjusted on the basis of complexity theory. Problems play over long time-frames and are often seen as ‘wicked’. Spatial planning practice has had difficulties incorporating these characteristics, because these planning systems are generally used to solve rather straightforward and often linear problems. Swarm planning incorporates wicked problem thinking into spatial planning, aiming to develop a plan that is adjustable if need be.

“When we allow the urban fabric to adjust dynamically to external shocks, like a swarm of bees does, the city becomes more adaptive”. I like the sound of that! Nevertheless, the urban fabric is made up of people, and – like a hive – extreme events do often result in a significant death toll. And, not to underplay the complexity of bee societies, a bee society has a top-down governance structure where the individuals have one of four roles; queen, nurse, forager, and drone. Reality of the urban environment is a little more complex… Having said that, this chapter is a great read, and at the end I feel like calling up Rob Roggema and Nikolay Popov (the authors) to continue the discussion! “Swarm planning emphasizes the inclusion of complexity, multiple rhythms and non-linear processes of spatial planning.” There is a very interesting case study on an urban renewal project West of Melbourne’s business district. The beauty is not in developing these theories and models, the beauty is in applying them, and this is where it gets really interesting. Urban objects are defined, rules are set for each object based on swarm (bees) and flocking (birds) models, and then it was indicated which objects would remain unchanged and which ones are more dynamic. Rules are added on steering behavior and flocking behavior, to make sure the objects do not get too close to one another and have dynamic behavior. In this way you can mimic how buildings would flock when sea level would rise 4 meters, providing an answer for a flood-safe building area. What I noticed was that only one climatic threat – sea level rise – was included. And the authors in the end point out that with the use of multiple climatic threats (I was thinking of urban heat), the result would be more of a compromise. You also have to keep in mind that the urban environment cannot continuously reconfigure. But a very interesting chapter!

Part V Transformation from disaster and crisis. Chapters 17 to 20 focus on the opportunity for transformative change in the aftermath of a disaster.

Chapter 17 discusses a case study of Japan’s Awaji island green infrastructure in reconstruction after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. And what was interesting to me is that they went back to the first maps of 1847 in their analysis of changes in land use. Long term land management in pre-industrial Japan has influenced the reconstruction plans and could inform sustainable land use in the future.

Chapters 18 and 19 also focus on Japan in the aftermath of the March 2011 disasters, while Chapter 20 discusses the challenges and opportunities in building resilience in Africa through transformation and a green economy. Providing a good introduction to the African context, this chapter also discusses examples that relate to the food-water-energy nexus. The chapter concludes, among other things, that Africa has all the ingredients for a bright and prosperous future, with a main challenge being institutional capacity and the efficiency of institutions implementing green and smart solutions.

Part VI Building resiliency with community. The last four chapters focus on the role of communities, and on how resilient communities are organized. These chapters (especially 21 and 24) resonate with me, given I was involved in the post-tsunami reconstruction effort with the Red Cross in Banda Aceh and North Sumatra, after the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.

Chapter 21 discusses a community base environmental design approach, empowering local expertise, while Chapter 24 focuses on combining the skills of architects and local expertise in emergency housing implementation. We used a similar approach on a prefab design that is sensitive to the local context when designing and implementing emergency housing in the highlands of Nias Island. There was certainly a lot of learning on the job, and I would have loved to have read these last four chapters before my engagement in that Red Cross job. Still, it worked out well.

If the length of a book review is in any way in indicator for a publication’s quality, then yes, it certainly is in this case! It was a pleasure reading “Rethinking resilience, adaptation and transformation in a time of change”, and – despite its price – I highly recommend this publication to those working in post disaster recovery situations, or interested in the topics of resilience, adaptation and transformation.


The post Book Review:“Rethinking Resilience, Adaptation and Transformation in a Time of Change” appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

This story first appeared on the EDF blog

28 January 2019 | Federal climate action is in an indefinite holding pattern with a serious risk of major backtracking; but the good news is that non-federal climate action has continued, with states, cities and businesses gearing up to take big strides toward the commitments they have made on climate.

Oregon is one key state with a big opportunity for bold action in 2019. The state Legislature reconvened on January 22 and will consider a “cap and invest” bill that promises to place a firm limit on the state’s climate pollution while ensuring continued investments in resilient communities, green jobs and clean energy. Legislators are expected to release bill language by January 31.

On the cusp of success
Oregon is on the cusp of success with the pieces appearing to line up for a climate victory in 2019; but as any campaign veteran knows, some of the most critical make-or-break moments come in the final stretch. The Oregon Legislature has considered versions of a cap and invest proposal for several years with a big push for passage in 2018 with the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. The Legislature was unable to pass that bill during a short session; but laid the groundwork for the current 2019 effort.

Leaders of both houses of the Legislature left their session vowing to make cap and invest a key priority in 2019. They also made a down payment on action by creating a Carbon Policy Office and devoting $1.4 million to staffing and analysis.

Gov. Kate Brown and many legislators won contested elections in 2018with climate action front and center of their campaigns. The message was clear: Oregonians know that climate change is already negatively impacting their state and demand action consistent with not only longstanding state climate commitments, but even more importantly with what scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Elected officials are talking the right talk so far and 2019 is the year to deliver.

What will cap and invest look like?
The full details of the legislative package are still being actively negotiated, but we know quite a bit already about how Oregon’s program will likely work. Legislators have been working on a framework that will place an enforceable limit on climate pollution from sources across the state. This limit will decline over time—resulting in an annual “budget” for greenhouse gases. Compliance will be facilitated through a flexible, cost-effective mechanism: “allowances” -equivalent to each ton of pollution in the budget – will be created, and each regulated source of pollution in the state will be required to surrender an allowance for each ton of pollution they put into the atmosphere.

Oregon is developing a tailor-made approach for the state, with an eye toward linking to the Western Climate Initiative, a collaboration started in 2007 that included seven states (including Oregon) and four Canadian provinces. This linkage will enable low-cost carbon reductions through regional collaboration. California and Quebec are the current WCI members with active carbon markets and both have seen pollution decline and impressive economic growth since their programs launched in 2013.

Oregon’s program, like California and Quebec’s, will likely cover most sectors of the economy, including transportation fuels, industry, electricity and natural gas. A portion of the allowances will be given to Oregon businesses’ that face competitive pressures from out-of-state, while another portion will be likely auctioned with the proceeds going to further reduce greenhouse gases. These broad-brush design features have been staples of previous iterations of cap and invest in Oregon and are expected to be included in this year’s version.

Defining a movement
If successful, Oregon would be only the second state to set an economy-wide limit on climate pollution that covers all major emitting sectors. Oregon’s progress, along with movement in a few other key jurisdictions, could catalyze a national trend.

Nine states plus the District of Columbia have also expressed a commitment to develop the policy to cap transportation emissions in addition to the power sector emissions currently capped by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Moreover, 16 states plus Puerto Rico have joined the Climate Alliance, committing to achieve reductions consistent with the Paris Agreement across their economies. A few governors have even begun the important and cross-sector work of translating those commitments into reality. For example, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has moved deliberately in 2018 to cap carbon pollution from the power sector, committed to developing the policy needed to cap transportation sector pollution, and is exploring regulatory action to cut methane emissions from gas operations.

With numerous incoming governors pledging to take big steps on climate, Gov. Brown’s focus on spurring an efficient, multi-sector policy across the finish line in Oregon—one that puts an enforceable limit on climate pollution and that is consistent with the scale of the challenge—provides a powerful template for what state level climate leadership ought to look like.

The post Oregon Poised to Cap Greenhouse Gas Emissions appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

25 January 2019 | By now, we’ve all heard of freshman US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) proposal to form a Select Committee For A Green New Deal, which is designed to create legislation that will shift the US economy to 100 percent renewables within ten years of passage. It has the support of dozens of other legislators, but it’s hardly the only proposal in the works. Fellow freshman Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) thinks such high ambition could prove counterproductive, and Senator Ed Markey, who co-sponsored the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade Bill back in 2009, is reportedly working on his own proposal.

At the same time, the number of viable candidates throwing their hats into the presidential race is growing, and while all of them advocate action on climate change, few have explicitly said how they will deliver – let alone whether they advocate a price on carbon.

In this scorecard, we will be tracking the candidates’ positions on climate and adjusting them as the positions come into focus. We are also reaching out to the candidates directly with specific questions, and we invite feedback from you on the issues we’ve chosen to highlight.

We want to hear from you, so feel free to contact me at or utilize our comments section below. We consider this a living document that will expand, contract, and hopefully sharpen over time. We may change the title as themes emerge, and we may expand beyond the Democratic Party, too. For this list, we focused on declared candidates who have already held public office, and added in Andrew Yang because he seems to drawing attention.

Elizabeth Warren

General: Warren has proposed, but not yet introduced, legislation called the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, which would require public companies to quantify and disclose their climate risk exposure. Her proposal builds on the work of Michael Bloomberg’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, which is a global task force designed to promote climate risk disclosure.

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Price on Carbon: No public comments yet.

