Experts outline how REDD+ credits could fit into California’s cap-and-trade program


Carbon credits generated by forest conservation activities in tropical countries could play a role in California's cap-and-trade program, helping mitigate climate change and providing benefits to local communities, said a panel of experts on Friday.

Carbon credits generated by forest conservation activities in tropical countries could play a role in California’s cap-and-trade program, helping mitigate climate change and providing benefits to local communities, said a panel of experts on Friday.

The panel, known as the REDD+ Offset Working Group, issued a set of draft recommendations on how the states of Acre in Brazil and Chiapas in Mexico could link efforts to reduce deforestation with the State of California’s new cap-and-trade system. The recommendations come after two years of analysis and consultation.

“These recommendations are a pathway for states and provinces to provide leadership in reducing deforestation and reducing GHGs while benefitting local communities,” said panel member Dan Nepstad, a noted Amazon researcher with the Amazon Institute of Environmental Research or IPAM. “We think these recommendations continue California’s leadership role in global climate policy”.

The recommendations focus on three areas — program architecture, social and environmental safeguards, and legal and institutional issues — according to a statement released by the panel:

  • Program Architecture: including the scope of eligible REDD+ activities, reference levels and additionality, crediting pathways, registry infrastructure, state-level accounting, and systems for measurement monitoring, reporting, and verification;
  • Social and environmental safeguards: to ensure communities and the environment benefit from any offset program; and
  • Legal and institutional issues associated with efforts to link GHG reduction efforts in subnational jurisdictions in foreign countries.

“The issues we tackled in this report are meant to provide clear guidance in creating quality jurisdictional programs that are ready for linkage with California today,” said panel member Gregory Asner, a researcher Stanford University who has pioneered advanced systems for monitoring deforestation and forest degradation. “We believe the mix of these recommendations with the current technology available to monitor, track and report deforestation around the globe are a recipe for success.”

The draft recommendations are now open to comment, according to the panel, which is launching a series of three workshops to collect feedback.

Once finalized this summer, the recommendations will be sent to the governors of California, Aceh, and Chiapas, where they are expected to play a role in advancing the acceptance of compliance-grade REDD+ carbon credits in California’s cap-and-trade system. The recommendations would likely underpin future agreements with other sub-national entities that are part of the Governor’s Climate Forests Task Force (GCF), an initiative that brings together 19 states and provinces from Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Spain, and the United States to develop a framework for REDD+ programs at sub-national levels.

The GCF initiative is broadly viewed as a test case for the inclusion of forest-based carbon offsets in regulatory frameworks for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As such, the GCF has been a lightning rod for criticism of REDD+ and carbon offsets. Opponents of REDD+ say a poorly designed mechanism could fail to reduce carbon emissions, while undermining the rights of forest-dependent people and increasing the risk of land conflict. A report published by Greenpeace last year highlighted some of these concerns specifically in the context of the GCF process.

For its part, the REDD+ Offset Working Group says its recommendations are designed to mitigate these risks. The panel includes a range of scientists, policy experts, and conservationists.

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