Africa’s forests show the need to maintain forest carbon markets
- We need both carbon offsetting and deep decarbonisation at the source, not either / or, to make substantial progress in the fight against climate change.
- There is neither the time nor the logic to exclude projects to reduce emissions from deforestation and REDD + degradation from carbon markets.
- The 40,000 ha REDD + pilot project of BCP in the Lower Zambezi eliminates an additional 285,358 tonnes of CO2e per year.
- The role that REDD + projects in African arid forests play in reducing emissions and providing biodiversity protection services needs to be properly assessed.
This blog aims to encourage an “and / and” approach to scale up all climate change mitigation solutions, and to dispel the “or / or” myth at this critical time. The latest IPCC report makes it clear that we are falling behind the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Some believe that protecting old-growth forests has nothing to do with climate change, and as a result, projects to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD +) are no longer valuable investments. With deforestation rates increasing by 12% in 2020 to 12 million hectares (ha) worldwide and atmospheric carbon exceeding 420 ppm in 2021, there is neither the time nor the logic to exclude REDD + projects. carbon markets.
Lower Zambezi REDD + project
Zambia is one of the most forested countries in Africa (60%), but it also has one of the highest rates of deforestation per year of any African country, at around 300,000 ha per year. Zambia is also classified by the World Bank as a highly indebted poor country (HIPC). Over the past 12 months, BioCarbon Partners (BCP) has made direct transformational payments of $ 4.76 million to 12 partner communities of the Luangwa Community Forests Project – a stream of benefits that would have further exceeded tourism revenues for the communities. if there had not been a pandemic. With the collapse of tourism from COVID-19, REDD + payments have become the largest source of community income in history.
Adjacent to the Luangwa Community Forest Project is BCP’s Lower Zambezi REDD + Pilot (LRZP) on 40,000 ha, just 90 kilometers from Lusaka. Formed in 2012, the LZRP became the CCBA’s first triple-gold validated REDD + project in Africa, and has since passed eight Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) verifications. After our first few VCS audits, it became clear that although the project aimed to prevent forest loss, the trees were growing.
Our forest inventory data revealed an increase in the average diameter of stems per year and an increase in the number of trees per hectare, which removes an average of 1.1 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per year and per tree. Using an average tree density in the LZRP of 498 per ha, the accumulation of CO2e over the project accounting area is 18,561 tonnes of CO2e per year. When we extend it to the million hectares of the two projects implemented by BCP, this REDD + project removes an additional 285,358 tonnes of CO2e per year, which represents 19% of the annual net emission reductions of the two projects.
Growing forests accumulate and store carbon. Through the process of photosynthesis, trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in the form of cellulose, lignin and other compounds. The rate of carbon accumulation is equal to the carbon added by growth minus the carbon from removal and decomposition. In well-managed forests, growth is expected to exceed uptake and decomposition, so the amount of carbon stored increases overall.
Research has shown that between 2001 and 2019, the world’s forests sequestered approximately twice as much CO2 as they emitted, absorbing 7.6 billion net metric tonnes of CO2 per year (1.5 times more carbon than the United States emits each year).
Miombo forests are the third largest forest type on earth and the miombo biome is Africa’s most valuable habitat for ecosystem services, providing more direct benefits to rural African communities than any other type of forest. habitat. Fire and herbivory are fundamental disturbances in the evolution of the miombo biome. Miombo forests evolved with fire and therefore recover quickly after fire, unlike most other types of forests. The extent of recovery depends on the intensity, frequency and season of the fire. The fires in the miombo forests are a reality; but they must be managed.
When you look at a fire map of Africa, large areas of Miombo-dominated countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, and Angola burn every year. While the image of the fires in California, Australia and Nepal dominates in the media, the truth is that 75% of emissions from savannah fires actually come from Africa. New research shows that reducing the number of fires in miombo forests from once a year to once every three years could eliminate an additional 1-2 tonnes of CO2e / ha / year.
In addition to the climate, the number of people and wildlife is also alarming, especially in Africa. Since 1974, the number of elephants has declined by 71%, from about 1.4 million to 400,000, and the number of lions has declined by 90%, from about 200,000 in 1975 to just 20,000 today. ‘hui. By 2100, Africa’s human population is expected to reach 4.5 billion people. That’s a population increase of 291% over the next 79 years! In 2018, the African economy accounted for less than 3% of total global economic output, but the continent has 17% of the world’s population.
Africa’s remaining forests and wildlife are now under increasing pressure, further showing why there is no time to set aside forest carbon markets. Carbon markets have offered the best tool in a generation to restore and protect forests. An increase in compensation prices is needed to offset the opportunity costs that may increase dramatically as the human population grows.
We need sustained access to carbon markets for REDD + projects, as force multipliers working with technological solutions and tree planting. We also need policies that encourage landowners to promote wildlife and methodologies that enable wildlife increase and fire reduction as part of carbon offset programs. It is important that access to capital to develop REDD + projects continues to grow, and it is vital that the price of offsets increase to reflect the true value of the services provided by these REDD + projects.
This is an annual meeting showcasing the best examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies used to develop the sustainable development agenda.
It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year hosts a one-day climate summit. This is timely given growing public fears – and citizen action – about weather conditions, pollution, healthy oceans and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.
The UN Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture to resolve many of these challenges. But to get there, we need to change the way we produce, operate and consume.
The work of the World Economic Forum is essential, with the summit providing the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at the global political level.
It is well known that large-scale habitat restoration costs money; carbon offsetting offers a pragmatic way to close the conservation funding gap and lift millions of people out of poverty. It is the United Nations Decade for Ecosystem Restoration, and we can only hope that the important role that REDD + projects in African dry forests play in reducing emissions and protecting biodiversity is properly valued. . We need both carbon offsetting and deep decarbonisation at the source, not one or the other.
To make substantial progress on climate change, we need to go further and faster, which means using all of our tools together, not just picking one.