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REDD in the news: 18-24 August 2014

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REDD-Monitor’s weekly round up of the news on REDD, organised by date with short extracts (click on the title for the full article). REDD-Monitor’s news links on delicious.com are updated regularly. For past REDD in the news posts, click here.

UN-REDD Publication Explores Assessments of Forest Governance
Forests Policy & Practice (IISD), August 2014 | The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has released a report highlighting good practices on the collection of forest governance data. Titled ‘Assessing Forest Governance: A Practical Guide to Data Collection, Analysis and Use,’ the report addresses issues such as formal laws and policies, customary uses, and land tenure. Overall, the report identifies a number of requirements for effective forest governance assessments including: the need for good planning, transparency and stakeholder engagement, and technically sound data collection methods. The publication also stresses the importance of disseminating the results from assessments and learning from experiences in order to facilitate adaptive management.

18 August 2014

Reason for Climate Change Optimism as Forest Strategy Is Validated
By Forest Trends, Huffington Post, 18 August 2014 | Finally there’s good news on climate change: We have part of the solution, and it’s already working. For a long time, experts have theorized that indigenous people in forest communities and their management of these forests are critical to controlling and eventually diminishing carbon emissions in the atmosphere – and now a new study shows that this is true. The report, called “Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change: How Strengthening Community Forest Rights Mitigates Climate Change” and released jointly by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) in July, “makes a strong case for strengthening the rights of indigenous and local communities over their forests as a policy tool for mitigating climate change.”

[Australia] Loggers back environmentalists over Tasmanian forest industry advisory group
ABC News, 18 August 2014 | The head of the Forest Industries Association (FIAT) says conservation groups should not have been left out of the Tasmanian Government’s new industry advisory group. The new ministerial advisory council includes the Forest Industries Association, the Farmers and Graziers Association and Forestry Tasmania. Resources Minister Paul Harriss revealed in May that the Government would replace the Special Council formed by Labor and the Greens to oversee the implementation of the forest peace deal with its own ministerial council. He said then that the advisory council would include representatives from the main timber industry bodies, but not green groups. However, FIAT chief executive Terry Edwards said conservation groups should not have been left out.

Brazil makes progress on saving forests, Indonesia risks setbacks-report
Reuters, 18 August 2014 | Brazil has made good progress in safeguarding the Amazon rainforest but Indonesia’s plans for its forests could face setbacks under a new government, a report commissioned by top forest aid donor Norway said on Monday. Norway, rich from offshore oil and gas, paid 10.3 billion crowns ($1.7 billion) to slow tropical deforestation from 2008-13, according to the report by the state-funded Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). “Brazil’s deforestation rate and corresponding greenhouse gas emissions have strongly decreased,” the report said of progress in protecting the Amazon, the biggest tropical forest. Projects funded by Norwegian cash in Brazil were “paving the way for future reductions”, it said.

When forests aren’t really forests: the high cost of Chile’s tree plantations
By Juliam Moll-Rocek, mongabay.com, 18 August 2014 | At first glance, the statistics tell a hopeful story: Chile’s forests are expanding. According to Global Forest Watch, overall forest cover changes show approximately 300,000 hectares were gained between 2000 and 2013 in Chile’s central and southern regions. Specifically, 1.4 million hectares of forest cover were gained, while about 1.1 million hectares were lost. On the ground, however, a different scene plays out: monocultures have replaced diverse natural forests while Mapuche native protesters burn pine plantations, blockade roads and destroy logging equipment. At the crux of these two starkly contrasting narratives is the definition of a single word: “forest.”

Guangdong adds 20 mln permits to China’s biggest carbon market
Reuters, 18 August 2014 | Guangdong, the biggest of China’s seven pilot carbon trading markets, will this year hand out around 6 percent more emission permits to companies than in 2013, potentially aggravating oversupply that sent prices tumbling earlier this year. The market is meant to rein in climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions from power stations, cement factories, petrochemicals, and iron and steel producers emitting more than 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. The market will cover 193 facilities this year, nine fewer than in 2013, who will be issued 370 million permits, the provincial Development and Reform Commission (DRC) said in a note on its website on Monday night.