John Delaney

General: Delaney co-sponsored last year’s Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 7173), along with three other Democrats and three Republicans. The returning sponsors say they will re-introduce it in the new session. The bill, in its current form, calls for a $15-per-ton carbon tax, increasing $10 every year, until it reaches $100-per-ton, with much of the proceeds going to low- and middle-income families hit hardest by rising energy costs. The goal is a 40-percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions within 12 years of passage, and a 90-percent reduction by 2050.

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Price on Carbon: He supports a carbon tax, which makes sense given his sponsorship of HR 7173

Kirsten Gillibrand

General: Gillibrand has supported cap-and-trade since at least 2009 and has proposed but not yet introduced a  Keep it in the Ground Act, which would ban any new leases for gas or oil drilling on federal lands.

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Price on Carbon: She vociferously endorses a price on carbon, and is agnostic on whether it should be a tax or cap-and-trade.

Richard Ojeda

General: Ojeda is an Army vet and former West Virginia State Senator who acknowledges the reality of climate science but also says he wants to protect the coal sector.

Green New Deal: Not clear

Paris Agreement: Not clear

Price on Carbon: Not clear

Kamala Harris

General: Harris investigated Exxon Mobil for hiding climate risks from shareholders, and she’s earned a 100 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters.

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Price on Carbon: Not clear

Tulsi Gabbard

General: Gabbard introduced the OFF Fuels for a Better Future Act, which would immediately eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels and use the savings to subsidize a transition to 100 percent renewables by 2035.

Green New Deal: Supports

Paris Agreement: Supports

Price on Carbon: Has expressed support, but it’s not yet clear in what form Not clear

Julian Castro

General: As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he oversaw programs designed to improve climate resilience, and as Mayor of San Antonio he encouraged companies to voluntarily embrace sustainable practices.

Green New Deal: Not clear

Paris Agreement: Supports

Price on Carbon: Not clear

Pete Buttigieg

General: Buttigieg has vociferously criticized the Trump administration’s recalcitrance on climate issues, but he just joined the race, and his policies are not yet clear.

Green New Deal: No public comments yet

Paris Agreement: Supports

Price on Carbon: No public comments

Andrew Yang

General: A tech entrepreneur, Yang puts a strong emphasis and developing new technologies,  and advocates the creation of a Global Geoengineering Institute and invite international participation

Green New Deal: No public comments yet

Paris Agreement: Supports

Price on Carbon: He advocates a “tax on emissions that will fund health care initiatives and research for respiratory diseases that are a direct result of these emissions.” The wording indicates a tax on both greenhouse-gas emissions and other pollutants, given the emphasis on respiratory illnesses.

The post Green New Democrats: Who Is Pricing Carbon? appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

This is the second in a continuing series. You can read the first installment here.

24 January 2019 | Ernie Shea clearly remembers that frigid Saturday in Copenhagen, in December, 2009. It was the midpoint of global climate negotiations, and he’d come with a contingent of North American farmers for the first Agriculture and Rural Development Day.

“We’d been holding all these workshops across the United States, and we had just launched Solutions from the Land,” he says, referencing the US-based “do tank” (as opposed to “think tank”) that he was spearheading, along with Ohio farmer Fred Yoder, California farmer AG Kawamura, and dozens of others.

“By 2009, we had a pretty good idea of how farmers could be part of the climate solution, and we’d put a lot of time and effort into boiling it all down into a simple briefing paper that we were distributing,” he recalls. “One of the first people I ran into was Tom Vilsack, who was US Secretary of Agriculture at the time, and under his arm was our briefing paper.”

“We were pretty optimistic,” says Kawamura, who in addition to being a farmer was serving as the state of California’s Secretary of Agriculture. “The whole REDD+ thing was moving along, and we thought agriculture would fit right into that.”

“REDD+” is an acronym for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, plus the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks,” and it had taken over 20 years to reach the level of development it had achieved in 2009. It would be another five years before it became enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, and it won’t be fully operational until 2020.

You can trace its genesis back even further, to the Island of Hawaii, in 1958.

The Keeling Curve

That’s the year the late American scientist Charles Keeling started measuring the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory. He found that not only was the amount gradually increasing, but it was doing so in a zigzag pattern, which reflected the annual rhythm of Northern farms and forests coming alive in the summer, when they sponge up CO2, and falling dormant in the winter.

The Keeling Curve: This is your planet on CO2. Source: Global Warming Art Project.

Deforestation and Climate Change

If this natural rhythm had such a pronounced effect on the atmosphere, scientists began to wonder, what impact does rampant deforestation have? How much of our greenhouse gasses come from industrial emissions, and how much form chopping trees?

Scientists had known about the greenhouse effect since the early 1900s, when Swedish scientist Svante August Arrhenius dubbed it the “hot-house” effect, but Keeling’s curve showed that CO2 levels were rising faster than most believed. As the curve continued to climb over the ensuing decades, so did interest in climate change.

Trees as Climate Tools

By the early 1970s, scientists were beginning to see climate change as a very real but distant threat – one that would eventually force us to completely restructure our industrial economy. Physicist Freeman Dyson seems to be one of the first to explore the use of trees as a bulwark against climate change.

“Suppose that, with the rising level of CO2, we run into an acute ecological disaster,” he wrote in a 1977 article entitled “Can We Control the Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere?“, published in the journal Energy. “Would it then be possible for us to halt or reverse the rise in CO2 within a few years by means less drastic than the shutdown of industrial civilization?”

His conclusion: yes, it would be possible to slow climate change by planting trees – but not as a permanent solution. Instead, he saw trees as a short-term, stopgap measure that would slow the process long enough for technology to catch up.

“The long-term response, if such a catastrophe becomes imminent, must be to stop burning fossil fuels and convert our industry to renewable photosynthetic fuels, nuclear fuels, geothermal heat and direct solar-energy conversion,” he continued. “But a world-wide shift from fossil to non-fossil fuels could not be carried out in a few years… An emergency plant-growing program would provide the necessary short-term response to hold the CO2 at bay while the shift away from fossil fuels is being implemented.”

Trees and Sustainable Agriculture

Meanwhile, in 1974, humanitarian organization CARE had launched a program called Mi Cuenca (My Watershed) to help Guatemalan farmers save their topsoil – in part by planting rows of trees on steep farmland to capture runoff and create natural terraces. The project soon became an unqualified success, and farmers across the region were clamoring to join, but by 1988 CARE was running out of money, and the project was on its last leg.

That same year, the United Nations launched the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to explore the science of global warming, while an energy executive named Roger Sant started looking to expand his company’s output – preferably by building wind farms.

A proponent of green energy in the Carter Administration, Sant had co-founded a company called Applied Energy Services (AES), in part with the objective of making green energy work.

Rural Development and Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Wind-farm technology wasn’t what it is today, so Sant asked the World Resources Institute (WRI) if there was a way to offset his emissions by reducing them somewhere else – a radical concept at the time. WRI picked up Dyson’s idea – which other scientists had been developing further – and suggested he plant trees across the United States.

That’s when Paul Faeth got into the act. He was an agricultural engineer with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), which was in the process of merging into WRI.

Faeth knew of Mi Cuenca‘s plight, and he proposed killing two birds with one stone: by planting trees in Guatemala, he said, AES could help both the environment and the rural poor.

How do you Measure Carbon in Trees?

Intrigued, AES began working with WRI to explore the science of carbon accounting – science that had, ironically, been developed by timber companies to estimate the amount of wood in a forest. It was a simple but labor-intensive process that involved measuring trees at chest-height and then applying “allometric equations” based on the trees’ species and circumference to see how much wood they contained. From there, it was simple math to extrapolate the amount of carbon: basically, divide the wood by two.

But there was more to it than just the carbon in the newly-planted trees.

Deforestation and Climate Change

Researchers at the time were estimating that deforestation contributed about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions – estimates that have since been confirmed by the IPCC. That meant you could reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster by saving endangered forests than by planting new trees, which would need decades to get big enough to matter. Plus, living forests provide habitat for endangered species and deliver “ecosystem services” such as water filtration and climate control. On top of that, saving forests seemed inexpensive.

WRI had just hired a policy analyst named Mark Trexler, who pointed out that any trees they planted on the slopes would also save endangered forest further up, because farmers wouldn’t have to keep abandoning their land for greener pastures. That, he argued, was more important from a carbon perspective than planting trees – especially if many of the newly-planted trees ended up being cut down to supply farmers’ immediate needs. He proposed focusing their attention on saving the trees

In the end, AES decided to spend $2 million to save and expand Mi Cuenca to offset 2 million tons of its own internal CO2 emissions. CARE re-named the project “Mi Bosque” (My Forest), and today their experiment is considered by some to be the world’s first REDD project. Although a later analysis found it drastically over-estimated the amount of carbon that was kept out of the atmosphere, it sparked the decade of experimentation that led to the creation of today’s rigorous carbon standards.

Climate Talks Begin

The project caught the eye of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and pilot projects started proliferating across Latin America. The term “REDD” wouldn’t enter the vernacular for another 15 years, but NGOs began developing structured, methodological approaches to “Avoided Deforestation” (AD), which became a hot topic at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, as well as at the First Conference of the Parties (COP 1) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Berlin in 1995.

As climate talks progressed, analysts like Trexler and ecologists like Tia Nelson of TNC argued for the inclusion of Avoided Deforestation and conservation in the UNFCCC framework, and proposals ranged from recognition for “project-based” initiatives like Mi Bosque to “national baseline frameworks” using a country’s historic rate of deforestation as a performance baseline and then offering payments for beating it.

