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Forest Trends

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Brownlie S.,deVilliers Brownlie Associates | von Hase A.,Forest Trends | Botha M.,Conservation Strategy Fund | Manuel J.,South African National Biodiversity Institute | And 2 more authors.
Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal | Year: 2017

South Africa has a decade of experience designing and implementing biodiversity offsets. In the absence of explicit national policy on biodiversity offsets, the country has relied on existing legal provisions in environmental law as the basis for offset requirements, supported by provincial guidelines. South Africa’s periodic national biodiversity surveys provide scientifically rigorous quantification and mapping for individual ecosystems and finer scale surveys identify biodiversity priority areas, primed as ‘offset receiving areas’. Yet despite enabling factors the use of offsets has frequently been inadequate to deliver intended biodiversity outcomes. Challenges include: (a) the absence of national policy to drive and shape offset implementation; (b) insufficient capacity to evaluate, design and implement offsets; (c) inconsistent decision-making; (d) problems establishing sustainable financing mechanisms; and (e) inadequate enforcement and monitoring, linked to poor drafting of licencing conditions and/or insufficient capacity to monitor implementation. South Africa’s experience provides valuable insights into the challenges and potential solutions for making offsets work for biodiversity conservation and offers important lessons for the development and implementation of biodiversity offsetting in other developing countries. © 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

Vogl A.L.,Stanford University | Vogl A.L.,Royal Swedish Academy Of Sciences | Goldstein J.H.,Office of the Chief Scientist | Daily G.C.,Stanford University | And 7 more authors.
Environmental Science and Policy | Year: 2017

Watersheds are under increasing pressure worldwide, as expanding human activities coupled with global climate change threaten the water security of people downstream. In response, some communities have initiated investments in watershed services (IWS), a general term for policy-finance mechanisms that mitigate diverse watershed threats and promote ecosystem-based adaptation. Here, we explore the potential for increasing the uptake and impact of IWS, evaluating what limits its application and how institutional, financial, and informational barriers can be overcome. Our analysis complements the growing literature on individual programs by identifying levers at regional and global scales. We conclude that mainstreaming IWS as a cost-effective strategy alongside engineered approaches will require advances that (i) lower institutional barriers to implementation and participation in IWS; (ii) introduce structural market changes and standards of practice that account for the value of watersheds’ natural capital; (iii) develop practical tools and metrics of IWS costs and benefits; and (iv) share success stories of replicable institutional and financial models applied in varied contexts. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd

News Article | September 29, 2016

Governments have launched a crackdown on the rampant billion-dollar trade in rosewood timber that is plundering forests across the planet to feed a booming luxury furniture market in China. The Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) summit on Thursday placed all 300 species of rosewood under trade restrictions, meaning criminals can no longer pass off illegally logged species as legitimate. Rosewood is the world’s most trafficked wild product, according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, accounting for a third of all seizures by value, more than elephant ivory, pangolins, rhino horn, lions and tigers put together. With a beautiful deep red glow, it is the traditional wood used for elite, classic-style “hongmu” furniture in China: one huge carved bed was on sale recently for $1m. But due to explosive demand from China’s fast-growing middle class, the rosewood trade has soared since 2005, multiplying 65 times in value and now worth $2.2bn a year. As a result, the forests of south-east Asia have been rapidly emptying, peaking in 2014. Traffickers are now targeting more than 80 other countries across the tropics where rosewoods grow, particularly in west Africa but also central America. China’s rosewood imports from Africa soared sevenfold between 2010 and 2014, according to a report from Forest Trends, with $216m of west African rosewood imported in the first half of 2016 alone. Illegal gangs move swiftly from country to country, felling all the trees they can find and creating devastating boom-and-bust cycles, said the report. “When trees become scarce in one place, or authorities strengthen controls, the shady networks quickly move to another country and the deadly cycle of corruption, violence and forest destruction starts anew,” said a statement from Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a Cites participant. China imported 2m cubic metres of logs and wood in 2014, according to the EIA. This is equivalent to millions of rosewood trees as only the dark, dense heartwood is used: 70-80% of the tree is often wasted. The devastated forests left behind also no longer provide the charcoal and traditional medicines used by indigenous communities. “It is at the heart of our rural communities,” said Niger’s Cites delegate. “The demand from Asia threatens directly threatens their livelihoods.” Lisa Handy, at the EIA, said: “We are really thrilled [with the new Cites protection]. It’s really in the nick of time to save them from extinction. The trade has exploded exponentially in the last decade. Now it really comes down to enforcement.” The importance of protecting the entire Dalbergia genus of rosewood is that criminals can no longer pass off illegal rosewood as one of the previously unprotected species. “Officials have great difficulty in distinguishing between species,” said Guatemala’s delegate to Cites. “It is very difficult for people who are not experts, and even sometimes for the experts themselves.” “This [summit] will be remembered for rosewood and pangolin protection,” said Brazil’s delegate, who said there would have been nothing left within three years without action. The Cites summit also applied new protection to an African rosewood from another genus, known as Kosso, which grows in the dry forests of west Africa. It was barely exported in 2009 but exploitation has since soared and it is now is now the main rosewood timber imported by China. “The forests have been emptied,” said Benin’s delegate to Cites. Some rosewood species can still be logged under the new rules, but will require permits that should only be granted if it is deemed sustainable. The rules could be revisited in the final Cites session next week, but this is unlikely. Rosewood is also used to make some musical instruments, such as guitars, but the new rules will not prevent musicians travelling with their instruments. The new protections enter into force in 90 days, but need action by individual nations to have an impact. In 2013, Cites gave similar protection to every rosewood species in Madagascar, where rampant logging was taking place. However, the EIA says the Madagascan government has failed to carry out its enforcement commitments and, in May 2016, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon called on Madagascar to end corruption and “fight the illegal trafficking of natural treasures”.