China’s carbon plans: secrecy and oversupply darken outlook
By Stian Reklev and Kathy Chen, Reuters, 18 August 2014 | As China lays down plans for a national carbon trading scheme, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases risks repeating mistakes made in carbon trading in Europe by flooding its pilot markets with free permits. The European Union’s scheme, the world’s largest, suffered a collapse in prices hurting its credibility when the EU gave away too many permits just as the global financial crisis was slashing demand and in turn curbing pollution levels. Fifteen traders, brokers and consultants speaking to Reuters said that most of China’s pilot markets launched last year were riddled with an over-allocation of permits, bar pockets of scarcity, such as parts of the Beijing market and the electricity generation sector in Shanghai.

Bai Shan Lin and the Great Guyana Giveaway
By Janette Bulkan, Stabroek News, 18 August 2014 | During the period 08-14 August, the daily newspapers Kaieteur News and Stabroek News have published photographs of large stockpiles of timber logs destined for export by Bai Shan Lin (BSL) to China and VHPI to India. Both companies have previously made formal but vague commitments to process logs in Guyana, but appear to be doing little or nothing to build modern processing facilities. Both companies secured generous foreign direct investment (FDI) tax and other concessions from the Jagdeo administration which give them unbeatable competitive commercial advantages over Guyanese-owned enterprises. A recent hearing by the natural resources sectoral committee of the National Assembly established that neither Go-Invest nor the Guyana Forestry Commission had copies of the FDI arrangement(s) made by Cabinet with Bai Shan Lin, and the Minister certainly did not offer copies.

[Guyana] The Bai Shan Lin affair…
Guyana Chronicle, 18 August 2014 | The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), responding to “mass allegations and misinformation” regarding the operations of Chinese logging company Bai Shan Lin (BSL), has “set the record straight” in order to dispel the many rumours circulating about this company. At a news conference held yesterday at the GFC in Kingston, Georgetown, Commissioner James Singh put paid to the many claims that BSL has been involved in exploitation of Guyana’s forestry resources… The Guyana Chronicle caught up with one such member of the logging community, who identified herself as Assistant Secretary for the Rockstone Loggers Association, Ms. Celestine Peters… “They are trying to say that the GFC is doing the wrong things, and that we are condoning it too; but these are laws that we have to abide with, even at the small loggers’ level. “So it would affect us, because if the big ones are not adhering to (the laws), then why should the small ones adhere to (them)?”

For Kenya, the forest is its future
The Star Online, 18 August 2014 | Leading buyers of the credits include Microsoft, Barclays Bank and Kenya Airways, which have invested US$3.5mil (RM11.2mil) each since the project started. These companies buy carbon credits by paying to conserve existing trees and plant new ones. The forests soak in carbon from the atmosphere, helping to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the air and so offset what the companies release themselves. The Kasigau scheme has also created a new source of income for impoverished local communities where most people scrape a living by hunting animals for meat or illegal charcoal production. “There are no jobs here, no water, and I have a family to feed,” said Matthew Mutie, a 40-year-old father of three who supports his family by making charcoal for around US$3 (RM9.60) a sack. “Most of the people in this area are subsistence farmers and in most cases their crops fail due to poor rainfall,” added Rob Dodson from Wildlife Works…

[South Korea] Forest Service readies for new climate change system REDD+
The Korea Herald, 18 August 2014 | South Korea is to make an interim check on its progress in preventing forest degradation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions ― and gauge its readiness for the new climate change system. The third annual REDD+ symposium will be held at the National Assembly Library on Thursday, under the management of the Korea Forest Service and the sponsorship of the parliamentary climate change forum, according to KFS officials. REDD+, which stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries plus,” is a KFS initiative affiliated with the United Nations-led REDD campaign. The project is expected to promote South Korea’s leading status in forestation in global society and also bring economic benefits such as carbon emissions cost reduction.

19 August 2014

REDD+: planned direct interventions tend to focus on degradation
environmentalresearchweb, 19 August 2014 | Nearly one fifth of our greenhouse-gas emissions result from damage to trees – deforestation, forest degradation and fires. These forest-related emissions are greater than global transportation emissions and second only to energy-sector emissions. So what is the most effective way of reducing them? A new study addresses this question by assessing the interventions proposed by countries participating in the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation ) scheme. REDD follows on from the United Nations REDD programme, which finished in 2013. The aim of REDD is to go beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and to include conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, and sustainable management of forests. The situation, and hence the solutions, are different for every country.

