REDD in the news: 28 May – 3 June 2012

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A round up of the week’s news on REDD, in chronological order with short extracts (click on the title for the full article). REDD-Monitor’s news page (REDD in the news) is updated regularly.

Moving Forward With Forest Governance

European Tropical Forest Research Network and Tropenbos International, April 2012 | It is widely acknowledged that improving forest governance is an important prerequisite for sustainable forest management and reducing deforestation and forest degradation. Making governance work better for people and forests is not an easy task. Divergent interests, imbalanced power relations and unequal access to information, decision-making, resources and benefits all contribute to this challenge. The 29 articles in this issue of ETFRN News showcase a rich diversity of examples of how forest governance has been addressed in various settings. The issue brings together experiences from a wide range of forest governance reform initiatives.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in Apuí, Southern Amazonas: Challenges and Caveats Related to Land Tenure and Governance in the Brazilian Amazon

By Mariano C. Cenamo and Gabriel C. Carrero, Journal of Sustainable Forestry, Volume 31, Issue 4-5, 23 May 2012 | Climate change mitigation mechanisms related to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) may provide significant opportunities for re-arranging political networks and overcome forest governance problems, of which land tenure is the main constraint for REDD and reforestation projects in the Amazon. We present a case study of a pilot REDD project associated with reforestation and payment for environmental services in Apuí, southern Amazonas. The study emphasizes the role of local governance through an agreement aimed at re-orienting land use activities and forest management. We also present the technical, methodological, and cost-benefit studies behind the proposed framework. For instance, we found that cattle raising profitability in Apuí offers an opportunity for implementing such a pilot project.

[Brazil] REDD+ in the Amazon: the Juma Sustainable Development Reserve

By Guy Crawford, IDS Case Study, 2012 | Efforts to curtail deforestation and forest degradation not only address issues of biodiversity loss, but also have clear climate change mitigation benefits. Protecting the Amazon Rainforest from deforestation ensures that sequestered carbon remains locked up in terrestrial biomass; this has clear mitigation benefits. In recent years, attempts have been made to place a financial value on forests in order to reward activities which protect these terrestrial carbon stocks. This case study examines the Juma Sustainable Development Reserve (JSDR) REDD+ project and evaluates the extent to which it contributes to adaptation, mitigation and poverty reduction objectives. It is argued that maintaining forest fire breaks and improving access to basic services contributes to adaptation by improving the resilience of forests and forest dwellers and that community development and cash transfers can improve the quality of life of forest dwellers.

Transformations in EU biofuels markets under the Renewable Energy Directive and the implications for land use, trade and forests

By F.X. Johnson, H. Pacini and E. Smeets, CIFOR, 2012 | The Renewable Energy Directive of the European Union (EU-RED) established targets to be met by 2020, including a separate and uniform target for all Member States of 10% renewable energy in the transport sector. Biofuels used to achieve the EU targets must meet sustainability criteria, including restrictions on the types of land and minimum GHG reduction levels. The expansion in biofuels markets offers economic opportunities for developing countries to export to the EU while developing their own domestic markets. Imported biofuels can also have lower land use impact and GHG emissions than those produced in the EU. The current global biofuels market is dominated by the EU, Brazil and the US, with only the EU having a sustained level of imported biofuels or feedstocks.

28 May 2012

Judge issues gag order in UK carbon VAT fraud trial

Point Carbon, 28 May 2012 | The judge presiding over the UK’s first VAT fraud trial relating to the carbon market last week issued a gag order preventing media from reporting on the case. [R-M: Subscription needed.]

Logging in tropical forests: not all is lost

By Manuel Guariguata, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 28 May 2012 | As tropical forests give way to cities, roads and soybean fields, what’s left behind is a collage of forest remnants and ‘secondary’ forests that regrow after agricultural lands are abandoned. While protecting primary forests will always be essential for tropical conservation, these mosaic landscapes do retain a substantial proportion of forest species, even where forest products are extracted. Researching the impacts of timber harvesting on tropical forest plants and animals has kept ecologists busy over the past three decades. The question of just how much selectively logged forests contribute to global biodiversity conservation remains poorly analysed, and essentially, unanswered. But two recent meta-analyses of previously published research provide fresh evidence that selective logging, if carefully done, has relatively benign impacts.

No silver bullet when it comes to saving forests

By Rod Taylor (WWF), TrustLaw, 28 May 2012 | WWF agrees with Tom Picken in “Why we need laws to save what’s left of our forests” that strong laws and protections are needed to ensure the survival of the world’s dwindling forests. But WWF would contend that getting the legislation right is not the only approach, given the probability of slipshod enforcement, poor resourcing and outright corruption in many of the world’s frontier regions. WWF doesn’t claim to have a silver bullet for saving forests either, but it has long seemed to us that bringing local rights and aspirations, scientific assessment, environmental laws, trade policies and the market for forest products and services into alignment is the best hope of preserving the largest proportion of forests important to biodiversity, people, emissions reductions and environmental services.

