All posts in Uncategorized

10 December 2018 | KATOWICE | Poland | Indigenous people have long been among the most responsible stewards of the land, but they’ve also been among the most underrepresented constituents at global climate talks. That’s changing, with the launch this past weekend of a new Platform for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, which is a representative body designed to link the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to indigenous people and traditional communities.

The Platform was mandated by the Paris Climate Agreement, which emerged from the 21th Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UNFCCC in Paris at the end of 2015. Its evolution continued at COP22 in Marrakech, where Parties agreed on a plan for incrementally developing it in cooperation with local communities and indigenous peoples. Finally, on December 8, it became operational.

Two days later, however, several Parties moved to strike protective language from the evolving Paris Rulebook, which negotiators are now forging here in Katowice. Several indigenous leaders, including Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, welcomed the platform but criticized the evolving language, which we will explore in more detail on Tuesday.

“It’s great that we have this platform,” she said, “But we need to ensure that rights-based language is not trimmed from the Rulebook, because land rights, water rights, and pastoral rights are what enable indigenous people to protect the land.”

The Platform

The platform is designed to act as a bridge between the UNFCCC and indigenous and traditional communities around the world through the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), which is a special negotiating body that addresses specific social and scientific issues relevant to climate policy.

It’s designed to spread knowledge in several directions – helping indigenous and traditional communities support time-tested traditional land-management practices, such as agroforestry and crop mixing, while also helping to spread understanding of these practices to people beyond the communities that have traditionally practiced them, and also helping indigenous people navigate the emerging vehicles for managing climate change.

At its core is a Facilitation Working Group initially comprised of 14 representatives – seven representing states, seven representing indigenous peoples, and all of them appointed by indigenous peoples’ organizations. Of the government representatives, five will represent individual regional groups of the United Nations, one will represent a small island developing state, and one will represent a developing country.

The Paris Agreement has provisions for expanding the Working Group to at least 20 people, and possibly more, and the Working Group will meet twice a year in order to implement a work plan for the period 2020-2021.

“Without a doubt it will be a space to make visible the traditional knowledge and the struggles of the peoples,” said Juan Carlos Jintiach, of the Shuar people and advisor to the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA).

NOTE: This is a developing story and will be updated on Tuesday, December 11


The post Indigenous People and Traditional Communities Gain Formal Platform, Push For Stronger Language On Rights appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

10 December 2018 | KATOWICE | Poland | Global climate talks bogged down here over the weekend as negotiators from developed countries pushed back against language overtly “welcoming” (as opposed to “noting”) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) October analysis of the changes needed to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5ºC (2.7ºF) above pre-industrial levels.

Don’t, however, let that fool you. The IPCC analysis and its findings are having a profound effect on this year’s proceedings.

“One of the key things that comes out of that report is the fact that the forest and land sector is underrepresented in action and support,” said Peter Graham, Managing Director of Policy and Research at Climate Advisers. “There are many reasons for that, and therefore there are many solutions.”

More on the Bionic Planet Podcast

This story is adapted from Episode 38 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 Goal and the Gap

The Paris Agreement replaces the Kyoto Protocol, which was a top-down, one-size-fits-all agreement requiring developed countries to reduce emissions from a 1992 baseline while encouraging, but not requiring, action on the part of developed countries. It failed in part because it didn’t recognize key differences between countries within the three broad categories of developed, developing, and transitioning countries.

The Paris Agreement, on the other hand, lets each country create its own “Nationally Determined Contribution“, or NDC, and it also creates mechanisms for helping countries increase their ambition, in part by helping each other through mechanisms enshrined in Article 6 of the Agreement.

Article 6.2 creates guidelines for buying and selling emission-reduction units between countries in the form of so-called “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes”, or “ITMOs”, which countries can only use to help each other reduce emissions below their NDC – not just to meet them. The biggest challenge to creating ITMOs, beyond determining what is and is not a recognized emission-reduction, is agreeing on how to track them, and that’s one of the issues that negotiators are supposed to be fine tuning at this year’s talks.

The ultimate aim is to create a “Paris Rule Book” for implementing the Paris Agreement from 2020 onward – a critical task, because even if every country completely implemented its current NDC, global temperatures would still rise more than 3.7 degrees Celsius, which is deep into the danger zone, according to global scientific consensus as articulated through the IPCC.

“That requires transformational change in all sectors of the economy worldwide, including the land sector,” said Jason Funk, who oversees international policy for environmental NGO Climate 180. “There’s this additional thing that needs to happen, which is we need to pull carbon out of the atmosphere that’s already been emitted, and we have some options for doing that as well.”

Removals in the IPCC Report

The IPCC report divides removal options into two categories – technological solutions like industrial carbon capture and storage (CCS), which are exciting but expensive and untested; and natural climate solutions like reforestation and soil management, which are cost-effective and time-tested; although many scientists delineate a hybrid category for practices that couple bioenergy with carbon capture and storage.

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.

“A lot more near-term activity in the land sector could mean we don’t have to rely on those industrial technologies later in the century,” says Funk. “This is stuff we know how to do, and we just need to wrap it up in a big way.”

Natural Climate Solutions Gain Traction

While in years past, the sense was that nature-based solutions were being ignored, this year they seemed to emerge as a connecting thread, says Josefina Braña Varela, Senior Director of WWF’s Forest and Climate Program.

“More and more, we are hearing country delegates and other organizations discussing the importance of nature and the need for countries to collaborate and align efforts here in the UNFCCC, as well as in the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) and the UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification),” she says.

Her organization is spearheading an initiative called “New Deal for Nature and People“, which aims to promote coordination among the three UN Conventions around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are a collection of 17 global goals set by all 193 countries of the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, on the eve of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“This is something that is permeating the narrative of the negotiations, and hopefully it will have a good impact in whatever is negotiated for the Paris Rule Book,” she says.

Developed vs Developing: The Rift Remains

Everyone seems to agree that finance will remain contentious, as low-emission developing countries bear the brunt of a catastrophe they contributed little to and high-emission developed countries balk at funding the activities needed to help them adapt. The UNFCCC’s Standing Committee on Finance says that climate-specific finance flows from developed to developing countries remain far below pledged amounts, and that much of what is flowing is just re-allocated development funding.

The emergence of financing programs designed to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests, plus other land uses (REDD+) is often seen as a template for accelerating finance into agriculture in developing countries.

“That’s going to be important in terms of how agriculture, REDD+, and the land sector in general are going to be taken on board in this Rule Book – not now, but probably before 2020,” says Braña-Varela.

Planes and Ships

Another issue is how emissions from international flights are handled. Because such emissions are generated between countries, they were not included in the Paris Agreement, but instead come under the prevue of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is the UN body charged with overseeing international air travel.

In 2016, ICAO members agreed to cap greenhouse-gas emissions from international flights at 2020 levels from the year 2021 onward, and airlines can’t reduce their emissions internally can offset them through a program called the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

Still to be resolved: what types of offsets will be recognized under CORSIA?

If credits generated by promoting sustainable forestry and agriculture are recognized, this could be a boon to the land-use sector, but one that comes with an accounting quagmire as negotiators from CORSIA and the UNFCCC work to track emission reductions generated in one country but used to offset international emissions.

Farmers and Indigenous People Ascendant

Finally, perhaps the most obvious sign of the growing emphasis on natural climate solutions is the high profile of indigenous people at this year’s summit, as well as growing presence farmers’ cooperatives – as opposed to ministries of agriculture.

Indeed, 2018 marks the first time that farmers have participated in a meaningful way, with the World Farmers’ Organization launching the Farmers Driven Climate Change Agenda last week.

Over the course of this week, we will be rolling out stories focused on the growing influence of both farmers and indigenous people in the climate talks.

“Last year, the parties agreed not just to have workshops and discussions and technical conversations about these issues, but to bring them in a formal way into the negotiations,” says Funk, adding that agriculture has now been fast-tracked in both the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), which are negotiating tracks focused on specific issues.

“They also wanted to bring in other organizations that are linked to the UNFCCC process,  who are also doing work that relates to agriculture, to understand what they’re doing so we could put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and understand what the overall picture is,” he says. “The idea is to see who could do what, where there are still gaps, and what capacities already exists that we don’t want to recreate.”

“Agriculture is where REDD was at back in 2007, and now we kind of have Bali in the comparison,” says Meyer, referencing the 2007 climate talks in Bali where REDD began to gain steam. “We’re trying to accelerate this, because we do we need action in this space…by the end of 2020.”


The post IPCC Findings Drive Support For Natural Climate Solutions In Katowice appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

6 December 2018 | KATOWICE | Poland | “RIA lives!” said Peruvian indigenous leader Fermín Chimatani Tayori, referring to a private-public partnership called “Amazon Indigenous REDD+”, an eight-year effort to develop protocols and projects that use carbon finance to support indigenous development plans called “Life Plans” (Planes de Vida).

RIA was initiated in 2010 by the Peruvian indigenous association AIDESEP (Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest), and it blends the carbon accounting of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) with traditional indigenous agroforestry strategies that conserve forest while producing fruits and other non-timber forest products. It also layers in recognition of collective land rights specific to indigenous peoples.

Indigenous leader Juan-Carlos Jintiach formally announced RIA in 2011 at year-end climate talks in Durban, South Africa, and championed it in global climate talks as head of the Coordinated Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA). When Jintiach stepped down, Tayori, who is President of Peru’s National Association of Communal Reserve Leaders (ANECAP), became its champion in global talks.

The two men appeared together this week in Katowice, Poland, to outline the progress to date and to urge further expansion into forests beyond indigenous territories.

Tayori says that his own people, the Amarakaeri, have implemented the REDD+ program across their territory, the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (RCA), which covers more than 400,000 hectares in the Peruvian state of Madre de Dios.

Critically, he adds, the project was implemented jointly with the state and federal government as part of Peru’s Climate Action Plan, or Nationally-Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Climate Agreement. That, he says, had knock-on benefits for territorial governance beyond climate.

“By working together with the government on the project, we opened a dialogue that has led to us co-administering the territory on equal footing with the government,” he says. “The Amarakaeri governing structure is now a regional government within Peru.”

Berioska Quispe Estrada, a specialist in Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry within Peru’s Federal Ministry of Environment (MINAM), agreed, and said RIA could serve as a template for conservation projects across the country.

“We included community management of forests in our NDC, and we want to develop community-based mechanisms for conservation,” she said. “We have 54 million hectares that are committed for conservation, and RIA is one of the most important pillars of this effort, because we can create similar mechanisms.”

Jintiach said the template could be spread beyond Peru, to indigenous territories across the Amazon.

“Indigenous people are currently protecting 200 million hectares of forest across the Amazon,” he said, displaying a map that overplayed indigenous territories with deforestation rates. “We need your support if we are to prevent the planet from reaching the 1.5 degrees Centigrade threshold, and RIA offers a mechanism though which you can offer that support.”

The Peruvian government hopes to attract carbon-based payments based on reduced rates of deforestation, and she says the money will go directly to the communities.

“In developing this program, we have developed a system for making conditional direct transfers to communities,” said Estralda. “The Amarakaeri have always been good stewards of the land, but they have been able to reduce deforestation even further in the last few years thanks to this program.”


The post In Katowice, Indigenous Leaders Call For Wider Uptake Of REDD+ appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

This story originally appeared on MongaBay

3 December 2018 | Alarming signals – arising from the Earth and from scientists – have prompted urgent calls for a decisive international response to climate change as leaders from nearly 200 nations gathered in Katowice, Poland yesterday, Sunday, 2 December, for the start of the 24th annual United Nations climate summit.

This Conference of the Parties, known as COP24, is the third such meeting since the Obama administration, with China as a vital partner, helped engineer the historic Paris Agreement of December 2015. That accord marked the first time ever in which the world’s 196 nations achieved consensus on the need to reduce their carbon emissions with a goal of keeping global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

Unfortunately, since Paris, the physical and political weather has worsened, with global heat, drought and storm surging; and with nations falling drastically short of Paris commitments (just 7 are on target to meet the 2 degree C goal). Since Paris, President Donald Trump has promised to withdraw the U.S. from the accord. And last month, in a sign of more disunity, president-elect Jair Bolsonaro canceled Brazil’s offer to host COP25; in the past, he’s threatened to pull his nation out of Paris.

“I’m very worried,” said Michael Jenkins, president and CEO of the NGO ForestTrends. “When you have the global [COP] structure coming apart, with no leadership from the U.S., there isn’t a lot of pressure in the system to make things happen. But there are lights within the darkness.”

COP24 opening day plenary in Katowice, Poland. Image courtesy of UNFCCC.

Non-state actors take action

The two UN summits after Paris were largely dark affairs, mostly devoid of urgency or action. This 24th is being called the most important since Paris. COP24 has three chief goals: complete the rulebook for full implementation of the Paris Agreement; encourage nations to increase their voluntary carbon-reduction pledges by 2020; and gain climate-finance commitments from rich nations to support poor nations most vulnerable to already unfolding climate impacts.

If these daunting goals are to be met in Poland, the inspiration and impetus isn’t likely to come from national leaders, say analysts, but from subnationals: cities, states, regions, businesses, faith organizations, indigenous groups, and NGOs that have come together since Paris in broad coalitions that transcend national borders. Even as national leadership has lagged, this is where real climate action is now taking place.

“One of the things that has changed the most in the system since 2015 is the rise of nonstate actors,” said Lou Leonard, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) senior vice president for climate change and energy. Subnationals “had their own summit in San Francisco [in September 2018]. They will be in Poland [too]. The Paris Agreement gives them channels for input, even though they cannot negotiate. And they will be pushing their national governments to join them in increasing their [carbon cuts and climate-change mitigation] ambitions.”

Examples of decisive steps taken by subnationals are numerous: under the emerging Alliances for Climate Action, 300 Japanese companies, eager to reduce emissions, have joined the Japan Climate Initiative. Mexico’s climate alliance boasts 35 participating cities, companies and universities. Argentina’s subnational effort includes 2,000 farms that are shifting to precision agriculture, aimed at keeping carbon in the ground.

In the United States, the We Are Still In coalition is made up of 3,000 cities, states, universities and corporations representing half of the U.S. economy. The group will have a presence and a pavilion in Katowice, and it aims to enable America to achieve its Paris Agreement carbon-reduction promises, without help from Washington.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a co-founder of the We Are Still In coalition, together with California Governor Jerry Brown, speaks at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September 2018. Image by Justin Catanoso/Mongabay.

The subnationals seem to understand something that nations haven’t mustered the political will to face: that unchecked climate change poses a real existential threat: coastal cities could be destroyed by record storms, farmers stand to lose their crops and livelihoods to deepening drought, while corporations recognize that global warming poses a threat to commodities, supply chains and bottom lines.

“Microsoft believes that climate change is an urgent issue that demands global action,” said Michelle Patron, Microsoft’s director of sustainability policy and a member of the We’re Still In leadership circle. “We’re committed to doing our part. That includes instituting a company-wide carbon fee, increasing the amount of renewable energy that powers our operations, and reducing our carbon emissions by 75 percent by 2030.”

The world’s largest cities account for 70 percent of carbon emissions today. But 27 of them, including Berlin, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and San Francisco, peaked their emissions as of 2017.

However, all this good news, while impressive, can be deceiving, and worse, it can offer a false sense of security.

Experts agree that subnational progress is not near enough. Those efforts must be made in conjunction with global-scale actions, as entire nations shift away from fossil fuel economies, massively embracing renewable energy, enforcing tough fuel-economy standards and electric-vehicle rollouts and use, outlawing fossil-fuel expansion, creating carbon taxes and carbon markets, and guarding against environmental destruction, especially new deforestation.

“It’s really important that we recognize the results produced by these nonstate actors,” said Jenkins at ForestTrends. “But they can’t do it alone. We need national governments involved. Otherwise, we will only be making tiny dents in a very large problem.”

Gov. Henry McMaster assesses damages from Hurricane Florence in Nichols, South Carolina, from inside a National Guard high-water vehicle, Sept. 22, 2018. Climate change is intensifying hurricanes around the globe. Image by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago/U.S. Army National Guard.

Dire climate forecasts

In the months before COP24, a steady drumbeat of ominous reports and projections, along with frequent catastrophes, reminded the world just how vital climate action has become.