Heavy consumption puts planet in overdraft
By Sophie Yeo, RTCC, 19 August 2014 | Today is Earth Overshoot Day. From now until the end of the year, the planet is operating in the red. From now on, the earth is now unable to replenish the natural resources which humans demand from it. In 2014, it has taken eight months for humanity to reach this stage – and it gets earlier each year. The deficit arises from depleted fish stocks, trees and more carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere than can be absorbed back into the earth. It is the latter that contributes most to humanity’s vast ecological overspending.

Cambodia water project could channel carbon credits to Japan
The Japan Times, 19 August 2014 | The city of Kitakyushu is exploring a project to supply drinking water in Cambodia. Japan’s Environment Ministry plans to conduct a feasibility study with a focus on the project’s potential to confer greenhouse-gas credits on Japan. The public and private sectors in Kitakyushu have been cooperating as they seek to build a presence in the water business overseas. The ministry is looking for new ways to use the Joint Crediting Mechanism, which allows Japan to count as its own any carbon dioxide emission reductions emerging economies achieve with Japanese technologies.

Artisanal millers vs. industrial plantations in Cameroon’s palm oil paradox
By Kate Evans, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 19 August 2014 | For generations, villagers in Cameroon have been pounding the bright orange fruits of the oil palm to release the strongly flavored red oil — a key ingredient of local cuisine. Now, many communities have mechanized this process, using artisanal mills powered by car or motorbike engines — mills that are so profitable, the Cameroonian government is considering banning them. Why? It’s a story of paradoxes — and prices, of course — that is explored in a new paper by Raymond Nkongho and other scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

[Guyana] Logging scandal… GFC defends delays in processing facilities
Kaieteur News, 19 August 2014 | The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) has defended its handling of logging activities in the country by saying that all is above board and nothing is wrong. During a testy press conference at its Kingston headquarters yesterday, which was peppered with questions regarding the operations of foreign investors, the regulatory body in defence of the delays to invest in a timely manner in value-added processing, also said that it may be a case where producers are finding it more economical to export. Along with his senior management officials, GFC’s head, Commissioner James Singh also criticized reporting by both independently-owned Kaieteur News and Stabroek News in their coverage of the forestry sector in recent weeks. Two companies especially – Chinese-owned Bai Shan Lin and Indian-controlled Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc. – came under intense scrutiny recently amidst reports of their logging activities.

Scientists identify deforested idle land as source of Indonesia “haze” fires
By Alisa Tang, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 19 August 2014 | A month after Singapore was shrouded in a thick haze produced by Indonesian fires in June 2013, scientist David Gaveau went to the source of the smoke in Riau province to survey the charred aftermath. News reports attributed the haze to slash-and-burn forest clearance to make way for oil palm plantations. But what Gaveau, a scientist with the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), discovered during his five days examining the still-smouldering ground on Sumatra island was different.

Norway puts $1.6B into rainforest conservation
mongabay.com, 19 August 2014 | Since 2008 Norway has been the single largest foreign donor to tropical forest conservation, putting more than 10 billion Norwegian Krone, or $1.6 billion, toward programs in several countries under its International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI). But how effective have those funds been in actually protecting forests? A new assessment by the country’s Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) concludes that the program is indeed having an impact despite an inauspicious start… But while the dollars committed were substantial, there have been open questions about the effectiveness of various programs, especially in sectors and countries rife with poor governance and corruption. For example, deforestation in Indonesia has remained stubbornly high — even increasing by some measures — despite Norway’s money.