Are capacity building services meeting countries’ needs in Asia-Pacific?

By Jim Stephenson, RECOFTC’s Blog for People and Forests, 28 May 2012 | Today, RECOFTC, with financial and advisory support from UNEP/UN-REDD, launches the full set of four country reports for a regional assessment of the organizations providing REDD+ capacity building services in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam. You may have seen the interim policy brief released for Durban last year, but now is the chance to explore the findings of the full assessment country-by-country. Accompanying the country reports is an updated policy brief, to bring together the findings from across the region.

Full REDD+ Capacity Building Provider Study Country Reports and Updated Policy Brief

RECOFTC, 28 May 2012 | In the past three years, tropical forested countries across the world have taken important institutional, policy, legal, and piloting steps to become ‘ready’ for REDD+. Capacity building is a key component of this REDD+ readiness process and is backed by a huge investment of time and money from a large number of organizations, government agencies, communities, and individuals. There has been a massive increase in capacity building during this short three year period, which begs the question: Do the organizations providing such services have the competencies to fully meet countries’ REDD+ readiness needs? Surprisingly, little is known about the competencies of the organizations, which include government agencies, NGOs, community groups, academic institutions, think-tanks, consultancies, legal firms, and media companies.

[Brazil] REDD project-PAC is released at INPE

Portal Brasil, 28 May 2012 | The National Institute of Space Research (INPE), held yesterday the project launch of theREED-PAC (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), an international partnership with IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria), COMIFAC (Central Africa Forests Commission), UNEP-WCMC (United Nations Environment Program -World Conservation Monitoring Centre) and IPEA (Institute of Applied Economic Research). The project, which has the support from the International Office of the Global Land Project (GLP), headquartered at INPE, was launched during the workshop performed this week. The REDD-PAC aims at the development of technical know-how and ability in designing efficient, effective and environmentally relevant REDD+ strategies (see below).

Britain’s climate change policy is going up in smoke

By George Monbiot, The Guardian, 28 May 2012 | Energy policy in the United Kingdom looks like a jam factory hit by a meteorite: a multicoloured pool of gloop studded with broken glass. Consider these two press releases, issued by the Department of Energy and Climate Change last week. Tuesday: the government’s new energy bill will help the UK to “move away from high carbon technologies”. Wednesday: applications for new oil and gas drilling in the North Sea have “broken all previous records”. This is “tremendous news for industry and for the UK economy”. The government knows that these positions are irreconcilable.

Rio+20: Balancing conservation and development key to conserving Cameroon’s forests

By Maya Thatcher and Catriona Moss, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 28 May 2012 | Cameroon’s Sangha Tri-National landscape contains some of the world’s most biodiverse forests but is also home to some of its poorest people. Conservation groups working in the area all aspire to achieve both conservation and development. The question being asked by Cameroon, and many countries making the leap towards a greener and more sustainable economy at this year’s Rio+ conference will be – what sort of conservation and what sort of development? “Development is essential – these people’s lives must be improved. The present levels of poverty are unacceptable. Furthermore , a rapidly increasing population of very poor people striving to extract a living from subsistence activities does not provide a context where any sort of conservation can succeed.

29 May 2012

Giving REDD+ Life

The Forests Dialogue press release, 29 May 2012 | Income generated from REDD+ should be given to forest communities to invest in their future, recommends a new report by The Forests Dialogue (TFD). Investing locally in this way should be part of understanding REDD+ as integral to broader development among forest-dependent communities. The new report Giving REDD+ Life, examines the relationship between Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) and broader development goals, and explores how and why the two should be integrated. The report is being launched as the advisory bodies for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meet in Bonn this week, and one month before the Rio+20 summit in Brazil – with “green economy” and financing high on the agendas of both meetings. The wide-ranging report has other recommendations on REDD+ financing and distribution of benefits.

WWF Helps Industry More than Environment

By Jens Glüsing and Nils Klawitter, Spiegel Online, 29 May 2012 | The WWF is the most powerful environmental organization in the world and campaigns internationally on issues such as saving tigers and rain forests. But a closer look at its work leads to a sobering conclusion: Many of its activities benefit industry more than the environment or endangered species… Representatives of independent German non-governmental organizations like Rettet den Regenwald (Rainforest Rescue) and Robin Wood also no longer see the aid organization as merely a custodian of animals. Instead, many view the WWF as an accomplice of corporations. In their opinion, it grants those corporations a license to destroy nature, in return for large donations and small concessions.

Memo to Rio+20: ‘green economy’ doesn’t mean monetising nature

By Hannah Griffiths (World Development Movement), The Guardian, 29 May 2012 | A market-based approach to dealing with natural resources is not an entirely new concept. The idea behind the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation programme (Redd), for example, is that if the carbon stored in forests is valued and quantified, forests will be seen as more valuable standing than they would be cut down. But by allowing companies to “offset” their logging by planting tree plantations, Redd has opened the door to the legal destruction of rainforests. It has also led to the confiscation of land from people who often do not have formal ownership deeds to the land they have used in common for generations. For example, in Uganda more than 22,000 people were evicted from their land, allegedly at gunpoint, to allow the New Forests Company, a UK firm, to plant trees to earn carbon credits.