A new United Nations scientific report released in October was the darkest yet produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The scientists of the IPCC, often criticized for their overly cautious forecasts, predict that the world has just 12 years left in which to cut global carbon emissions by half to prevent catastrophic global warming with its frightening impacts on populations, food supplies, and natural systems. The IPCC called for a globally united, Herculean effort to transform energy production, protect oceans, and implement wise land-use strategies.

The IPCC report, its warnings and its recommendations, have no precedent in human history.

On the heels of the IPCC document, came a 13 November U.S. report by 13 federal agencies to Congress. Its warnings were also dire, and stressed that predicted climate impacts are coming true now, well ahead of schedule, including rapid sea-level rise, extreme weather and record wildfires. The researchers project that the U.S. economy could shrink by 10 percent by 2100 if dramatic climate mitigation steps are not taken in the near and long term.

Other reports pile on: oceans are warming far faster than realized, with coral reefs and aquatic life suffering to a greater degree; deforestation continues to accelerate, most disturbingly in Brazil, guardian of the world’s largest rainforest. Global warming is also coming faster than tropical forests can adapt, thus threatening tropical biodiversity. Despite falling prices for solar and wind energy, some 1,200 coal-fired power plants will be coming on line soon, mostly in Asia – with energy producers and nations heedless of the need to keep carbon in the ground.

California Army National Guardsmen conduct body search and debris clearing operations, Nov. 17, 2018, after the deadly Camp Fire destroyed the town of Paradise. Wildfires are more numerous and more intense due to climate change. Image by Senior Airman Crystal Housman/U.S. Air National Guard.

Meanwhile, 2018 will rank among the four warmest years on record with global emissions expected to exceed 2017’s record output. The world has also endured 406 consecutive months of above average temperatures, a statistical anomaly of epic proportions that should scream for action.

But poll the leaders of the world’s largest industrialized nations, and you’ll likely find few that list climate change as an imminent national security threat, or who have prioritized serious action to reduce risk.

“It’s easy to blame these leaders, and they deserve some of the blame,” Phil Duffy, executive director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, U.S., said in an interview. “But at some level, there has to be popular support for action to be taken. And people aren’t clamoring for it.

“When I look at the properties of Hurricane Florence [which flooded the North Carolina coast], I see the signature of climate change. But somehow that doesn’t get through to the public. And leaders aren’t motivated to tell the truth, or to say that we really need to undertake radical, societal change. They believe correctly that it wouldn’t fly” with the public,” said Duffy.

Dead and dying cows during a 2004 drought in Kenya. Today, East Africa is again gripped in severe drought. Climate change has made droughts more intense the world over. Photo credit: Oxfam International on / CC BY-NC-ND

The economic argument

A question arises: it took 21 climate summits to produce the landmark Paris Agreement. And it is ultimately a toothless accord: a voluntary framework to keep the planet from burning up, not an enforceable treaty backed by international law.

So, are continued COPs worth the effort?

There are plenty of skeptics who say no, including U.S. environmental activist and author Bill McKibbon, who assert that the COPs produce insufficient results, too slowly, at a time when rapid action is demanded. But others say the often-frustrating UN process retains merits.

“We needed the COPs to get to Paris,” said WWF’s Leonard. “The agreement is supposed to catalyze transformation at the national levels. These COPs are the time when all governments come together, and pressure can be exerted on them to deliver.”

One area in which COP24 may produce significant results is in discussions about the need to slow deforestation and ramp up reforestation efforts around the world. That’s because preserving and restoring forests is one of the easiest paths to “negative emissions” – pulling CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering it in leaves, limbs, trunks, roots and soil.

Another vital area of action up for discussion at this COP is land use. One-third of the Earth’s surface is reserved for agriculture, with crop fields and pastures contributing as much to carbon emissions – via deforestation for new farmland, tilling, and methane release from cows – as the entire global transportation sector.

Andrew and Ronnie Burleson, son and father, farm some 4,000 acres in Stanly County, North Carolina. Seen last spring, the field they are standing in has a low cover crop into which Andrew has planted cotton so as to not disturb the soil – a technique that increases yield and better sequesters carbon. Image by Justin Catanoso.

Researchers have already demonstrated that improvements in farming techniques can radically increase efficiency – improving yields, on less land, with less fertilizers, and costing less money, while cutting carbon emissions.

One example: in central North Carolina, the Burleson family has been farming its 4,000 acres of cotton, soybeans and wheat for three generations. Because their farm is located in rolling hills, erosion is a big challenge. Ronnie Burleson, 68, stopped tilling his fields in the 1960s. Instead, he planted cover crops, then planted cash crops right atop the low grasses. His soil is never fully exposed to the elements, so his carbon emissions remain low.

Agriculture extension agents thought he was crazy, he told Mongabay. But his erosion control techniques improved soil health by retaining more carbon and nutrients. That meant less fertilizer. Birds and insects swarm his fields, aiding in pollination, while the cover crops shade the soil, requiring less irrigation. Yields are consistently robust.

Andrew Burleson, 40, now works the land, following his father’s proven methods – methods now being promoted around the world on millions of farms large and small.

“Climate change and sustainability? Those are words we hear,” Andrew Burleson said. “But the reason we went no-till is to improve the soil so that I can continue to grow crops on it. And I want my children, if they want the opportunity, to do the same.”

Ronnie Burleson shows off a computer-driven John Deere attachment designed to allow farmers like him and his son avoid tilling, while planting seeds directly into a cover crop. The technique reduces agricultural carbon emissions. Image by Justin Catanoso.

Positive economic arguments and climate solutions like these, not doomsday reports, are likely to be the real drivers of positive change at COP24, and into the future, say some experts. On Sunday, as the things got underway in Poland, 50 global corporate leaders issued a letter pledging climate-mitigation cooperation and urging greater governmental urgency.

“This is not only about saving the planet,” Anand Mahindra said at the San Francisco climate summit last September. “Decarbonizing is the biggest business opportunity of the century.”

Mahindra chairs one of India’s largest corporations, Mahindra and Mahindra, valued at US$20 billion. With 200,000 employees in 100 companies, he has pledged that all operations will be carbon neutral by 2040. And Mahindra has the resources to make it happen: he now owns India’s largest solar production company.

One recent study put a positive revenue estimate on global decarbonization: US$26 trillion in economic benefits could arise between now and 2030. Advocates and optimists are quick to say, “We don’t have to choose between growth and climate action. We can have both.”

One big challenge comes from obstacles placed by national leaders such as Trump and Bolsonaro, along with fossil fuel producers who continue blocking climate action while denying the potential for a global, renewable-energy driven economic boom.

Michał Tadeusz Kurtyka, the president of COP24 (left) and Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC (middle) during a press conference on the first day of the COP24 climate talks in Katowice, Poland. Image by Hans Nicholas Jong/Mongabay.

The need to run faster

The thousands of delegates, observers, nonstate actors and international negotiators settling in at Katowice are acutely aware of what’s at stake. They understand that the window for aggressive climate action is closing faster than was understood even just a few months ago.

But it’s not just the alarming forecasts. It’s the direct evidence: another season of devastating hurricanes on the U.S. East Coast, with deadly wildfires on the West Coast. It’s continued drought in Central and East Africa and Syria. It’s unbearable summer temperatures in India and Australia. It’s low-lying island nations, largely unknown to the developed world, and cities like Miami, Florida; Norfolk, Virginia; and Venice, Italy being flooded on sunny days without storms.

“We live in this twilight zone between hope and despair,” Andrew Steer, the president and CEO of World Resources Institute, said in a pre-COP24 conference call. “Despair should be driving leadership right how. But it’s not. How can some people be so optimistic and some so pessimistic? The truth is, they are both right.”

“Look at it this way,” Steer added. “We are chasing a bus called climate change. We are running faster than ever before in so many ways. That’s impressive. But the bus is running faster.

“We need all-out efforts, and we’re not seeing that. We do not have a Manhattan Project moment,” he said referring to the successful effort to build an atom bomb during World War II. “Political leaders, for any number of reasons, cannot come forward. It’s clear the despair motif is not going to get them going. But maybe the urgency of this moment will.”

The post Climate Talks Open In Katowice, Poland appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

30 November 2018 | Zanzibar’s Masingini Natural Forest Reserve provides drinking water for much of the island and habitat for dozens of rare and endangered species, but its forests are being illegally clear-cut. Meanwhile, in the Brazilian Amazon, the “lungs of the planet”, recent satellite images show 7900 square kilometers of illegal deforestation in just the last year.

Isolated transgressions?


New research published on the eve of 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Katowice, Poland, by the NYDF Assessment Partners, shows that deforestation rates have risen 42 percent since 2014, which is the year that nearly 200 governments, corporations, NGOs, and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF), which is a pledge to end forest loss by 2030 – with an interim target of cutting it in half by 2020.

The NYDF is broken into ten goals, with #10 being improved forest governance, and the new report looked at progress towards that goal. Called “Improving Governance to Protect Forests”, it finds that law enforcement has improved slightly since 2014, especially on the demand side, and that transparency has also improved, but not nearly enough to slow illegal deforestation.

That matters, because deforestation is responsible for at least eight percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions in the best of years, according to Global Forest Watch (GFW), and double that in the worst years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel in Climate Change (IPCC). Meanwhile, a 2017 study published in Proceedings of the National Academies of the Sciences shows we can get 37 percent of the way to meeting the Paris Climate Agreement’s 2-Degree Celsius goal by just improving the way we manage our forests, farms, and fields.

On the eve of the NYDF in 2014, Forest Trends published research showing that roughly half (49 percent) of all agriculture-related tropical deforestation from 2001 to 2012 took place illegally, and the new report implies that figure hasn’t improved much.

Laws Are Improving; Enforcement Isn’t

The report finds improved legal frameworks in eight of the nine countries accounting for almost half of global tropical forests, but lax enforcement, contradictory competing laws, and corruption more than offset that. Indeed, the higher the Transparency International “corruption scores”, the higher the rates of deforestation – and those corruption scores haven’t improved in five years.

The report also found that higher rates of deforestation correlated with higher “corruption scores” in Transparency International rankings, and that corruption scores hadn’t improved in the last five years.

Kerstin Canby, Director of the Forest Policy, Trade, and Finance Initiative of Forest Trends, says this could get worse in the years ahead.

“In Indonesia, advances in implementing the national Timber Legality Assurance System are at risk due to longstanding corrupt practices in the timber sector,” she says. “Corruption also permeates the land acquisition process for palm oil development in that country, and in the Congo Basin, countries face similar challenges as logging concessions are corruptly transformed into vehicles for the illegal conversion of rainforest to palm oil and other commodities.”

Bright Spots: Importing Countries and Green Companies

The report did identify increased demand-side enforcement, which is critical because roughly half of all illegal deforestation identified by Forest Trends was associated with products that were exported. Canby identified signs of more recent improvement in regulation of the European Union Timber Regulation.

“By mid-2018, EU Member States had implemented 17,735 checks on domestic timber, and they implemented 2,704 checks on imported timber in 2017, while more than 992 penalties have been assessed, and 21 cases went to court,” she says, citing figures from the UN’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

She adds that some developing countries are also improving their import monitoring.

“In May 2017, Vietnamese associations and enterprises active in the wood processing and trading sector signed a commitment to ban the use of illegal timber, in order to protect the reputation of Vietnamese wooden products and guarantee sustainable development for the industry,” she says.

There’s also evidence that those companies that have invested in purging deforestation from their supply chains are beginning to push for improved regulation.

“Our research shows more companies using third-party independent verification of legal origin or legal compliance and independent monitors,” says Stephen Donofrio, a Senior Adviser to the Forest Trends Supply Change Initiative. “Interestingly, we’re also seeing those companies that have voluntarily reduced their impact on forests now calling for better enforcement and more stringent business practices.”

Indigenous People Standing Up; Laws Failing Them

The report also highlights new research showing indigenous people getting more legal rights to their land and demonstrating remarkable land stewardship, with deforestation rates seven-times lower than in lands beyond these borders in the Brazilian Amazon and three-times lower in the Colombian Amazon.

“This is yet another reminder of the fact that indigenous people are the world’s most effective stewards of the land,” says Quote from Beto Borges, Director of the Forest Trends Communities Initiative. “Where their rights are recognized, their forests remain intact.”

Enforcement of these laws, however, is under threat, the report finds.

“Far too often, forest peoples have seen government corruption turn into violence against us,” says Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and author of a foreword to the NYDF Assessment Partners report. “In the rush to grab our land, our rights are trampled alongside any laws that might strengthen our position.”

Even where countries do recognize the land and forest rights of Indigenous People and local communities, they often only do so partially, leading to many communities lacking the tenure security they need to protect their lands from outsiders.

“On average, low- and lower-middle- income countries provide greater tenure security to Indigenous Peoples and local communities than do upper and upper-middle-income countries that have significant indigenous populations,” Conway said. “The worst offenders among wealthier nations include Finland, Sweden, Norway, Canada and Russia, though in practice, even in places where rights are secure on paper, they are often not secure in practice.”

The report cites research showing that 185 people were killed in 2017 for standing up to governments and companies to stop the destruction caused by mining and agro-industrial projects.

The Data Dearth

Finally, the report identified poor data and transparency as key obstacles to improved governance.

“In many countries, information may not be available in formats or languages that are accessible to many people, in particular vulnerable groups,” says Darragh Conway, lead author on the report. “Governments may use the situation to refuse access on broadly defined grounds or require information to be paid for, further restricting access for many.”

Cost is not the only consideration.

“Without transparency, big buyers of commodities can’t ensure their supply chains are free of deforestation,” he says. “The lack of transparency and poor traceability in agricultural commodity supply chains remain a barrier to implementing corporate commitments to address deforestation.”

The study also looked at whether governments are delivering on commitments to guarantee procedural rights intended to enable civil society, the public and communities to participate in decision making on forests and access judicial and other remedies to challenge improper decisions.

“The majority of countries do provide for consultations in relation to forest-related policies and projects. However, consultation processes are often overly technical and not linked to concrete decision-making, and governments are not required to take comments provided by stakeholders into account,” the authors noted. “Women and other vulnerable groups are heard even less.”

The post Corruption, Poor Enforcement Hamper Global Efforts To End Deforestation appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

29 November 2018 | Tahuamanu | PERU | Five hundred years ago, the Yine people were part of the Incan Empire, which spread over 2 million square kilometers and somehow functioned without money or markets. Today they’re scattered across the Peruvian Amazon, in villages like Bélgica, struggling to maintain their traditional way of life while engaging the market economy that has enveloped them.

Until the 1970s, the people of Bélgica met that challenge in part by tapping the rubber trees that grow naturally in this part of the Peruvian Amazon. In fact, their village is named for the European country of Belgium, where much of their rubber ended up.

“It was a sustainable living,” says community president Ilson López. “We could tap the trees without damaging the forest, and then we’d roll the rubber into a big ball, and traders would take it on a plane to Lima.”

But that business began drying up in the 1970s, and the people of Bélgica gradually, grudgingly turned to logging – sparingly at first, but more and more as roads came, bringing logging trucks and loggers seeking lucrative cedar and mahogany.

“Unlike rubber-tapping, logging required the destruction of trees,” says López. “But we were desperate, and didn’t know our rights.”

More on Bionic Planet

This story is adapted from Episode 36 of the Bionic Planet Podcast, Bionic Planet can be accessed on iTunesTuneInStitcher, or directly on this device here:

Balancing Economy and Ecology

In 2002, the people of Bélgica won demarcation of their territory, and with it the legal right to earn income from its products. They divided the territory into zones for commercial activities like rubber tapping and ecotourism, as well as pure conservation areas for traditional hunting and fishing. But logging was something they struggled with – morally and logistically.

“We didn’t have any capacity to do the extraction right,” says Lopez. “So at first we operated in the black market – basically just letting loggers into the territory and getting paid for it – but the local authorities came to us and said, ‘You’re not doing this right.’ And that’s when we learned about certification.”

Specifically, certification under the Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC. You know those little labels you see on cabinets and tables and on boxes of paper?


The Forest Stewardship Council

Environmental NGOs like WWF founded the Forest Stewardship Council in 1993, together with some forward-thinking timber companies, after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro failed to deliver a real global compact. The idea was to create some sort of standard for sustainably-harvested timber to at least give the good guys a boost.

It’s based on ten principles that stakeholders agreed would make it possible to extract valuable trees without destroying the forest, as well as auditing procedures to make sure the practices were being followed, and then labeling, so consumers would know the difference – and, hopefully pay extra for the good stuff, although that requires consumer awareness.