20 August 2014

Ecosystem Marketplace’s Forest Carbon News
Ecosystem Marketplace, 20 August 2014 | Forget presidents, kings and queens – governors may be the ones leading the fight to reduce deforestation, state by state. At last week’s Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Task Force meeting in Acre, Brazil, 13 of them penned the Rio Branco Declaration, named after the Amazonian city they met in. Their commitment? To cut deforestation rates in their jurisdictions 80% by 2020 – a move that would prevent four billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (tCO2e) from entering the atmosphere. But they can’t do it for free. Deforestation, after all, is largely about economics, and lucrative oilseed crops – mainly palm oil in Indonesia and soybeans in Brazil – are driving deforestation in key rainforest countries. GCF states say that they can slow forest clearing and degradation if performance-based funding for reducing deforestation (REDD) is available, whether through carbon markets or other performance-based payment mechanisms.

[EU] Easy times over as carbon prices enter bullish corridor
Commodities Now, 20 August 2014 | With prices hitting a 5 month high of €6.50 today, established energy intelligence provider ICIS Tschach predicts a sustained increase in the price of European Trading Scheme (ETS) allowances. On current trajectories, prices are expected to hit double digits and a two-year high by year’s end. Such an increase would be a worrying trend for those with significant compliance obligations, especially large, carbon-intensive industrials… “After all the volatility and exceptional trading activity in Q1 2014, we are seeing the effects of back-loading really start to take hold now” said Philipp Ruf, Lead Analyst, EU Carbon Markets at ICIS. “Next to the reduced auction volume, the appetite of industrials to sell banked length is rather muted while the demand from utilities seems constant…”

In Saving a Forest, Kenyans Find a Better Quality of Life
By Peter Kahare, IPS, 20 August 2014 | When Mercy Ngaruiya first settled in Kasigau in south eastern Kenya a decade ago, she found a depleted forest that was the result of years of tree felling and bush clearing. “This region was literally burning. There were no trees on my farm when I moved here, the area was so dry and people were cutting down trees and burning bushes for their livelihood,” Ngaruiya, a community leader in Kasigau, told IPS. Back then, she says, poverty and unemployment levels were high, there was limited supply of fresh water, and education and health services were poor. Mike Korchinsky, the president of Wildlife Works, a Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) project development and management company, remembers it all too well. “When I came here, you could hear the sounds of axes as people constantly cut trees.”

In Zambia, media branch out to cover forests, climate change
By Desmond Katongo, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 20 August 2014 | Zambia’s media houses are ill-equipped or often uninterested in covering environmental stories, according to some of the country’s leading journalists, having a negative impact on the level of public scrutiny of policy decisions affecting the environment. “There is lack of education among reporters on issues to do with climate change,” said Hellen Mwale, a reporter for the Daily Nation, one of Zambia’s most widely read newspapers. “Most of us lag behind when it comes to topical environmental stories. We often rely on press statements because we don’t have the initiative to generate our own ideas and … we feel stories to do with the environment are difficult.”

21 August 2014

UN and World Bank ‘inefficiency’ blocking forest aid efforts
By Ed King, RTCC, 21 August 2014 | The UN and World Bank are the big winners from an international programme to combat deforestation, a report commissioned by Norway’s government has found. It warned that the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) scheme, which channels millions of dollars to forest protection, is inefficient and overly bureaucratic. Norway set aside US$3.3 billion for forest protection efforts between 2008 and 2013, but so far only $1.7 billion of that pot has been used. “There is a danger that the growing perception that the main beneficiaries of REDD+ will be the multilateral institutions and large civil society organisations involved in processes will be found to be true,” the report, compiled by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) said.

Verified Conservation Areas: A Real-Estate Market For Biodiversity?
By Kelley Manrick, Ecosystem Marketplace, 21 August 2014 | There are markets for silver and there are markets for houses, and it doesn’t take a genius to see the difference between the two: an ounce of silver is an ounce of silver, interchangeable with any other ounce of the same quality, but the value of a house – or any piece of property – can fluctuate with the color of the flooring. Carbon markets resemble silver markets because a ton of carbon dioxide has the same impact on the environment regardless of whether it comes from a smokestack in Germany or a forest fire in Brazil. That made it possible to create a global transparent marketplace designed to support sustainable development and identify the most efficient ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Biodiversity markets, however, have always been local because habitat is often unique and irreplaceable.

