REDD Plus or REDD “Light”? – Biodiversity, communities and forest carbon certification
Forests are the home to hundreds of million people, out of which approximately 60 million belong to the many indigenous peoples that inhabit forest areas. Approximately one out of four people on the planet – 1.6 billion people – at least partially sustain their livelihood needs from forests. Forests also contain 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and provide a variety of ecosystem services. Forests are estimated to hold a reservoir of approximately 350 billion tonnes of carbon. Changes in the capacity of forests to store carbon have a great potential to affect the climate.
During the past 5-6 years, forests as sources of greenhouse gases have been given increasing attentionwithin the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since 2007, parties to the convention have worked to develop the program Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries, (REDD, or REDD+). A program framework was formally launched through a decision at the UNFCCC meeting in Cancun in 2010, but is not yet fully operational. Prominent among the many key issues that remain to be resolved are the principles and mechanism for financing of REDD programs at the national and sub-national levels.There is, in many quarters, at least an underlying assumption that REDD will be linked to carbon trading and offsets. Carbon credits from REDD projects are already available on the voluntary market for carbon offsets, where they are sold to companies and other entities that are not bound to reduce their emissions due to international commitments and burden sharing. As there is not yet any official system for issuing emissions reductions credits from REDD projects, the voluntary market depends on a number of independent certification systems that provide these services. The main standards that are used to certify forest carbon projects are the Verified Carbon Standards (VCS) and the Community, Carbon and Biodiversity standard(CCB). VCS focuses on carbon accounting, while CCB assesses environmental and social aspects of forest offset projects against a set of principles and criteria.
The main aim of this study is to scrutinise forest certification standards in order to find out if they keep the promise they make for being a quality assurance for forest carbon offset projects. Case studies are presented on how the CCB standard (and to some limited extent also VCS) is being applied to certified REDD projects in Cambodia, Indonesia and Kenya, as well as to a tree planting project in Uganda. The report focuses in particular on to what extent CCB certification ensures that these projects deliver community and biodiversity benefits, and discusses to what extent the linking of REDD with carbon trading strengthens or weakens the potential for addressing the broader social and environmental concerns.