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Премия рунета 2017

Forest Carbon Projects

WWF-Russia Position Paper on Forest Carbon Projects

Most of the major greenhouse gas emitters have declared to achieve carbon (climate) neutrality by 2050-2060. Recently the climate neutrality [1] policy has received political support in Russia. At the same time achieving real carbon neutrality is mainly impossible without increasing the sequestration capacity of natural ecosystems. This can be achieved by projects reducing greenhouse gas emissions in forestry and increasing carbon sequestration of forest ecosystems (forest carbon projects). Forestry projects fr om the climate perspective are Nature Based Solutions [2] and they can bring significant additional benefits in addition to the actual climate effect: biological diversity and protective functions of forests maintenance; adaptation of natural ecosystems and local communities to climate change; improvement of the economic efficiency of the forest sector; local economy support, etc.

WWF-Russia believes that only forest carbon projects contributing to the Paris Agreement goals should be implemented, that is, lead to a real greenhouse gas emissions reduction and/or an increase of carbon sequestration by forests.

The most important measure for climate change mitigation is to reduce emissions fr om industry and transport, but since measures to reduce their volumes are decades late, the implementation of forest carbon projects is possible only if mandatory measures of direct and indirect emissions reduction are in place. That is, this type of projects is not a substitute for the urgency for quitting fossil fuels and should not lead to postponing of immediate measures of economies decarbonization.

Therefore, possible forest carbon projects should be integrated into the hierarchy of actions of climate change mitigation where the priority is the emissions reduction, and can be taken into account only after all possible measures to reduce emissions have been taken.

WWF-Russia believes that prior to the implementation of a forest carbon project and/or the purchase of emissions reduction units fr om such a project, any organization should take the following steps:

  1. Develop and commit to achieve carbon (climate) neutrality at the level of its corporate policy.
  2. Develop a roadmap for its implementation with priority to reduce direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. The roadmap should contain the implementation dates for each emissions reduction measure, an action plan, estimates and monitoring frequency, and a methodology for evaluating the effectiveness of emissions reduction measures.
  3. Place all the materials mentioned in paragraph 2 on the public domain and, at least once a calendar year, post a monitoring report there.
  4. Estimate the volume of direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions that cannot be reduced by any currently available best technologies, make publicly available the methodology and results of such an evaluation. Forest carbon projects implemented for the purpose of achieving carbon neutrality can be accounted only within this volume.

Forest carbon projects can be implemented only once the implementation of possible measures to reduce direct and indirect emissions started and only as a support action to achieve carbon neutrality, and if the emissions reduction roadmap is implemented in time. Otherwise forest carbon projects cannot be credited against emissions reduction.

For fuel and energy industry companies the share of forest carbon projects should not exceed 15% of the total amount of carbon footprint reduction efforts in any case.

The policy of double standards is unacceptable for multinational companies when measures to ensure the energy transition will be taken in foreign countries, and Russia will be assigned the role of a greenhouse gas sink through the implementation of forest carbon projects.

WWF-Russia supports only forest carbon projects that meet certain criteria. Since not all of these criteria are accounted in specific verification standards [3] or standards may change, WWF recommends evaluating projects for compliance with the following criteria:

  • sustainable development of natural ecosystems criterion: contribution to biodiversity maintenance, provision of ecosystem services, improvement of the adaptive potential of forest ecosystems, support of local communities;
  • permanence of the climate effect criterion, including through monitoring and evaluation;
  • additionality criterion (the project should introduce additional measures, rather than formalizing pre-existing obligations) and ensure real emissions reduction and/or increased absorption of greenhouse gases;
  • absence of leaks criterion, that is, the project should not lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and/or a decrease in their absorption beyond the project boundaries (or this effect is addressed within the project);
  • adequate implementation time period for the type of project in terms of carbon budget, sustainability, and payback criterion;
  • risk assessment criterion, that is, for the project, possible risks of its implementation should be evaluated, including factors such as wildfires, pest outbreaks, diseases, the impact of droughts, etc., and measures to reduce risks should be developed;
  • open access to the project information criterion, that is, the projects should be available for discussion and feedback, set out in understandable language, include a geographical reference and a detailed description; the information about the project, including all the calculations of the greenhouse gases balance change as a result of the project and the input data for such calculations should be publicly available. The monitoring system of the indicators should also be open, based on spatial and quantitative data, and provide for the possibility of independent checks, including using online methods.

WWF-Russia accepts the following types of forest carbon projects:

  • prevention of logging of intact forest landscapes;
  • fire protection of forests [4];
  • afforestation: planting and further cultivation of forests on non-forest lands (including those that are going out of agricultural circulation in cases wh ere forest planting is ecologically and socially justified [5]) wh ere forests grew before, but for some reason their natural restoration is impossible or difficult [6];
  • optimization of reforestation, including the creation of more productive and climate-resilient plantings in appropriate climatic zones;
  • optimization of forest care, increasing the productivity of industrial forests and biomass reserves in forests while continuing their economic use;
  • optimization of logging technologies and other economic activities in forests, leading to greenhouse gas emissions reduction, primarily in terms of preventing soil and wetland disturbance;
  • development of non-timber forest management as an alternative to wood harvesting;
  • illegal forest use reduction;
  • secondary use of wood products, replacement of more energy-intensive types of products with wood, increase in the volume of wood used for products with long service life, more complete use of timber residues.

WWF-Russia does not accept the following types of forest carbon projects:

  • planting forest wh ere it can regrow naturally within acceptable timeframes and on forest lands included in the reforestation fund (logging sites and burnt areas, dead stands);
  • planting invasive species;
  • afforestation on naturally non-forested lands (steppes, meadows, etc.);
  • increase in forest productivity through fertilization;
  • any other projects that may pose a threat to biodiversity, the sustainability of natural ecosystems, human rights or have other negative consequences.

In Russia, the climate effect of forestry projects should be regarded as additional, including providing financial support to the overall goal of ensuring sustainable forestry and preventing degradation of forest ecosystems.

WWF-Russia believes that forest carbon projects implemented in Russia should meet the criteria set out in this position, and project types listed above should be implemented in the first place.

Besides there is still a huge uncertainty in the data for assessing the sequestration function of forests (particularly in Russia) and the data currently used for such estimates raise doubts about their reliability. WWF-Russia believes that the implementation of forest carbon projects in Russia should lead to a real increase in carbon uptake by forests at the national level, therefore, for the purposes of assessing the carbon budget, the data on forest characteristics should be not older than 10 years with mandatory annual updating of forest cover losses from natural and anthropogenic factors (fires, windfalls, logging, etc.). In addition, all calculations of greenhouse gas uptake by forests and the source data for these calculations should be publicly available in order to independently confirm their reliability by any stakeholders.

[3] It deals about the standards of verification of voluntary carbon projects.

[4] In detail, see WWF-Russia’s position regarding forest fires: https://wwf.ru/en/about/positions/lesnye-pozhary/

[5] In detail, see WWF-Russia’s position regarding forests growing on agricultural lands: https://wwf.ru/en/about/positions/lesa-rastushchie-na-zemlyakh-selskokhozyaystvennogo-naznacheniya/

[6] In detail, see WWF-Russia’s position regarding forest planting: https://wwf.ru/en/about/positions/pozitsiya-wwf-rossii-po-posadke-lesa/