Raising the Bar on Carbon Forestry Projects

Raising the Bar on Carbon Forestry Projects

There is growing recognition that rising greenhouse gas emission levels will cause serious and undesirable impacts for humans and ecosystems alike.

Furthermore, climate change is occurring while record numbers of people live in poverty, and massive biodiversity loss continues unchecked. Making matters worse, climate change is expected to exacerbate poverty and environmental loss in many of the poorest countries, and to significantly accelerate species extinctions. Therefore, we believe designing resilient actions that address these interconnected global problems simultaneously is one of humankind's most pressing and timesensitive challenges.

The Alliance

The Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) was formed to respond to this challenge. The CCBA is a partnership convened by Conservation International to leverage the carbon market to support forest protection and restoration projects around the world that deliver significant climate, local community and biodiversity benefits.

CCBA members include six companies (BP plc, Intel Corporation, S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc, Sustainable Forestry Management Ltd, Weyerhaeuser Company and GFA Consulting Group) and six NGOs (Conservation International, CARE, the Hamburg Institute of International Economics, Pelangi Indonesia, The Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Society).

The Standards

We believe that carbon finance, if channeled to the right projects, could help restore and conserve millions of hectares of threatened biodiversity-rich habitats around the world, while generating tens of thousands of sustainable livelihoods in some of the poorest countries and slowing global climate change. Before this happens, however, there needs to be a set of internationally accepted standards for designing and evaluating multiple-benefit forestry projects.

Recognizing this, the CCBA spearheaded the development of the Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) Standards, which project developers and investors can use to design and screen land-based carbon mitigation projects.

The CCB Standards were created through an intensive two-year international stakeholder development process, including: outside input from academia, business, environmental organizations, and development groups; a three-month public comment period; field testing on four continents; and an independent expert-review by the world's leading forestry research groups in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The Standards have already garnered broad interest and acclaim from project developers, investors and regulators since their release in 2005, and have become the leading tool of this kind. It is great to see how many projects are now using the Standards and the number of investors starting to request 'CCB carbon' by name. In addition, the world's preeminent investors and carbon project consultancies, including the World Bank and EcoSecurities, are applying the CCB Standards to their extensive project portfolios.

Just a few months ago, the first two carbon forestry projects were independently certified using the CCB Standards . The first project, based in Yunnan, China, is being developed under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and is restoring high conservation value land adjacent to a nature reserve. And the second one, in Panama, is a communitybased sustainable forestry management project that is Forest Stewardship Council certified. With several dozen projects now using the CCB Standards, we expect to see many more 'CCB certified’ projects coming on line later this year.

Generating Credible Carbon Offsets

The Standards are a valuable tool for businesses investing in climate change mitigation activities that include forestry. Companies are using them to screen land-based carbon projects for a variety of climate, community and biodiversity benefits prior to supporting them.

The Standards further enable corporate investors to identify exceptional, high-quality (and resilient) projects most likely to avoid implementation roadblocks and deliver their stated outcomes, including generating credible and robust carbon offsets. Equally important, supporting projects certified to have multiple-benefits can generate valuable regulator, employee and customer goodwill.

To gain certification under the CCB Standards, carbon mitigation projects must go beyond the current CDM requirements by generating positive community and biodiversity benefits. The Standards can be applied to any kind of land-use change and forestry project (including forest conservation, restoration and management) anywhere in the world, whether undertaken for compliance (e.g. CDM) or for voluntary carbon offsetting purposes. The CCB Standards:
  • Identify high-quality projects that will generate credible and robust carbon offsets, while supporting local communities and conserving biodiversity;
  • Provide a means for creating synergistic projects that further the goals of the U.N. Framework Convention on Cliamte Change, the Convention on Biological diversity and the Millennium Development Goals;
  • Mitigate project risk and miximize value creation for investors; and
  • Help developers design good projects and secure additional funding sources.
To become certified under the CCD Standards, independent 3rd-party auditors must determine that the project satisfies fifteen required criteria, which demonstrate the project will help mitigate climate change, conserve biodiversity, and improve socioeconomic conditions for local communities. The mandatory criteria further ensure that environmental and social monitoring programs are in place, no invasive plant or tree species are used, local stakeholders are appropriately involved in the design of the project, and there are no unresolved land tenure issues.

The CCB Standards also address the key carbon-related issues of additionality, leakage, measurement & monitoring, and permanence. Exceptional projects can earn a "Gold" or "Silver" rating depending on how many of eight optional CCB Standards criteria are met, covering issues such as native species use, climate-change adaptation, water and soil resource enhancement, and local capacity building.

Looking forward, there is growing recognition that tropical deforestation is one of the biggest drivers of global climate change -- generating twice the emissions of all the world's cars and trucks. However, major barriers remain before the forestry sector can contribute its share towards mitigating this massive threat. Specifically, policymakers need to capture potential synergies between the global conventions on biological diversity (CBD), climate change (UNFCCC) and desertification (UNFCCD), as well as the Millennium Development Goals. Clearly, multiple-benefit forestry projects, as certified under the CCD Standards, can help us meet these international objectives. Now, all we need is the leadership and will to create the necessary global, national and regional policies to ensure that these outcomes are realized.

Toby Janson-Smith is Director of the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance of Conservation International. This essay originally appeared in Business.2010, a newsletter published by the U.N. Secretariat on Biological Diversity.