Politics and Science: the Great Divide

The proposals, unfortunately, found little traction – for a variety of reasons. To begin with, few climate negotiators had a forestry background, while “offsetting” had become equated with “incentivizing industrial reductions”, and most environmental organizations were horrified by the idea of cheap offsets, which they feared would flood the market and remove the incentive to change industrial practices. Finally, developing countries – still mindful of their recent colonial past – feared that REDD would cost them control of their forests. On top of all that, no one really agreed on how best to determine which forest was in danger and which was not.

As a result, when the Kyoto Protocol emerged from COP 3 in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, Avoided Deforestation was off the UN table and relegated to voluntary markets, where it continued to evolve at the pilot scale under real-world conditions.

NEXT: The Resurrection of REDD+, and How it Paved the Way for Agriculture

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This story has been adapted from the 2015 story “REDD Dawn: the Birth of Forest Carbon”, which in turn was adapted from the book “Carbon Cowboys and REDD Indians”, still in progress. Although most Ecosystem Marketplace content is published under Creative Commons, the copyright holder of this piece is Steve Zwick.

The post Forests, Farms, and the Global Carbon Sink: The Genesis appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

19 January 2019 | In his 1974 book Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the late American philosopher Robert Persig described periods of “lateral drift,” which most of us enter at some point, after realizing that the beliefs and premises we’ve been taught don’t always match our experiences. Lateral drift brought Persig into a “far orbit of the mind” that seemed unproductive at the time, but which set the stage for periods of fervent activity.

Something similar is happening in the “Zero-Deforestation Supply Chain Movement,” which is a key component of the global effort to end climate change, and next week’s Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) could provide the impetus for moving beyond lateral drift into fervent activity.

First, some background: the supply chain movement merged almost ten years ago, when hundreds of leading companies pledged to reduce their impact on forests by changing the way they produce, procure, and process commodities. Since then, scores of companies have dramatically reduced their individual impact on forests, but overall rates of deforestation are continuing to rise as bad actors step into forests that more sustainably-minded organizations have spared.

While failing to end deforestation, the supply chain movement has catalyzed a complete restructuring of global supply chains for cattlesoy,  palm oil and pulp & paper – the “big four” commodities responsible for most of the world’s deforestation, which in turn generates almost 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

The supply chains of these and other commodities are now more transparent than they were just five years ago, and that makes it easier than ever to reward good actors while purging bad ones.

What’s been missing is the will to execute that purge, but the WEF’s most recent Global Risks Report shows where that will can come from. Business leaders, it turns out, see climate change as the single greatest threat to prosperity, and they have the clout to address it. The question is: will they muster the courage?

Brief History of the Supply Chain Movement

The supply chain movement began germinating after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, after it became clear that deforestation was generating a massive amount of the world’s greenhouse gasses. In 1993, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) emerged to promote sustainable pulp & paper harvesting, but deforestation continued to surge as forests were cleared to meet our ravenous appetites for other commodities.

Responses varied from commodity-to-commodity and region-to-region. Palm oil, for example, was the main driver in Malaysia and Indonesia, where a consortium of NGOs and industry groups formed the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004 to promote sustainable palm oil. Cattle and soy were the drivers in the Amazon region, where NGOs took a more aggressive approach. In 2006, NGOs pressured consumer-facing companies in the United States and Europe, as well as exporters in Brazil, to sign a Soy Moratorium that ended purchases of soy from farmers who’d recently chopped forest to expand production. In 2009, Greenpeace began publicly attacking consumer-facing companies that purchased deforestation-related cattle products from the Amazon region.

Large-Scale Pledges to End Deforestation

The first large-scale deforestation commitment came in 2010, when the 400 companies comprising the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) passed a resolution to achieve zero net deforestation within its sphere of influence by 2020. The companies quickly realized they couldn’t achieve the goals without broader support from governments and NGOs, so CGF and the US government launched the Tropical Forest Alliance in 2012 to include these sectors, and eventually christened it “TFA2020” to emphasize the target year.

In 2014, UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon launched the New York Declaration on Forests, which is a cluster of ten pledges to cut the global rate of deforestation in half by 2020, and to end it by 2030 while restoring hundreds of millions of acres of degraded land.

Taking Stock

Last year, TFA2020 hired environmental consultancy Climate Focus to evaluate the impact that these myriad supply chain efforts had on deforestation, and Climate Focus in turn contracted Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends to support that effort. We interviewed scores of people active in commodity supply chains – from smallholder farmers to chief executives to environmental NGOs – and published the findings in a report called “Impacts of Supply Chain Commitments on the Forest Frontier.”

The findings are

How Commitments Work

Consumer-facing companies like Mars and Marks & Spencer rarely grow their own cacao or raise their own cattle. Instead, they buy from hundreds of millions of ranchers, farmers, and fishermen scattered around the world.

When they sign onto something like the NYDF, the good ones will then look for ways to meet their commitments – sometimes by purchasing only commodities certified under something like the RSPO, but other times by mapping their entire supply chains to see which traders they can trust. At that point, they usually examine three strategies: move forward by avoiding purchases from high-deforestation areas, help suppliers improve their practices, and/or look for alternate materials.

If you’re curious about individual corporate strategies, the Forest Trends Supply-Change initiative tracks both corporate strategies and reported progress.

The Bifurcated Supply Chain

The supply chain movement is largely driven by consumer demand, and environmental NGOs have spent decades educating consumers in North America, Europe, and Australia, on the need for sustainable practices and outing bad actors. As a result, almost 90 percent of the companies with deforestation commitments are based in these three regions.

Unfortunately, these three regions aren’t where the demand is. China is the world’s largest importer of both soy and pulp & paper products, while India is the world’s largest importer of palm oil, and much of Brazil’s beef is consumed domestically. This is why global supply chains have separated, like vinegar and oil, with some segments becoming transparent and sustainable, and others operating in the shadows. It’s no coincidence, for example, that RSPO certification applies to 19 percent of the world’s palm oil, roughly the amount that is exported to Europe and the United States.

This clear bifurcation is, obviously, an oversimplification, as many companies are somewhere in the middle – especially since RSPO certifies plantations rather than entire operations. This enables companies to join the organization without putting their whole network under a microscope, but that in turn means more scrutiny.

Environmental research group AidEnvironment, for example, found that RSPO member Indofood was using shell companies to deforest in Borneo’s Ketungau peat swamp to make way for future oil palm plantations, and an earlier investigation showed that Malaysian palm oil giant, Felda Global Ventures (FGV), had violated Indonesia’s peat moratorium and Malaysian labor laws. More prominently, Greenpeace last year published two reports documenting systematic deforestation being undertaken by companies associated with RSPO members and companies with supply chain commitments. In each of these cases, the NGOs used a dual approach – filing formal complaints with the RSPO while aggressively campaigning to force action.

Globalization 4.0

While consumer demand is great, most executives will concede that, ultimately, governments must step up with minimum standards that are high enough to save forests, and a majority of delegates to last year’s annual TFA2020 meeting in Accra, Ghana, called for just that.

This is where the WEF can help, too.

Business leaders have clearly identified climate change as the greatest threat of our day, and the theme of next week’s meeting is “Globalization 4.0,” which WEF founder Klaus Schwab describes as an effort to build a new “shared future” akin to that forged in the wake of World War II.

The supply chain movement has created the transparency and tested the methods of ending deforestation, but lateral drift needs to give way to fervent activity. That’s the only way to blend oil and vinegar.

The post Davos and the Salad Sauce of Sustainable Supply Chains appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

18 January 2019 | UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged Member States to do their best to make September 2019 a defining moment for stopping runaway climate change, achieving the SDGs and building a fair globalization. Addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in a briefing at the start of 2019, Guterres reflected on the UN’s achievements in 2018, and outlined priorities for the coming year.

The briefing came one day after UNGA President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés outlined similar priorities for the remainder of the 73rd UNGA session.

Guterres told delegations that the UN had made a difference in 2018 in the areas of: the search for peace diplomacy in countries such as Yemen, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia and Armenia; the adoption of the Paris Agreement Work Programme during the Katowice Climate Change Conference; and the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and of the Global Compact on Refugees in December 2018.

He noted that work intensified to reach the SDGs, with 102 States having presented Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) so far to assess national-level implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On humanitarian aid, he reported that approximately US$15 billion coming from country contributions helped reach about 100 million people in need. He also noted that for the first time in the history of the UN, it reached gender parity within the senior management and among the candidates for the position of resident coordinator.

Guterres also highlighted initiatives launched in 2018, including the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative endorsed by 151 countries and four major organizations, and the launch of Youth 2030, the UN’s strategy for working with and for young people. On the UN reforms led by the Secretary-General, he said: the repositioned UN Development System is now in place, including a new Resident Coordinator system and a new generation of Country Teams; the UN peace and security architecture has been fortified to strengthen prevention, mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding; and new management capacities, structures and practices, including new levels of transparency, simplification and accountability will underpin these changes and “deeply transform” the UN.

