California Tropical Forest Standard creates stringent model for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from tropical forests
As the Global Climate Action Summit draws near, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) today unveiled a proposal for a science-based standard to ensure that greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions from tropical forest carbon offset programs are real, verifiable and additional to carbon mitigation efforts already underway around the world.
“Recent research has found that the world’s tropical forests are now emitting twice as much carbon dioxide as they sequester,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “That means we are wasting the promise of one of the world’s greatest natural GHG emissions reducing tools. The California Tropical Forest Standard offers an opportunity to curb that waste by providing reduced emissions and improving forest health, while also providing increased protection and economic opportunity for the people who live in and most directly care for our tropical forests.”
The California Standard
Carbon offsets are used by companies that must comply with a regulatory requirement to reduce their GHG emissions. An offset represents an actual emissions reduction that takes place somewhere other than the site of the facility with the compliance obligation. In this case, that would be a rain forest.
The proposed California Tropical Forest Standard supplies metrics to assess offset crediting programs that reduce emissions from tropical deforestation. The standard also specifies critical social and environmental safeguards designed to ensure indigenous and local communities are involved in the design, implementation, and benefits of any offset program.
Reducing emissions from deforestation, combined with the sequestration potential of forests, may account for as much as 50 percent of the climate mitigation solution. The standard is available now for use in programs across the globe acting to reduce GHG emissions in tropical forests. It also provides criteria for potential future inclusion of international offsets in a cap-and-trade program.
In California, the proposed standard provides a basis for a future public regulatory process to incorporate the standard into CARB’s Cap-and-Trade Regulation. The standard would not allow tropical forest offsets into the existing Cap-and-Trade Program without such a public process. Nor would it result in any immediate linkage with other jurisdictions; any such linkage would require that CARB conduct linkage findings pursuant to Senate Bill 1018.
AB 32, approved by the legislature in 2006, directed CARB to consult with national governments and other jurisdictions to identify the most effective strategies and methods to reduce GHGs and manage GHG control programs. It also specifically directed CARB to facilitate the development of integrated and cost-effective regional, national and international GHG reduction programs.
CARB began assessing emerging international mitigation actions as it developed the AB 32 Climate Change Scoping Plan in 2008 and the California Cap-and-Trade Program, adopted in 2011. One of the most studied sectors for mitigation internationally is tropical forests.
A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Impact found that most of the excess emissions in tropical forests are caused by human activity. Specifically, the study found that 53 percent of GHG emissions come from timber harvesting, 30 percent are due to wood harvest for fuel, and 17 percent from fire.
The proposed standard leverages nearly a decade of work by the California-founded Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Task Force and GCF partnerships with indigenous communities. Additionally, it builds on commitments by dozens of governments in the Under 2 Coalition.
“This required a lot of hard work and collaboration with our GCF partner jurisdictions, indigenous leaders from within and outside the GCF, and key efforts by leading scientists and national governments such as Norway and Mexico,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “We are excited to advance this standard to recognize and enhance efforts at reducing GHG emissions from tropical deforestation at the jurisdiction scale.”
The standard expands upon existing best-practices from the United Nations and other international bodies such as the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and Carbon Fund, previous staff work evaluating expert recommendations and public input, voluntary carbon market tools and efforts, and GCF Task Force member programs.