California Tropical Forest Standard
Recognizing that addressing climate change requires a comprehensive look at the causes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32; Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006) directed the California Air Resources Board (CARB or Board) to consult with the federal government and other jurisdictions to identify the most effective strategies and methods to reduce GHGs, manage GHG control programs, and 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. One of the most studied sectors within which mitigation actions have been proposed internationally has been tropical forests.
Emissions from the deforestation and degradation of tropical forests accounts for an estimated 11-14% of all global CO2 emissions. Given the scale of GHG emissions from tropical deforestation, robust climate efforts must include mechanisms to reduce these emissions.
CARB staff developed a California Tropical Forest Standard to provide a rigorous methodology for assessing jurisdiction-scale programs that reduce deforestation and to incentivize responsible action and investment. The Board endorsed the Standard at its September 19, 2019 Board hearing. Endorsement of the Standard does not result in any regulatory changes in California or any linkage with any jurisdiction, nor does it allow any tropical forest offset credits into the California Cap-and-Trade Program.
The California Tropical Forest Standard (Standard) was originally released in September 2018 for a November 16, 2018 Board hearing. No action was taken on the Standard at the November 16, 2018 Board hearing. Following the Board hearing, CARB continued to assess issues raised by stakeholders and received additional input from members of the Legislature. Based on consideration of these issues and input, CARB updated the Standard, and the Board endorsed the Standard at the September 19, 2019 Board hearing. The updates served to strengthen, bolster, and clarify provisions of the Standard to further address stakeholder comments. The Standard provides a strong signal to value the preservation of tropical forests over continued destructive activities such as oil exploration and extraction, and ensures rigorous social and environmental safeguards for indigenous peoples and local communities.
The Standard specifies criteria to assess jurisdiction-scale programs that reduce emissions from tropical deforestation. The Standard leverages nearly a decade of work of the California-founded Governors' Climate and Forests (GCF) Task Force and builds on Under 2 MOU commitments. The Standard expands upon existing norms and requirements from the United Nations and other international bodies such as the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, previous staff work evaluating expert recommendations and public input, voluntary carbon market tools and efforts, and GCF Task Force member programs. CARB will proactively monitor implementation and progress made by jurisdictions who have adopted and/or utilized the Standard and report back to the Board annually on progress being made.