On the work ahead, Guterres stressed the need to accelerate the “surge in diplomacy,” and to strengthen partnerships. He said “there can be never room for hate speech, intolerance or xenophobia,” and called for investing in social cohesion, education, new skills for people to adapt, and safety nets for those that risk to be left behind. He announced that the UN will continue to strengthen its partnership with the African Union (AU) in order to consolidate gains towards peace, adding that lasting peace must be based on a broad consensus of society, “with women as full participants in all peace processes.”

Guterres asked to dramatically accelerate efforts on key 21st-century challenges, namely: the fight against climate change; achieving the SDGs; and stepping up new technologies that can “turbocharge” this work. Further on climate change, he remarked that by 2020, under the Paris Agreement, Member States are meant to assess progress and submit new pledges to meet the goals to which they agreed. In addition, by 2050, net zero global emissions should be reached. On technologies, he indicated that “later in 2019” his High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation will report on proposals for reducing digital inequality, building digital capacity and ensuring that new technologies are on “our side and are a force for good.”

In an interactive discussion, countries highlighted the need to protect and strengthen multilateralism, and welcomed the UN reforms led by the Secretary-General on development, management and peace and security. Many UN Member States also referred to the high-level events that will take place in September 2019 during the UNGA’s annual General Debate, including the UN Climate Summit, the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development, and the ‘SDG Summit.’ They stressed the need to renew and reaffirm commitments towards the 2030 Agenda and combatting climate change.

Thailand for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said the theme of Thailand’s 2019 ASEAN chairmanship is ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability,’ and this reinforces the idea that multilateralism should be protected. The EU stressed the importance of universal values, respect for rule of law, promotion of human rights and human dignity, and for a UN that is tailored to new challenges, in line with the UN reforms.

Thanking other countries for their words of comfort and condolences following the terrorist attacks in Kenya on 15 January, Kenya stressed the importance of working closely together to tackle the “global phenomenon” of terrorism. South Africa reported that the relationship between the UN and Africa has strengthened, including through the Joint UN-AU Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security, and the AU-UN framework for the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Referring to challenges with the UN’s financial situation, the US suggested reforming its budget process and improve its ability to better manage resources to deliver on its mandates. Afghanistan stressed the need to find new ways to implement UNGA and UN Security Council resolutions, noting that their implementation “remains weak.”

On climate change, Fiji noted that climate action speaks to all areas of the UN reforms and, if not addressed could be an “extreme threat” to all the SDGs combined. Chile underscored the importance of addressing climate change, and noted that the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 25) will take place in Santiago.

On efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, Mexico said his president signed a decree through which all the country’s public and social policies will be inspired by and based on the 2030 Agenda. Colombia said the SDGs are a guide to “administrate globalization” and to ensure the effectiveness of multilateralism, adding that his country has incorporated the 17 SDGs into its domestic policy, and the Goals are considered permanent guidance for public policy in Colombia.

On migrants and refugees, Mexico said his country is the first or second largest corridor in the world for migration, and it will take the Global Compact on Migration as a basis for its legislation and policies. Jordan called on the UN to continue to support countries that host refugees.

This story has been compiled from press releases

The post UN to Ramp Up Focus on Climate, SDGs in 2019 appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

9 January 2019 | Arthur “A.G.” Kawamura’s family has been growing fruits and vegetables in the US state of California for three generations, but they’ve never seen heat like this. “We’ve had two once-in-a-millennium heatwaves in the past two years,” says Kawamura. “The climate is changing, and farmers have to change with it.”

Fred Yoder’s family has survived four generations of farming in Iowa – in part, he says, because they’ve always been willing to roll with the changes. “Farmers are nothing if not adaptable,” he says. “We’ve all been adapting to a changing climate, whether we admit it or not.”

But farmers aren’t just adapting to climate change; they’re also key to reversing it, as a 2017 summary of existing research and practices made clear.

Entitled “Natural Climate Solutions,” it identified 20 existing practices that can be scaled up to flip agriculture from being a net emitter of greenhouse gasses to a massive global sink that gets the world 37 percent of the way to meeting the Paris Agreement’s 2-degree target.

“We’re doing a lot of what’s in that report already, but we call it ‘climate-smart agriculture,’” says Yoder, who is a former president of the National Corn Growers Association, using a term that the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) created more than five years after he’d started experimenting with “no-till” farming.

“Some people call it ‘slot farming’,” he explains. “They call it that because you just cut a hole in the surface of the soil big enough to put the seed in, but leave the bulk of the soil intact.”

That’s “climate smart” because it both reduces greenhouse-gas emissions and fortifies crops against climate change. It primarily works by locking carbon and nitrogen in the soil, which prevents them from blending with oxygen to form carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide – two powerful greenhouse gasses. Instead, it leaves them in the soil, where they act as fertilizer, and it also preserves an entire web of crop-sustaining life.

“My ground is completely full of earthworms, and it has a lot of porosity, with rotted channels where the roots had been,” says Yoder. “You go where somebody has been tilling, and it’s just dead; there’s no structure.”

Kawamura promoted no-till farming and other forms of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) while serving as California’s Secretary of Agriculture under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and both he and Yoder had high hopes when they joined a contingent of farmers attending the 2015 climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Boy, were they disappointed.

Fred Yoder, on his family farm in Ohio. Photo Credit: EDF

Agriculture and Climate Change

Farming generates between 10 and 12 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gasses, but that figure doesn’t include emissions from forests cleared to grow soy,  oil palm, and other crops, which adds another 15 to 20 percent, depending on the year.

“We need to be talking about sustainable intensification, which is getting more production on less land and with fewer inputs,” says Yoder. “That’s the only thing that’s going to get us out of this cycle of continuously clearing land and wearing it out and then clearing some more and wearing it out again.”

That’s what he, Kawamura, and the rest of their contingent expected to find in Copenhagen.

“Everybody was talking about ending deforestation, which was great, and the whole REDD+ thing was fairly advanced,” says Kawamura, referring to a set of international agreements to save forests and reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation.

“But very few people were talking about farming,” he adds. “And when they were, most weren’t linking it to deforestation.”

What they were doing, says Yoder, was attacking agriculture.

Is There a Farmer in the Room?

Seventy-five percent of the world’s 570 million farms are family-run, and 80 percent of the farms in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are run by smallholder farmers working 10 hectares or less. These smallholders account for just 12 percent of the world’s farmers, but they’re among those hardest-hit by climate change.

“Smallholders rightly get a lot of attention at these climate talks,” says Yoder, whose own farm covers just 1500 acres – hardly smallholder territory, but not a mega-farm, either.

“We need to support the smallholders,” he says. “But whenever commercial farming came up – and family farms are included in that – all we heard was how it was the root of all evil and needed to be completely reinvented.”

There was something else they noticed: few, if any, of the other delegates were farmers themselves.

“It’s the same thing we’d seen a few years earlier in the US,” says Yoder. “You had all these people proposing grand masterplans to change farming, but none of them had ever raised a crop in their lives.”

He and the others returned from Copenhagen determined to change that, becoming in the process part of a global effort to get farmers involved in the emerging mechanisms for ending climate change. It’s an effort they’d been engaging domestically for years, and one that began long before Copenhagen, and that was unfolding organically around the world as UN agencies like the FAO found common ground with representative groups like the Paris-based World Farmers’ Organization (WFO) and, eventually, negotiators within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

These efforts converged in 2016, after the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement, and they’ve been snowballing ever since. In 2017, they were formalized in a fast-track process called the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, which blends separate negotiating streams that normally focus on technical and implementing procedures in isolation into one stream that includes farmers, policymakers, and NGOs.

This story is the first in a multi-part series exploring the evolution of natural climate solutions and how they can help us meet the climate challenge. Scroll down to keep reading.

Hear the Full Interview with Fred Yoder

The story continues below, but you can hear our complete interview with Fred Yoder on Episode 39 of the Bionic Planet podcast, which also features Jason Funk of Carbon 180, Tonya Rawe of CARE, and Theo de Jager of the World Farmers’ Organisation. As we roll out the articles, we’ll be posting additional podcasts featuring extended interviews with the people we’ve interviewed to pull this series together.

You can access Bionic Planet on all major podcatchers, including RadioPubliciTunesStitcher, and on this device here:

Ted Turner’s Best Investment

In 1997, media entrepreneur Ted Turner made what he recently described as “the best investment I’ve ever made” – namely, a $1 billion donation to the United Nations Foundation, which is a nonprofit he founded to support the United Nations’ sustainable development objectives. Among its many projects was something called the Energy Future Coalition, which aimed to forge new thinking on energy.

The Coalition formed six working groups, focused on everything from energy efficiency to the future of coal, and they asked Maryland administrator Ernie Shea to join the working group for bioenergy and agriculture.

“They invited me to a meeting in DC, and I looked around the room and saw all the wrong people,” he says, without naming names. “They were good, smart people, but they were all inside-the-Beltway types, and not agriculture leaders.”

Shea, who was running the National Association of Conservation Districts at the time, started working his rolodex.

“Ernie reached out to everyone he knew who had any kind of sphere of influence, no matter where they were or what their sphere,” says Kawamura. “He reached out to current and former heads of farmer associations, and of state agriculture departments, and of NGOs and business groups and religious organizations; it was geographically and thematically disbursed.”