“It costs us about 35 percent more to do FSC certification, as opposed to just doing what the law requires,” says Nelson Kroll, forestry director for the neighboring Maderacre concession, which also uses FSC certification. “But the market doesn’t really pay a premium – or, if it does, it’s 5 percent at most.”

Certification has, nonetheless, gained in popularity as companies sign on to “zero deforestation” pledges, committing to reduce or eliminate their impact of forests. More than 200 companies around the world rely on FSC certification to implement their commitments to protect forests, according to research by the Forest Trends Supply Change initiative, and many have found that certifications like FSC provide a host of other benefits like operational efficiency and increased yields.

Indigenous Constitutions

As FSC was taking shape, indigenous people all across the Amazon were creating so-called Life Plans, or Planes de Vida, which are something like a cross between an indigenous constitution and a development plan.

“The Life Plan is a document, or an exercise, that sets out our vision of where we want to go and helps us understand how to get there,” says Lopez. “FSC certification became one of the pillars of our Life Plan, because it was a way that we could improve productivity while saving the forest. We also included rubber tapping and conservation.”

Ilson Lopez (center) says sustainable logging provides reliable income while conserving forest.

Ilson Lopez (center) says sustainable logging provides reliable income while conserving forest. Photo courtesy State Government of Madre de Dios

The Sustainable District

It helps that Bélgica is located in the district of Tahuamanu, which is something of a sustainability success story, thanks in part to the Cardozo family. Three brothers and a sister, their parents settled there in the 1950s and become major landowners and political leaders, as well as proponents of sustainable development.

Alfonso Cardozo is the mayor of Iñapari, the district capital, and he lobbied to prioritize granting of concessions for groups that embrace FSC certification. It was he and his brother, Abraham, who persuaded the people of Bélgica to join FSC, and it was one of their companies that helped the Bélgicans create and execute the sustainable logging plan needed to earn FSC certification. That meant meeting the FSC’s ten principles – ranging from hiring comuneros, or members of the community, to meeting ever-evolving standards for good land management and equitable community relations.

Lopez, however, says the Cardozos charged too much for their services, so the Bélgica ruling council switched to a second company, and then a third. Today, says Lopez, the people of Bélgica get 80 percent of the income on timber sold from the territory, and the current partner, a company called Maderyja, has never missed a payment or been late.

Nelson Kroll, forestry manager for the Maderacre concession

Nelson Kroll, forestry manager for the Maderacre concession. Photo Credit: Diego Pérez


FSC Impacts

Seventy percent of Peru’s certified concessions are located in Tahuamanu, and the neighboring concession of Maderacre, in which the Cardozos also held an interest, is also FSC-certified – and more accessible by jeep than Bélgica’s.

It spreads out over 220,000 hectares, divided into 20 plots of 11,000 hectares each, and the company works just one plot per year, so there are 20 years between harvests. The concession was cobbled together by a businessman named Erasmo Wong, who made a fortune building up Peru’s largest chain of supermarkets before selling the company and devoting his life to philanthropy and sustainable agriculture.

Environmental NGO WWF has been working with Maderacre to monitor the impact of its operations on wildlife, and Josefina Braña, who runs WWF’s Forest and Climate Program, says the early indications are promising.

“The jaguar population is thriving, and we’ve seen monkeys, tapirs, birds, agouti, ant-eaters, and sloths,” she says. “Biodiversity is thriving because of the reduced-impact logging they use.”

Reduced Impact Logging

The company uses drones to first identify valuable trees and record them in a forest inventory, then it sends out teams to survey the area from the ground.

“We use drones to identify the trees that are tall and thick enough to chop,” says Fermin Zapana Pilco, who oversees all extractive activities in the concession. “Then we map out routes to them, and finally we send out teams to see if the tree we want to chop will hurt other trees when it falls.”

The trees and patches of forest are separated into different categories: some are classified as high-conservation value (HCV), which is an official designation developed by the Forest Stewardship Council in 1999, meaning they’re not to be destroyed.

“Some will also just be immature,” says Pilco. “That means they’re too small to harvest, so we leave these for when we return to this plot in 20 years.”

If there are seedlings or high-conservation trees near a tree they’re targeting, they map out a way to cut the tree so it falls where no seedlings or high-conservation trees are, but if that’s not possible, they make a note of that and move on to the next tree.

Reduced Waste

We come to a massive mahogany that’s passed all the criteria for being chopped: it’s got the age (about 70 years old), the size (six and a half meters around and 30 meters, or about 10 stories, high), and the location (no seedlings or HCF areas in its path). It also, however, branches out about 18 meters up, so only the first six stories can be used for the kind of uniform wood that goes into furniture and flooring.

Put another way, it’s 40 tons of biomass, which means 20 tons of carbon, which will become 73 tons of carbon dioxide if the tree burns or decays and mixes with oxygen in the air. That’s 14-times as much greenhouse gas as the average passenger car emits in a whole year of driving.

About 40 percent of the tree will end up in flooring and furniture, which locks up 30 tons of that carbon dioxide, but what about the other 44 tons? That’s almost nine cars’ worth.

“Some of it will be used as biofuel for our ovens,” says Kroll, the forestry manager. “We use those to dry out the trees, but we’re also working on a deal with a local farm, which wants to use it for mulch and compost.”

This practice is also becoming more popular, and Supply Change data shows that, of 254 companies with reduced-deforestation commitments related to timber and pulp & paper, 56 of them incorporate sustainable waste management.

A Natural Climate Solution

That’s good for the climate, because healthy soils absorb carbon, as well as nitrogen and hydrogen, and they reduce levels of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane – three powerful greenhouse gasses. A landmark study published in 2016 showed that we can get 37 percent of the way to meeting the global Paris Agreement’s 2-degree target just by improving the way we manage forests, farms, and fields.

That study, called “Natural Climate Solutions” identified 20 specific pathways to doing that – one of which is sustainable forest management, the essence of FSC certification, and another of which is improving soils. These natural climate solutions deliver more than one-third of the mitigation needed to meet the climate challenge, but they get just 3 percent of dedicated climate finance and 1 percent of climate-related media coverage.

Controlling the Fall

To ensure the tree will fall in the right direction, the logger first grinds his saws vertically into the base, which spreads out like a duck’s foot. The result is aa kind of wall of wood on the sides of the tree opposite the intended direction of the fall, followed by a notch-cut to ensure these 40 tons will fall where he wants them to.

After it lands, workers begin chopping in and marking it with alphanumeric codes to identify the tree according to the forest inventory, the section of the tree, the date it was chopped, and of course the concession.

Traceability and Legality

The concession began marking the trees to prove its origin for FSC certification, but traceability has become a legal requirement, too, because the European Union and the United States have both banned the import of illegally-harvested timber. As a result, exporters are supposed to trace their timber to legally-sanctioned concessions. That doesn’t, however, always happen.

A 2014 analysis by Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends, for example, looked at tropical deforestation from 2001 through 2012 and found that roughly 49 percent of all agriculture-related tropical deforestation in that period took place illegally, and roughly half of that illegally-harvested timber was exported.

That same year, a global coalition of corporations, NGOs, Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, and governments – including those of both the federal government of Peru and the state government of Madre de Dios – endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF), which is a pledge to end forest loss by 2030.

The NYDF is broken into ten goals, with #10 being improved forest governance, and today a coalition of environmental think tanks called NYDF Assessment Partners published updated findings on progress towards Goal #10.

Tragically, they found that not much has changed.

Maderacre Logs

The Legality Lapse

Specifically, the report, called “Improving Governance to Protect Forests”, finds that law enforcement has improved slightly since 2014, especially on the demand side, and that traceability has also improved, but that average deforestation rates increased 42 percent since the NYDF was signed.

Countries like Peru, which has a sketchy history on this front, are trying to protect exports by improving enforcement – although the effectiveness of that is limited, too, because countries like China don’t put much effort into verifying legality of imports.

“There can be no effective global approach without the support and participation of China, the world’s largest importer of timber and exporter of forest products,” says Kerstin Canby, Director of the Forest Trends Forest Policy, Trade, and Finance Initiative.

“We are, however, seeing some improvement in enforcement of the European Union Timber Regulation,” she added. “By mid-2018, for example, EU Member States have implemented 17,735 checks on domestic timber, and they implemented 2,704 checks on imported timber in 2017, while more than 992 penalties have been assessed, and 21 cases went to court.”

The experiences of Tahuamanu show that sustainable forestry works, but it needs to be scaled up if we’re to meet the climate challenge.



The post Can Sustainable Logging Help Save An Indigenous Way Of Life? appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

27 November 2018 | Last week, the US government published a detailed report warning that climate change is already hitting the economy hard and will devastate it in coming decades as crops fail, fires rage, and floods rise. But how will those risks hit individual sectors?

To help answer that, the Natural Capital Finance Alliance (NCFA) has launched a tool called ENCORE (Exploring Natural Capital Opportunities, Risks and Exposure),  which makes it possible to explore the environmental risks associated with sectors, industries, and specific manufacturing processes – such as, for example, the exposure that the packaged foods sector faces when confronted with disruptions in water supply.

With ENCORE, you can begin with one sector – in this case, consumer staples – and then dive down into a specific  sub-industry (packaged foods & meats), and then a specific  production process within that sector (here the production of processed foods, as opposed to farming and transportation). Then you can explore the exposure to disruptions in various ecosystem services or natural capital assets.

With ENCORE, you can begin with one sector – in this case, consumer staples – and then dive down into a specific sub-industry (packaged foods & meats), and then a specific production process within that sector (here the production of processed foods, as opposed to farming and transportation). Then you can explore the exposure to disruptions in various ecosystem services or natural capital assets.

Broad Risk

The database draws on extensive data and screening criteria and covers 167 economic sectors and 21 ‘ecosystem services’, or services that healthy ecosystems provide, such as clean and reliable supplies of water, carbon sequestration, and pollination. ENCORE data has identified that the three sectors most materially dependent on nature are: Agriculture, Aquaculture & fisheries and Forest products. Sectors such as Utilities, Oil & gas and Mining were also found to have a very high dependence on ecosystem services. The three most important ‘ecosystem services’ for the global economy were found to be: Water provision, Climate regulation and Flood protection.

The tool shows that 13 of the 18 sectors that comprise FTSE 100 have high or very high material dependence on nature.

The ENCORE tool is managed by the NCFA, a collaboration between the UN Environment Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and Global Canopy, in partnership with UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre. It launches at today’s UNEP FI Global Roundtable in Paris.  YES Bank, First Rand and VicSuper are among the financial institutions supporting the tool at the launch. Other NCFA signatories or institutions involved in the creation of ENCORE include IFC, UBS, National Australia Bank, Citi, UniCredit and CDC Biodiversite.

Further Reading

Banks, investors and insurers will soon be able to measure natural capital risks

The post It’s Now Easier Than Ever To Measure Natural Capital Risks appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

Over 200 individuals from conservation organisations, governments, companies and financial institutions have joined in a “Call to Action” for greater efforts to secure “Biodiversity Net Gain” in the context of development. The call to action was issued during Natural Capital Week, where the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) launched a new set of roadmaps and guidance for business and government to craft economic development strategies that result in an overall gain of biodiversity, rather than loss.

“Governments and businesses face a true dilemma:  How to support development, so people have access to food, materials, energy, infrastructure and jobs, while conserving biodiversity?” explained Kerry ten Kate, the Director of BBOP. “Everyone is looking for practical approaches.  The BBOP tools and resources provide the know-how, but many of our colleagues have issued the urgent ‘Call to Action’ to urge developers and decision-makers to act.”

Biodiversity has never been in greater peril. WWF’s 2018 Living Planet Report, for which ZSL (Zoological Society of London) provides Living Planet Index data, released in October, shows an overall decline of 60% in species’ populations between 1970 and 2014, a trajectory that will likely be exacerbated by global warming.  A major driver of this decline is loss of habitat, linked to large-scale infrastructure projects, such as new roads, dams, and mines, and commercial agricultural expansion.

“Companies and financial institutions are getting more and more interested in measuring their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity,” says Joshua Berger of CDC Biodiversité, a subsidiary of Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations Group. “Mapping the impacts throughout the value chain and investments will soon become a priority. The work the BBOP has done to clarify concepts and provide tools and roadmaps toward a net gain future is very helpful,” adds Marc Abadie, President of CDC Biodiversité.

“There are already encouraging results in improving the mitigation of development impacts on biodiversity,” says Ray Victurine of WCS. “In 2014, 39 countries had existing laws or policies requiring that ‘No Net Loss’ or even a ‘Net Gain’ of biodiversity occur through the economic development process. Today, over 100 countries require or enable similar measures.” He also points out that 94 financial institutions that are members of the Equator Principles Association have already set ‘safeguard’ conditions for project finance that require no net loss of natural habitat and a net gain in critical habitat. And more than major 60 companies have also made public, company-wide commitments or have stated aspirations related to no net loss or net gain of biodiversity resulting from their business activities. “Now is the time to move forward to put these policies and commitments into practice if we are to stem the tide of biodiversity loss,” says Victurine.

Signatories are calling for the following actions to ensure that net gain of biodiversity is embedded in economic development planning and financing:

  • GOVERNMENTS should produce clear, well-governed national mitigation regulations, timely land-use planning and give licenses only to companies demonstrating best practice.
  • COMPANIES should include biodiversity early enough in planning projects to be able avoid and minimise impacts, commit to achieve a net gain of biodiversity and communicate their progress transparently.
  • FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS should enforce net gain safeguards policies and performance standards and encourage companies they’re invested into to apply best practice.
  • MULTILATERAL BANKS and other donors should provide financing to governments to establish mitigation systems to achieve net gain.
  • CONSERVATION ORGANISATIONS AND ACADEMIA should help gather biodiversity information and establish the scientific targets and measures needed to underpin net gain, and support and independent evaluation to companies and governments.
  • MEMBERS OF CIVIL SOCIETY should hold governments, companies and financial institutions to account, expecting high standards and transparency about the potential and actual achievements of the promises made.

“There’s now great clarity on what’s needed to make the leap to Biodiversity Net Gain,” says ten Kate.  “It is captured in just one page in the Call to Action.  Everyone needs to play their part in putting it into practice.”



BBOP is an international collaboration involving over 100 government agencies, companies, financial institutions, NGOs and individual experts. Over 2300 people from 45 countries have been involved in BBOP’s ‘Community of Practice’ over the last 15 years.   Together, the members have developed and tested best practice on how to plan development (from national policy down to individual projects, such as a new road or mine) to achieve “No Net Loss” and preferably a “Net Gain” in biodiversity.  This includes an internationally recognized Standard – on ‘avoid, minimize, restore, offset’ to try and achieve ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’ and ‘roadmaps’ for government and business. BBOP has been the principal global forum for collective learning in this area.


The post More than 200 Governments, Business, Bankers, and NGOs Join Call to Action for Biodiversity “Net Gain” appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

20 November 2018 | Samuel Avaala shakes his head as he dips his fork into a bowl of red-red, a traditional Ghanaian stew that gets its color – and name – in part from red palm oil.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he says. “Oil palm evolved here. It’s in our food; it’s in our medicine; but we built an economy on cocoa with little attention to oil palm.”

Oil palm is the tree that gives us palm oil, and the people of Western and Central Africa have been cultivating it for millennia – harvesting and processing the fruit for oil for vitamins, food and soap, tapping the trunks for palm wine that is distilled into medicinal alcohol, and using the biomass for green power generation. Over the past half-century, the rest of the world has discovered palm oil, too, and today it’s a $60 billion-per-year market that provides material for everything from fuels to food to face paint.

But that money isn’t flowing into Western and Central Africa.

The Great Crop Swap

Instead, thanks to a fluke of history, it’s flowing into Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce more than 80 percent of the world’s palm oil, while the dominant cash crop in palm oil’s birthplace, is cacao – a tree that evolved thousands of miles away, in the Amazon forest, where the Incas used it to make cocoa.

It’s all part of an inadvertent crop swap that began when a Ghanaian agronomist named Tetteh Quarshie brought cacao beans home with him in the 19th Century, just as Dutch and British traders were bringing African palm trees to South East Asia and migrants from Spain, Portugal, and Japan were bringing Ethiopian coffee and Asian soy to the Amazon. Today, 66 percent of the world’s cocoa comes from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, while Southeast Asia dominates in palm oil, and the Amazon region produces massive amounts of soy and beef.