Alphabet Series, Pt. 6 of Many: Seeing REDD

By Elizabeth Baldwin, Hardwood Floors Magazine, 29 May 2012 | REDD is not a carbon credit trading system, allthough that is often a resulting component within national programs. The REDD program provides funds to develop strategies for the reduction of deforestation and, for many nations, selling carbon credits is a common strategy. The program has not been universally praised. One group notes, “The basic concept is simple: Governments, companies or forest owners in the South should be rewarded for keeping their forests instead of cutting them down. The devil, as always, is in the details.” … Another opponent of the program, Friends of the Earth Australia, said that, “By prioritizing REDD, the Cancun agreement is set to create a huge loophole in the international climate regime. REDD will enable countries like Australia to keep polluting by buying offsets in forest nations such as Indonesia.”

Inspecting China’s carbon trading plans

By Wang Tao, China Dialogue, 29 May 2012 | China’s three main carbon markets – the Beijing Environment Exchange, Shanghai Environment Energy Exchange and Tianjin Climate Exchange – were all formed within two months of each other, towards the end of 2008. At that point, the European Union’s emissions trading system was still struggling to recover from a crash a year previously, which had seen the price of carbon allowance plummet from €30 to just a few cents. The World Bank estimates that carbon trading globally could be worth $US3.5 trillion by 2020, meaning it would overtake oil to become the world’s largest market. Spurred by this rosy outlook, China had 100 carbon exchanges in operation or under preparation by late 2011. Most were quickly taken over by speculators, however, while genuine carbon trading remained rare. None of the three main exchanges saw a single real carbon trade in its first year of operation.

[Guyana] Sustainable use of forests ideal, US expert says

Stabroek News, 29 May 2012 | US Regional Environmental Officer Indran J Amirthanayagam believes that the ordinary person still does not sufficiently understand what REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is, and this must change if they are to contribute to sustainable development in countries like Guyana. Further, he said, forest conservation is not meant to be done in a Utopian setting, where the resources are locked away and untouched.

[Guyana] Indian coffee company will not set up main processing plant here

Kaieteur News, 29 May 2012 | The Indian coffee company which was given a forestry concession to mainly carry out value added activities has said that its main plant will in fact be in India and not Guyana. This raises concerns that the company will continue to export logs out of Guyana. Two months ago the company, Vaitarna Holdings Pvt. Inc, admitted shipping several containers out of the country within recent months despite no processing facility built here as yet. The company owns the popular Coffee Day Inc. franchises in India. Vaitarna had come under scrutiny in April last year after the Times of India reported that the company was granted almost 1.8M acres of forest lands in Guyana. The company wanted the logs for its furniture business in India, it was also reported.

Palm oil giant making good on forest commitment in Indonesia, finds independent analysis

By Rhett Butler, mongabay.com, 29 May 2012 | Palm oil giant PT SMART appears to be honoring its commitment to avoid conversion of high carbon forests in Indonesian Borneo, reports a new assessment published by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental activist group. The report was issued 15 months after PT SMART – a subsidiary of Singapore-based Golden Agri Resources (GAR) and owned by Indonesia’s Sinarmas Group – signed a landmark agreement with The Forest Trust (TFT) to spare forests and peatlands that have more than 35 tons of carbon per hectare. The deal came after a damaging Greenpeace campaign, which targeted PT SMART for clearing orangutan habitat in Kalimantan and cost the company millions of dollars in contracts. The agreement also binds PT SMART to conservation high conservation value forests and free, prior informed consent in working with communities living in and around oil palm concessions.

Tree planting helps Pakistani farmers weather floods

By Saleem Shaikh And Sughra Tunio, AlertNet, 29 May 2012 | Abdul Qadir Shah, a cotton farmer in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, has been able to spring back from the destructive floods of the past two years thanks to his decision to plant mango, date and neem trees on his 14-acre plot. When floodwaters hit Khairpur Mir’s district, some 400 miles (644 km) northeast of Karachi, in 2010 and then again in 2011, Qadir Shah suffered financial losses of 4 million rupees ($44,000) as his cotton crop was ruined. “But income from mango and date palm trees, which I had planted some four years earlier in my cotton field and on the edges of nearby irrigation waterways, provided enough money to let me repair damaged water channels, buy cotton seed, farm tools and pesticides, and other inputs for cultivating my farmland again this year,” he explained. “Without these trees, I would not have been able to recover from the hefty financial losses and grow cotton again on my farm so soon.”