News Article | November 12, 2015

That would unlock funding from the private sector, which has so far contributed just one-tenth of the money provided to keep forests standing, said Gus Silva-Chávez of U.S.-based non-profit group Forest Trends which tracked finance flows in 13 countries. Over the past 10 years climate negotiators, governments and development banks have put in place the technical standards for a U.N. program aimed at Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in developing nations. They have helped tropical forest nations prepare to generate verified carbon offsets from their forest conservation schemes which can be traded internationally. But the process has been slow. "What we really need in Paris is recognition that REDD+ is a key mitigation component, and that you need many more billions of dollars to achieve the reductions (required) to avoid dangerous climate change," Silva-Chávez told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. When forests are degraded or destroyed, the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere, with deforestation accounting for 10 to 15 percent of carbon emissions worldwide. Not all rainforest countries support the use of markets, including carbon credits, to finance forest protection. Bolivia, in particular, has been a vocal opponent at U.N. climate talks. From 2009 to 2014, nearly $10 billion was pledged or committed to REDD+ programs worldwide, mainly by donor governments and international development banks. But that is "significantly short" of estimates indicating at least $20 billion per year is needed to reduce global deforestation by 50 percent, Forest Trends said in a new report on REDD+ finance. "The pledges right now at the global level are insufficient," said Silva-Chávez. During the first decade of REDD+, governments realized the private sector would not pay for the groundwork, and gave millions to kickstart the forest carbon initiative. Individual donor countries - mainly Norway, Germany, Japan, the United States, Britain, Australia and France - provided 60 percent of the $3.7 billion contractually committed to the 13 tropical forest countries covered by the Forest Trends data. Brazil and Indonesia - home to some of the world's largest tropical forest cover - together received nearly two-thirds of the $6 billion in funding pledged or committed to that group of countries. By the end of 2014, two-thirds of all committed funds had been paid out, most of the money going directly to government agencies in the recipient countries. “Donor countries are increasingly requiring REDD+ countries to demonstrate the concrete progress they are making in tackling deforestation, and then transferring funding if and when positive results are achieved," Brian Schaap, who works on the REDD+ finance program at Forest Trends, said in a statement. "If countries don’t reduce their deforestation, then they don’t get the donor money." Britain and Norway, for example, have decided to back out of the Congo Basin Forest Fund, a major fund launched in 2008 to protect forests in Central Africa, due to concerns over its performance, and have refused to release remaining pledged cash, according to the London-based Overseas Development Institute. While more finance is needed to help tropical forest nations implement schemes that generate carbon credits from avoiding deforestation and the emissions it causes, the Paris climate summit is unlikely to see large-scale promises for this purpose, Silva-Chávez said. "I think the only way to fill in the gap is through the private sector," he said. But businesses are unlikely to start investing much larger amounts unless a new global agreement specifies countries can buy forest carbon credits from other nations as one way of achieving the emissions cuts they are promising from 2020, he added. "That's going to be the switch that tells the private sector this is no longer a theoretical thing ... it is a policy that global governments agreed to," said Silva-Chávez.

