Growing money from carbon
KATHMANDU: Sita KC with a team of field researchers and community forest users group of Dolakha has hiked through dense forests in Dolakha. Guided by the team of forest rangers and other experts, KC and representatives of different community forests in Dolakha have spent days in Charnawati Watershed area spread over 5,996 hectares of forest land to determine how much carbon is stored there.
“Charnawati sequestered a total of almost 4.6 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2011,” said KC proudly.
The watershed area was paid $45,535 for playing an important role in forest conservation .
One can earn money by felling trees and selling them. But this is the first instance in Nepal where people have been rewarded for not cutting down trees. Kayarkhola watershed, Chitwan and Ludikhola watershed, Gorkha have also been rewarded for sequestering carbon through community-based forest management.
Growing money from carbon
“It might sound unbelievable, but we are growing money from carbon,” exclaimed Bhuraman Ghimire, Secretary of REDD network of Ludikhola Watershed Area.
Initially he hadn’t believed in getting money by saving forests. “We knew that forests only gave timber and fodder, but the concept of saving carbon and earning money was entirely a new thing for us,” recalled Ghimire.
The 1,888-hectare Ludikhola sequestered slightly less than 1.5 million tons of carbon in 2011 and received an amount of $27,560.
Likewise, the Kayarkhola watershed spread over 2,383 hectares sequestered slightly more than 2.5 million tons of carbon this year and was paid $21,905. Within these three watershed areas, there are 105 community forests — 58 in Dolakha, 31 in Gorkha and 16 in Chitwan.
Looking for alternatives
To save carbon in forests, these watershed areas have started to opt for alternative sources of energy. The users of different community forests have started to make bio-gas, reformed cooking stoves and cooking stoves made of iron. “As firewood is the main source of energy, switching to alternative energy sources has reduced people’s dependence upon forest resources,” shared Man Bahadur Khadka, Coordinator of Kayarkhola Watershed Area REDD Network.
They have also started tree plantation in bare community and private lands. “There was a total increment of 27,000 tons of carbon within one year. It is a positive indicator. But to expect big result, we have to wait still a few more years,” Rijan Tamrakar, Forest Officer at ANSAB informed.
A project within REDD +
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in collaboration with the Federation of Community Forest Users, Nepal (FECOFUN) and the Asia Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bio resources (ANSAB), has piloted the first Forest Carbon Trust Fund (FCTF) in these three watershed areas of Nepal. The FCTF in Nepal is being implemented within the project on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation Plus (REDD+) since 2009.
REDD, that formed a part of Cancun Agreement in COP 16 at Cancun, Mexico on December 2010, is a mechanism to create an incentive for developing countries to protect, better manage and wisely use their forest resources, contributing to the global fight against climate change. Later REDD was expanded to REDD +, which goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in reducing emissions.
“The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) gave the seed money of $100,000 for the fund in this project,” informed Bhaskar Singh Karky (PhD), a resource economist at ICIMOD. The project will end in 2013. “It is a pilot fund trust which will help to identify how performance-based REDD + can be implemented at local level within a community forestry setting in future,” Karky informed
Deforestation often occurs in developing countries like ours because of poverty and political instability. This project has tried to address those issues. “REDD payment are being allocated to the communities mainly being based on four criteria — quantity of forest carbon saved above the baseline, number of households of indigenous people and Dalits, the ratio of men and women and number of poor households within the project area, informed Brikha Bahadur Shahi, focal person of REDD Programme at FECOFUN.
Clarifying the reason behind not allocating all the money only on the basis of carbon quantity, Karky said, “The size of population, per hectare forest in different areas and population composition in each area is different from the other. And allocating money on the basis of those four criteria is done to maintain the equity.”
Though it is only the pilot project, it has a significant role to provide guidance for implementing REDD plus at national level. “We do not have any policy regarding the implementation of REDD till today. The lessons learnt from this project, will be helpful for understanding what kind of governance system will be required for implementing REDD plus at national level,” claimed Shahi.
Khadka shared, “Though we have received small amount from this project, it has been clear that if the country opts for carbon trading, then we will be able to make more money by saving forests.”
What’s carbon trading?
Parties with commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, the industrialised countries with greenhouse gas emission limitations, have accepted targets for limiting or reducing emissions. These targets are expressed as levels of allowed emissions or ‘assigned amounts’, over the 2008-2012 commitment periods. Emissions trading, as set out in Article 17 of the Kyoto Protocol, allows countries that have emission units to spare — emissions permitted them but not ‘used’ — to sell this excess capacity to countries that are over their targets. Thus, a new commodity was created in the form of emission reductions or removals. Since carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas, people speak simply of trading in carbon. Carbon is now tracked and traded like any other commodity. This is known as the carbon market.