[Philippines] Rewarding tribal folk for forest conservation

By Maurice Malanes, Inquirer News, 29 May 2012 | The muyong is a forest or woodlot that a clan or group of clans manages. Under the muyong practice, only members of the clan can harvest trees from the woodlot. Like Abra’s lapat, clan members can only harvest what they need for housing, tools and firewood. “Thanks to our muyong, the brooks and springs [which are sustained by the clan-managed forests] benefit the whole community,” says Peralta. The vital water systems that irrigate Ifugao’s famed rice terraces come from watersheds and headwaters, which traditionally have been maintained through the muyong approach. Ifugao Representative Teodoro Baguilat Jr. has sponsored a measure that seeks to require the government to reward indigenous communities for maintaining through their traditional forest management practices the watersheds and headwaters that benefit them. But the government is also considering REDD-Plus…

WWF Tanzania staff in financial scam

Daily News, 29 May 2012 | An audit report by Ernst & Young has established that 400,000 US dollars (approx: 624m/-) was misappropriated by the WWF local staff who forged hotel, taxi receipts and direct corruption. As a result of the audit report, eight employees have been terminated while six have resigned during the investigation or disciplinary process. In a statement, the World Wildlife Fund International President, Yolanta Kakabadse, and Director General Jim Leape said the lost money will be refunded to donors who include Norwegian and American governments. “E&Y;’s investigations confirmed fraud in all four projects that were reviewed. The amount of fraud is approximately 400,000 dollars; the total funding for the projects involved is around 15.4 million dollars. Such fraud is unacceptable and we have taken decisive action to terminate the employment of all employees found to have committed fraudulent acts,” the statement noted.

[Thailand] Encroacher suspects counter with lawsuits

Bangkok Post, 29 May 2012 | The National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and the Royal Forest departments has filed civil charges against 68 residents in Trang, Phatthalung and Krabi for encroaching on forest land in the Bantad mountain region. Over the past two years, the court has ordered 38 villagers to pay a combined 32.84 million baht, or 150,000 baht per rai, for damaging the forest and contributing to global warming. The departments’ damage claims were based on assessed financial losses caused by forest destruction, such as damage as a result of rising temperatures, reduced rainfall and soil erosion. The villagers facing the fines yesterday petitioned the Central Administrative Court to revoke the departments’ calculation of damage claims, saying it was unfair and lacked a foundation in scientific evidence.

Tribes urge UK to sign law to ‘guarantee’ their survival

Survival International, 29 May 2012 | Tribes from four continents have urged Britain to ratify a law that will ‘guarantee’ their survival. It is the first time a group of tribal representatives have made such a direct appeal, reflecting the urgent need for the law’s global endorsement. Currently 22 nations have signed the law, known as ILO Convention 169, which is the only legally binding international law designed to protect tribal peoples’ rights. It gives tribal peoples the right to own the land they live on, make decisions about projects that affect them, and ensures their freedom and equality. Prominent Africans, West Papuans, Brazilians, Russians, as well as UK-based networks, have written the letter to British Foreign Minister William Hague. Ratifying the law was official policy of the Liberal Democrat party, part of the governing coalition.

Equitable benefit sharing and better monitoring needed for REDD+ success in Vietnam

By Leony Aurora, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 29 May 2012 | Vietnam, the only Asian country that has implemented a law on payment for environmental services (PES), needs to improve the way its funds are managed and distributed, as well as develop monitoring practices, if it wants to benefit from REDD+, a global scheme that rewards developing countries for protecting their forests. PES, which has been piloted in two provinces in Vietnam since 2008 and is currently being expanded across the country, does not have the policies and structures in place to adequately monitor whether communities are protecting the forests that they have been paid to manage, and whether environmental services have been improved, said Pham Thu Thuy, a scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research and co-author of the recently published paper titled. “The context of REDD+ in Vietnam: Drivers, agents and institutions”.

30 May 2012

Aid projects shut down after reports of fraud

By Ray Weaver, The Copenhagen Post, 30 May 2012 | Three Danish aid projects in Vietnam have been shut down following reports of widespread fraud. The development minister, Christian Friis Bach (Radikale), cut off funding to all three projects after an independent review by Price Waterhouse Coopers uncovered “numerous irregularities”. “It is important to crack down on those caught misusing Danish aid funds in order to clearly demonstrate the consequences,” Friis wrote on the ministry’s website. “Those that cheat must be stopped and punished.”

Global carbon market value hits record $176 billion

By Jeff Coelho, Reuters, 30 May 2012 | Carbon market trading reached a record value of $176 billion in 2011, rising 11 percent spurred by secondary trading volumes which offset lower prices and slowing economies, the World Bank said on Wednesday. Companies and governments are turning to emissions trading as a tool for fighting climate change, with the European Union by far the most active since its cap-and-trade scheme began in 2005. A record number of emissions products were traded in 2011, even though prices of EU carbon permits and international offsets plumbed new depths well below $10 a metric ton (1.1023 tons) late in the year, the bank said in its annual report on carbon markets. Worldwide emissions trading volume rose 17 percent year on year to 10.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, with permits in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) accounting for more than three quarters of the total.