At the time, just 6 percent of US energy came from renewable sources, but a scientific survey showed they could get to 25 percent with biofuels, solar, and wind – all of which come from farms – so they set that as a goal.

“As that happened, we started to focus on the question, ‘What business are we in?’” says Shea. “Are we in the food and fiber business? Or something more? And what does that look like? Is energy part of that future? We started this conversation, and then very quickly saw this is a historic opportunity to redefine the core function of agriculture.”

To food, feed, and fiber, they added “fuel”, and in 2004 they spun the working group off into the 25x’25 Renewable Energy Alliance, which eventually formulated a clear mission statement: “By 2025, America’s farms, forests and ranches will provide 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States, while continuing to produce safe, abundant, and affordable food, feed, and fiber.”

The Chicago-based Farm Foundation incorporated the mission into its roundtable discussions, and environmental groups got behind it, too.

“Suddenly, we went from a dozen leaders to a couple dozen organizations, and then it just mushroomed,” says Shea. “Over a three-year period, we grew to have about a thousand organization sign on to the 25 by ’25 goal. The House and Senate both passed resolutions endorsing it, as did 35 governors.”

In 2007, they published a 35-point Action Plan that defined not just their goal, but how to achieve it.

“One of the key words in our mission statement is ‘consumed,’” says Shea. “We weren’t just talking about producing biofuels, but about consuming them, because agriculture uses a lot of energy.”

By changing their own consumption patterns, he says, farmers could easily achieve that goal – but then the backlash came.

Fred Yoder, Ernie Shea, and AG Kawamura at the 2015 Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture in Abu Dhabi. Photo Credit EDF

The Biofuels Brouhaha

While 25x’25 included solar and wind, it’s primary focus was and remains biofuel, or fuels made from plant and animal matter.

Such fuels have been around since the discovery of fire, and Henry Ford used corn-based bioethanol to power his first Model T a century ago. The Kyoto Protocol, which came into effect in 2005, even treated biofuels as carbon-neutral because the combustion process re-emits carbon that the plants had mopped up from the atmosphere, while fossil fuels burp out carbon that had been stored in the earth for hundreds of thousands and even millions of years.

For these and other reasons, environmental groups embraced biofuels in the early 2000s, and they made their way into US President George W. Bush’s Renewable Fuel Standard and the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005. Farmers and processors responded by ramping up both acreage and processing capacity.

But then people started asking questions – such as how much energy it takes to grow and process biofuels, and where people will get corn for food to replace the corn now being harvested for biofuels. One study in the journal Science concluded that biofuels could end up generating twice as much greenhouse gas as petroleum does if it comes at the expense of forests.

“We kind of got whipsawed, and unfairly so,” says Yoder. “Even then, you could make biofuel from agricultural waste, and we have plenty of degraded lands that can be used to grow perennial grasses like switchgrass, which both replenish soils and can be used for biofuel.”

But biofuels were out of fashion, and farmers were left in the lurch, says environmental economist Sara Scherr, who runs a group called EcoAgriculture Partners.

“When the environmental movement woke up to realize that some of the bioenergy stuff in the United States was not the best for climate, a lot of the farmers felt betrayed, because they’d invested so much,” she says. “It’s unfair, because there’s a lot of good biofuel out there, but it all got lumped together.”

Shea believes the pushback was orchestrated in part by the fossil-fuel sector – a belief that rings true given revelations about the funding of climate-science denial.

“They ignored us at first, but then we grew up, and we started to become a threat,” he says. “The fossil fuel industry recruited surrogates to attack the premise and the goal, so we were attacked on the food front and the land conversion front. We were attacked on a water quality front and attacked on any and every front they could think of to undermine momentum and erode public confidence.”

The attacks, he adds, merely emboldened the farmers.

Building a “Do-Tank”

Meanwhile, two US politicians, Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, were formulating the American Clean Energy and Security Act (AKA: Waxman-Markey), which would have put a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions from industry while funneling money into sustainable land-use and bioenergy, among other things.

“We were trying to figure out how agriculture could generate offsets under Waxman-Markey, and also trying to adapt to climate change, and get more research into sustainable biofuels” says Yoder.

“That got us thinking more broadly,” says Shea. “We started thinking about everything that grows up from the land, shines down on the land, blows across the land, or flows across the land – how we as farmers can positively impact the landscape, or impact water quality, or provide habitat for endangered species.”

“We were tired of all the talk, and wanted to get things going on the ground,” says Yoder. “We decided we didn’t need another think tank. We needed a ‘do tank.’”

That got the attention of Conservation International and further support from the UN foundation, and 25x’25 spawned a new group called Solutions from the Land, which aims to “harmonize competing interests in land use and identify integrated solutions that address the challenges of food and energy security, biodiversity conservation, deforestation, climate change, and sustainable economic development.”

The Nature Conservancy and Farm Foundation quickly offered their backing as well, and Yoder and Kawamura were elected co-chairs.

At the end of 2009, Shea, Yoder, and Kawamura traveled to Copenhagen for the 15th Conference of the Party (COP 15) to the UNFCCC. They came armed with policy briefs and talking points, but found history repeating itself.

“The wrong people were in the room there, too,” says Shea.

Subscribe for Future Installments in this Series

This story is the first in a multi-part series exploring the evolution of natural climate solutions and how they can help us meet the climate challenge. In  the coming weeks, we’ll take you back to the 1800s, when Swedish scientist Svante August Arrhenius first discovered the “hot-house” effect, then progress through the 1970s, when physicist Freeman Dyson first explored the role that forests can play in slowing climate change. We’ll see how natural climate solutions were given short shrift in the Kyoto Protocol, but came to play a central role in the Paris Climate Agreement and national climate action plans. Finally, we’ll show you how the world’s farmers began to engage the process, and how all of these elements fit into the global supply chain, and what you can do to help us meet the global climate challenge.

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The post Forests, Farms, and the Global Carbon Sink: It’s Happening appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

This story is cross-posted on Agri-Pulse

3 January 2019 | Since my return last month from the global climate talks (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, I continue to mentally struggle with the events, actions and lack of actions I witnessed there that will have a significant impact on how we produce food and the efforts being made by those who want to change what – and the way – consumers should eat.

While there, I was struck by the lack of a unifying vision from the agriculture sector – not just from those who work the land, but also those in the supply chain who make their living in support of the producers of food, feed and fiber.

Here in the United States, we are witnessing what appears to be a state-by-state effort to dismantle the regulatory protections and support for agriculture that was put in place so many years ago. Those policy safeguards were adopted when appreciation for the vulnerability of the nation’s food supply was a shared experience by a much larger percentage of the American public. (There are 16 states with flags and seals that offer a nod toward the food supply and the proud notion of abundance.)

So, the starting place for this discussion on agriculture – be it livestock, crop or any other kind of food production – needs to be based on the context of history and the opposing concepts of scarcity and abundance – of choice/preference versus no choice.

If we hope to embrace strategies for global and national food security, the first priority is to protect the capacity to produce enough food for the world. We face a projected 26-percent rise in the global population by the year 2050 – 7.7 billion to 9.7 billion people. Even in the face of that massive increase, the current production of grains for livestock and for biofuel feedstocks offers a clear demonstration of the ample capacity to meet both of these needs from the global populations that would eat or use the derivative products – meat and ethanol.

If the world suffers some debilitating, catastrophic shift of climate – so much so that entire food producing regions are suddenly collapsing – how comforting it should be that at that time, we might choose to alter the productive capacity of grain use from livestock and biofuels to human consumption, driven by the urgency of delivering calories through the “plant based” diet. It’s a restorative process that would endure until the catastrophe can be addressed and productive capacity re-adjusted to meet the crisis, season by season.

In the simplest of terms, we should understand that maintaining and expanding the productive capacity of agriculture should be our highest priority. It should not be shutting down agricultural systems or stifling ag product use, as some interests in Poland have advocated.

The false narrative that the use of grains for livestock or biofuels is ruining the planet should make us nervous – especially as it is being espoused by many well-meaning individuals and groups who don’t quite appreciate or understand the challenges surrounding our agricultural endeavor.

The continuing evolution and improvement of agriculture through “climate smart” thinking must become our rallying call. We get that. And I see huge strides being made in many categories. The Solutions from the Land toolbox continues to grow exponentially. We need to stay the course with our mission and pathway forward.

My experience in Katowice was ironically encouraging and frustrating. Poland has endured more suffering than possibly any other country over the course of a century. The historically tragic winter shortages of food and energy during multiple episodes of invasion and conflict stands in stark contrast to the well-fed global negotiators and observers hoping to collectively meet the challenges of a changing climate. The equally well-nourished activists organizing around the various themes of ‘broken’ agriculture were busy advocating for an end to one component of the global food system after another. The criticisms are hard to bear, and I have to wonder how much longer the agricultural sector can stay quiet – or worse, fall into denial – about this accelerating decline of relevance.

It is difficult to comprehend just how under-appreciated agriculture has become and the loss of respect the sector has suffered. In California, voters don’t think that farmers need more water.  In multiple states, the anti-animal agriculture movement is promoting policies to limit the production of livestock. Over Thanksgiving, millions of pounds of perfectly good romaine lettuce were thrown away or disked down in the fields instead of harvested because of an indiscriminate ban that failed to identify the actual source of the outbreak and generated a public panic over the entire crop. The diatribe against agriculture continues because people have more than enough to eat. Congress passes an appropriately strong farm bill and the critics scream about the injustice and irresponsibility of rewarding the agriculturists of our country. Someone says our food system is broken. And I am wondering if our universal amnesia is chronic…or is it only a temporary paralysis of our ability to think this through.