The Deforestation Boom

These lucrative crops have been a double-edged sword, bringing economic wealth to some, economic squalor to others, and environmental degradation to all. Indonesia, for example, lost more than 10 million hectares of forest in just the past 30 years as oil palm plantations spread, becoming the world’s fifth-largest (and sometimes third-largest) emitter of greenhouse gasses, and Côte d’Ivoire has lost 80 percent of its forest in roughly the same period to cacao.

Now Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil companies are expanding into Africa, and many environmentalists are worried that could accelerate deforestation if natural vegetation is cleared to plant oil palm.

Avaala, however, says it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s the Process; Not the Plant

“Oil palm isn’t inherently destructive,” says Avaala. “The destruction comes when you grow it inefficiently.”

As General Manager of Benso Oil Palm Plantations (BOPP), one of Ghana’s oldest and largest palm oil producers, Avaala aims to help his company grow by spreading ecological and social best practices to small, independent farmers, which he says will help them expand production without deforesting.

An ardent proponent of certification programs like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as the “floor rather than the ceiling”, Avaala is also part of a growing number of business leaders calling for something anathema to many of his peers: namely, more and better environmental regulation at the landscape and jurisdictional level to create a level field for companies that play fair.

A Sustainable Beginning

Avaala joined BOPP after earning a degree in mechanical engineering in 1991, when the then 15-year-old palm-oil producer was majority-owned by Dutch food giant Unilever – a company that had already established itself as a leader in the burgeoning sustainability movement.

Avaala began working in the mill, where oil palm fruit is crushed into palm oil and residue. Then he segued to the plantations, where it’s grown. Finally, he moved to the refinery, where the oil is refined for edible and non-edible uses, before migrating to the executive suite.

“That gave me a perspective of the entire palm oil value chain, from the plantation to the refinery to the oil,” he says. “I came to appreciate the impact we could have, and to see how high-level decisions play out on the ground.”

In 2004, Unilever became a founding member of the RSPO, which was then a fledgling effort to introduce sustainability criteria that a critical mass of environmental NGOs and industrial producers could agree on. After six years of wrangling, the standard became operational in 2010, and Avaala was put in charge of certifying the BOPP plantations.

Going Global

At the same time, he learned that BOPP was being sold to Singapore-based agribusiness giant Wilmar International – a company with a tarnished environmental reputation, but one that had recently joined RSPO and pledged to purge deforestation from its palm oil supply chain.

Avaala admits he was skeptical, but he says the new owners quickly demonstrated their commitment to sustainability.

“Getting certified was easy, because sustainability has been part of Unilever’s culture,” he says. “When you put the Unilever agricultural principles and guidelines side by side with the RSPO guidelines, you can see a common thread, and we just needed to add the documentation, and also learn the ropes from Wilmar plantations in Malaysia, which were already certified.”

The new owners flew him to their certified plantations in Saba, Malaysia, where he says he was impressed with the way they engaged independent smallholders.

Beyond the Plantation: Smallholders

BOPP was already becoming more and more dependent on independent smallholders, which presented its own challenge: their yields were usually lower than those on the company’s own operations, which often led farmers to chop forest when looking to generate more income.

“If you can dramatically increase yields with only a marginal increase in costs, then you can get more production from the same piece of land,” he says.

Smallholders and “intensification” have become hot topics among companies looking to reduce the impact that their soy production has on forests. Indeed, of 284 palm-oil commitments tracked by the Forest Trends Supply Change initiative, 77 of them have pledged to provide some form of support to smallholders, but only 25 of them explicitly say they will increase yields per hectare without increasing agricultural expansion into forests.

Testing Intensification Efforts

In 2014, BOPP joined an initiative led by the Solidaridad Network called the Sustainable West Africa Palm Oil Program (SWAP) and began testing intensification practices at nine of its sites.

“It’s amazing what you can do with some very simple procedures,” he says, describing a rotation implemented under SWAP where trees are pruned, trimmed, and harvested of ripe fruit every seven days.

“The results are astonishing,” he says. “You can clearly see higher yields on a farm that implemented the practices compared to one that didn’t, and without necessarily increasing costs over time, although the initial inputs can be a little bit pricey.”

BOPP currently works with 438 smallholders, who provide 25 percent of its supply, and 25 percent of them are women. Avaala says the challenge now is to spread these practices across the landscape.

“We’ve already helped the smallholders who work directly with us, but it makes sense for us and other big companies to work with local chiefs and assemblies and other smallholders to spread best practices across the landscape, because that will come back to us in the end,” he says.

Before BMP

A typical, shaggy oil palm wastes its energy on non-oil growth, but….

...but a tripped tree produces more oil, and more income for farmers. Source: Solidaridad

…but a trimmed tree produces more oil, and more income for farmers. Source: Solidaridad

Africa Palm Oil Initiative

Towards that end, Avaala joined the Ghanaian steering committee of the Africa Palm Oil Initiative (APOI), which is an international effort launched in 2014 by the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) after several of its members identified palm oil as a threat to African forests.

Administered by the nonprofit environmental consultancy Proforest, APOI aims to promote common principles of sustainability among governments and palm oil producers across the region, drawing on input from national steering committees.

Through APOI, Ghana became one of seven countries whose government signed the high-profile Marrakesh Declaration for the Sustainable Development of the Oil Palm Sector in Africa, which was signed at the 2016 climate talks in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Countries sign the Marrakesh Declaration in part to attract global buyers interested in sourcing deforestation-free palm oil, and much of 2017 was devoted to forging standardized procedures – despite sharp differences in language, landscape, and legal tradition.

“Voluntary efforts can only go so far, and each country should develop a land-use plan that reflects sustainability,” he says. “We must go together if we want to go far and fast, because otherwise we’ll find that one company or sector is undoing what the other has done.”

The post Oil Palm, The Prodigal Plant, Is Coming Home To Africa. What Does That Mean For Forests? appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

19 November 2018 | In the wake of a major new report from WWF and ZSL (Zoological Society of London) showing dramatic declines in biodiversity over the last fifty years, over 100 members of the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) are meeting in Paris this month to launch a new portfolio of practical solutions for companies and policy-makers to contribute to biodiversity protection. In particular, the new roadmap for business sets out steps enabling a company to make the transition to delivering a Net Gain for Biodiversity.

A central driver of the biodiversity crisis is economic growth itself, as wildlife habitat is lost through new infrastructure development, industrial expansion, and commercial agriculture. But BBOP says it is possible to reconcile economic development and biodiversity conservation – and that proven strategies are ready for use by governments, financial institutions, and businesses.

“Decision-makers sometimes think they have to choose between environmental protection and economic development,” says BBOP Director Kerry ten Kate of Forest Trends. “But it’s often a false choice – practical solutions to reconcile them do exist.  There are ways to support development, so people have access to food, materials, energy, infrastructure and jobs, while conserving biodiversity.  BBOP is releasing a set of tools that we are confident can help companies, banks, and policy-makers rise to the challenge.”

The meeting in Paris, to be held on 27 November at French bank CDC represents the culmination of 15 years of collaboration between over 100 government agencies, companies, financial institutions, NGOs and individual experts, together representing over 2300 people from 45 countries that have been involved in BBOP’s “Community of Practice” over the last decade and a half.  (For conference registration details, contact Together, the members have developed and tested best practice on how to design biodiversity-friendly development to ensure “No Net Loss” and preferably a “Net Gain” in biodiversity.

“If you follow what’s known as the mitigation hierarchy and avoid the most serious impacts, minimize your footprint, restore affected areas after the project and finally offset any remaining losses, it’s possible to plan development projects to result in the same level of, or more, conservation, instead of an overall loss of biodiversity,” explains Samir Whitaker, Business and Biodiversity Programme Manager at ZSL. BBOP has been the principal global forum for collective learning in this area and has developed an internationally recognized Standard to achieve Biodiversity Net Gain and roadmaps for government and business.

“There are many achievements to celebrate over the last 15 years, really spearheaded by BBOP,” says Jessica Nordin of forestry company Sveaskog, and the current Chair of BBOP’s Executive Committee. “BBOP can close, confident that it leaves an amazing legacy of useful tools, knowing that it has changed the standards to which mitigation of impacts is undertaken around the world, and that the work it inaugurated has now been taken on by many governments, companies, programmes and initiatives.”

There are already some encouraging results.  In 2014, 39 countries had existing laws or policies on No Net Loss or a Net Gain of biodiversity, biodiversity offsets or compensation, and now over 100 countries require or enable offsets. 94 financial institutions have set “safeguard” conditions for project finance that require no net loss of natural habitat and a net gain in critical habitat. Over 60 companies have also made public, company-wide commitments or have stated aspirations related to No Net Loss or Net Gain of biodiversity.

The roadmap for business explains the “why and what” of planning for Biodiversity Net Gain, including the opportunities and risks of doing so.  It helps companies work towards Biodiversity Net Gain in individual operations and partnerships at the site or project level; and/or across their business; and/or through their value chain; and/or support BNG as financial institutions through their investment strategy and engagement.

“We’ve learned so much in fifteen years of trial and error, working with companies in the field and supporting governments writing laws and policies,” explains ten Kate. “High quality policies and practices for Biodiversity Net Gain help the economy and the environment.  Poor ones result in costs, protests and liabilities. This is really a case of ‘If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.’  That’s why such a varied group of organisations worked hard over 15 years to produce our Standard and all our handbooks and guidelines. We have the tools.  We hope that governments, business, and the financial community will join us in Paris to help us launch them at scale.”

The final BBOP conference (“Working for Biodiversity Net Gain: Taking stock and prospects for the future”) will be held on Tuesday 27 November at the Caisse des Dépôts, 15 quai Anatole France, 75007 Paris. To register, please contact

Topics on the agenda include:

  • Experiences of Biodiversity Net Gain planning from Eiffage, CDC and the governments of France and Luxembourg
  • Building expertise in finance for Biodiversity Net Gain, including financial mechanisms for mitigation.
  • Ensuring that Biodiversity Net Gain covers social issues: How to make sure people are left at least as well off after development projects and mitigation measures (including offsets) as they were before?
  • Using the Business Roadmap to plan for Biodiversity Net Gain for products, projects, whole companies, value chains, and through finance; and connecting biodiversity and natural capital.
  • How the scientific community can estimate losses and gains and provide evidence to support governments – a new scientific initiative and an example from Malaysia.
  • How Uganda, Mozambique, Guinea and Madagascar have brought governments, companies and conservation groups together to plan for Biodiversity Net Gain.
  • Four experts debate the motion, “Net Gain of biodiversity is realistic,” with speakers from the UK, Australia and South Africa, representing government, the private sector and academia.
  • Conclusions: What are the biggest remaining challenges to the vision of Biodiversity Net Gain?  Getting the right tools into the right hands: What further work and collaboration is needed?

For information about BBOP, see:

The post Cross-Sector Consortium Launches A New Portfolio Of Biodiversity Solutions For Business And Government appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

14 November 2018 | Global climate talks are set to begin two weeks from now in Katowice, Poland, but quieter talks have been taking place out of the limelight, in Montreal, Canada, where negotiators from 192 countries are meeting under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to design a global carbon market for offsetting emissions from international flights, which aren’t included in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The offsetting program, called “CORSIA” (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), will be phased in over seven years, with a pilot phase running from 2021 through 2023, during which countries can opt in or out (most have opted in), then a second voluntary phase from 2024 through 2026, and a final phase, running from 2027 through 2035 that is mandatory for all countries except the very poor. In essence, airlines will begin rigorously monitoring emissions in January, 2019, then capping emissions at 2020 levels beginning in 2021.

Ecosystem Marketplace Manager Kelley Hamrick has been following carbon markets for five years, and we sat down for her take on how CORSIA is evolving and its role in global carbon markets. This conversation has been edited for clarity.

How long have you been tracking carbon markets?

I’ve been tracking carbon markets since joining Ecosystem Marketplace in 2013, but the organization published its first “State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets” report in 2007 – two years after the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) began.

Amazingly, companies not regulated by the EU ETS program wanted to reduce emissions too, and many began buying voluntary carbon offsets, after they reached the financial or technological limit of what they could do in-house.

That report was critical in tracking voluntary carbon offset purchases, and it provided legitimacy to this nascent market by providing data around the market size, average prices and more. That and subsequent reports also tracked the evolution and increasing use of third-party standards that provided necessary documentation of voluntary offsets’ on-the-ground impacts. Our reports have been used to engage new voluntary offset buyers and help policymakers value the standards and impact of voluntary carbon markets.

How have voluntary markets changed over the years?

Buyers quickly learned that “voluntary” offsets still needed some sort of regulation or structure, and voluntary standard bodies played a crucial role in providing legitimacy to emerging carbon offset activities around the world. In 2007, only 64% of offsets were approved by a third-party standard bodies – compared to 99% in 2016.

We’ve also seen a proliferation of project types – particularly in the supply of and demand for offsets related to land-use. A study was published last year that suggested that through these so-called “natural climate solutions,” we can achieve more than a third of the mitigation needed by 2030 to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius. That has led a lot of people to take a deeper look at forest and land-use offsets.

Another big change is the way voluntary markets have influenced the compliance markets, largely because the participants – the project developers, standard bodies, registries and others – have been free to test new methods, with standard-setting bodies capturing and codifying what works to ensure environmental integrity. The most recent and in-progress example of this is the upcoming Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) program, overseen by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

What is CORSIA?

Climate negotiators have always struggled with emissions from activities like international aviation and shipping, which are generated between countries rather than inside of them. For the former, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) delegated this to ICAO, which is the UN agency charged with overseeing international flights.

Like the UNFCCC, CORSIA is comprised of member states – in this case, 192 of them – and in 2013, the members set an aspirational goal of capping emissions from international flights at 2020 levels, even if the number of flights continue to increase. At the moment, airlines can improve fuel efficiency, shift to cleaner-burning fuels, and reduce the weight of planes… but the technology only goes so far.

While we hope for – and expect – technological breakthroughs on those issues in the future, it is likely the airlines will need to use offsets in the short-term for some or all of their emissions. That’s where CORSIA comes in. The CORSIA program will allow airlines purchase offsets to meet the goal of carbon neutral growth post-2020.

So CORSIA means airlines will only offset some emissions from flights?

Correct – just their emissions above 2020 levels, and only for international flights. But that’s still a big amount! International air travel is a rapidly growing industry; the International Air Transport Association expects international air travel to almost double between 2016 and 2035. Throughout the industry’s history, increased air travel has meant increased emissions, that’s why decoupling them is so important. The way CORSIA plans to do that is by putting a price on carbon, and linking the airlines’ emissions with its balance sheet.

Also, CORSIA isn’t just about offsetting: airlines can make use of alternative aviation fuels (like biofuels) or offsets. With a price on carbon, airlines will have an incentive to reduce emissions and catalyze investments in new low-emissions technology to do so.  There are some cool examples of airlines beginning to make some big investments into biofuels, like Virgin, United and Cathay Pacific, which is all needed to bring down the cost of the fuel and the supply infrastructure needed at airports.

Your v-carbon quarterly report included a special section on CORSIA. Why is it a big deal? It’s just one industry.

First, climate impact. International aviation is responsible for an estimated 1.3% of global emissions. This program will help cap those emissions by ensuring future growth is carbon neutral.

Second, global cooperation. All ICAO member states have already agreed to CORSIA’s overarching goal of carbon neutral growth. This is one of the first instances of developed and developing countries taking similar approaches in reducing emissions – and emissions reductions supply could similarity be completely global.

Third, and finally, the impact on carbon markets. Research organizations have estimated that CORSIA could generate demand for 1.6-3.7 billion tonnes of emissions reductions. This could become one of the largest sources of demand worldwide.

We know it’ll be a big deal, but exactly how the deal shakes out remains to be seen. While the emissions reduction goal has been agreed to, the details around implementation of CORSIA – for instance, which standards, protocols and vintages will be eligible – are still being ironed out. With CORSIA set to begin in 2020, the coming months and years will be an interesting time to follow CORSIA developments.

What does this mean for airlines already offsetting?

That’s a good question. Right now, some airlines offset a portion of their emissions, either for compliance purposes (i.e. they are required to under a carbon pricing program) or voluntarily, usually through passengers who purchase offsets for the emissions associated with their flights. Currently, only a handful of compliance programs cover  airline emissions: namely, the EU-ETS and several of China’s pilot provincial cap and trade programs– and even those only apply to flights within the country or European Union.

