By Angela Dewan
The idea that developed countries could pay developing countries to conserve their forests has come a long way since it was given the name REDD at COP 11 in Montreal five years ago.
Since then, discussions among scientists, world leaders, the private sector and other relevant parties have resulted in a scheme more refined in design, giving REDD+ a greater chance of meeting more nations’ expectations.
After the anticipated legally binding REDD+ deal did not come into fruition at COP 15 in Copenhagen last year, the UN has set more specific goals for REDD+ for COP 16 in Cancun this year, so that if a deal isn’t brokered, at least progress in key areas will have been made.
One of those goals, discussed in a meeting last month in Brussels by the Council of the EU Environment Ministers, is to develop a concrete strategy for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).
“MRV is an important pillar in addressing deforestation and land degradation, but what is needed goes beyond just technology,” said a representative of Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, chair of Indonesia’s REDD Taskforce. He was speaking at a CIFOR-run MRV workshop on Tuesday.
“We have to develop an appropriate policy framework for MRV that upholds international standards of accountability. A robust system will do more than a reduction in carbon emissions,” he said to a room of public officials, NGOs, scientists and the media.
One of the major hurdles to a REDD+ deal is uncertainty. Uncertainty of just how much carbon the world is dealing with and where, and uncertainty that a true REDD+ market will emerge.
But there is reason for optimism. In August this year, the Voluntary Carbon Standard, considered the most rigorous, approved for the first time a REDD+ project’s carbon accounting methodology. The project is the Rimba Raya project in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, was developed by Hong Kong-based InfiniteEARTH.
The project aims to protect more than 90,000 hectares of tropical biodiversity-rich peat forest, also home to 300 orangutans, taken in by the Orangutan Foundation International, which releases them into the wild once they are grown. The area sits next to the Tanjung Puting National Park, and is intended to act as a buffer against encroaching palm oil plantations.
InfiniteEARTH’s carbon accounting methodology involved the use of aerial photos, ground surveys and satellite imagery.
The project was developed by InfiniteEARTH, a company based in Hong Kong, which has already attracted significant investment by Gazprom and the Clinton Foundation to develop the project. Some money has also gone into buying credits.
“We are looking forward to presenting our first cheque to Indonesia in taxes,” said Jim Procanik, InfiniteEARTH’s managing director for the Asia region.
“We want to make sure people see REDD+ come into fruition with tangible benefits.”
It is a modest start, but the project has certainly got the REDD+ ball rolling.
The Jakarta-based company Rimba Makmur Utama has a conservation and restoration project, also in Central Kalimantan, on more than 200,000 hectares of peatland. The company is hoping to follow InfiniteEARTH’s lead and have its carbon accounting methodology approved.
While InfiniteEarth’s Procanik said its accounting was not significantly costly, said Dharsono Hartono, president and director of Rimba Makmur Utama, said the cost of measurement was a real challenge.
“Testing carbon underground involves a lot of drilling, which is significantly more expensive than satellite mapping,” Dharsono said.
In conjunction with talks on carbon measurement in Cancun, leaders will be discussing technology and capacity building, initiatives that will lend to the development of more carbon accounting methodologies being approved by various standards.
If REDD+ picks up momentum in Mexico, it has a much better chance of wooing leaders and investors the following year at COP 17 in South Africa.