Pilgrim J.D.,Biodiversity Consultancy | Brownlie S.,De Villiers Brownlie Associates | Ekstrom J.M.M.,Biodiversity Consultancy | Gardner T.A.,University of Cambridge | And 8 more authors.
Conservation Letters | Year: 2013

Biodiversity offsetting is increasingly being used to reconcile the objectives of conservation and development. It is generally acknowledged that there are limits to the kinds of impacts on biodiversity that can or should be offset, yet there is a paucity of policy guidance as to what defines these limits and the relative difficulty of achieving a successful offset as such limits are approached. In order to improve the consistency and defensibility of development decisions involving offsets, and to improve offset design, we outline a general process for evaluating the relative offsetability of different impacts on biodiversity. This process culminates in a framework that establishes the burden of proof necessary to confirm the appropriateness and achievability of offsets, given varying levels of: conservation concern for affected biodiversity; residual impact magnitude; opportunity for suitable offsets; and feasibility of offset implementation in practice. Rankings for biodiversity conservation concern are drawn from existing conservation planning tools and approaches, including the IUCN Red List, Key Biodiversity Areas, and international bank environmental safeguard policies. We hope that the proposed process will stimulate much-needed scientific and policy debate to improve the integrity and accountability of both regulated and voluntary biodiversity offsetting. ©2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Gardner T.A.,University of Cambridge | Gardner T.A.,International Institute for Sustainability | Von Hase A.,Forest Trends | Brownlie S.,De Villiers Brownlie Associates | And 8 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2013

Businesses, governments, and financial institutions are increasingly adopting a policy of no net loss of biodiversity for development activities. The goal of no net loss is intended to help relieve tension between conservation and development by enabling economic gains to be achieved without concomitant biodiversity losses. biodiversity offsets represent a necessary component of a much broader mitigation strategy for achieving no net loss following prior application of avoidance, minimization, and remediation measures. However, doubts have been raised about the appropriate use of biodiversity offsets. We examined what no net loss means as a desirable conservation outcome and reviewed the conditions that determine whether, and under what circumstances, biodiversity offsets can help achieve such a goal. We propose a conceptual framework to substitute the often ad hoc approaches evident in many biodiversity offset initiatives. The relevance of biodiversity offsets to no net loss rests on 2 fundamental premises. First, offsets are rarely adequate for achieving no net loss of biodiversity alone. Second, some development effects may be too difficult or risky, or even impossible, to offset. To help to deliver no net loss through biodiversity offsets, biodiversity gains must be comparable to losses, be in addition to conservation gains that may have occurred in absence of the offset, and be lasting and protected from risk of failure. Adherence to these conditions requires consideration of the wider landscape context of development and offset activities, timing of offset delivery, measurement of biodiversity, accounting procedures and rule sets used to calculate biodiversity losses and gains and guide offset design, and approaches to managing risk. Adoption of this framework will strengthen the potential for offsets to provide an ecologically defensible mechanism that can help reconcile conservation and development. © 2013 Society for Conservation Biology.

Charnley S.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Diaz D.,Forest Trends | Gosnell H.,Oregon State University
Small-scale Forestry | Year: 2010

Forest management for carbon sequestration is a low-cost, low-technology, relatively easy way to help mitigate global climate change that can be adopted now while additional long-term solutions are developed. Carbon-oriented management of forests also offers forest owners an opportunity to obtain a new source of income, and commonly has environmental co-benefits. The USA is developing climate change policy that recognizes forestry as a source of offsets in carbon markets, and the emissions trading programs and standards that have developed to date offer opportunities for afforestation, reforestation, reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and improved forest management projects. Private forest owners are key players in carbon markets because they own over half of the forest land in the USA and carbon offsetting from public forest land is rare. However, a number of environmental, economic, and social constraints currently limit carbon market participation by forest owners. Key issues include: the low price of carbon and high cost of market entry; whether small landowners can gain market access; how to meet requirements such as management plans and certification; and whether managing for carbon is consistent with other forest management goals. This paper provides an overview of current and emerging opportunities for family forest owners to contribute to climate change mitigation in the USA, and explores ways of overcoming some of the challenges so that they can take advantage of these opportunities. © 2010 US Government employee.

