Experts explore private sector potential in REDD+
By Elizabeth Kahurani
Funding is a major concern in the implementation of activities to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) especially because what governments can commit is only a fraction of the required amount. According to UNEP, an investment of approximately USD17-40 billion per year is needed to start the process (UNEP FI, 2011) and cumulatively, pledged public funds stand at an estimated USD 5 billion. No doubt other sources of funding will be critical to meeting the huge gap and efforts are increasingly looking to the role of the private sector.
Speaking during a REDD+ expert meeting convened by ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins (ASB) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in Nairobi, Kenya, Erastus Wahome, Chief Economist at the Kenya’s Ministry of Finance, noted that the potential of the private sector to scale up investment in opportunities associated with climate change is high. “Globally, 60% of climate finance is estimated to originate from private sector,” he notes.
Involving the private sector not only makes business sense but is also an important way of bringing in innovation and addressing some of the major drivers of deforestation. Preliminary findings from an ongoing study on the challenges and opportunities of engaging the private sector were discussed at the meeting. The study identifies incentives for the private sector including investment funds available to REDD+ private investors and existing opportunities where they could venture in as producers, advisors, brokers or end buyers. However, governments need to put in place conducive polices and regulatory measures to unlock existing potential for conservation through carbon markets.
Along with this, it is of crucial importance to have guidelines and mechanisms to ensure that projects do not harm but rather promote the safety of environment and surrounding communities. During the workshop, participants discussed at length the details of another ongoing study that seeks to explore the most effective means of ensuring that REDD+ and other conservation projects provide credible information on the safeguards in place to ensure the community and the environment are not harmed but rather benefit from the initiatives.
For practical perspectives on a private sector approach, two cases from Kenya were considered: the ECO2LIBRIUM and Wildlife works Kasigau Corridor REDD project.
Anton Espira introduced participants to ECO2LIBRIUM, a sustainable livelihood partner developing the Forest Again project in Kenya’s only rainforest - Kakamega forest.
When it was first declared a national forest and the boundaries delineated, the forest covered about 24,000ha but now what remains of that is a main forest block covering approximately 8,245 ha and various forest fragments ranging from 65 -1,370ha. Agriculture, encroachment and other commercial activities by the high rural population around the forest are factors responsible for the high rates of deforestation. These activities not only account for increase in carbon emissions but the fragmentation has contributed to the loss of rich biodiversity from the forest.
ECO2LIBRIUM has partnered with the Kenya government, local community and other stakeholders to carry out a number of activities in order to restore the declining Kakamega forest. “We have the Forest Again project which aims to restore about 500 ha of the lost forest and connect two smaller forest fragments with the main forest,” explained Espira.
To ensure sustainability, the project provides alternative livelihood options to communities living adjacent to the forest and also trains them on effective conservation methods. According to Espira, during the first year of operations the project provided direct income to about 500 people who helped in various project activities including seedling production, tree planting and general maintenance of the restored sites. Rose Alela is one of the community members working on the project and this being her first job, she hopes it will afford her enough savings to help towards getting a bigger land for her five sons.
As a commitment to its course, ECO2LIBRIUM has pledged a percentage of the funds generated towards forest management and community intervention projects. On completion, the Forest Again project will sequester about 11,000 tons of carbon per year.
Due to its significant contribution to the community, the project has attained a Gold Level Certification by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, a partnership of international NGOs and research institutes who have developed voluntary standards that guide the design of projects addressing climate change while conserving biodiversity and promoting sustainable development.
To complement the reforestation efforts of the Forest Again project, ECO2LIBRIUM has further developed the Stoves for Life project to distribute energy efficient ceramic stoves in the greater Kakamega Forest Ecosystem to alleviate destructive pressure on the remaining forest by reducing firewood use by up to 40%, and to improve the livelihoods of forest dependent communities and offer them alternative sources of income that are not dependent on forest exploitation and destruction.
Read more about ECO2LIBRIUM here
Wildlife works Kasigau Corridor REDD project
Participants at the IISD-ASB REDD+ meeting visited the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project in Kenya which is run by Wildlife Works. The company prides in having one of the World’s leading REDD+ projects located between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, Southeast Kenya in Taita Taveta County. The project area forms a wildlife corridor between these important protected areas. With its long-established clothing eco-factory, which provides communities with an alternative livelihood, Wildlife Works has applied a unique approach of innovative market based solutions for biodiversity conservation.
Before Wildlife Works began operations in the region in 1997, the area was vulnerable to high carbon emissions through deforestation and forest/land degradation. The causes included large number of human settlement who cleared land for subsistence farming, overgrazing, and charcoal production. In addition, poaching and other cases of human-wildlife conflict persisted and this saw the number of wild animals on the corridor, especially elephants, dwindle.
To reverse this trend, the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project has initiated various activities that strike a delicate balance between environmental conservation, wildlife protection and livelihood needs for the surrounding communities. Since the project’s start date in 2010, Wildlife Works has implemented a number of outstanding initiatives, one of which includes expanding the Wildlife Works eco-factory. “This eco-factory employs local people to work in the production of organic cotton fashion collections for export,” explains Rob Dodson, vice president of African Field Operations for Wildlife Works. “In addition, the company is introducing a more environmentally friendly methodology of charcoal production to the community, which uses dead wood and dry grass instead of cutting down entire trees,” he further noted.
In order to stop poaching and to protect the wildlife, unarmed rangers conduct a daily surveillance and routine patrols.
As a result of these efforts, the project has managed to save over 500,000 acres of forest, which accounts for 200 000 tons of avoided emissions of carbon equivalent per year, and has attracted major business investors. These include Nedbank in South Africa, and Puma sports international clothing fashion line who buy carbon credits from the project in order to offset their carbon footprint. This has helped to generate income for over 4,300 Kenyan landowners (because a large portion of the protected area has been acquired through conservation easements) and 100,000 community members. This is in addition to other community intervention efforts, such as building of schools, providing education bursaries as well as tree nurseries to communities for reforestation. Harmonious co-existence between man and wildlife has been restored and now the wildlife corridor enjoys a return of over 400 elephants and other important wild animals.
The success has not gone unnoticed as the project was the first in the world to be issued Voluntary Carbon Units (VCUs) for REDD under the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS), ‘the most widely used carbon accounting standard among projects issuing credits in the voluntary market.’ The project has also been awarded a gold-level validation under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard for added environmental and social benefits to the community.
Plans to expand similar REDD projects by Wildlife Works across Africa envision the protection of over 5 Million hectares of forest which would translate to a reduction of 25 million tons of carbon emissions annually. Read more about Wildlife Works