Some airlines voluntarily offset some of their emissions, or offer passengers the option to offset their flight’s emissions. In fact, half of the world’s ten largest airlines offer passengers the option to offset their emissions, including at least one airline from every region around the world. Many of these airlines were some of the first companies to engage in voluntary offsetting – either by offsetting some of their own emissions or by allowing customers to offset emissions associated with their flights.

The question remains whether airlines will continue to offset voluntarily in addition to meeting their compliance obligations under CORSIA. Once CORSIA takes effect, there will still be an opportunity for voluntary offsetting, either by customers or airlines. That’s because CORSIA caps post-2020 international aviation emissions growth; airlines will still need to do more to reduce current rates of emissions. ICAO and airlines will need to figure out how to avoid double counting, but so will almost every other industry once the Paris Agreement goes into effect.

Rank (by revenue) Airline Offer offsetting to customers? Headquarters Country
1 American Airlines Group No United States
2 Delta Air Lines Yes United States
3 Lufthansa Yes Germany
4 United Continental Holdings Yes United States
5 Air France-KLM Yes France/Netherlands
6 International Airlines Group No Spain/United Kingdom
7 Southwest Airlines No United States
8 China Southern Airlines No China
9 All Nippon Airways Yes Japan
10 China Eastern Airlines No China

Source: Forbes’ The World’s Largest Public Companies and Ecosystem Marketplace’s own research

So what kind of offsets can airlines buy? Are they the same as what they’re using now for their voluntary offsetting?

That’s jumping the gun a bit – right now, the question is whether or not the CORSIA program will allow the use of offsets certified by voluntary carbon offsets standards. In February of this year, I attended the first ICAO Seminar on Carbon Markets in Montreal, where ICAO brought their policymakers and negotiators to hear directly from members of the carbon markets community and gain a better understanding of how existing markets work. I gave a presentation about voluntary carbon offsets alongside representatives from a variety of existing carbon markets and standard bodies, including the Clean Development Mechanism, voluntary market standards and country program officials from Japan, China, Korea, Canada and the EU. This seminar provided airlines, industry groups, ICAO officials and others a chance to learn more about things like the available supply of offsets, how standard bodies certify offsets, and how registries track offsets throughout their lifecycle.

In June of this year, ICAO released its Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), which detail the implementation of CORSIA, including: the program’s administration; information about how airlines should conduct their emissions monitoring, reporting, and validation (MRV); and offsetting and low carbon fuel use requirements. What the SARPs do not include much information on is what types of offsets will be eligible.

Some immediate, and much awaited next steps for the ICAO Council (represented by 36 member states), are to discuss and approve the criteria for eligible “units” – ICAO-speak for offsets. The Council will also establish a Technical Advisory Body (TAB), which will consist of a smaller group of representatives who will make recommendations to Council on specific offset programs and whether they meet the criteria. Ultimately, the ICAO Council will make final decisions on what offsets are eligible for use by airlines. This is a big task ahead – and one which we are excited to see unfold.

So what’s happened since CORSIA was announced? Are you starting to see any of those shifts in the voluntary markets?

In the data we have tracked and market actors we hear from, there’s a lot of enthusiasm and anticipation to engage with CORSIA but little in the way of market activity. That could be just a reflection of what we’ve seen, and what is public; however, I also think it is likely that market participants are wary of investing ahead of clear signals regarding offset eligibility.

Earlier this year, we conducted a survey asking market participants and other experts how they thought upcoming markets – like CORSIA, developments under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and domestic carbon pricing programs – may affect the voluntary carbon markets. Most respondents viewed CORSIA as a positive new opportunity, regardless of which offsets CORSIA recognizes as eligible. That’s because the survey respondents found value in raising overall awareness of offsetting, and thought that engagement with voluntary offsets would rise because of that. However, despite this generally favorable outlook, nearly all respondents reiterated the same word when describing the future of voluntary carbon markets: uncertainty.

In short, we’ve seen a lot of interest in CORSIA but not a lot of actual activity. While there may be some airlines looking to get experience with voluntary offsetting before CORSIA officially starts, most will probably hold off until the market kicks off. Project developers, in turn, will likely wait for more guidance around offset eligibility before investing in new projects or expanding capacity in their existing projects.

So what’s the debate about vintages? Why does it matter what year the offsets were issued?

Simply put, an offset’s vintage is the year that offset was produced. Scientifically, a unit of emissions reductions is equivalent, no matter how, where, or when it was achieved. But economically, which vintages are and are not accepted under CORSIA could drastically affect offset supply and demand.

At the end of the day, there are valid arguments on both sides of the fence, and the best thing regulators can do is to make their decisions available as quickly as possible to market participants.

I know there have been concerns raised about double counting. What are those? Will ICAO address these? Or is this a matter for UNFCCC?

There are a handful of different ways in which ‘double accounting’ can happen – from the double counting of a claim to an emission reduction itself to double use of an issued credit. The basic principle is to make sure multiple claims aren’t happening over the same actions, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

ICAO will inevitably have to look to what is happening under the UNFCCC, which is currently in the process of developing guidance to address double counting of markets under the Paris Agreement. Ultimately, though, the ICAO Council must make decisions for CORSIA. In doing so, the ICAO Council has a responsibility to make sure offsets they deem eligible under CORSIA do not result in double counting. This was captured in the 2016 Assembly Resolution on CORSIA and in work done by the Global Markets Based Task Force (GMTF) on emissions unit criteria (which is now viewed by the Council).

Will EM track CORSIA offsets?

Yes! Assuming all goes according to plan, the first phase of CORSIA will be up and running by 2020. Until then, we’ll keep reporting on how the market is preparing to launch. After 2020, we’ll keep covering how the market is unfolding, especially focusing on how it is impacting the voluntary carbon markets and finance flows towards forest and land-use carbon. Stay tuned J




The post International Airlines Are Shaping Up As Big Force In Carbon Offsetting appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

Anyone who’s suffered through a few hundred panel discussions at even the most productive climate event knows the drill.

You’ll sit quietly as diligent souls like yourself describe workable, viable solutions to the climate challenge, or maybe you’ll present one of your own. Many of these solutions will already be up and running, delivering verifiable results around the world. Some will include new technologies, while others will rely on time-tested, natural climate solutions built in partnership with indigenous people or with small-scale farmers shifting to agroforestry. They’ll usually save money over time while boosting income for the most vulnerable people, and they’ll often have the backing of companies like Mars, Marks & SpencerDanone, or one of the handful of other global brand with a history of at least trying to operate sustainably.

Is Rev Dr Gerald Durley the Winston Churchill of the Climate Movement?

You’ll feel hopeful, but in the back of your mind you’ll know that fossil-fuel companies are spending billions to discredit climate science, and that these companies are the exceptions that prove the rule. Most commodity groups, you know, are more than willing to displace entire populations and grind large forests into pulp if it boosts their bottom line by a half a percent, and most consumers are happy to pocket the savings as well.

Then you’ll go back to your hotel, turn on the news, and watch a stone-faced man and a synchronous-featured woman furrowing their brows as they introduce their coverage of the summit – angry people in the streets, many of them clueless, placid people in suits, many of them experts like yourself… maybe a politician saying that something must be done, followed by an activist saying that nothing is.

“But things are being done,” you’ll think to yourself. “They’re just not being done at scale.”

And you’ll board a plane for the next event, where the same experts will reassemble for the same panel, and clones of the same reporters will show you clones of the same protesters, and you’ll soldier on, refining and perfecting the same solutions that you know work, hoping that if you get them to the point where they just work well enough, or cheaply enough, everyone will embrace them. Your donors will pat you on the back, and they’ll reward you with funding to keep up the good work. Scientific journals will publish your results, and the praise will reverberate throughout the echo chamber in which you find solace – away from the science-deniers, away from the sensation-seeking media, and away from the apathetic masses who have no understanding of the disaster coming their way, and no one willing or able to explain it to them.

Or maybe you’re one of those farmers, toiling in the fields, busting your butt to manage your land sustainably without chopping the forest, even as neighboring landowners chop trees to graze cattle or grow rubber, and you’re wondering why you should continue to do the right thing, and what difference it makes.

The Reverend Dr Gerald Durley knows that thinking, because he helped build the US Civil Rights movement with Martin Luther King, Jr in the early 1960s while studying psychology in Tennessee, before being recruited by Bobby Kennedy himself to become an early Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria, and returning to become a fixture in Atlanta’s Civil Rights community as Pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church.

When he stepped down from that post a few years back, Durley didn’t retire.

He got “rewired”.

And the rewired reverend may just be the Winston Churchill of the climate movement.

So, if the deniers and the ranting ideologues have you down, and if the lazy media has you feeling mute, and you don’t know whether to up your game or end your involvement, check out Episode 35 of the Bionic Planet Podcast,  available on iTunesTuneInStitcher, and most other podcasters, as well as at and directly on this device here:

The post What Can The Climate Movement Learn From The Civil Rights Movement? Plenty, Says Civil Rights Veteran Gerald Durley appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

The Brazilian Soy Moratorium is credited with reducing deforestation from soybean production within the Amazon forest by as much as 80 percent in some states, and it worked by getting soybean traders like Bunge, Cargill, ADM, Amaggi, and Louis Dreyfus to stop buying from farmers who clear forested land to grow soybeans.

Unfortunately, the same progress is yet to be seen among companies operating in and/or sourcing from the Cerrado, Brazil’s vast tropical savannah – a region that’s even more biologically diverse than the Amazon is, but that’s seen an 87-percent surge in agriculture activity, with more than a quarter of this expansion coming at the expense of native vegetation.

New analysis of the five companies mentioned above – which together accounted for 60 percent of the soy exported from the Cerrado in 2015 – gives all five low grades for approaching deforestation in the Cerrado, and it shows that none are among the dozens of companies that had signed onto the Cerrado Manifesto Statement of Support, which is a pledge that was launched in October 2017 to halt deforestation and native vegetation loss in this ecologically critical region. Indeed, two of the “big five” – Bunge and Cargill – were fined for activities linked to illegal deforestation in the Cerrado.

This analysis is featured in nonprofit research organization Global Canopy’s latest report, “Trading soy from the Cerrado – an assessment of the big five”, which utilized an online tool called “Company action on deforestation” to assess the self-reported pledges and progress, as well as the relative power, of 137 companies sourcing soy and cattle from Latin America.

While all five companies have made deforestation commitments, the report points out, those commitments are narrowly focused on the Amazon and don’t extend far enough to sub-suppliers – although as the report was going to press, Louis Dreyfus, the smallest of “big five”, became the first – and so far, only – to commit to eliminating deforestation throughout their supply chain and conserve ecologically valuable biomes.

“All of the five traders’ commitments fail to fully preclude unsustainable soy production practices because they are all limited in their scope, largely focusing exclusively on the Amazon and on forests, and excluding the Cerrado and native vegetation,” the report concludes, stressing that it does not include the latest commitments from Louis Dreyfus. “Additionally, three of the five traders’ policies are limited to only a subset of their suppliers.”

The analysis comes at a time when agribusiness is ascendant in Brazilian politics, but conservationists argue that food expansion can be increased without destroying native vegetation simply by better managing land that has already been degraded.

Over the past two years, the National Wildlife Federation has been collaborating with The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and other groups to demonstrate the value to companies to help protect this valuable habitat, and also the opportunity for already-to-use land that doesn’t require additional deforestation and land degradation.

“With millions of hectares of suitable land, that has already been cleared, available for expansion, the soy sector does not need to rely on converting forests and native vegetation,” says Barbara Bramble of the National Wildlife Federation. “The companies that produce, trade, finance and use soy in their products need to recognize this and take immediate steps to ensure that their supply chains protect forests and native vegetation.”

The post Major Soy Traders Get Low Grades For Cerrado Sourcing appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

The Royal Bank of Sweden today announced it was awarding the Nobel Prize for Economics to two American economists: Paul Romer, who made us think about the economics of education and sustainable development, and William Nordhaus, who pioneered the use of economic modeling to quantify the economic impact of climate change.

The announcement comes just as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a detailed analysis of the changes needed to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5ºC (2.7ºF) above pre-industrial levels, which is the aspirational target identified by the Paris Climate Agreement.

The gist is that, yes, we can get there by slashing industrial emissions and restoring the living ecosystems that support our civilization, and doing so would even create a more sustainable and equitable society, but it will also face stiff opposition from entrenched interests.

One way to get there, they said, is to make companies pay a high price for the greenhouse gasses they emit – or, as we say colloquially, “put a price on carbon”.

It’s a finding that, perhaps not coincidentally, draws on the work of both Romer and Nordhaus.

More on the Bionic Planet Podcast

For more on the economics of carbon pricing, check out episode 34 of the Bionic Planet podcast, where we revisit our 2016 interview with environmental economist Gernot Wagner. Bionic Planet is available on iTunesTuneInStitcher, and pretty much anywhere you access podcasts, as well as directly on this device via the link below:

The Report

The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming has been in the works since the Paris Agreement was ratified in 2016, and its findings are designed to inform year-end climate talks, which take place in Katowice, Poland, in December.

The report draws on more than 6,000 scientific papers and looks at different scenarios – from those that focus primarily on reducing energy demand to those that focus primarily on expanding carbon sinks, including forests and soils (referred to as “AFOLU” in IPCC lingo, for “Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Uses”), but also new carbon and capture technology (referred to as “BECCS” for “Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage).

Prior to the release, several organizations criticized drafts then in circulation for giving short shrift to natural climate solutions, in the form of LULUCF, and placing too much emphasis on untested technologies in the form of BECCS.

Further Reading

The The full report can be daunting, but the Frequently Asked Questions are designed for a mainstream audience, and The Summary For Policy Makers provides a thorough summary of the findings.

For a deeper dive into the ways that Romer’s ideas on sustainable development fit in with Nordhaus’s ideas on carbon pricing, as well as how both fit into the IPCC report, check out this string on Gernot Wagner’s twitter feed:

The post Climate Economist Nordhaus Wins Nobel As Scientific Body Calls For Price On Carbon appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) puts the finishing touches on a new report detailing pathways to keeping global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, more and more scientists are calling for greater emphasis on natural climate solutions.

Research published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academies of the Sciences identified 20 low-cost, natural “pathways” that can get us 37 percent of the way to meeting the Paris Climate Agreement target of 2.0 degrees Celsius, but most of the Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) used in the upcoming IPCC report focus on technological interventions, according to the Climate, Land, Ambition & Rights Alliance (CLARA), which is publishing its own report on 15 October.

The upcoming CLARA report says that the IAMs are focusing too much on technological ways of balancing deforestation and not enough on halting deforestation. Rather than focusing on geoengineering and carbon capture and storage, they argue, the IPCC should focus more on 1) increasing the security of land management by indigenous peoples and local communities; 2) aggressively protecting and restoring forests; 3) changing food production systems and combating food waste; and 4) limiting rich-country intake of meat and dairy products.

It is the first report to link three intersecting crises – climate change, biodiversity loss, and violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities – and to focus solutions on holistic approaches that tackle all three crises at once.  The report is based on a vast body of peer-reviewed science across multiple disciplines.  Members of CLARA include climate justice advocates, faith-based groups, conservation groups, land rights campaigners, development organizations, agroecologists, and representatives of people’s movements.

The IPCC report is scheduled for release Monday in Incheon, South Korea.

The post Scientists Say 1.5-Degree Climate Quest Gives Short Shrift To Forests appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

6 November 2018 | Beni Hernedi loves mountain-climbing, and he bristles when people dismiss his passion.

“They think it’s about thrill-seeking and cheating death,” he says. “But for me it’s the opposite; it’s about being out in nature, living life to its fullest, and making sure that everything is done with meticulous preparation and safety.”

Those habits got him elected vice regent, or Vice Bupati, for the administrative district of Musi Banyuasin, in South Sumatra, Indonesia, where he developed his current passion: sustainable development.

It’s a calling he received during the 2015 wildfires that left swathes of his district in cinders and filled the lungs of people as far away as Singapore and Malaysia – where, ironically, many of the companies responsible for the devastation were located.

“These fires started because our farmers were clearing forest to grow palm oil,” he says. “But our farmers were selling to companies in Singapore, and sometimes working for them directly, and it hit me that we have a shared responsibility to address this.”

Indonesian attorney Gita Syahrani agreed, and today the two are among the leading force of something called the Sustainable Districts Association (Lingkar Temu Kabupaten Lestari in Indonesian, or “LTKL”), which unites administrative districts that are scattered across Indonesia in a coordinated effort to better manage their forests, farms, and fields. Research shows that these activities can get the world 37 percent of the way to meeting the Paris Climate targets, but they attract just 3 percent of climate finance.

