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Forest Carbon Core to Climate Change Deal

Chris ElliottAs the Copenhagen talks progress, negotiators must not miss the opportunity to ensure that forests become a vital part of the post-2012 climate change framework.

Efforts to mitigate dangerous climate change revolve around the overarching goal of holding the average increase in global temperatures to well below 2°C. With deforestation accounting for approximately 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is clear that any solution to the climate change problem must include a solution to deforestation. Yet, forests – valued for providing a range of environmental services – have thus far been entirely excluded from the global climate change regime.

Indeed, there are powerful economic and social drivers at the heart of deforestation. If we cannot ensure a way to sufficiently value standing trees over cut ones, we will not incentivize the behaviors and policies that will protect the world’s remaining forests.

REDD – “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation” – offers a pathway for helping countries reverse deforestation. However, REDD was kept out of the Kyoto agreement — in part due to concerns about feasibility and scope of the policy as well as skepticism about how benefits would be shared with communities. But the years since Kyoto have allowed for national level pilot projects which show clearly that feasibility challenges can be overcome. For example, the science and technology of forest monitoring have advanced to the point that measuring deforestation at the national level is now an achievable goal in most of the developing world.

The Brazilian state of Acre has implemented a deforestation monitoring system that combines remote sensing data and property level monitoring as part of an ambitious REDD policy. With this information it is possible to accurately assess and monitor the forest resources and ensure their protection.

Beyond models of feasibility, the successful implementation of REDD will require coordination at both the national and international levels. Building the necessary infrastructure for operational capacity and financing this will require a phased approach. Early phases, which will be underpinned by public financing, will center on nation-level institution building and the development of technical capacity. Ultimately, global carbon compliance markets can play a significant role in compensating countries for verified emissions reductions achieved during later phases of REDD.

In fact, while a global market for forest carbon is years from being realized, the investment community has already taken notice. Professionals in the SRI, carbon trading and sustainability fields are thinking carefully about how to value forest carbon as an asset; how to project the potential size of the market; what rules and mechanisms can facilitate the most efficient market; and what country-level projects offer best practices.

Investors are also clear that while their market can provide an efficient means of developing a global market, their shared view is that public financing is vital to the start up phase of REDD. Without both the political support from key countries – U.S., EU, China, India and major forested nations – and key national legislative initiatives, REDD will remain a policy in name only.

It is critical that the final text of the post-2012 agreement include firm commitments from developed countries to provide financial and technical support to developing countries, especially for the early phases of REDD. This must be combined with a clear regulatory framework, which will guide the development of national level institutions and give the private sector the certainty it needs to play a constructive role forward in what many expect to be significant and vibrant part of the carbon markets. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity to ensure that standing forests are included in the post 2012 framework.

Chris Elliott is Lead for World Wildlife Fund‘s Forest Carbon Initiative.

Chris Elliott
Chris Elliott is Lead for World Wildlife Fund's Forest Carbon Initiative.
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5 thoughts on “Forest Carbon Core to Climate Change Deal

  1. Thanx for the valuable information. This was just the thing I was looking for, With this information it is possible to accurately assess and monitor the forest resources and ensure their protection. keep posting. Will be visiting back soon.

  2. I totally agree with Elliot about the importance of Forests in the Carbon containment program. In my opinion if the world ignores all else and just concentrates on Forests, we will be saved from the Carbon problem. Forests are a Carbon sink. If forests are added there will certainly be carbon mitigation. Conversely, cutting forests releases the stored carbon into the atmosphere. If the Forest cover worldwide is doubled in some way, then the problem is over. It is better to let Forests dominate the free land than let the sea over run land. I would like to have the email id of Mr. Chris elliot

  3. I want to supply some new science showing the importance of our forests before we chop them down for economy. Copenhagen doesn’t have this information, Canada is supposed to be bringing it as it was passed on from their professionals.

    The cause of urban heat islands has been found and that included infrared images of a cut block being radiated after harvesting the lumber.

    Removing trees or ground cover has another consideration in thermal regulation of the planet. If you expose the surface of the planet to radiation, we documented 60 to 94 degrees C.

    Reflective, white paints, low e finishes, trees and shade eliminated urban heat islands as well as saved energy, lowered emissions immediately, etc.

    Look at the 3rd infrared video at the link and see what happens on the inside of a house that becomes an urban heat island. It will shock you as to how framed lumber can get that hot inside a wall. The UN members in Copenhagen are oblivious to urban heat islands close to boiling temperature on the surface of the planet while they try to capture carbon generated treating the symptoms of urban heat islands. The cause will continue to superheat the atmosphere. http://www.thermoguy.com/urbanheat,html

  4. Chris, you are obviously very knowledgeable about the carbon credit situations and I thought you and your readers would be interested in the emerging technology that can provide a rapid, accurate, and inexpensive way to actually measure forestry biomass and carbon rather than estimating it from sparse samples. Below is a press release that speaks to the new technology that we have developed. We have just finished an airborne survey of 12,000 acres of forestland, assembled by an aggregator and spread over three states and about 6000 square miles in the Eastern US. The project took just a little more than a day to do the airborne data collection.

    Terresense, Inc. Now Scanning the Forests for the Trees

    Chicago Carbon Exchange Gives Nod to New Airborne Remote Sensing Methodology

    Fairfax, VA – Terresense, Inc. has developed and fielded a new high-tech airborne technology designed to provide remote sensing of biomass and carbon in heavily wooded areas. Faster, more accurate, and less expensive than the standard manual timber cruising methods, the Terresense solution is now the first such technology approved and certified by the Chicago Carbon Exchange (CCX).

    Terresense, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Zimmerman Associates, Inc. (ZAI). The R&D group at ZAI designed, developed, fabricated, and patented the Terresense sensor suite. The sensor suite, installed in a dedicated Terresense aircraft, includes a new type of downlooking radar, an optical laser radar, a hyperspectral imaging camera, a color video camera, and an inertial navigation system coupled with a dual channel Geographical Positioning System (GPS). All of the sensors look out of the bottom of the airplane at the same patch of ground directly beneath the aircraft. The airborne collected sensor data is processed and combined to produce data such as tree volume, tree biomass and carbon in tons per acre, tree height, and the percentage of canopy closure. The data is downloaded to a DVD into a Geographical Information System (GIS) format with each type of data forming a different layer in the GIS data stack. The Terresense aircraft can survey 20,000 acres or about 30 square miles per day with a 100% sample of the survey area. The resulting surveys are very accurate since the entire area is surveyed as opposed to all other manual methods that take small samples and extrapolate to estimate biomass and carbon.
    Dr. Patrick Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Terresense, Inc., is pleased by the recognition the new technology has received. “Our airborne methodology is the first remote sensing system approved and certified by the Chicago Carbon Exchange (CCX) for both baseline inventories and the monitoring and verification of carbon content in forested areas. The Terresense technology is the first remote sensing methodology to be approved by the CCX or any other carbon trading exchange. All other forestry carbon credit projects are required to use manual, on the ground, methods which are much more expensive, take much longer to complete, and are not as accurate in mixed and hardwood forest.”, said Johnson.
    The Terresense, Inc. business plan is aimed primarily at the potential forestry carbon credit market. This market is expected to greatly expand with the passage of federal “Carbon Cap and Trade” legislation, and standard inventories are routinely required by forest land owners and timberland and lumber companies.

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