News Article | December 9, 2015

Villager Diediou guides his donkeys with a cart of freshly cut timber through the almost treeless Tanghory national forest in Digante, Senegal, November 18, 2015. Ecologist Haidar El Ali examines freshly cut timber along the border with Gambia in Digante, Senegal, November 17, 2015. Picture taken November 17, 2015 Stocks of smuggled timber and the Gambian trucks that transported them are confiscated at a forestry depot in Digante, Senegal, November 18, 2015. What Balde says was on offer typifies the problems many African countries face in enforcing high-minded policies supposed to counter deforestation and its effect on environments already vulnerable to climate change. With a small change of wording, the forestry official said, the official paperwork could be made to show the trees were felled outside the Dabo national reserve in unprotected forest, allowing the mayor's office to take a cut of the proceeds. "This was not my objective. I want those responsible to be arrested and punished, with their permits taken away," the Dabo mayor said, sitting on a pile of logs in a clearing where, until September, rare African mahogany trees had stood. The forest ministry in the southern region of Casamance, whose main city is Zinguinchor, rejected Balde's version of events. Colonel Aly Seck, the ministry's regional representative, denied any corruption attempt and blamed Balde for the destruction in the Dabo forest. Many African governments have introduced reforms such as export bans on timber, which often ends up as furniture or flooring in wealthier countries. However, the dilemmas faced by officials like Balde, many of whom are less inclined to take a stand against corruption, show the limitations of such measures. Senegal has been a leading African voice for improving the management of natural resources. A planned "Great Green Wall" from its capital Dakar across the continent to Djibouti in East Africa aims to create a natural forest barrier against the southward expansion of the Sahara Desert. President Macky Sall boasts that Senegal has already restored 25,000 hectares of degraded land under the project, and such efforts are helping to win billions of dollars in financing for the region at climate talks in Paris this month. But ecologists say a combination of logging and shifting rainfall patterns linked to climate change mean that nearly double that acreage is lost in Senegal each year, leaving bald savannah where forests were once so dense they blotted out the sun. "In many forest-rich countries the problem is entrenched corruption driven by strong demand from consumer countries," said Naomi Basik Treanor, of the U.S.-based non-profit organization Forest Trends. "It is hard for them to pass up these short-term benefits." Chief among those consumer countries is China. Over the past decade, as African governments have tried to curb illicit logging, Chinese customs data show that annual imports of timber products from West and Central African countries have increased more than four-fold to $1.9 billion in 2014. Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, said China strictly regulated timber imports and required its companies abroad to act in accordance with local laws and regulations. In Gabon, Asian demand has caused a jump in the price of wood from the rare Kevazingo tree, which can take 500 years to grow to its full height of 40 meters (130 feet). Gabon has made more than 30 arrests since October, according to Luc Mathot, a co-founder of the EAGLE Network conservation group. Among those arrested were a number of government agents. "(Officials) do not close their eyes to this business for free," said Mathot. "Some of them have gone as far as organizing the exports themselves with the exploiters." Even more worrying, he said, are the countries where there is little evidence that authorities are even trying to crack down on illegal practices. Among them Mathot cites Democratic Republic of Congo, home to much of the Congo Basin, the world's second largest tropical forest after the Amazon. The government imposed a moratorium in 2002 on all new industrial logging licenses but campaign group Global Witness says the national laws are systematically violated. While much smaller, Senegal's forests, concentrated in Casamance, serve as a bulwark against regional desertification and the government has therefore banned timber exports. But local people claim wood from the region is simply sent into Gambia, a sliver of a country wedged inside Senegal which allows wood harvested in neighboring nations to be exported via its port. Most of Gambia's own forests have been chopped down, but it shipped about $50 million worth of wood to China between January and October this year, up from $33 million in all of 2014. Gambia's environment minister was not reachable for comment. On a recent visit to Digante, a village on the Senegalese side of the border, residents said that a makeshift timber depot had been emptied that same day by Gambia-bound trucks. A low-intensity conflict between the Senegalese government and Casamance rebels that has lasted four decades has helped to open the door to trafficking, observers say, by impeding forest surveillance. Buyers, villagers said, typically pay 10,000 CFA francs ($16.50) per log and sometimes offer a motorcycle once a supplier has reached a fixed quota, princely rewards in a region where youth unemployment is estimated at around 60 percent. "There's no work here. That's why we cut the trees," said Diediou who gave only his first name, carrying two trunks on a small donkey-drawn cart through the Tanghory state forest. In a testament to the state's efforts to stop the illicit trade, nine seized trucks with Gambian license plates were parked in the local office of Senegal's forestry department. Nonetheless, villagers and ecologists said much of the smuggling occurs under the noses or even with the complicity of government agents. "Everyone pretends to follow official procedures but it's all a sham," said Haidar El Ali, a former Senegalese environment minister. One government agent involved in a scheme to smuggle timber concealed beneath a layer of legal firewood was arrested last month, said a senior forestry official. Senegal's environment ministry declined a Reuters request for comment. Forestry agents in Casamance complained that the dangerous job of stopping illegal timber shipments was hobbled by a lack of resources, both human and financial. Still, some officials are trying to make positive changes. Dissatisfied with the 1.5 million CFA franc ($2,507.19)fine paid by a man charged with illegal logging in Dabo, mayor Balde says he has filed a legal complaint with the prosecutor's office. "We can't let this go on," said Balde. "Otherwise, it is us who will lose out and lose the rainfall while others get rich."