The LTKL aims to bridge the funding gap by creating districts that can attract investment capital – in part by establishing long-term uptake agreements with companies that want to comply with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the United Nations created in 2015 to drive finance into clean development.

Beni Hernedi (center) launching an online licensing portal in the district of Musi Banyuasin.

2015: The Great Confluence

The 193 countries of the United Nations General Assembly adopted the SDGs three years ago – on September 25, 2015 – three months after the wildfires had begun engulfing Southeast Asia and two weeks after South Sumatra had declared a state of emergency.

It was the lead-up to the year-end climate talks in Paris, and Indonesia had already pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by slowing deforestation – a pledge that was formalized in its climate action plan, or Nationally-Determined Contribution (NDC) to the climate challenge when the Paris Agreement was adopted in December.

“All of this stuff was happening at once,” says Hernedi. “The national government had its NDC, which we wanted to support, and it has also adopted the SDGs, which seemed like a way to get finance flowing into the district to support sustainability, and the wildfires were a real wake-up call, so I started looking for entry points into these processes.”

That’s when he learned of another initiative that had begun one year earlier – the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF), which is a non-binding agreement to cut the global rate of deforestation in half by 2020 and end it by 2030. The NYDF focuses on four commodities responsible for most of the world’s deforestation – namely, beefsoypalm oil and pulp & paper.

“In my district, palm oil was the big problem,” he says. “And most of the signatories were active here.”

Indeed, three of the NYDF signatories – Golden Agri, Musim Mas, and Wilmar – were located in Singapore, while one was in Malaysia (Sime Darby), one was in Indonesia (Asian Agri), and all had interests in or near his district.

More importantly, all five of these regional players were members of a global sustainability network called the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA2020), which was created to help businesses, governments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) meet the 2020 targets.

Hernedi started attending regional meetings, where he learned that TFA 2020 had scheduled its first General Assembly for March, 2016, in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

There, he found other Bupatis who shared the same goals – and faced many of the same challenges.

Gita Syahrani (right), leading a workshop at the most recent TFA 2020 General Assembly in Accra, Ghana.

The Challenge

Indonesia’s Bupatis often get blamed for the country’s rapid deforestation, which kicked in after the fall of President Suharto in 1998. Authority over forests was then decentralized, so Bupatis started granting forest-development concessions to fund their local economies and, sometimes, line their own pockets.

The 2015 fires, coupled with the advent of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, may have sparked an awakening among some, but sustainability-oriented Bupatis found themselves in a quandary.

“Sustainable development is a long-term endeavor, but Bupatis only serve for five years,” says Hernedi. “Also, any budgetary allocation for forest conservation is handled by federal or provincial authorities who don’t always understand what’s needed on the ground.”

In a forested rural economy, the challenge of sustainable development becomes a challenge of sustainable agriculture and forest management – which requires changing practices and managing expectations.

“We can talk about getting certified under, say, the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) standard or the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), but that requires up-front investment and education,” says Hernedi. “We need help with that, and I need to be able to offer my people, the smallholders in particular, some sort of assurances that their efforts will be rewarded.”

Coming Together

When Hernedi met Syahrani in 2016, she was working as the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Sustainable Commodity & Business Manager for Indonesia – a position she’d taken after acting as the private-sector liaison for the National REDD+ Agency, which was a body tasked with helping the country dock with international climate agreements around forestry.

“I’d been working with the districts to develop their green growth vision, and that gave me a chance to see how committed they were,” says Syahrani. “That was part of a program that wound down in 2016, and the Bupatis invited me out for a goodbye dinner.”

It didn’t, however, feel like goodbye, as the conversation swirled around the endless possible linkages between district green growth plans, the country’s climate change strategy, and global demand for deforestation-free commodities.

The next day, Syahrani got a call from Hernedi asking if they could keep the conversation going.

“Up to then, we’d been focused on palm oil, because so many companies had commitments in that commodity,” says Hernedi. “We realized, however, that we could cooperate on other commodities as well, but that it’s also strategic to have a caretaker help put this together, and Gita seemed like the perfect person for that.”

Syahrani floated the idea with three organizations: the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), the Indonesia Palm Oil Smallholders Association (SPKS), and the Indonesian Association of District Governments (APKASI) and found enough support to arrange a two-day workshop in December, 2016.

“We were all working pro-bono, but had enough money to get some meeting rooms,” she says. “Then we invited 15 districts to participate, and eight of them sent delegations.”

The districts, it turned out, had well-developed but extremely varied development programs.

“We had a rigorous discussion around core principles, and agreed that balance was key – that growth and environmental conservation and social welfare should all have equal footing.”

Indonesians have a word for that kind of balance: “lestari”, which means “keeping things as they are” but implies balance, preservation, and sustainability. They quickly settled on a name: Lingkar Temu Kabupaten Lestari.

“It’s new kind of jurisdictional program – one that’s spread across eight founding districts that are themselves spread across the country,” says Syahrani. “LTKL is important because it’s being developed from the bottom up, at the most basic level of Indonesian government, rather than from the top down.”

LTKL was formally incorporated in partnership with APKASI by July 2017 and Syahrani formally switched gear to head the LTKL Secretariat. By September, 2017, LTKL participated in its first TFA 2020 Implementation Dialogue. There, Hernedi was one of the key speakers, providing an opportunity to learn directly from global trading groups what companies need from – and can offer – the districts.

That dialogue has since led to trial purchases from smallholders, and a subsequent meeting led to cooperation on fire prevention in peatlands.

Meanwhile, his district has found synergies with several other districts – most notably the district of Sigi in Central Sulawesi, 70 percent of which is protected forest that must be conserved.

“They were having trouble developing a business case for forest management, and we offered to help them make their case to at the national level through LTKL,” says Hernedi. “They have a competitive edge from the beginning with their strong commitment on agrarian reform and agrarian conflict resolution.”

Learning from Sigi, Hernedi has also set up a specific task force to help his district deal with agrarian reform and agrarian conflict resolution – a critical building block before any investment to further support sustainable development can start flowing.  In parallel, LTKL has also helped Sigi and other members get involved in national discussions on better fiscal policy to support sustainable districts.

LTKL is hardly alone. Mayaysia’s Sabah Province is well on the way to becoming a sustainable jurisdiction, and IDH is working with several other provinces across Indonesia, while Brazil’s Green Municipalities are striving to attract international companies that have pledged to purge deforestation from their supply chains. In each case, local people and authorities have bet on those companies keeping their promises, and now the question is: will they?

The post Indonesia’s Sustainable Districts Bet On Corporate Deforestation Pledges appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

26 October 2018 | The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recent Special Report showing that we may have little more than a decade before global warming exceeds 1.5°C is rattling. A finding that’s received less attention but is equally critical is that there is no pathway that keeps us under 1.5 degrees without active carbon removal from the atmosphere. In other words, cutting emissions is not enough. We need to increase carbon sequestration too, dramatically. That finding is renewing interest in halting the loss of tropical forests, which would not only eliminate a key contributor to climate change but also begin to rebuild carbon sinks.

A wave of major corporations have stepped forward in the last five years with voluntary pledges to eliminate deforestation in their commodity supply chains. To date 346 companies, spanning the global network of producers to retailers active in the four commodities most responsible for deforestation and land degradation: cattle, palm, pulp & timber, and soy, have committed to addressing legal & illegal commodity-driven deforestation. These voluntary actions have been initiated and supported by leading industry and multi-stakeholder groups like the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) and Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA2020).

While voluntary commitments are all well and good, half of tropical deforestation for commercial agriculture is actually taking place illegally – in violation of producer country laws – and regulatory solutions are therefore badly needed. Around half of the illegal forest conversion for commercial agriculture is driven by exports, to meet consumer demand in Europe, the United States, China, and other markets. For companies that want to purge deforestation from their supply chains, tackling illegal deforestation is a necessary first step. The potential impact would be enormous, and tropical forest countries like the idea, since many are under-resourced in the fight against illegal logging and want to continue promoting economic development in the agricultural sector. And whether or not corporate leaders want to position themselves as environmentalists, no one wants to be associated with crime.

But forest legality is just one item in the package of commitments that corporations are making. Commitments often include other goals like “zero” or “zero-net” deforestation, product traceability, and human rights safeguards. How much should companies focus on legality relative to these other goals? What exactly is the difference between “zero” or “zero-net” deforestation and illegal deforestation?

In honor of Forest Legality Week, we’ve put together a short primer. Here’s what you need to know about illegal deforestation:

Illegal deforestation simply means that timber or timber products have been harvested, processed, or traded in violation of producer country laws.

For example, an entity could be logging in protected areas, High Conservation Value Forests, or in other places where they do not have the necessary permits. Or they could have a permit to harvest or process logs but there is corruption or fraud present in some other form, such as bribing officials for permits or not paying taxes or export duties. Logging is also considered illegal if forests are being logged in violation of laws designed to prevent negative impacts on environment or local communities, such as harvesting above what’s allowed by quotas.

Illegal deforestation is a much bigger driver of global forest loss than you may think – and it’s driven by demand for products you probably use every day.

Our work has shown that nearly half (49%) of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of illegal clearing for commercial agriculture. Roughly 90% of deforestation in Brazil between 2000 and 2012 was actually illegal. The same is true for as much as 80% of forest loss in Indonesia. Much of this illegal destruction was driven by overseas demand for commodities including palm oil, beef, soy, leather, and wood products. In response, legality is often a leading element of corporate policies to address commodity-driven deforestation within their supply chains.

Meanwhile, “zero” deforestation means that no forests anywhere have been cleared or converted for agriculture or other uses. “Zero-net” deforestation means that while forest loss may have occurred in one place, an equivalent amount has been replanted somewhere else, so that overall forest cover remains the same.

You’ll often find “zero” or “zero-net” deforestation commitments made by corporations regarding their supply chain. These commitments might refer to one more of the following agricultural commodities associated with deforestation: pulp & timber, beef, soy, and palm. Commitments might also vary by scope (applying to some or all of a company’s product lines or brands, and to just the company’s operations or also its suppliers’ operations). Zero and zero-net deforestation commitments may also be paired with policies to ensure legality, to protect high-value areas, source only sustainably/responsibly produced commodities, safeguard human rights, or transparent/traceable procurement. Therefore, while legality may be specified as part of the commitment, unless specified by the company, “zero” or “zero-net” deforestation commitments don’t necessarily tell you whether the commodity in question was produced in compliance with forestry laws in producing countries. That’s why it’s necessary to gather a plethora of company commitment data in order to get the full picture, you can learn more about the range of corporate supply chain commitments at, a Forest Trends platform that tracks these commitments. See example below for how legality commitments comprise a significant share of corporate timber & pulp commitments to address commodity-driven deforestation.

Tackling illegal logging and deforestation can complement voluntary corporate sustainability efforts.

Addressing deforestation ultimately means working with the government in forested countries that produce timber and other commodities like beef, palm, or soy. And these governments may actually be more receptive to efforts to address illegal logging than to make supply chains more sustainable, since the former means additional help in enforcing their own laws and agendas, rather than supporting an international company’s sustainability agenda. Legality approaches could in theory include much-needed financial and technical support for law enforcement, which is often under-resourced in protected areas in the developing world.

Legality approaches also force us to address hard-to-solve problems that voluntary actors might otherwise prefer to avoid, such as illegal land grabs in violation of local and indigenous land rights. But since forests where indigenous land rights are legally recognized have both lower rates of deforestation and higher-than-average carbon storage, taking steps to track illegal forest-to-agriculture conversions by improving land tenure rights and registration would address human rights abuses and climate mitigation at the same time. That’s a compelling argument for prioritizing legality.

An even more compelling argument? Illegal deforestation creates huge financial losses, undermining countries’ development objectives in the resource sectors. At a minimum, producer countries lose out on $4,000 per hectare from just three major factors: tax evasion, the loss of ecosystem function, and conflict with forest communities. Globally, illegal deforestation for commercial agriculture generated losses of over $17 per year during the early 2000s to forested countries.

But legality is only a part of the larger goal of sustainability.

After all, “legal” can still be unsustainable. Many advocates for forest conservation have expressed concern that focusing international efforts on forest legality would be a step backward, since most voluntary action on supply chains today pursues the more ambitious goal of “sustainable” or “responsible” commodity production. Producer country legal frameworks can be confusing, with sub-national regulations contradicting those at the central level. Indigenous and community land rights are often unrecognized under statutory law. And exemptions carved out by powerful actors have enabled large-scale land acquisition, or “land grabbing,” in a way that’s 100% legal.

Recent recommendations on reducing consumers’ impacts on deforestation from the European Commission and the NGO community both see legality as an intermediate milepost on the road to sustainability. Still, since the evidence suggests that so much deforestation is illegal, halting illegal logging could be a bigger step forward than the conventional wisdom holds.

Illegality is hard to spot for many agricultural commodities.

It’s often very difficult to prove that illegal forest conversion has taken place. Experts say that it may be easier for governments and companies to crack down on illegal timber itself instead of trying to spot illegal conversion in agricultural supply chains.

After a few years in the wilderness, legality may be back on the agenda.

Attention in recent years has mostly focused on voluntary approaches on deforestation like TFA 2020, CGF, and individual corporate commitments. But signs that companies may not meet their voluntary commitments by 2020 as planned, along with increased interest in the forest-climate link, may be reviving it. As forests and land-use gain traction as a cost-effective, scalable climate strategy in the international arena, and forest countries pursue their own goals for reducing deforestation as part of their Paris Accord pledges, forest governance is an unavoidable issue. Many countries will need to put in place new legal frameworks for forest management to meet their climate objectives. Linking consumer-country trade policies, including legality requirements, to these climate plans could help support forest countries to both enforce existing logging laws and meet new climate goals. Similarly, capacity-building for REDD+, with its emphasis on legal frameworks, land tenure and registration, and land-use planning, requires countries to improve forest governance – which is also necessary to stop illegal logging.

Voluntary action is important: early leadership can help to test new approaches and certification schemes, demonstrate that that sustainability doesn’t have to have a significant impact on costs or operations, and make important inroads engaging forest country governments and providing them with technical and financial assistance. But ultimately voluntary action can’t take on deforestation at the global level alone – at some point national and international policy and regulation will need to come into the picture. Our climate, and forest countries’ economic development, depends on a shift towards the rule of law.

Related Items

More And More Scientists Embrace Forests As Bulwark Against Climate Change

Natural Forests Still In Decline Despite Global Coordination Behind New York Declaration On Forests

Investing In A Forgotten Solution To Climate Change: Nature

Accountability Framework Initiative Releases Draft Of Core Principles, Invites Feedback

How Indonesian Billionaire Uses ‘Shadow Companies’ To Clear Forest For Palm Oil

The post Companies Acting On Deforestation Have A Legality Issue appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

This story first appeared on Clean Energy Wire

24 October 2018 | No matter how you look at it, people need sustenance to survive – and growing crops or raising livestock creates emissions. But Germany must find a way to reduce its agricultural emissions, which make up seven percent of total greenhouse gas emissions to reach its goal of carbon neutrality by mid-century, and to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. It’s difficult to know which measures will be most effective, as cutting emissions in one area often creates emissions in another. Measures aimed at protecting the environment while also combatting climate change may seem like the perfect match, but they often harbour conflicts of interest.

A record hot and dry summer in Europe in 2018 stoked public debates about tackling climate change, while taking a heavy toll on farmers. The German grain harvest is expected to be 19 percent lower than the average of the last three years, and many farmers are now questioning whether they can sustain their herds through the winter.

In August, farmers called for state compensation, but this brought the debate back to climate change  – some critics wondered aloud if modern intensive farming and monocultures may be ill-suited for the extreme weather climate change will bring.  They also noted that all sectors of the economy are being called upon to help fulfil Germany’s goal of near carbon neutrality by 2050, and that agriculture, which makes up 7 percent of Germany’s greenhouse gas, will have to change as well.

German agriculture minister Julia Klöckner came to the farmers defence. “The one thing we shouldn’t do in this situation is to tell farmers ‘you are to blame for climate change’,” she said in August. “Climate change is a global phenomenon. […] And farming is also part of the solution.”

In its Climate Action Plan 2050 the government expects the agriculture sector to reduce its annual 65 million tonnes of CO2 by 34-31 percent over 1990. Although a wholly emission-free farming sector will never be possible, Germany must find a way to make changes in this area to reach its goals and to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement.

