The HCS Approach Toolkit: The High Carbon Stock Approach: No Deforestation in Practice



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During the past years, Greenpeace has been working with The Forest Trust (TFT) and corporate actors in both the palm oil and pulp and paper sectors to develop Forest Conservation Policies. For these policies to be implemented successfully, a land use planning methodology called High Carbon Stock (HCS) approach has been developed and is currently the subject of on-the-ground test pilots in various countries.

The HCS approach is a breakthrough for plantation and consumer companies who are committed to no deforestation, from development or in their supply chain. It allows prevention of greenhouse gas emissions to sit alongside existing guidance for biodiversity conservation and will help conserve ecologically viable areas of natural forest. It identifies degraded lands on which it is possible to continue the expansion of oil palm plantations, subject to usual legal and FPIC requirements. With many palm oil consuming companies committed to reducing their climate impact and deforestation footprints, the HCS forest approach offers a simple, practical, quick and cost-effective way forward for implementing these commitments. It provides a technically sound basis on which to make land use decisions that support carbon and biodiversity protection.

Identification of HCS areas would also help the Indonesian and other producing country governments to fulfil their commitment to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. The HCS approach is helpful in indicating which areas should be conserved and which areas might be suitable for development. In that sense, the methodology can be considered a valuable contribution to the debate about identifying suitable degraded land for cultivation and concession land swaps. However, it is important to note that it was never intended to be rigorous enough or technically sufficient to be used for carbon accounting. It does not account for all biomass and in practice significantly underestimates total biomass carbon.

Recent findings from the HCS implementation pilots by Golden Agri Resources (GAR) in Indonesia and Liberia particularly point out the need for adequate regulatory and governance frameworks for Forest Conservation Policies to be successfully implemented, both at concession level and at a broader landscape level.