Just like any other form of capital, if we don’t invest in forests, it gets degraded.The process of removing carbon from the atmosphere is all about photosynthesis, leading to the maintenance and growth of Plants and Trees.
This results in carbon being sequestered above ground (vegetation), Below Ground (Soil: Roots) and decaying trees. The sequestration varies with time, a forest captures more carbon when its growth rate is higher. But the role of forests goes way beyond carbon, it plays a major part in climate mitigation and balancing our well-being. Climate regulation, erosion control, water purification, conservation of species and even spiritual connection are some of the services provided by forests.Just like any other form of capital, if we don’t invest in them, it get’s degraded. This principle applies to our Natural Capital and when it comes to forests, we still haven’t find a way to value many of the services that Nature have been providing us for free.
The carbon credit market, namely when it comes to Nature-based solutions, offer us a way to value these services having as a basis the compensation of greenhouse gas emissions of individuals and companies. Reflora is focused in supporting the creation and preservation of Forests around the world by democratizing the access to carbon credits that are creating real environmental and social impact.
The voluntary carbon market allows companies to access and support land based projects that bring a greater value for the environment and often co-benefits such as support to indigenous people, the provision of jobs and other activities advocated in the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Forests are 90% of the land sector sequestration capacity. And when it comes to natural climate solutions, there are 4 types of projects that we highlight in the carbon credit market:
1. REDD Program – Conservation; 2. Aforestation or Reforestation; 3. Agro-forestry; 4. Improved Forest Management
1. REDD Program
The conversion and degradation of Forests is releasing carbon already sequestrated back in the atmosphere. In an ever-growing population scenario, it gets harder to avoid forests being turned into pastures and plantations of soy or palm. Degraded and mismanaged forests also present a higher risk of wildfires that result in durable consequences for the climate, biodiversity and the economy. Other causes for deforestation include illegal logging, fuelwood harvesting and mining operations.
“Between 2015-2017 the global loss of tropical forests contributed to 8-10% of annual human emissions of carbon dioxide”
The REDD program tackles this exact problem of deforestation and brings value, in the form of the amount of carbon stocked, in keeping the trees up and growing. These are conservation projects that are actively avoiding the conversion of land from proven harmful activities. The purpose is to provide economic incentives to preserve standing forests whereby GHG credits are issued to projects that successfully reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. By definition the engagement with local community plays a very significant role and in many cases the projects are able to present them alternative sources of income that will incentivize them in protecting native forest.
2. Afforestation and Reforestation
Afforestation / Reforestation (AR) projects act directly on capturing carbon from the atmosphere and can bring many co-benefits to local communities. These are projects that restore land that has been degraded by planting thousand of trees that will generate a source of income while nature is regrowing.Within the AR projects it is possible to find ones that are focused on maximizing the amount of carbon stocked, and others that also apply alternative sources of income that can be generated by the forest, such as sustainable tourism or fruit trees.
Given that these projects demand the plantation of thousands of trees in large areas, they require an higher level of investment and labor force. In one hand normally it results in higher prices charged on carbon credits and on the other it also provides the opportunity for hiring locals.
These projects represent a support in nourishing the soil, purifying and retention of water and fostering conservation of species, normally through native species. However there is place for the use of trees that provide economic value, as timber.
Take from “The lost link”, a documentary about the agroforestry movement in Brazil.
As mentioned the agriculture models being used come with great prejudice and represent one of the largest sources of GHG emission being released. The use of monoculture, for instance, can drive out all the nutrients that the soil need to be healthy and within some years the area gets degraded.
Agroforestry has as basis the diversification of the crops and trees that will be used to support the long-term sustainability of its operation. Moreover, this combination brings multiple benefits from safer sources of food crops and better livelihoods to carbon sequestration.
We can also find agro-forestry in conservation and ARR projects because of its capacity to bring extra sources of income.
4. Improved Forest Management
Improved Forest Management (IFM) acts on existing production forests by adopting a specific new forest management practice or altering a pre-existing timber harvest or natural disturbance regime.
The way we harvest trees to produce furniture or paper play a significant role with the balance we have between nature and society. However, there are still many cases of unsustainable logging of trees justified by illegal activities and the lack of economic benefits.
The implementation of sustainable practices requires more resources and time, and carbon credits can make the difference when deciding which management practice to implement. Many of these approaches have been used for centuries and the idea is to replicate the natural regeneration cycle of the forest. By Tiago Alves Head of Projects at Reflora.