But which measures will be most effective? The highly diverse sources of emissions in the sector and the competing emphasis on other environmental aspects of farming, such as biodiversity, make choices unclear. Changes that cut emissions in one area could end up creating emissions in another. Reducing livestock may lead to sourcing from abroad, for example, or turning arable land into grasslands may bring food scarcity in the future, if climate change reduces crop yields – a spectre raised by last summer’s heat wave.

Global emissions from farming make up 11 percent of total emissions. This is similar in many developed countries, with 9 percent in the United States (2016) and as high as 17 percent (2017) in France, which boasts Europe’s largest farming sector. Both the US and France have seen rising or stable farming emissions since 1990, while Germany’s have decreased by almost 18 percent, due mainly  to the closure of many farms in eastern Germany after reunification.

“Compared to the energy or industry sectors, emissions from agriculture are small – which doesn’t mean we cannot still get better,” Klöckner, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU), said in August.

But a broader view of the food supply chain shows a different picture. The typical diet of one German creates around 1.75 tonnes of CO2 per person a year, almost as high as transportation emissions, the environment ministry says. Emissions from the food supply chain (including farming of crops and animals (in Germany and abroad), fertiliser production, transport of goods, food retail and food preparation equal 25 percent of Germany’s total greenhouse gas emissions, although they are not all emitted in Germany, the Scientific Advisory Board on Agricultural Policy, Food and Consumer Health Protection (WBAE) and the Scientific Advisory Board on Forest Policy (WBW) have calculated.

Emissions-cutting measures in the farming sector

Concrete measures to fulfil emissions-reduction targets are chronically difficult to pin down in the farming industry. This is partially due to the sector’s very diverse emissions – from animal husbandry, arable soils, moorlands and the use of mineral fertilisers, to name just some major sources of greenhouse gases. In addition, other farming issues tend to eclipse agriculture emissions in the public debate – such as such as heavy use of single crops, or monocultures, and the loss of biodiversity.

The European Union’s Greening measures introduced in 2014 (e.g. crop diversification, fallow land, buffer strips, catch crops, maintaining permanent grasslands), alongside organic farming methods, are mainly aimed at protecting natural resources and biodiversity and improving conditions in livestock farming. Almost as an afterthought, they are automatically understood to also be “good for the climate”, although the whole system of farming subsidies is not at all coherent with either climate or environmental protection targets, Angelika Lischka, consultant for agriculture policy at the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), says.

The German Farmers‘ Association (Deutscher Bauernverband – DBV) says the environmental measures in EU farming policies “could have achieved more”. “But red tape and a lack of flexibility and tolerance for agricultural enterprises have made the application of certain greening measures impossible”. “When some greening measures were defined at European level, the focus was on controllability rather than practicability,” according to Steffen Pingen head of the environment department at the DBV.

The idea of using the same measures to simultaneously protect natural resources and mitigate climate change may seem like the perfect solution. But a closer look reveals trade-offs and conflicting interests.

While environmentalists and climate activists want changes to Germany’s meat production and export practices, a stop to large-scale soy bean imports and more organic farming, conventional farmers and government advisors maintain that only intensive farming practices produce food with a smaller carbon footprint. Reducing production in Germany, they say, would not be beneficial to a growing global population or would simply lead to moving production abroad (carbon leakage).

Another bone of contention is the climate impact of bioenergy. Farmers highlight the CO2  savings from the increased cultivation of crops used to generate electricity, claiming this contributes to curbing climate change. Germany has some 9,000 biogas plants, typically operated by farmers and covering 7 percent of Germany’s power generation.  Many environmental and climate activists, on the other hand, dispute its positive climate effects (depending on the kind of energy crop and where it is produced) and criticise monocultures and land consumption for non-edible crops. The government, seeing the increased conflict over land for food crops, grassland or energy plants, put a stop to any further increase in power generation from biogas in 2016.

(See a CLEW dossier on bioenergy in Germany here.)

Could less meat and trade reduction be the solution?

37.5 percent (24.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents in 2016) of agricultural emissions come directly from methane emissions of animals farmed in Germany, mostly from cattle and dairy cows. Other livestock such as swine and poultry don’t emit as much directly (unlike cows, they aren’t ruminants and don’t emit much methane), but they cause emissions through land-use for feeding, barn emissions and manure.

Environmentalists would like to downsize the livestock sector in Germany, ideally in combination with higher prices for meat and fewer exports. Last summer’s heat wave that severely curtailed the hay and maize harvest led farmers to consider reducing their herds, a move welcomed by environmentalists.

Animal farming is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in Germany’s agriculture sector. Illustration: Mwelwa Musonko.

(See a CLEW article on meat consumption and agri-food exports here.)

Indeed, meat consumption is declining in Germany, providing another argument for raising less livestock. But neither the government nor farmer’s associations have made the step towards advocating a more vegetarian diet. “It is not a successful strategy to patronise German consumers and tell them to change their preferences when it comes to meat-eating,” Steffen Pingen, head of the environment department at the DBV says. “We are pursuing the goal of producing agricultural products as climate-efficiently as possible.”

The Climate Action Plan 2050, which doesn’t mention reducing cattle numbers, foresees lower emissions from livestock farming mainly through efficiency gains and voluntary best practice rules on how to feed and keep cows and cattle, the farmers say.

In the meantime, German farmers produce more meat than people in the country can eat. The overall self-supply with beef in Germany is on average 108 percent (2013-2015), 118 percent for pork and 125 percent for milk products.

Climate activists at Germanwatch point not only to the domestic consumption of meat and dairy but also to the large exports of animal products from Germany and related imports of fodder like soy beans as large emitters of greenhouse gases.

Germany is both the world’s third-largest exporter and importer of agriculture products, according to 2015 WTO figures. Since 2000, exports and imports have grown continuously. One third of Germany’s farming products are exported. The ministry for agriculture pursues a pro-export strategy, supported with 8.8 million euros in 2017.

Source: WTO, World Trade Statistical Review 2018

According to calculations by consultancies adelphi and systain, Germany is now using some 22 million hectares of land globally for its food retail trade.

Around 27 percent of the raw protein needed for German farm animals is covered by soy bean products, of which 75 percent are imported, mostly from South America, the agriculture ministry reports. Between 1997 and 2018, global land use for growing soy beans has nearly doubled. In 2010 Germany was using some 6.4 million hectares of soybeans abroad, out of 130 million worldwide, to feed its livestock.

Steffen Pingen at the German farmers’ association says no German farmer specifically produces to export  – but that since the world market for farming products was determining prices, they still had to be competitive there. Since more efficient farming methods can reduce emissions per food unit, farmers in Germany argue that it is beneficial for the climate if everything is produced where it thrives best, i.e. where natural conditions are favourable. “That is why wheat should be grown in Germany and soy beans in South America,” Pingen said, a view that is backed by the agriculture ministry in this report.

Harald Grethe, professor for International Agricultural Trade and Development at the Humboldt University Berlin and chairman of the WBAE, pointed out that the food that Germany no longer exports has to be grown elsewhere, which could result in higher emissions overall if done on grasslands, savannah or former forest areas. “But of course if Germans were to change to a more sustainable diet, it would be possible to farm the existing arable land less intensively and therefore in a more climate friendly manner.”

(For more on emissions from animal farming and food exports, see this CLEW article.)

Cutting down on synthetic fertilisers

Arable soils are the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Germany’s agriculture sector. They emit around 26 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents (40%) of laughing gas (N2O) per year, mostly due to the use of synthetic fertilisers. Laughing gas is 300 times more harmful to the climate than CO2.

Reinhild Benning, Senior Advisor for Agriculture and Livestock at Germanwatch, says that a solution would be to grow more leguminous plants at home, such as beans, trefoil-grass, or lupines, which are classic protein sources. Substituting soy bean imports would not only cut down freight emissions and help preserve forests and savannahs in South America, but also reduce the need for synthetic fertilisers because of their natural nitrogen-fixing abilities.

The WBAE says limiting synthetic fertilisers (nitrogen) could curb annual emissions by 5.8 million CO2 equivalents (out of the 65 million tonnes coming from the farming sector). This could be achieved by improving production technologies, better planning fertiliser use and optimising farming methods to reach similar harvests with less fertiliser.

Leguminous plants however, which receive 6 million euros per year as part of the government’s “protein plant strategy”, only help prevent global warming if they don’t replace more productive plants like maize or wheat, the WBAE report finds.

When it comes to limiting synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use, Germany is not adhering to its own N2O reduction targets. By 2010 the nitrogen surplus should have been reduced to 80 kg of nitrogen per hectare (kg/ha), but has been closer to 100 kg/ha or higher in recent years. The 2030 target is 70 kg/ha. “The latest reform of the fertiliser law is not ambitious enough,” says Benning from Germanwatch. “Climate and water protection seem not as important to the government as meat and milk exports.”

Organic farmers who uses legumes, intercropping and more frequent crop rotation because synthetic fertilisers are not allowed, say their way of farming is far more climate friendly, also with regard to laughing gas emissions and other soil emissions.

Organic farming as a climate solution?

The German government has set the 2030 target to farming 20 percent of arable land organically. In 2016, the share stood at 7.5 percent. With revenues of 9.48 billion euros in 2016, Germany is the largest market for organic food in Europe, however its market share is still only 4 percent.

Organic farmers apply a more varied crop rotation and herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilisers are forbidden. More gentle ploughing methods and crop choices help to build up a humus layer in the soil which is known to be a carbon sink.

The “4 per 1000” initiative, which Germany joined at the 2015 UN Climate Summit in Paris, aims to increase the soil carbon stocks by 4 percent every year in order to offset the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Because of their sustainable approach, organic farms emit much less greenhouse gas than conventional farming operations, Benning from Germanwatch says.

But government advisors from the WBAE say this is only partially true. While a reduced use of mineral fertiliser, more leguminous plants in the crop rotation, smaller herds and grassland protection through outdoor animal husbandry usually lead to considerably lower emissions per hectare, the carbon footprint of organic produce isn’t always smaller.

As organic farmers produce less crops and meat per hectare, only those farms with a high share of leguminous plants and 80 percent of the yields of conventional farms actually achieve smaller carbon footprints, the scientists write. As a rule, “organic farming cannot be recommended as a climate protection measure”, they conclude.

However, in the same year as the WBAE report, the environment ministry published advice showing organic food generally has a smaller carbon footprint.

The WWF, on the other hand, lists studies that show making farming in the EU 100-percent organic would reduce emissions from this sector by 35 percent. Combined with gentle ploughing techniques, organic farming could turn soils in Germany from a net emitter to a net sink for carbon, the organisation says.

Organic farms have around 25 percent smaller yields than conventional farms. The farmers’ association sees this as another reason why expanding organic farming for climate purposes isn’t the way to go.

“If we don’t lower our food consumption, this would mean that having only organic farms would require 20 to 30 percent more land to grow the same amount of food. This use of more land would lead to more greenhouse gas emissions,” the WBAE’s Grethe explains.

Protecting grassland and moorlands

But even the WBAE says that grasslands, which can store up to 50 percent more CO2 than farmed fields, are often better preserved by organic farmers who use it to graze their animals and harvest their own fodder, in particular trefoil-grass.

Instead of protecting this valuable carbon sink, since 1991 Germany has lost over 600,000 hectares of grassland, mainly due to an increased demand for bioenergy (biogas and biofuels) and fodder plants like maize and rapeseed. This has led to annual greenhouse gas emissions of 2.5-3.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, according to the WBAE.

Farmers see the increased cultivation of energy crops and their use to generate electricity as a contribution to climate action. The government however, seeing the increased conflict over land for food crops, grassland or energy plants, put a stop to any further increase in power generation from biogas in 2016.

In order to reduce the competition for land between solar panels and crop fields, large ground-mounted systems may generally only be installed on land that is not suitable for arable farming.

(See a CLEW dossier on bioenergy in Germany here.)

Once lost, it is difficult to restore grassland sinks because it can take up to 200 years to restore the CO2-rich humus layer. The most climate-relevant move would therefore be to protect the remaining grasslands, the WBAE concludes.

Although the surface area of grassland has grown a little since 2013, environmentalists say that German and European farming subsidies are not helping the problem. In a bid to protect the remaining grassland, Brussels introduced a ban on turning any permanent grassland into croplands. Grassland is considered permanent if it has not been part of a farm’s crop rotation for five years or more – a reason for even environmentally aware farmers to plough their pastures every five years. “From a climate point of view this is completely insane. But how am I supposed to explain to my grandchildren that I basically lost arable land that they might need in the future to the permanent grassland status?” asks organic farmer and Green Party MP Friedrich Ostendorff.

Obviously farmers would want compensation for allowing land to undergo substantial cultivation restrictions, Grethe said. But even under existing rules, Germany could use the EU farming subsidies to introduce measures such as a “grazing premium”, which would reward farmers for using their pastures for animal grazing, thereby protecting these areas, he said.

A very similar issue affects moors and peatlands. Dry peat releases carbon and although only 5 percent of Germany’s farmland uses moorlands, these drained areas release 50 percent of soil-related greenhouse gas emissions and 5 percent of Germany’s total emissions.

Apart from preventing existing peatlands to be drained and farmed, drained areas could be restored and turned once more into carbon sinks, researchers and the Federal Environment Protection Agency (BfN) suggest. Another option, albeit with less carbon uptake potential, is the use of intensively used former peatlands as wetter, extensive grassland that could still be used as grazing grounds or for harvesting hay.

But the competition for land is high. “Limiting the amount of land farmers can cultivate by requiring a switch to extensive farming, moorland restoration or conversion into permanent grassland, definitely means losses for the farmer and even amounts to dispossession,” Pingen of the DBV says. In addition, farmers say this could lead to carbon leakage issues – if less food is produced in Germany, production will move abroad instead and potentially cause higher emissions.

One compromise could be to thoroughly protect existing moorlands and only partially restore former peat lands so they are still usable as pastures.

Farming subsidies aren’t geared to preventing climate change

Climate friendly farming methods are available for livestock keeping, crop cultivation and on peat soils and grasslands. But Germany’s farmers are rarely obliged to comply with these best practices. In the absence of rules or incentives specifically geared towards running a climate friendly operation, their main concern is economic well-being, or in many cases simply the survival of their farm.

To conventional farmers, every new “greening” rule, every new obligation to improve animal welfare or be more conservative fertiliser use means a possible cut in income, be it through different land-use, mandatory investments or more time-consuming procedures.

”If the farmer shuts farm and stable, environmental regulations brought him down.” Slogan published by the German farmers’ association in a row with the environment ministry over stricter eco-rules. Source: DBV.

Farmers lament the bureaucracy of environmental protection and the fact that there are few rewards and instead only compensation for losses for such measures, Angelika Lischka at NABU says.

Around 38 percent of the European Union’s budget is used to subsides the agriculture sector in Europe. In 2016, every German farm received on average 15,300 euros in subsidies, depending on how much land they own. A small number of large farms (14.5%) received over 60 percent of the total direct payments.

Both the EU and the German government maintain that this is necessary to ensure that Europe produces enough food for its population and doesn’t become reliant on imports.

Both also say that “public money should be used for public goods”, meaning that the subsidies should be used to benefit the whole of society, through healthy food and an ecologically balanced and climate-friendly environment.

Greening rules were recently added to the complex subsidy allocation system that is the EU’s 58.8-billion-euro (2018) Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Since 2014, 30 percent of area-based subsidies under the CAP have been tied to compulsory measures such as diversifying crops, maintaining permanent grasslands or dedicating five percent of arable land as “ecological focus areas”. However, not only can farmers opt for the easiest and least effective measures, an evaluation of greening policies shows that the resulting environmental and climate protection effects have been minimal.

“A large share of these subsidies is flat rate and non-targeted. Germany uses some five billion euros in EU subsidies simply as direct payments to farmers according to how much land they farm,” Grethe says.

If subsidies flow to large recipients who produce meat for export purposes, if they use imported fodder like soy beans from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, where former carbon sinks like forests or savannahs were turned into fields, then these million-dollar subsidies are lacking for farms that ensure, animal welfare and climate protection with fewer animals and regional fodder, Reinhild Benning from Germanwatch says.

The idea that all payments should be rewards for environmental, climate and other societal services would have to take hold much more deeply, in order to reform the system, Grethe said.

