In 2010, an agreement was signed between the governor of California, U.S. and the governors of the state of Chiapas, Mexico and Acre, Brazil aimed towards the collaborative reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation (“REDD”).
In response to this agreement, the REDD Offset Working Group (“ROW”) was established to investigate the potential for the development and integration of international offset credits produced from REDD projects into the California Carbon Market.
ROW is an entirely non-governmental group whose mission is to provide recommendations to governmental representatives in Chiapas, Acre, and California. The primary focus of the group has been on issues surrounding credit integrity, offset verifiability, permanence, and additionality, as well as on the legal concerns inherent in working across state and international borders.
Of particular focus has been determining how best to define success within the context of these jurisdictional REDD projects, the general consensus being that the primary focus ought to be on changing rural development for the better in a cost-effective manner. Thus, by implementing projects on a jurisdictional level, the alignment of projects with this policy focus becomes more easily achievable, which is a key focus for the California market.
The success of jurisdictional REDD+ as a widely utilized offsetting mechanism is heavily reliant on both the availability of public financing sources for projects, and on its acceptance within emerging markets, like the ones in California and Australia. Moreover, the viability of jurisdictional REDD+ as an offsetting mechanism is not contingent on the establishment of an international framework under the UNFCCC, which is likely ten years away.
The UNFCCC REDD+ framework development process is focused on projects at a national level, meaning that while the underlying concept is the same, the implementation is very different. While the jurisdictional REDD+ framework will aim to be compatible with the international framework, it will not mirror it. Jurisdictional REDD+ will continue to be focused on working at the state-level and making it effective. Furthermore, the primary aim of jurisdictional REDD+ will continue to be sectoral, meaning advancing rural development models in order to promote sustainability.
It is pivotal that jurisdictional REDD+ projects be able to demonstrate additional and verifiable emissions reductions whilst dealing with concerns about leakage and permanence. To address these issues, the guidelines established by ROW require that a region be defined as deforested or degraded prior to being admitted as a potential REDD+ project site.
Since the majority of forest sector emissions come from the destruction of above ground bio-mass, the previously deforested/degraded requirement means a measurable baseline can be established from which reductions can be measured. This is a key part of the process, because where a reliable reference level has been established, additionality is achievable.
Moreover, by defining deforestation over a large area, the issue of leakage becomes easier to address, since reducing in one small area will not push activities into other areas. Partner countries will also be required to demonstrate continued economic growth while simultaneously reducing deforestation, thus supporting the assertion that the reductions will be permanent, as opposed to merely the result of the temporary cessation of emissions intensive activities.
Caroline Baker is a graduate of the University of Colorado Law School. She has worked with a number of grass roots environmental institutions in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region of the United States, including the Montana Wilderness Association, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation. She is currently based in Sydney, Australia where she is working as a Market and Policy Research Analyst with Carbon Training International. Caroline is passionate about the role that Governments and business can play in promoting environmental and climate policy issues.