UNFCCC Urges Rapid Ratification of the Doha Amendment
Climate Change Policy & Practice (IISD), 21 August 2014 | The UNFCCC Secretariat is encouraging governments to speed up their ratification of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol to ensure that it enters into force by the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) to be held in Paris, France, from 30 November to 11 December 2015. In a notification to parties, the UNFCCC Secretariat notes that instruments of acceptance have only been received from 11 parties out of the required 144, and asks parties to the Kyoto Protocol for an update on their ongoing preparations for ratifying the Doha Amendment. The status of ratification of the Doha Amendment will be provided to Parties at the upcoming CMP session in Lima, Peru, to be held from 1-12 December 2014.

Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change
By Matthew Hutson, The Washington Post, 21 August 2014 | George Marshall, a founder of the Climate Outreach think tank, tries to get us talking productively in his intelligent and genial new book, “Don’t Even Think About It.” He visits with fellow environmentalists, with psychologists and policy analysts, and with political opponents — even sharing a few laughs in the lair of 40 Texas tea partyers — to try to understand just why people are so prone to deny or ignore climate change. Some of the answers are familiar. Humans respond most urgently to threats that are present, concrete and definite — a mugger, say. But climate change is gradual, hard to observe and indefinite, at least in terms of its eventual magnitude and effects on our personal lives. Addressing it requires making palpable sacrifices now in order to prevent unclear costs in the distant future. Global warming also doesn’t automatically raise our moral hackles, as there’s no clear enemy who wants to destroy our world.

[Australia] Tasmania prepares to tear up forestry peace deal
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian, 21 August 2014 | The Tasmanian government is on course to pass legislation that would tear up the state’s forestry peace deal, with environmentalists claiming the move will open up 1.5m hectares of largely pristine forest to logging. The state government’s forestry bill has already passed the lower house, which it controls, and is in the process of negotiating the legislative council, the upper house of parliament. Key independent Robert Armstrong has indicated support for the bill, meaning it is likely to pass. The bill will remove 400,000ha of native forest from reserves set up by the Tasmanian Forest Agreement. An additional 657,000ha in conservation areas and 454,000ha in regional reserves will also be opened up to “partial logging” for the speciality timber industry.

Gambia: Community Forest Managers Trained On Forest Policy
By Abdoulie Nyockeh, The Point, 21 August 2014 | A three-day training on forest policy and step of transferring community forest rights to local communities for All Gambia Forest Platform members and community forest committees is currently underway at Sanyang Nature Camp. The sensitization drive, which targeted more than thirty Community Forest Managers operating under the All Gambia Forestry Platform, was geared towards creating awareness on Forest Policy and Regulation Act. The training, which assembled participants in the West Coast Region, was funded by the Forest and Farm Facility under the National coordinator, Kanimang Camara.

[Indonesia] Couple forest protection with jobs to boost appeal, experts say
By Fidelis E. Satriastanti, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 21 August 2014 | Schemes to reduce climate-changing emissions from deforestation will attract more local support if they offer jobs and concrete income opportunities for forest people, Indonesian villagers and experts say. Indonesians who live in forested areas are increasingly faced with a choice between paid labour on a plantation or participating in a forest protection initiative that could improve their livelihoods down the line. Until recently, plantation work seemed the best option for many, but that may be starting to change as schemes that compensate communities for safeguarding forests get up and running.

Peru’s dangerous environmental regression
By Belén Fernández, Al Jazeera America, 21 August 2014 | This December, Peru will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, during which representatives from 194 countries will convene in Lima to set the stage for a comprehensive international climate change agreement in 2015. The agreement would succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on carbon emission reductions, which is set to expire in 2020. Ironically, in the run-up to the conference, Peru has substantially pared domestic environmental regulations — arguing that this is necessary to attract investment. The Associated Press summarizes the terms of a new law enacted by Peruvian President Ollanta Humala in July: “The law … strips Peru’s six-year-old Environment Ministry of jurisdiction over air, soil and water quality standards, as well as its ability to set limits for harmful substances. It also eliminates the ministry’s power to establish nature reserves exempt from mining and oil drilling.”