CO2 reduction costs in agriculture and costs for adaptation

Protecting or restoring moorlands and grasslands are two of the most effective but also the most expensive emission-saving measures in the agriculture sector. Reducing the use of mineral fertiliser doesn’t come cheap either, WBAE researchers calculate, but other efforts, especially those related to changing eating habits, could be cost-neutral or even save consumers money.

Meanwhile, a changing climate can also create costs, in particular through more frequent extreme weather events. Germany is projected to retain a benign and favourable climate or even better conditions for some plants due to rising average temperatures.

But in the summer of 2003 German farmers reported losses of 600 million euros due to drought, and a repeat in 2018, for which they requested a billion euros in compensation, show that drought resilience may be limited in Germany. In other years, too much rain has caused problems.

The same recipes that reduce agriculture emissions could make farmers more resilient, both the NABU and professor Frank Ewert from the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) say. “When cultivating a greater variety of crops, farmers will always have some crops that better withstand extreme weather than others,” Ewert said in an interview.

Keeping fewer animals and raising prices to a fair level would also help minimise the risk of extreme weather effects, NABU president Olaf Tschimpke said in a press release.

Other adaptation measures could be the introduction of (drip) irrigation to counteract decreasing amounts of rain in the summer months (ca. minus 21 percent by 2100), gentle soil cultivation methods or new, heat-resistant crops. However, all are likely to bring investment and/or operating costs and may not achieve sufficiently higher or stable harvests, a study for the German Environment Agency (UBA) found in 2012.

Next steps

Since the majority of farming subsidies and rules are decided by the EU, all eyes will be on Brussels in the next two years, where the 365-billion-euro budget for the next CAP funding period of 2021-2027 will be decided. After the lacklustre performance of the last greening policies, the European Commission’s June 2018 proposition mentions a “new system of “conditionality” [that] will link all farmers’ income support to the application of environment- and climate-friendly farming practices”. Through this, 40 percent of the CAP’s overall budget “is expected to contribute to climate action”, the paper says.

“Unfortunately, no one knows what this 40 percent target actually means or how it has been calculated,” Angelika Lischka from NABU told the Clean Energy Wire, an assessment that is shared by the farmers’ association.

Germanwatch’s Benning fears the worst and hopes for the best. “Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan basically says that every country may choose itself what kind of climate action measures it will pursue. But setting targets without explicitly tying every euro to a specific climate service has failed,” she says.

Both Germanwatch and NABU have published their new CAP proposals, calling for strict  conditionality of subsidies and climate action in farming but also for incentives (payments) to farmers who choose ecologically favourable methods (e.g. Agri-Nature Payments or ANP).

While participating in the CAP reform process at EU level, the German government has its domestic work in agriculture and climate policy cut out. In autumn 2019 the agriculture minister wants to present a new arable farming strategy; by 2021 the government wants to present a holistic strategy on how to reduce emissions from animal farming in Germany. And as a sector featuring in the Climate Action Plan 2050, agriculture will also have to be included in the climate protection law, due to be passed in 2019.

Rattled by the summer’s drought, farmer Friedrich Ostendorff senses that his colleagues are deeply concerned about the extreme weather. “The only good thing to come from this is that farmers talk to each other more again – simply because they don’t know what to do,” he told the Clean Energy Wire.

WBAE’s Grethe says: “Farmers’ willingness to operate in a more climate friendly way is high – if politicians provide for the necessary rules and rewards.”

At the end of August 2018 agriculture minister Julia Klöckner declared the summer’s drought a “weather event of a national scale”. “Climate change is here,” she said at a press conference where she offered 340 million euros in compensation to 10,000 farms whose existence is endangered. The reason: “Farmers, who literally produce the means for our survival, are not just any sector.”

The post The Challenge Of Feeding 83 Million People In A Climate-Friendly Way appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

17 October 2018 | Twenty years ago, Oregon’s Willamette River was an unswimmable cocktail of 64 deadly chemicals, while the Chesapeake Bay was suffocating under a blanket of algae fed by fertilizer running off of farms spread across six US states. Governments in both regions – and, indeed, across the United States – vowed to fix the mess, in part by embracing something called “Water Quality Trading” (WQT), also called “nutrient trading” – essentially, cap-and-trade for waterbodies.

WQT works by establishing a scientifically-determined “cap” on the amounts of fertilizer or other pollutants that a lake, bay, or stream can handle, and then letting water utilities and other pollution emitters “trade” their allowances to find the most efficient ways of meeting the cap. Many markets also allow these entities to buy credits from farmers and other landowners who, in turn, either reduce their fertilizer use or apply natural infrastructure solutions like planting trees along waterways on their property. Oregon’s Willamette Partnership began to pilot the mechanism in 1996, and a 2000 report from the World Resources Institute said that WQT was “a vast untapped reservoir to resolve the nation’s water quality problems,” that could lead to millions or billions of dollars in savings while accelerating compliance with national water regulations.

But here we are, almost two decades later, and WQT is still limited to a handful of programs, mostly in the continental United States. The Chesapeake Bay program didn’t launch until 2010, and while trading is active in Virginia and Pennsylvania under the Bay Program, it still hasn’t begun in Maryland. Scores of other proposed programs haven’t moved beyond the drawing board.


To help answer the question, the National Network for Water Quality Trading (NNWQT) has launched a new action agenda with strategies to expand demand for water quality trading. As part of that analysis, Ecosystem Marketplace, with support from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been helping NNWQT map potential demand for water quality trading.

Mapping and Answer

First, we looked at factors we know to be present in programs that are active today. An area must, for example, have a water quality problem that is fixable through trading, so we looked for watersheds with high levels of pollution coming both point sources (like industrial facilities or utilities) and nonpoint sources (like farmland). There must be actors who would purchase potential credits. In many cases, those may be utilities, especially those that are stretched beyond their current treatment capacity and are expecting their water quality challenges to continue grow with increased population and urbanization. We also accounted for policy/regulatory factors, like whether or not an area has water bodies that are listed as “impaired,” where the EPA is authorized to assist states develop plans to improve water quality. If a state already has a trading policy or guidance in place, that can encourage potential buyers to participate. In all, we identified 11 factors, organized into biophysical, economic, and policy/legal sub-models.

Here are the results:

For more details about our methodology and results, check out this StoryMap and slide deck.

What Does it Mean?

There are some results we might expect – for instance, areas where trading is already happening, like those surrounding the Chesapeake Bay and Oregon’s Willamette Valley, scored highly. There are also some surprises. For example, Florida, which currently does not have any water quality trading programs, also scored highly. Many parts of Ohio scored highly too, indicating that although the state participates in the Ohio River Basin Trading Project program, there may be potential to expand.

This model isn’t perfect. Establishing and managing a water quality trading program involves many different elements and stakeholders, and it is impossible to capture and quantify all the complexities. For instance, local and civil society factors play a big role. Water quality trading is more likely to emerge if an individual or institution champions the approach. It helps when regulators have experience managing a trading program, whether for water quality or other environmental benefits like water use or carbon emissions. Those factors are difficult to quantify and map. As such, local “ground-truthing” will be required to evaluate potential demand in greater detail and specificity than a national-scale map can provide.

That being said, models like this have benefits too. Defining our methodology forced us to make our assumptions explicit. It puts all geographic areas on an equal playing field, not just the ones that are familiar to people already involved in water quality trading. It also allows us to take a more data-driven approach to determining where water quality trading may be a viable option for improving water quality.

As the British statistician George Box has remarked, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

What’s Next?

“The map suggests that there is a good deal of potential demand for WQT across the country,” says Forest Trends’ Genevieve Bennett, who co-authored the report. Indeed, over 75,000 square miles of the contiguous US scored at least six. “So a lack of buyers is probably not the main barrier.”

The NNWQT’s action agenda takes a close look at some of the other hurdles that would-be trading programs are facing and suggests how different stakeholders can help overcome them (see below). The next step is to take a closer look at some of the places with high scores, and see if water quality trading would be a good tool to use in combatting water pollution.

Source: adapted from Breaking Down Barriers: Priority Actions for Advancing Water Quality Trading

The bottom line is this: water pollution is a major issue. Nutrient pollution in the US Midwest and Gulf Coast has contributed to the largest dead zone ever measured, spanning over eight thousand square miles from Texas to the Mississippi River Delta in the Gulf of Mexico. It has contributed to the loss of fish and shellfish species in water bodies across the US and around the world, which hurts our ecosystems and our economy. Water quality trading is a cost-effective tool at our disposal, and the better we’re able to use it, and all the tools in our toolbox, the more effectively we’ll be able to maintain healthy ecosystems that support healthy communities and economies.

The post How (And Where) Market Mechanisms Can Accelerate Waterway Recovery appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.

15 October 2018 | Rick Wilson loves the thousand acres of land he bought to expand his ranch in Denton County, Texas, but it didn’t come cheap, and he was nervous about making ends meet – until he got a letter from a man named Adam Riggsbee, offering to pay Wilson good money to let Riggsbee fix erosion problems as well as plant native grasses and trees along the streams that occasionally trickled through the property.

“Some people will hear what we have to say and think, ‘Sounds crazy, never heard of it, too good to be true,’” says Riggsbee. “I get a lot of that.”

But Wilson was intrigued.

“On a whim, I called them to see what it was all about,” he says, explaining that the offer did come with two strings: First, he’d have to put a conservation easement on that curved portion of his land that Riggsbee wanted to restore, meaning he could neither use it for livestock grazing nor develop it for other purposes. Second, the restored stream would partition his land into four separate pastures.

As for the money, it would come from real estate developers who get permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to “impact” other nearby streams. The Corps, however, would only grant that permission if the developers restored an area equal to or better than what they disrupt.

Riggsbee, it turned out, is a “mitigation banker” – a uniquely American type of entrepreneur who makes money by restoring ecosystems rather than destroying them. It’s a job that exists because the Clean Water Act allows for something called “compensatory mitigation”, which balances environmental protection with economic development by leaving provisions for polluters or developers to do some damage if they do more good.


Laying the Foundation

The Business

Riggsbee runs a company called RiverBank Conservation, which looks for degraded streams and wetlands near areas of development and then restores them in the hope of generating environmental credits that they can sell to developers who need them – a key component of the $25-billion “restoration economy” that funnels money from development areas – in this case, Dallas-Fort Worth – to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities interested in earning money by restoring or maintaining the rural landscape.

Wilson, of course, had questions about implementing such a project on his property: How much money are we talking? Will you replace my water source? Will you give me fencing? They hammered out a detailed contract and created the Mill Branch Stream Mitigation Bank, which is essentially a nature preserve running through the middle of a cattle operation. The contract even covers the treatment of predator species like coyotes which are drawn to the restored river.

Now, a year after RiverBank and its construction crews completely rebuilt the overgrazed channels, planted trees, and built fencing to keep Wilson’s cows away from the restored area, it’s beginning to look like a healthy waterway again with grassy banks and vegetation.

“The stream construction guys said, ‘This is the Mona Lisa you’re painting out here,’” Riggsbee remembers. “They were joking, but they said, ‘You’re never going to paint another one as beautiful as this.’”

Wilson used the revenue he received to pay off debt and make other investments, and the restructuring of his pasture made for more efficient use of the grass.


Adam Riggsbee

The Big Picture

22 Sept 2018 | The ecological restoration sector exists because of US environmental laws like the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act that limit environmental destruction, and the flexibility embedded in these laws allows companies, municipalities and other actors to comply using market-based approaches such as purchasing credits from someone like Riggsbee.

An Ecosystem Marketplace study revealed at least $2.8 billion per years flows through these ecosystem markets in the United States, while a 2015 report found the restoration industry directly employs 126,000 people and supports 95,000 other jobs. That’s more than coal mining, logging or steel production – though fewer than oil and gas or auto manufacturing.

“These are good jobs paying living wages in rural areas of the country,” says Adam Davis, Managing Partner at Ecosystem Investment Partners.

Indeed, RiverBank has three permanent employees besides Riggsbee: one to handle the legal side of contracts with consultants and clients, a project and operations manager and a person to manage sales and finance. They then contract workers on a per-project basis, and even contracted Wilson to build some of the fencing.

“A lot of environmental market products are done on agricultural lands, and it creates another viable economic opportunity for landowners if they choose to participate,” says George Kelly, another restoration industry player, working at Maryland-based Resource Environmental Solutions.

The restoration industry also enables developers to obtain permits to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure without lowering environmental standards, Davis says.

Riggsbee’s Route

A microbiologist by training, Riggsbee grew up in North Carolina and always had a thing for rivers – so, in 2002, he quit the lab and joined the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a researcher to study dam removal, eventually receiving his PhD.

“I left a job where I was overpaid and underworked to take a job where I was overworked and underpaid with UNC Chapel Hill, and I could not have been happier” he says.

But Riggsbee always wanted to build things rather than just study them, so in 2006 he joined a Raleigh-based mitigation company called Restoration Systems, which paved the way for him to open his own shop after the Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps released their 2008 rule on compensatory mitigation.

That rule established clear preferences for stream restoration and “in kind” mitigation (streams-for-streams and wetlands-for-wetlands) of the kind Riggsbee is now carrying out on Wilson’s land – as opposed to less rigorous methods that were proving problematic, such as letting developers implement their own restoration or make payments to environmental groups or pay for cheaper but unrelated restoration in, say, wetlands.

Where to Set up Shop?

In mitigation banking, location is everything: you need to be in an area where lots of new development is taking place and lots of degraded land is available for restoration, while regional authorities have to be savvy enough to understand the business.

So when the time came for Riggsbee to branch out on his own, he and his business partner, Matt Jessee, looked to Texas: the economy was booming, while regional authorities seemed poised to make a shift toward the type of in-kind stream mitigation that he knew he could deliver.

In 2009 Riggsbee packed up his young family and set up shop in Austin.

The Policy Gamble

Any business involves risk, and Riggsbee was taking a big one: The EPA creates federal rules, but it’s up to understaffed regional authorities like the Fort Worth District of the Army Corps of Engineers to implement them.

Riggsbee was up against established competitors who’d been restoring wetlands and selling those credits to developers who were impacting streams, and the local Corps had been accepting those when granting development permits. New stream restoration in Texas is several times more expensive than wetland restoration, so Riggsbee couldn’t compete on price. He’d largely built his entire business on the premise that the 2008 rule and local policy would drive demand for his stream credits.

“I told the partners, ‘We’re going to put a bunch of money into this, and we’re going to have credits that we can’t sell,’” Riggsbee explains. “But I also said the Fort Worth District would get tired of seeing credit buyers using wetlands to offset streams when they have stream credits on the market, and they’d get more and more uncomfortable with that.”

So Mill Branch stream credits went on the market and the RiverBank team waited. And waited. And waited.

The Finished Product: A Section of Restored Stream

The Finished Product: A Section of Restored Stream

The Payoff

The Fort Worth District of the Corps, realizing their mitigation program was out of compliance with the 2008 Rule, was faced with a dilemma: if they changed their policy so developers were required to purchase stream-restoration-based mitigation to ensure compliance, it would result in wetland bankers losing revenues. To craft a solution, the Corps launched a consultation period that resulted in a 2013 compromise that would stimulate demand for stream credits while keeping the older, non-stream banks in business. Under the guidance, half the credits for a permit to build on riverbanks must come from a stream-based bank, while the other half can come from any aquatic based restoration.

RiverBank sold its first offsets in July of 2014, two years and one month after its credits first became available.

“That one policy, the Stream Mitigation Method, has dictated our success and allowed us to grow,” Riggsbee says. “It has also encouraged other mitigation bankers to develop stream restoration projects in the area. It’s a great example of how good policy drives good outcomes.”

The question for many, however, is whether that good policy will continue under US President Donald Trump, or whether he’ll kill the goose that lays the green eggs. Riggsbee, at least, expects some change but is optimistic this industry will indeed survive – though it would help if more people understand how these markets work.

“Using mitigation banks shortens permit review times for developers. So what we do can be leveraged to expedite the implementation of a national infrastructure bill. However, you need to have the right standards and policies in place to make it efficient. We’re helping regulators develop the right policies, so that we’re generating high-quality conservation projects at scales that are useful for the development community,” he says. “It’s pretty cool to me that we can help make economic development more sustainable. In other words, along with the Corps and developers, we’re providing something back to the environment.”

Edited by Steve Zwick

The post When Your Day Job Is Restoring Streams And Saving Species appeared first on Ecosystem Marketplace.