News Article | December 15, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Governments are offering more incentives to landowners who protect their watersheds to improve conservation, but must expand these efforts in order to provide reliable water supplies to growing populations, researchers said on Thursday. Subsidies for landholders who protect watersheds - land that absorbs rainwater - exceeded $23 billion last year, about $2 billion more than 2014, the study said. With a growing global population and increased demand, governments are struggling with how to provide everyone with enough water to drink. Direct subsidies to farmers and landowners who protect watersheds is an effective conservation strategy, said the study by Forest Trends, a Washington-D.C. based research group. "Money is flowing into sustainable land management," Forest Trends researcher Genevieve Bennett, the study's lead author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Governments are paying landowners to manage their lands in ways that are conducive to water security." Rewarding landowners with subsidies for planting trees, reducing pesticide use or maintaining wetlands is cheaper in the long run than responding to water shortages or other emergencies caused by poor management, the report said. Funding mechanisms for more than $23 billion in global subsidies paid to landholders vary between countries, said the study of watershed management policies in 62 nations. In the United States, some of the money for landowners who protect their watersheds comes from farm subsidies, Bennett said. Other financing comes from water utility companies or municipal governments. Peru's capital Lima has been spending about 5 percent of its water fees to improve watersheds in the Andes Mountains. Some of those funds have been used to restore ancient indigenous canals that help control water flow, and to work with farmers on better managing the land so soil will absorb more rainwater. China has invested large sums in what it calls "eco compensation" for landholders who protect watersheds, as the world's most populous country tries to better manage its environment, Bennett said. "Buoyed by ambitious commitments in China and efforts by the (European Union) to make its agriculture subsidies 'greener', we're seeing the traditional agricultural subsidy model retrofitted for the green economy - to focus on landscape health," she said. Global investment in watershed protection has risen by about 12 percent annually, although this will need to increase further as cities expand, the study said.

Richards M.,Forest Trends | Panfil S.N.,Climate
International Forestry Review | Year: 2011

This paper describes some of the challenges of meeting standards for multiple benefit forest carbon and other land use based carbon projects. There is considerable current controversy about the social and equity impacts of such projects. The authors argue that a combination of more robust standards, such as the Climate Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards, for assessing the social performance of projects, and cost-effective impact assessment methods can do much to ensure positive outcomes for local people or communities, and greatly reduce the risk of negative ones. The paper is structured around the following main themes: what is meant by social impact assessment (SIA); a discussion of the requirements of the CCB Standards as regards SIA; key challenges to measuring the social impacts of land use based carbon projects; presentation of seven proposed SIA stages contained in a Manual for SIA released by four prominent non-governmental organisations; and some 'good practice'- principles for cost-effective SIA.

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