EU CO2 prices to treble on supply cut: survey

By Michael Szabo, Reuters, 30 May 2012 | European carbon prices could treble from current levels to average above 19 euros ($23.80) over the next eight years provided European governments cut supply of permits, according to a survey by consultants PwC. In its annual GHG Market Sentiment Survey, PwC found that 80 percent of respondents were in favor of cutting supply in a bit to boost carbon prices from under 7 euros to a level that encourages firms to invest in clean technology that cut emissions. Of those, two-thirds preferred EU regulators to cut supply by taking on a deeper 2020 emissions target rather than a one-off permanent withdrawal of allowances from the market.

Status summary of the work of SBSTA on REDD+ and agriculture

By Angela Almassy-Boersma, Global Canopy Programme, 30 May 2012 | One of the biggest outcomes of last year’s 17th Conference of Parties (COP) was the adoption of the Durban Platform (Decision 1/CP.17), which sets 2020 to be the year for a new climate treaty coming into effect. REDD+ will have to be fully included in such a new treaty. However, the question remains – what happens until then? It’s clear from the attitude of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) of the Convention that it believes that finalising methodological guidance for REDD+ must be progressed. That is just what the SBSTA has done, through carrying on with its programme of work contained in Appendix II of 1/CP.16 and extended at COP17 (FCCC/SBSTA/2011/L.25). See below for an update on the status of the five areas of work of the SBSTA on REDD+; the SBTSA’s new mandate to consider agriculture; and the SBSTA’s programme of work.

Studies show land rights key to saving forests

Boston.com, 30 May 2012 | Ensuring that forest dwellers have rights over their land is vital for slowing the deforestation that may be causing up to a fifth of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases, according to a report released Wednesday. The report by the Washington-based NGO Rights and Resources Initiative is aimed at encouraging next month’s U.N. summit in Rio de Janeiro to tackle the politically contentious issue of land reforms. RRI says studies in China, India and Brazil show local residents must have a say over how forests are used to ensure sustainability.

Brazilian Indigenous Community Seeks Survival Through Carbon Credits

By Fabíola Ortiz, AlertNet, 30 May 2012 | The Suruí Forest Carbon Project, established by the Paiter-Suruí community four years ago and officially certified in April, involves mechanisms to offset carbon dioxide emissions such as preventing deforestation, to keep carbon stored in the trees, and reforestation, to absorb carbon from the atmosphere… “We want to benefit our people and develop in accordance with our needs in the region, placing value on what the forest produces. A green economy policy essentially means planning for sustainable use,” Chief Almir Suruí, the leader of the Paiter-Suruí people and a member of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, told Tierramérica. Chief Almir, 38, always wears body paint and necklaces of native seeds made by the women of his community. Although he wears Western clothing for meetings outside his village, the body paint is never fully hidden.

FPIC and REDD in the DRC

Natural Justice, 30 May 2012 | Gino Cocchiaro of Natural Justice took part in meetings on free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) hosted by The Forest Dialogue and Forest Peoples Programme from 21-25 May. The meeting consisted of a visit to Luki Biosphere Reserve in the far west of the country to meet with members of the communities of Kiobo and Kifulu who will likely be involved in REDD projects. Participants also dialogued with members of the Ministry of Environment and representatives of industry, civil society and indigenous and local communities. During the dialogue representatives were able to make recommendations and collaboratively plan the implementation of FPIC in REDD to ensure the participation of forest communities in the country’s projects.

Preserving the remainder of Ghana’s dwindling rain forests

Ghana Web, 30 May 2012 | Years ago, some of us predicted that if urgent steps weren’t taken to protect the remainder of Ghana’s forest cover, our nation would end up having to import timber to satisfy local demand. At the time, some thought we were being unduly alarmist. Alas, that prediction has now come to pass – Ghana having recently negotiated a deal to import timber from Cameroon. If officialdom allows Solar Mining and Kibi Goldfields to get away with putting facts on the ground first, before seeking environmental permits afterwards, they must not be surprised if the three major river systems on which a swathe of southern urban Ghana depends on for its drinking water supply – the Ayensu, the Densu and the Birim – and which take their headwaters from the Atewa Range, eventually dry up and disappear altogether.

[Guyana] Amerindian Peoples Association blasts attempts to misrepresent its work

Stabroek News, 30 May 2012 | The Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) says that based on reports from its representatives and supporters in communities, the organisation was being “constantly maligned and blamed by government representatives during their recent outreach to Amerindian communities for the budget cuts and its future negative impacts on Amerindians.” The APA is therefore making it clear that it had no inputs on this year’s national budgetary allocations or cuts, and is also emphasizing that it is not politically aligned.

CIFOR Director General reflects on 25 years of change in Indonesia’s forests

By Melati Kaye, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 30 May 2012 | “When you’re climbing a mountain, you sometimes need to pause and look down to see how far you’ve ascended. It keeps you from getting discouraged when you look up and see just how far there is to go before reaching the top,” said Frances Seymour, CIFOR Director General, at her farewell luncheon held in Jakarta last week. Much of Seymour’s 25-year career in forestry policy has been focused in Indonesia, from her initial job as a Ford Foundation grant officer in the 1980’s to her latest stint at the helm of CIFOR since 2006. Her valedictory speech, made ahead of stepping down as Director General after 6 years working with the organisation, offered a survey of how far CIFOR’s host country had progressed and how far there is yet to go.