Most assuredly we will remember why agriculture is important the day we return to a world of scarcity.  In the meantime, let us keep focused on the work at hand. We need to build resilience, transform and improve our capabilities and seek to build more “climate smart” capacity.

Does anyone of us in the sector see things differently? Are we slowly gaining momentum? Who will join us in advocating for the full range of goods and services farmers, ranchers and foresters can deliver from the land?


The post Opinion: Why a World with Abundant Food and Energy Choices Is More Than a Luxury appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

This piece first appeared on the GoSol Solar blog

21 December 2018 | After building the SOL5 solar concentrator and dehydrator in Cacoal, I was ready to take and install them for the Suruí people that live 3 hours down a bumpy off-road track on the edge of the Amazon jungle.

Introducing the Suruí

To give a bit of context. The specific Suruí family I was heading to visit live in an aldea (village) that consists of two big houses, a family in each. They are all Suruí, the father of the village lives in one house with his family and one of his older sons and his family live in the other. They explained that when a couple get together they can make a new village in the forest for themselves and build a house there or if all parties agree they can build in a village they already live in. Very cool because they can chose to build a house anywhere on their indigenous territory for free.

This has been their territory since before first contact in 1968. Now they live on 600,000 acres of protected land and forest.

Village (aldea) on Linea 10 (Near Cacoal), Rondonia, Brazil. Two Suruí houses.

Solar dehydration is needed in the Amazon

Now that I had the SOL5 and dehydrator built the next step was getting them to the Suruí on the edge of the jungle and using them to dehydrate the babassu nut. As per my first post it currently takes them 4 days to dry the babassu on the ground under the sun. We are trying to raise the ambient temperature from around 30°C to between 50°C and 60°C in the dehydrator to speed up the drying process. Any more and the heat would start to cook the nut instead of dehydrate it.

To be specific, the part of the nut they dehydrate is the “mesocarpo”, the flesh or pith of the nut. They use the dehydrated mesocarpo to make flour and bread. They sell both in local markets and eat some of the bread they make too.

“Mesocarpo”, the flesh or pith of the babassu nut.

I got the SOL5 & dehydrator installed in the aldea. There are always unforeseen obstacles in the way and this time it was that the aldea was on the side of a hill and the SOL5 needs a flat area where it can be installed and rotate to follow the sun. Luckily it didn’t seem to be a problem as once the Suruí understood the situation they promptly started working a space and digging and moving earth from a high to low ground to create an area for installation. At the same time me and a couple other Suruí guys got to work preparing the SOL5 for installation. A day later we where up and running!

SOL5 & Dehydrator up and running in aldea on Linea 10 (Near Cacoal), Rondonia, Brazil.

Going into the Jungle

At this point the project had come together nicely. The only thing left was to get some babassu mesocarpo to dehydrate. When I asked about this they said they did not have any fresh babassu at the time. It’s the rainy season so they are not drying the babassu at the moment. They dry the babassu between April and October when there is much less rain. But they said we could go and get some fresh babassu to try out the dehydrator and this means a 12km trip into the jungle to get it; 11km by motorbike followed by a river crossing on a boat they have out there followed by a 1km walk to the babassu trees and fresh babassu nuts that have fallen to the jungle floor. I could feel the adrenaline pumping though me at the thought of going 12km deep into the jungle!

The plan was to go the next day. Witch we did but as it was rainy season there were many fallen trees along the trail and the river had risen flooding our path to where to boat was moored. So it was a much longer adventure that we expected but we got there in the end as you can see in the short clip at the end of the post.

Fresh babassu nuts in the Amazon jungle, Rondonia, Brazil.


Successful dehydration in rainy season!

The next day I had to leave. I was sad to leave them, the jungle and the solar concentrator. It was very nice getting to know the Suruí indigenous people and it was exciting and an adrenaline rush to go into the jungle! It’s also very exciting to see if what we have achieved and proved in East Africa could replicate in the Amazon context so I look forward to getting the first data collected, building more units and training more people so they can get more outcome from the solar concentrator to improve their livelihood.

It’s the rainy season out there at the moment so there was not one dry day during my stay but after I left, they got a day of sun and started to dehydrated mesocarpo as we can see in the short clip they sent. They used the SOL5 from 9:30 to 15:00, shortening the drying time from 4 days to 5 and a half hours!

They’ll now reinforce the ground with gravel stones to make it flatter and less soft.

The post Indigenous People Tap Solar Heat To Dry Babassu Nuts appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

I’m writing this post from Washington, DC, where we just experienced the wettest year on record. In Paris, officials struggle to contain violent protests triggered by a fuel tax increase designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Residents of Canada, Sweden, and the US West are still picking up the pieces after record-breaking wildfire seasons. In other words, we are seeing the signs that climate change is going to be painful – and there’s no avoiding that.

This was the context of the global climate talks in Katowice, Poland, which wrapped up their 24th year-end summit this past weekend, just as word broke that greenhouse-gas emissions had jumped another 3 percent in 2018, the steepest rise in seven years.

Based on our team’s reports from Katowice, our take at Forest Trends is that negotiators have signed off on a promising, but incomplete, set of rules for implementing the Paris Agreement, which is best understood as a global framework for capturing and accelerating ambition.

The good news is that the talks delivered several necessary outcomes for deploying natural climate solutions at scale, including:

  • An agreement on how countries account for their greenhouse-gas emissions;
  • Clear rules on monitoring flows of finance;
  • A global platform through which indigenous people – the guardians of the forest – can engage the UNFCCC; and
  • A formal stream for incorporating farmers (as opposed to ministers of agriculture) into the process for the first time.

We also saw an increased focus on nature-based solutions, including forests, which we have championed for so long – solutions that can generate one-third of the mitigation needed to meet the Paris targets, but that currently draw just 3 percent of dedicated climate finance.

The bad news is that the talks failed to deliver guidance on how to develop international carbon markets, which are a critical tool for driving down emissions. This means that countries are free to create regional markets among themselves, but that a global market overseen by the UNFCCC remains in limbo for another year. Fortunately, several participants tell us that regional “carbon clubs” are stepping up with guidance of their own, as is permitted under the Paris Agreement.

So we didn’t get everything we wanted, but we know where we’re going next. We also know that we all need to ramp up our ambitions and actions. A few updates on where Forest Trends is headed:

The post So What Just Happened at the Climate Talks? appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

15 December 2018 | KATOWICE | Poland | Year-end climate talks (COP24) are drawing to a close here, and the results aren’t as bad as you may have heard.

The closing plenaries are set to begin now, and are being live-streamed here, but the negotiating text has been circulating for hours and represents a combination of good, bad, and ugly compromises that leave international carbon markets intact while sidelining Brazil’s plan to create a centralized hub akin to the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

The specific guidance relates to Article 6 of the Paris Climate Agreement, which says countries can generate internationally-transferred carbon offsets, but only if they’re used to deepen existing climate action plans (Nationally Determined Contributions, or “NDCs”), and only if they follow rigid guidelines developed through decades of scientific review.

Article 6 lays out two paths for creating these offsets, which are dubbed “ITMOs” in the argot of international climate talks (for internationally-transferred mitigation outcomes).

The first path, articulated in Article 6.2, lets lets countries generate ITMOs under recognized guidance, and it has already led to a proliferation of cross-border carbon-trading initiatives around the world.

The second path, explained in Article 6.4 and championed by Brazil, is being forged as a centralized mechanism within the UNFCCC called the Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM).

Both paragraphs faced challenges during the Katowice talks.

Burdens and Loopholes

On the eve of the talks, several current and former negotiators – most prominent among them being the respected former US negotiator Sue Biniaz – warned that some countries were violating the spirit of the Paris Agreement by loading the rule book for implementing it with overly prescriptive proposals.

“Article 6.2 is deliberately worded to recognize that countries may use transferred mitigation outcomes toward NDCs — whether or not the CMA (Conference of Parties to the Paris Agreement) provides guidance,” says Nathaniel Keohane, the Vice President in charge of Global Climate for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “That’s the crucial meaning of the phrase ‘consistent with guidance,’ which is widely understood to mean that if guidance exists it must be followed — but action does not depend on guidance.”

In the months leading up to Katowice, however, negotiators from several countries layered in proposals that critics said exceeded the existing guidelines. Biniaz went so far as to characterize the rule book as a rewrite of the Agreement itself — an assessment that seemed to resonate with observers here.

“The draft text that negotiators came to Katowice with included roughly 700 options, representing multiple examples of overreach, included by multiple countries,” said one observer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They should not have been there in the first place, and resolving took valuable time from priority topics, which cannot be understated.”

Article 6.4, meanwhile, faced a different challenge, as Brazil pushed for language that would allow developing countries to count their emission reductions twice in the early years, provided they promise to make it up later.