[USA] California’s latest carbon auction raises $331.8 million
By Dale Kasler, The Sacramento Bee, 21 August 2014 | Industrial companies and other businesses paid a combined $331.8 million for carbon credits in California’s latest cap-and-trade auction, state officials said Thursday. Environmentalists said the results of the latest quarterly auction were positive in light of recent controversy surrounding the market. Oil refiners, some legislators and others want the state to postpone the scheduled Jan. 1 expansion of the program to include emissions from motor vehicles for the first time, which is expected to inflate gasoline pump prices. In the auction, which was held Monday, companies paid $11.50 a ton for carbon credits that can be used this year, according to the California Air Resources Board. All 22.5 million available credits sold out. Bidders paid $11.34 a ton for carbon credits to be used in 2017; about two-thirds of the 9.3 million available credits were purchased.

22 August 2014

Who Will Save the Last Primary Forests on Earth?
By Brendan Mackey and James Watson, National Geographic, 22 August 2014 | It’s now or never if the world’s surviving primary forests are to be saved. Will the international community act or continue to turn a blind eye to our planet’s key life support systems? Despite their shortcomings, international environmental agreements can provide incentives for national governments and land custodians to turn back the tide of forest destruction. Primary forests, however, remain invisible in forest policy debates and oddly off the radar for most conservation organizations.

Climate Change and Implications for National Security
By Robert Sharp, International Policy Digest, 22 August 2014 | Our planet is 4.5 billion years old. If that whole time was to be reflected on a single one-year calendar then the dinosaurs died off sometime late in the afternoon of December 27th and modern humans emerged 200,000 years ago, or at around lunchtime on December 28th. Therefore, human life on earth is very recent. Sometime on December 28th humans made the first fires – wood fires – neutral in the carbon balance. Now reflect on those most recent 200,000 years again on a single one-year calendar and you might be surprised to learn that the industrial revolution began only a few hours ago during the middle of the afternoon on December 31st, 250 years ago, coinciding with the discovery of underground carbon fuels.

Building Redd+ Expertise to Address Climate Change Challenges
UNEP press release, 22 August 2014 | While significant efforts are underway to better understand the role that forests play in climate change, the field of study remains relatively new. This is especially true when considering the complex policy, governance and technical requirements associated with managing climate change mitigation services provided by forests. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation while promoting conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancing forest carbon stocks (REDD+) provides an international framework for action. In this context, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN-REDD Programme together with the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies have developed a pedagogical guide for REDD+ aimed at university professors and graduate students. The guide may also be useful to a broader audience interested in building capacity, knowledge and awareness on REDD+ and related issues.

Laos receives 3.6 mln grant for forest protection
Xinhua News Agency, 22 August 2014 | The Lao government has received a 3.6 million U.S. dollar grant to strengthen forest protection and management, according to a World Bank press release Friday. The grant agreement was signed by the Lao government and the World Bank while the 3.6 million U.S. dollar grant was provided by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). The grant will support the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry ‘s Department of Forestry, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and other stakeholders who support sustainable forest management. Since the FCPF Participants Committee approved Laos’ Readiness Preparation Proposal in 2010 the government has been working on institutional framework for implementing Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) activities.

[UK] £1m diamond ‘boiler room’ fraudster is facing prison
Eastbourne Herald, 22 August 2014 | A crooked gem dealer who conned elderly investors into buying over-priced diamonds with their life savings as part of a £1m fraud is facing jail. John Bishop, 32, cold-called scores of victims from his sales office in Marbella to promise sky high returns on their money. The year-long scam was masterminded by Bishop’s friend Adam Simmons, 28, and was based at the No.1 Gems firm in Hove. One of their victims was a retired police officer who spent £140,000 on coloured stones worth little more than £10,000. Simmons was jailed in September last year along with his father Michael, brother-in-law Adam Leach and colleague Lee Miller. Bishop was not arrested until October after returning to the UK from Spain.

[USA] Land managers to gain tools to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions
By Lynn Davis, Phys.org, 22 August 2014 | Trees take in and store a lot of carbon dioxide, or CO2, a greenhouse gas. Being able to measure forestry and agricultural intake and emissions of CO2 is critical to developing a strategy for addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gases. A team of 38 scientists, including a Virginia Tech researcher, has developed science-based methods for measuring fluxes in greenhouse gases, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on July 31. The standardized methods can be used to quantify changes in greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage following a change in land or forest management, such as adoption of a new practice or technology.