31 May 2012

When hitting 400 is not good: Levels of key greenhouse gas pass milestone, trouble scientists

Washington Post, 31 May 2012 | The world’s air has reached what scientists call a troubling new milestone for carbon dioxide, the main global warming pollutant. Monitoring stations across the Arctic this spring are measuring more than 400 parts per million of the heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. The number isn’t quite a surprise, because it’s been rising at an accelerating pace. Years ago, it passed the 350 ppm mark that many scientists say is the highest safe level for carbon dioxide. It now stands globally at 395. So far, only the Arctic has reached that 400 level, but the rest of the world will follow soon.

Carbon Expo: Waiting for the great leap forward?

By Paul Cumow, Climate Spectator, 31 May 2012 | Day 1 of Carbon Expo in Cologne and delegates were told – as reported by the World Bank in its now annual State and Trends of the Carbon Market report – that the market is long – and likely to be long for some time. In other words, all the talk about new market mechanisms is just a sideshow to the reality that – as it currently stands – the global carbon market just doesn’t have enough demand to match global supply. And yet supply keeps coming. Every second person one talks to here in Cologne is developing a ‘POA’ (Program of Activities) – cook stoves, lightbulbs, large-scale wind, biomass, biogas and many other so-called programmatic CDM projects that are seen as a key way to scaling-up climate mitigation activities in developing countries – hoping to make the December 31 deadline in order to be able to sell unrestricted into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

Corporates push voluntary carbon market to highest level since 2008 – 31 May 2012

BusinessGreen, 31 May 2012 | Transactions of voluntary carbon credits grew to $576m last year, defying the sluggish economy by reaching the highest level since 2008, with corporate buyers making up the vast majority of purchases. Companies comprised over 92 per cent of voluntary emissions reductions (VERS), which allow businesses to invest in climate-related projects to offset the carbon impact of their organisation, according to new research by Ecosystem Marketplace, an initiative of the non-profit organisation Forest Trends, and analysts Bloomberg New Energy Finance… “Implementing REDD has faced many challenges in the past, specifically with regard to the prevention of carbon leakage, ensuring project permanence, and additionality,” said Emil Dimantchev, an analyst at Point Carbon.

Standing trees better than burning ones for carbon neutrality

Phys.org, 31 May 2012 | The search for alternatives to fossil fuels has prompted growing interest in the use of wood, harvested directly from forests, as a carbon-neutral energy source. But a new study by researchers at Duke and Oregon State universities finds that leaving forests intact so they can continue to store carbon dioxide and keep it from re-entering the atmosphere will do more to curb climate change over the next century than cutting and burning their wood as fuel. “Substituting woody bioenergy for fossil fuels isn’t an effective method for climate change mitigation,” said Stephen R. Mitchell, a research scientist at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Wood stores only about half the amount of carbon-created energy as an equivalent amount of fossil fuels, he explained, so you have to burn more of it to produce as much energy.

Brazil’s Acre State may have REDD+ credits issued by next year

Commodities Now, 31 May 2012 | The first credits for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), usable within mandatory cap-and-trade schemes, could be available from the Brazilian State of Acre by as early as next year, according to Thomson Reuters Point Carbon. “The issuance of REDD+ credits by Acre State would be a significant turning point in the development of global carbon markets as they move from national emission reduction targets to a smaller-scale, regional and sectoral crediting approach”, said Emil Dimantchev, analyst at Thomson Reuters Point Carbon, and author of the report. “Acre is leading the way because its system to incentivise emission reductions from forest preservation is of a high enough quality to be used in a compliance market…” Dimantchev said.

[China] In Mongolia, nomads fight a different enemy: advancing desert

By Stella Paul, Digital Journal, 31 May 2012 | As the threat of desertification grows higher, a nomadic tribesman in Inner Mongolia is leading his community in their fight against the menace. Bao Yongxin is a driven man. The 43-year old farmer in Aohan of Inner Mongolia wants one thing above anything else, and that is to contribute to helping the desert county and it’s half a million plus population to prosper. But prosperity will never come unless his community can repel the biggest peril snapping at their land: the advancing desert. Born and raised in a desert village where lives depend on the resources of the farms, Yongxin has been feverishly fighting that peril for nearly two decades, and is now recognized as a warrior against desertification.

Indonesian deforestation ban makes slow progress

By Natasha Gilbert, Nature, 31 May 2012 | Stopping deforestation and reducing atmospheric carbon emissions by keeping carbon locked up in trees takes more than just banning forest clearance, as Indonesia is finding out. The country – home to the world’s third-largest tropical forest and some of the highest carbon emissions from deforestation – is halfway through a two-year moratorium on the issuing of new permits to clear forests on 65 million hectares of land. The initiative is part of a US$1-billion deal with Norway to protect the South East Asian nation’s forest and cut the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 26% by 2020. It puts the Indonesia’s efforts to conserve its forests a step ahead of those taken by most other heavily forested nations.

