Bolivia gets clean by staying green
Project pays Bolivia for the forests it does not cut - a potential model in the battle against climate change.
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Environmentalists didn’t always like REDD. Many criticized the concept as an easy way out for polluters. And the principle behind it – getting credit for what existing forests already are doing – was rejected as a ploy that developed nations could use to say that they were meeting emissions targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. But REDD is now seen as a leading solution to deforestation, which accounts for 20 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse-gas emissions – more than the transportation sector, according to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).Skip to next paragraph
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Only a handful of REDD projects exist, including those in Belize, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Madagascar, says Zoe Kant, manager of carbon finance for The Nature Conservancy. Indonesia has designed project-based approaches that are not yet operating; Papua New Guinea is developing a national REDD scheme.
In Bolivia, the idea has been tested at the widest scale: The project bought out four timber concessions, nearly doubled the national park’s boundaries, and set up a carbon-monitoring system by which offsets are awarded to three participating energy companies (American Electric Power, BP, and PacifiCorp.) and the Bolivian government – offsets that could be traded on the voluntary carbon-trading market, and (in the case of the Bolivian government) the money reinvested in the communities affected.
In 2005, the park became the first forest emissions-reduction project to be verified by a third party. The British firm SGS, using international standards developed under the Kyoto Protocol, showed that between 1997 and 2005 the project kept more than 1 million metric tons of CO2 from being released into the air.
Skeptics of REDD question whether reducing emissions in one area just shirt polluters to another – called “leakage” – negating any benefit. This is especially true for REDD schemes that are project-based, like that of Noel Kempff, instead of those carried out at a national level.
Here, this Massachusetts-size forest of mahogany and oak seems limitless. But its boundaries do end – at forests where logging is allowed. So the project studied the market influence nationwide of having bought out timber concessions here, for $1.6 million. Their results found a 16 percent leakage rate.
Determining leakage wasn’t easy. Diane Fitzgerald, managing director for governmental and environmental affairs for American Electric Power, says that some environmental groups initially had concerns about REDD because they doubted how well benefits could be monitored. “Noel Kempff has shown that you can develop the technology,” she says. “That project was the proving ground for remote sensing and monitoring.”
Villagers’ livelihoods rebound