23 August 2014

Tropical forests: Seeing the wood
The Economist, 23 August 2014 | It would be too much to say that forests have made a full recovery. Worldwide, over 5m hectares of jungle—getting on for two Belgiums—are still being felled or burned down each year. In some countries, notably Indonesia, the chainsaws are growing louder. But the crisis is passing and the prognosis is starting to improve. Fears that the great forests of the Congo would be cleared have proved unfounded so far. Brazil and Mexico have reduced their deforestation rates by well over two-thirds. India and Costa Rica have done more than reduce the rate of loss: they are replanting areas that were once clear-cut… Rich countries spend billions on renewable energy at home, which has so far cut carbon emissions only a bit. They should be willing to spend a few millions abroad, protecting tropical forests that reduce emissions a lot.

Tropical forests: A clearing in the trees
The Economist, 23 August 2014 | The most successful policies therefore tend to be top-down bans, rather than incentives (though these have been tried, too). India’s national forest policy of 1988 explicitly rejects the idea of trying to make money from stewardship. “The derivation of direct economic benefit”, it says, “must be subordinated to this principal aim” (maintaining the health of the forest). In Brazil 44% of the Amazon is now national park, wildlife reserve or indigenous reserve, where farming is banned; much of that area was added recently. In Costa Rica half the forests are similarly protected. In India a third are managed jointly by local groups and state governments.

[Brazil] Conservation of Amazon threatened by poor social conditions of its people: study
By Astrid Zweynert, Reuters, 23 August 2014 | The conservation of Brazil’s Amazon is threatened by the poor social conditions of its 24 million inhabitants, the first comprehensive study measuring the situation found on Saturday. Lack of access to clean water, violence, illiteracy and limited opportunities to pursue a better life are among the problems highlighted in the Social Progress Index (SPI) for the Amazon, one of the world’s most important ecosystems. The study paints a picture of social injustice and inequality by charting data from all but one of the region’s 773 municipalities and nine states. Researchers hope it will become a tool for improving development policy as Brazil elects a new president in October.

[USA] California Utility Customers Must Pay $331.8 Million for CO2 Auction
By Chriss W. Street, breitbart.com, 23 August 2014 | California environmentalists were giddy after the market for pollution credits traded up in price to a new high on record volume. But rather than a sign of greater enthusiasm to fight CO2, the California legislature quietly passed in 2012 a law that allows private utilities to pay the state for credits at any price, slap on a very nice profit, and then make their public customers foot the bill. Following the announcement that California’s Air Resources Board auction on August 16th was a blow out sale of 9.56 million CO2 permits at $11.10 per unit, Bloomberg reported that California pollution credits for 2016 traded up on a record volume of 1.83 million units to $12.50 a unit. The previous high was 960,000 units traded on May 21st.

24 August 2014

Scientists warn about ‘precarious’ state of world’s primary forests
Daily News & Analysis, 24 August 2014 | Scientists have warned about the precarious state of the world’s primary forests, as a new study shows that say just 22% of these forests are located in protected areas, equivalent of only 5% of the original ones. Brendan Mackey, Director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, said that international negotiations are failing to halt the loss of the world’s most important primary forests and in the absence of specific policies for primary forest protection in biodiversity and climate change treaties, their unique biodiversity values and ecosystem services will continue to be lost in both developed and developing countries.

[USA] Carbon credits may mean big bucks for Beidler Forest at Harleyville
By Bruce Smith, AP, 24 August 2014 | A black water swamp in South Carolina owned by the Audubon Society is helping companies in California meet their carbon emission goals to ease global warming. About 5,200 acres of the 17,000-acre Francis Beidler Forest, Audubon Center and Sanctuary near Harleyville have been registered with California’s cap and trade program as carbon offsets in a program that also brings dollars to preserve the South Carolina landscape. In cap and trade, the government issues permits allowing companies to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases but giving them flexibility how they comply. They can trade emissions permits with each other and, in California, can purchase credits to offset as much as 8 percent of their emissions.


PHOTO credit: Image created using wordle.net.

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