Indonesia Loses Rp 200 Trillion Every Year Through ‘Troubled’ Bids

By Tunggadewa Mattangkilang, Jakarta Globe, 31 May 2012 | The Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) estimates that approximately Rp 200 trillion ($21 billion) in state funds are embezzled every year through fraudulent bid processes. KPPU member M. Nawir Messi said that every year, roughly 40 percent, or around Rp 650 trillion of Indonesia’s state budget are spent on projects offered through bids. And of the Rp 650 trillion, 30 percent is spent on “markups.” Nawir said the estimation was based on the KPPU’s monitoring of bid activities since its establishment in 2000. “From our observations, there have been many projects whose values are marked up by three to 10 times the real value,” Nawir said in the East Kalimantan town of Balikpapan on Thursday. “Every year roughly 40 percent of the state budget is spent in tenders, so there is some Rp 200 trillion worth of state money enjoyed by certain people who win the bids.”

The Bid to Save Nigeria’s Rainforests

By Armsfree Ajanaku, Think Africa Press, 31 May 2012 | Carbon concession is a climate change mitigation strategy. In Cross River, forest communities and businesses are agreeing plans to conserve trees which absorb carbon dioxide, rather than chopping them down. Nigeria was recently approved $4million from the United Nations Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) programme to conserve rainforest trees. Part of this was used to carry out “REDD readiness”, a series of workshops and campaigns aimed at forest communities and oil companies. The aim is to help them get to grips with conservation and the importance of curbing carbon emissions. Most of Nigeria’s UN REDD money will be poured into Cross River, a reward for what its officials describe as government’s “conscientious efforts to save the forests”.

[Peru] Gimme shelter: Mick Jagger asked to help save Amazon tribes’ forest reserve

By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 31 May 2012 | Peru’s last uncontacted tribes may be among the small minority of mankind who have never heard of Mick Jagger but conservationists are now calling on the Rolling Stones frontman to help save the Amazonian homeland of these vulnerable groups. The British rock star – who was reportedly made an “honorary ambassador” for the environment during a visit to Peru last year – is being asked to weigh in on a controversial gasfield development that threatens the Mashco-Piro and other tribes isolated from the outside world due to the remoteness of their forest home. The Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti reserve, which is close to the borders of Brazil and Bolivia, is legally protected by a “supreme decree” but it is close to the vast Camisea natural gasfield and is said to be threatened by the expansion plans of the state oil firm, PetroPeru.

[Vietnam] Deforestation inspections ordered by Deputy PM

VietNam News, 31 May 2012 | Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has ordered the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to inspect and report on deforestation causing damage to a local upstream area in southern Dong Nai Province. The move came after local media recently reported on the poor management of Viet Nam Forest Corporation’s La Nga Forest subsidary. “If any violation is confirmed, the company will have to take full responsibility for what happened by law,” Hai said. According to the Viet Nam News Agency correspondent in the province, the company has been assigned to manage, cultivate and grow seedlings across 23,000 ha, including more than 19,000ha of local upstream forest located in Dinh Quan District.

1 June 2012

If international drivers of deforestation are such a big deal, why were they left out of the climate negotiations?

By Emily Brickell (ODI), REDD-Net, 1 June 2012 | While there was much talk in Bonn about the international drivers of deforestation, the text agreed by countries curiously left out all mention of it. Surely tackling the international drivers, for example unsustainable demand for timber or agricultural crops, needs to be a key part of our efforts if we have any hope of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation? At present, the only formal commitment is in the Cancun decision text on REDD+, which encourages “all Parties to find effective ways to reduce the human pressure on forests that results in greenhouse gas emissions, including actions to address drivers of deforestation”, but falls short of any specifics about what needs to be done. Much of the conversation on REDD+ relates purely to what developing countries will do to address emissions from forests.

Legal clarity on REDD benefit sharing mechanisms critical to avoid future disputes, says study

By Leony Aurora, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 1 June 2012 | Legal clarity and consensus on which government institutions have the authority to make regulations on how to share benefits from REDD+ among stakeholders are critical to ensure the process’ legitimacy and avoid future disputes, recommended a study conducted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Many developers of REDD+ pilot projects have designed their own benefit sharing mechanisms independently of state regulations, mainly due to the fact that many projects started before host-country governments put in place any formal regulations on who and how various benefits of REDD+ would be distributed, said Lasse Loft from the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt, who co-authored the study.

Joining the dots: Linking carbon markets from the bottom up

By Paul Cumow, Climate Spectator, 1 June 2012 | Having spent the opening day of Carbon Expo 2012 in Cologne confronting the reality of an increasingly fragmented carbon market, day two saw participants grapple with the possibilities and practicalities of trying to link these bottom-up markets together – whether bilaterally, regionally or plurilaterally in and outside of a possible second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The bottom-up emergence of national carbon markets outside the historical EU epicentre is now testing the creativity of policymakers and market participants to link up what are in many cases diverging schemes, from California and Australia to New Zealand, South Korea and Mexico. Not to link up at all is an alternative, which might ultimately be the preference of a number of schemes, particularly China.

