Will Nichols, BusinessGreen, 30 Sep 2010
An "historic milestone" in the forestry carbon market was reached this week as the first carbon credits from a land-use project were verified and issued under the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS).
Credits from the Uchindile-Mapanda reforestation project in Tanzania were issued on the VCS registry system hosted by APX in a move that experts predict will further stimulate growing investor interest in forestry protection projects.
Jonathan Shopley, managing director of The CarbonNeutral Company, which is currently the only carbon offset firm to make the credits available, said the new VCS-approved credits would bolster the credibility of forestry-related carbon credits.
"Businesses that are committing to significant carbon reductions can now achieve this by purchasing and retiring high-quality, verified VCS Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) carbon credits," he said. "This credible, permanent offsetting development is a historic milestone for us, for our clients, for the carbon marketplace and for forestry."
The Uchindile-Mapanda project takes degraded grassland and converts it into sustainably harvested forests that sequester carbon emissions from the atmosphere and generate carbon credits. Some 40 per cent of the credits have been set aside – a world first – to mitigate against the risk of " non-permanence", such as the forest burning down.
While there is near universal agreement that some form of mechanism needs to be developed to ensure that forests are worth more standing than they are felled, some environmental groups have criticised forestry-related carbon offsets, arguing that it is impossible to guarantee that the forest will be permanently protected and will deliver promised emission reductions.
However, David Antonioli, chief executive officer of the Voluntary Carbon Standard Association, said the new method and the commitment to set aside 40 per cent of the credits issued ensures that forestry carbon credits can represent " permanent, high-quality emission reductions".
In July 2009, Uchindile-Mapanda became the first AFOLU project to be validated under the VCS, which insists on strict criteria governing the validation, measurement and monitoring of the effectiveness of emission offset projects.
The project will also ensure that 10 per cent of the carbon credit revenue is invested in the community, including the building of school classrooms, teachers' houses, dispensaries and roads.
Mads Asprem, founder and managing director of Norwegian company Green Resources, which developed the project, said that issuing carbon credits for sustainable forests in Africa represented "a significant step forward to encourage project developers to make the investment required in reforestation".
The move comes just two months ahead of the UN's climate summit in Cancun where forestry protection and the proposed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries mechanism is one of the few areas where diplomats are hopeful an international deal can be finalised.
The scheme would aim to deliver a regulated market for forestry-related carbon offsetting credits, effectively building on the VCS approach.