As negotiations enter the final hours, the task of developing guidance for Article 6 looks set to be relegated to a subsidiary body charged with resolving scientific and technical challenges, meaning no official guidance will emerge until next year’s talks in Chile.

This is a developing story. Check back after the Plenary for updates.

Article 6: Annotated

Here is the full text of Article 6, with brief summaries of each paragraph in simple English.

  1. Parties recognize that some Parties choose to pursue voluntary cooperation in the implementation of their nationally determined contributions to allow for higher ambition in their mitigation and adaptation actions and to promote sustainable development and environmental integrity.

Countries can cooperate with each other to ramp up their climate change strategies (“allow for higher ambition in their mitigation and adaptation actions”) and promote sustainable development.

  1. Parties shall, where engaging on a voluntary basis in cooperative approaches that involve the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes towards nationally determined contributions, promote sustainable development and ensure environmental integrity and transparency, including in governance, and shall apply robust accounting to ensure, inter alia, the avoidance of double counting, consistent with guidance adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement.

Countries can meet their emissions reductions targets (“nationally determined contributions”) by trading emissions reductions (“internationally transferred mitigation outcomes”) among each other, and they can create their own governance structures to manage the process, but they must make sure the trading promotes sustainable development, and they must follow accounting principles approved by the UNFCCC.

Questions Raised:

The Paris Accord allows the transfer of emissions reductions between countries, but the national climate strategies are not as uniform as the caps were under the Kyoto Protocol.Interestingly, the Paris Accord does say that trading must promote sustainable development, which seems like a remnant from the days of differentiation.

  1. The use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes to achieve nationally determined contributions under this Agreement shall be voluntary and authorized by participating Parties.

No countries are obligated to participate in the carbon markets.

  1. A mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development is hereby established under the authority and guidance of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement for use by Parties on a voluntary basis. It shall be supervised by a body designated by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, and shall aim:
  1. To promote the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions while fostering sustainable development;
  2. To incentivize and facilitate participation in the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions by public and private entities authorized by a Party;
  3. To contribute to the reduction of emission levels in the host Party, which will benefit from mitigation activities resulting in emission reductions that can also be used by another Party to fulfil its nationally determined contribution; and
  4. To deliver an overall mitigation in global emissions.

The UNFCCC will also create a centralized trading platform that countries can use to trade emissions reductions. Some are calling this the “Sustainable Development Mechanism”.

  1. Emission reductions resulting from the mechanism referred to in paragraph 4 of this Article shall not be used to demonstrate achievement of the host Party’s nationally determined contribution if used by another Party to demonstrate achievement of its nationally determined contribution.

If one country transfers an emissions reduction to another country, then it can no longer deduct those emissions from its own carbon inventory. In other words: no double-counting.

  1. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall ensure that a share of the proceeds from activities under the mechanism referred to in paragraph 4 of this Article is used to cover administrative expenses as well as to assist developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change to meet the costs of adaptation.

Some of the money raised from the central platform will go to maintaining the mechanism, and some will go to least-developed countries.

  1. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall adopt rules, modalities and procedures for the mechanism referred to in paragraph 4 of this Article at its first session.

High-level negotiators will provide more details on the Sustainable Development Mechanism at the end of this year in Marrakesh.

  1. Parties recognize the importance of integrated, holistic and balanced non-market approaches being available to Parties to assist in the implementation of their nationally determined contributions, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, in a coordinated and effective manner, including through, inter alia, mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology transfer and capacity-building, as appropriate. These approaches shall aim to:
  1. Promote mitigation and adaptation ambition;
  2. Enhance public and private participation in the implementation of nationally determined contributions; and
  3. Enable opportunities for coordination across instruments and relevant institutional arrangements.

Countries can also cooperate without using markets, and non-market approaches can be integrated with market-based approaches. Non-market approaches have been promoted by countries such as Bolivia and Venezuela and might include policies to promote renewable energy, as an example.

  1. A framework for non-market approaches to sustainable development is hereby defined to promote the non-market approaches referred to in paragraph 8 of this Article.

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14 December 2018 | KATOWICE | Poland | Year-end climate talks (COP24) remain stalled here in Katowice, in part because of a three-year-old proposal to let developing countries keep credit for emission reductions that they sell internationally to meet other countries’ targets. The so-called “double-counting loophole” would only apply to the early years of the Paris Agreement, which takes effect in 2020, and it includes a caveat that the countries would balance out the double counting at a later date, via one of three different options currently in the text.

The proposal was submitted by Brazil shortly after the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted, but it is opposed by the overwhelming majority of countries, according to several negotiators and observers, most speaking on condition of anonymity. Annie Petsonk, International Counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), says the shortfall is unlikely to be balanced and would lead to imaginary emission-reductions while damaging the countries that proponents claim it will help. She likened the proposal to the vagabond character Wimpy in the old Popeye cartoons.

“He was known for saying, ‘I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,’” she says. “But no one did business with him, because they knew he wouldn’t have the money on Tuesday. Brazil’s proposal is the ‘Wimpy’ one.”

Environmental economist Philipp Hauser recently (and unofficially) argued Brazil’s case in a LinkedIn post, where he pointed out that many developing countries reduced emissions under the Kyoto Protocol (KP), partly in the hope of generating offsets to be sold into the KP’s Clean Development Mechanism. Countries that generate offsets, the reasoning goes, were left in the lurch by the developed world’s failure to set a binding global cap, and they are now holding large inventories of unsold offsets.

Under the Paris Agreement, a new kind of offset called an Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcome (ITMO) can be sold to other countries, either bilaterally or through a global mechanism called the “Sustainable Development Mechanism”. In either case, the buying country also takes ownership of the emission reduction, which means the country that reduced the emissions (and sold the offset) can no longer count that reduction against its own greenhouse-gas emissions.

Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, Brazil has argued that developing countries should be granted a grace period during which they can sell offsets internationally but still claim credit for the reduced emissions in their own inventories, provided they then make “corresponding adjustments” at a later date.

The Brazilian proposal would, in other words, allow developing countries to count their emission reductions twice at first, provided they agree to make good on the emission debt later – usually stated as 2030 or 2031. The overwhelming majority of countries are leery of the proposal, which they say will lead to a decade of imaginary emission-reductions at a time when we need to be driving emissions deeper. Several observers, speaking off-the-record, say that a compromise date of 2023 would not be surprising.

Meanwhile, another proposal, also spearheaded by Brazil, would allow countries holding CDM credits to sell them to airlines under a program called “CORSIA” (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), which starts in 2021.

Most countries oppose the proposal, in part because they say it opens another double-counting loophole, but also because the CDM was a pilot program that tested new methods, many of which are now considered environmentally dubious.

“Dumping bogus credits into CORSIA, and giving special treatment to emissions reductions that originate from outside NDCs and are used in CORSIA, would punch a big hole in the climate benefit of the aviation agreement – and a big hole in the climate credibility of ICAO and the airlines,” wrote Petsonk in a blog for EDF. “It would undercut the Paris Parties’ efforts to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees.”

Accessing The Text

You can find the specific language on page 10 of the current negotiating text, available here.

The post Will Double-Counting Dust-Up Crush Katowice Climate Conference? appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

13 December 2018 | KATOWICE | Poland | The World Bank made headlines around the world at the start of global climate talks here (COP24), when it pledged to invest $200 billion between 2021 and 2025 in countries grappling with climate change.

This week, the International Development Finance Club (IDFC) went one better, announcing that its members – 24 development banks – had already provided that much finance in just one year, 2017, with the bulk of that coming from China, according to the 2018 IDFC Green Finance Mapping Report.

The report showed that climate finance flowing through member banks has nearly doubled since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015 – from $100 billion in 2014 to $196 billion in 2017. Climate finance accounted for 89 percent of all green finance tracked in the report.

The Breakdown

The report tracks a total of $220 billion in green finance in 2017, of which $196 billion went to climate-related projects. Of that climate component, $184 billion flowed into “mitigation” projects, which are designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by promoting things like renewables-based power generation, low-carbon urban transport and improvement land management. Roughly $10 billion flowed into “adaptation” projects designed to help countries deal with the effects of climate change, and $2 billion flowed into projects designed to do both.Breakdown

IDFC is mainly composed of development banks from the South, and they have consciously structured their interventions around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The China Development Bank (CDB), which is seven time the size of the World Bank, comprised the bulk of the finance tracked – a staggering $155.3 billion total green finance in 2017.

The numbers were calculated using Common Principles for Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Finance Tracking that were initiated in 2015 by the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and IDFC, and the data was then verified by the Climate Policy Institute (CPI).


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13 December 2018 | KATOWICE | Poland | The election of Jair Bolsonaro as President of Brazil sent a chill through the country’s 900,000 indigenous people, who control 21 percent of the Amazon forest and have consistently proven to be among the best stewards of the land, with deforestation rates one-seventh those outside of indigenous territories.

They’ve been called the “guardians of the forest”, but Indigenous leader Nara Baré says that’s not how the incoming president views them.

“Bolsonaro sees indigenous people as a threat to the economic development of the country, and he has no awareness or understanding of what climate change is or how government policy can impact it,” she says. “He doesn’t understand that there’s a problem, so he doesn’t even get to the point of understanding that indigenous territories are part of the solution.