Low CO2 price, austerity plays out in halls of Cologne fair

Point Carbon, 1 June 2012 | A noticeable absence of investment banks from a major carbon market trade fair in Germany this week could be a sign that record low carbon prices and ongoing regulatory uncertainty are breeding reluctance among large financial players to stay in this market. [R-M: Subscription needed.]

Brazilian leader Rousseff’s pardon for illegal deforesters condemned

By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 1 June 2012 | A coalition of Brazil’s leading conservation groups have condemned the country’s president Dilma Rousseff for pardoning illegal deforesters, weakening protection of the Amazon and rowing back on efforts to recover land that has been cleared of trees. The fierce attack on Rousseff’s environmental credentials comes just weeks before she is due to host more than 100 world leaders in an Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro that aims to put global development and economic growth on a more sustainable track. The Brazil Committee in Defence of the Forests – a coalition of more than 200 civil society entities – said the president had destroyed her credibility by approving changes to the Forest Code, which is the country’s most important piece of legislation for protecting the Amazon and other forest areas.

[Indonesia] PT SMART makes progress on palm oil sourcing

TFT, 1 June 2012 | A report published by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental NGO, has found concrete evidence that PT SMART is delivering on its commitment to avoid the clearing of carbon intensive forest in Indonesian Borneo. PT SMART, a subsidiary of Golden Agri Resources (GAR) has worked closely with TFT to devise and deliver on a forest conservation policy that includes protecting forests with high conservation and carbon values and ensures the free, prior, informed consent of the communities living in and around palm oil concessions… These conclusions are significant since Greenomics has previously been sceptical of GAR’s conservation policy. It shows that GAR’s commitment to ‘no deforestation’ through palm oil sourcing, supported by TFT’s experts on the ground, is broadly on track. ‘This is an encouraging sign that things are heading in the right direction’, said TFT’s Executive Director, Scott Poynton. ‘But no-one’s getting complacent.’

2 June 2012

[Guyana] Amaila Falls Access Road…Delinquent contractors to suffer same fate as ‘Fip’ Motilall

Kaieteur News, 2 June 2012 | The Guyana Government offered its no objection to a $832.8M contract to complete the Amaila Falls Access Road for the Hydroelectric project. And given the ‘Fip’ Motilall experience Public Works Minister, Roberson Benn, has assured that there are adequate safeguard measures in place. Since the announcement of the contract this publication has been informed by stakeholders that the contractor, Hassan N. Pasha, is akin to Makeshwar ‘Fip’ Motilall of Synergy Holdings Inc as it relates to competence in the execution of the project. Motilall’s contract had to be terminated on January 12, last, for failing to abide with the contractual obligations and according to Benn, the same fate will meet any of the other contractors should they too fail to meet their obligations.

[Guyana] Vaitarna parent group closer to snagging new logging permit

Stabroek News, 2 June 2012 | The India-based Coffee Day Group has moved one step closer to obtaining a Timber Sales Agreement (TSA) for its concession in Region Nine, after completing the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). A TSA would allow the company to harvest logs. The company, through its subsidiary, Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc (VHPI), already holds a TSA for another concession and has been under the spotlight recently for its log exports and its failure to set up the processing facility to which it had committed. [R-M: Subscription needed.]

3 June 2012

Indonesia’s REDD reality

By Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta Post, 3 June 2012 | Indonesia is on the brink of transformation. Committing to a bilateral deal with Norway, it has run a series of efforts to reduce emissions and introduced stronger forest governance under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) regime, including halting the issuance of forest-clearing permits for primary forests and peatland. If considered successful, Indonesia could secure up to US$1 billion from the Norway government. But the road to that has been stormy. Commemorating the second year of the deal last month, the government announced the second revision to its forest-clearing moratorium map (PIPIB), in which it excluded 92,245 hectares of primary forests and peatland from protection. This leaves only 65.2 million hectares protected under the deal.

How Do You Save Sumatra? Google Map It

By Andrew D. Kaspar, Jakarta Globe, 3 June 2012 | Sumatra becomes a digital paint-by-number as you play with the layering functions of the “Google Earth: Eyes on the Forest” map. With one click, the world’s sixth-largest island becomes a sea of green rainforest. Another click reveals a decidedly less emerald present-day reality. Toggling the various data sets can be an enlightening – and for the environmentally conscious, alarming – exercise. The project, unveiled last week, is a joint venture of Google Earth Outreach, the World Wildlife Fund and Eyes on the Forest, a Sumatra-based coalition of environmental NGOs. It organizes decades of data in a visual array that sheds light on a bedeviling question: Just what’s really out there in Sumatra, and how quickly are the forests being destroyed?


PHOTO credit: Image created using wordle.net.

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