In August of 2017, Baré became the first woman elected to lead the indigenous federation COIAB (Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations from the Brazilian Amazon), which represents all of the indigenous peoples of the Brazilian Amazon, placing her in direct opposition to Bolsonaro and his policies.

What’s at Stake?

Nara 2

Indigenous leader Nara Baré speaking at a rally in Amazonas earlier this year.

When Bolsonaro takes office in January, he plans to move the National Indigenous Agency (FUNAI) from the Ministry of Justice to a new – and less powerful – Ministry for Women, Family and Human Rights overseen by an evangelical preacher named Damares Alves, who plans to increase missionary work on indigenous territories and, most alarmingly, send missionaries to the 103 indigenous communities that have chosen to live in isolation.

Such contact was once common practice, but it was abandoned decades ago because of the diseases that inevitably followed, as isolated people with no exposure to mumps, measles, and other diseases quickly succumbed in concentrated outbreaks.

Bolsonaro justifies the practice of reaching out to uncontacted people by comparing their current status to that of animals in a zoo, and he said he wants to permit commercial mining and farming on indigenous territories without indigenous consent.

Baré has supported negotiations at year-end climate talks (COP24) here both directly and through the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, which spearheaded the inclusion of a Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, in the Paris Climate Agreement. That platform, which is a representative body that acts as a conduit between indigenous peoples and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), became operational on Saturday.

We caught up to her on the sides of the talks to find out how she plans to maneuver the treacherous year ahead. This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Steve Zwick: Why don’t we start with the launch of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform, which launched on Saturday and provides a global form for Indigenous issues within the UNFCCC. What value does this platform bring?

Nara Baré: It brings tremendous value, because it has globally reaffirmed the rights of Indigenous People, and it formally recognizes that our way of life balances the climate and generates ecosystem services that were previously ignored. It also recognizes that we’re risking our lives to do so, and it provides a way for us to share our traditional knowledge with the world – knowledge that we’ve passed down from generation to generation within the indigenous territories, and which we can now spread around the world for climate protection.

It makes it clear, in other words, that failing to defend indigenous people means failing to defend against climate change.

SZ: Now for the big challenge ahead: the election of Jair Bolsonaro. Is this as worrisome as those of us on the outside perceive it to be?

NB: Yes, we are very worried – not just by his intent, but by the lack of information and the lack of preparation. This applies not only to the president-elect, but to all of his staff and all of his ministers, and now to the future Minister of Environment, Ricardo Salles.

Bolsonaro is a narrow-minded man, and his whole government has a fascist way of thinking. He actually says that climate change is a myth concocted by communists, and that people who believe in it pose a threat to national sovereignty.

He sees indigenous people as a threat to the economic development of the country, and he has no awareness or understanding of what climate change is or how government policy can impact it. He doesn’t understand that there’s a problem, so he doesn’t even get to the point of understanding that indigenous territories are part of the solution – kind of like your own president, Donald Trump.

SZ: Yes, they call him “Tropical Trump”. Do you think the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform can be leveraged to counterweigh his plans?

NB: I don’t know that the Platform is the best vehicle for that, because it’s a part of the Paris Climate Agreement, and the other day Bolsonaro announced that Ricardo Salles would be Brazil’s new environment minister. Now, Salles has consistently insisted that Brazil should pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. If that happens, the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform will not have an impact within our country. Instead, the impact will be felt in other countries and in civil society as a whole, and I hope that Bolsonaro will be forced to compromise because of outside pressure.

The world should support us, the indigenous people of Brazil, so that we can continue to protect the Brazilian Amazon, which supports us all.

Steve: What options do you have open to you?

NB: We’re going on the assumption that, for the immediate future, we will not have any opportunities for political actions coming from inside Brazil, so we’re making our voices heard in international spaces like here at the COP and in other United Nation Organizations and at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica.

We need to tell our stories, which are different from the stories that our national government is telling.

This is important because even if Brazil pulls out of the Paris Agreement, it’s still party to a lot of other international agreements, but it is not honoring them. This provides a pressure point for us.

Steve: Earlier this week, Carlos Rittl of the Climate Observatory said he didn’t think Brazil would pull out of the Paris Agreement, because it would hurt them financially, and Salles also seemed to soften his stance, but you don’t seem to be giving that much credence.

NB: The problem is that this new government isn’t very serious in its actions. They have one position one hour and a completely different one an hour later, so we are not in a very stable situation right now.

Having said that, I want to reiterate that international political pressure can be effective if it impacts the economic interests of Bolsonaro’s backers, and we know who they are. He owes money to members of parliament who are aligned with cattle ranchers and landowners, and these are the people who are interested in deforesting the Amazon and expanding agriculture.

He’s also talked about the expansion of mining into indigenous territories, which will contaminate the water, and he’s talking about the construction of highways across the Amazon and more hydroelectric power plants. He doesn’t think about nature and climate, but only about very narrow economic development that benefits very few people, and these are the people the international community can pressurize.

The biggest problem is that the greatest threat is to those with the smallest voice – the 103 indigenous communities that choose to live in isolation.

SZ: Yeah, the new head of FUNAI, Damares Alves, wants to contact them.

NB: She’s a missionary, and she was president of an organization that solicited donations to go out and spread God’s word to indigenous people, and she stated that uncontacted indigenous people should be contacted so that they can be lifted out of poverty. But such contact is devastating for isolated people who haven’t been exposed to disease. That’s why Brazil implemented policies to protect these people and respect their wishes to remain in voluntary isolation.

She’s basically a religious extremist who isn’t worried about the well-being of indigenous people, but about getting funds to contact uncontacted people in the name of God. She’s even that uncontacted people aren’t human and have no soul.

But worse than appointing her is Bolsonaro’s plan to restructure FUNAI. Up to now, it’s been part of the Ministry of Justice, so it had law-enforcement authority to protect indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation as well as indigenous territories in general. Currently, any company that wants to do business on indigenous lands has to go through FUNAI, to demonstrate that they won’t have a negative impact.

SZ: I know you have to run, but do you have any final words?

NB: I just want to invoke everyone to take a stand – to say, “I choose to be with the indigenous people of Brazil in the resistance, and to exercise persistence for their existence.” Because if there are no more indigenous peoples on the Amazon, the Amazon will die with us.

More on the Bionic Planet Podcast

You can hear the full interview on an upcoming edition of the Bionic Planet podcast, which features our fourth annual mid-session stock-taking with key representatives from leading environmental NGOs. The wide-ranging discussion includes Chris Meyer of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Josefina Braña Varela of the World Wildlife fund (WWF), Jason Funk of Carbon 180, Peter Graham of Climate Advisors, and David Burns of the National Wildlife Federation. You can hear the entire discussion on RadioPublic, iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you access podcasts – as well as on this device here:

The post Can Indigenous Leader Nara Baré Derail Brazil’s “Tropical Trump”? appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

12 December 2018 | KATOWICE | Poland | If we’re to prevent global temperatures from rising to a level more than 1.5ºC (2.7ºF) above pre-industrial levels, we must dramatically improve the way we manage our forests, farms, and fields.

That’s a key lesson from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) recent Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C, and it’s one reason countries like Indonesia, Colombia, Peru, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF), which is a pledge to end deforestation by 2030.

Unfortunately, none of those countries have created climate action plans (NDCs, or “Nationally Determined Contributions”) that will achieve that goal, and neither have Brazil or Myanmar, according to research by the Rainforest Foundation Norway.

Entitled Approaching the Point of No Return and presented at year-end climate talks (COP24) here, the report dissects the NDCs of these six key countries and finds that none correlate with a zero-deforestation future. Indeed, only one of the six – Indonesia – even specifies a reduction in deforestation, but not to zero.


Indonesia has endorsed the NYDF, but it’s NDC correlates with a 66- to 90-percent reduction in deforestation, depending on how much help it gets from other countries.

“This is an improvement on current deforestation levels, but still means that 3.25 million hectares of forest, the size of Belgium, will be deforested by 2030,” the authors conclude.


Brazil has not endorsed the NYDF, and its NDC doesn’t set a deforestation target, although its foundation document does describe a 90 percent reduction compared to 2005 levels.

The authors point out, however, that 2005 was a disastrous year for deforestation, and that the administration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had already driven deforestation down more than 60 percent.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC is also an NYDF endorser, but its NDC shows increased deforestation by 2030, albeit one below a business-as-usual scenario.

“If the NDC target is reached, emissions in this sector will be 50 percent higher in 2030 than in 2010,” the authors conclude.


Peru is also an endorser, yet like DRC, it also sees emissions from deforestation rising but 71-77 percent less than currently projected.

“This means that emissions from the forest and land use sectors can increase even if the targets are met – by 21 percent from 2010 to 2030, or by 3 percent if international financial help is provided,” the authors conclude.

Colombia and Myanmar

Both Colombia and Myanmar have endorsed the NYDF, but both have also generated NDCs that are too vague to really quantify.

“Myanmar should be encouraged to present these mitigation effects in an updated NDC before 2020,” the authors write. “Colombia has committed to clarifying its goals for forest emissions before 2020.”

Indigenous Indifference

Indigenous peoples are among the most effective stewards of the land, and their lands sequester one billion tons of greenhouse gas, but the reported paints a critical picture of the way local communities and communities are treated in all six countries.



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