May 25, 2010 — As Carbon Expo 2010 opens this week in Cologne, Germany, carbon traders face an uncertain future and lower prices, with a new global climate change agreement still up in the air.
But countries in sub-Saharan Africa remain optimistic that preserving and rejuvenating their forests, among other climate-friendly efforts, will someday bring revenues as well as environmental and other quality-of-life benefits.
In the highlands south of Mount Kenya, for instance, a small-scale tree-planting project operated by the Green Belt Movement is helping local people increase their food supply, and build skills and incomes while replenishing forests lost over time to illegal logging.
Under a 2006 agreement with the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund, the project could eventually sell 375,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emission reductions by 2017, with the possibility of selling an additional 150,000 tons.
In the world of carbon finance, though, that amount isn’t large. The base of 375,000 tons of CO2e is about equivalent to the emissions from 68,181 cars in the United States over a year, using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates for the average vehicle (about 5.5 metric tons of CO2e) in 2004.
But the effort is an important test of whether larger-scale projects would yield greater financial rewards while promoting low-carbon growth, say World Bank experts.
“Africa’s land use challenges are so big—we must think of carbon finance as more than an experiment and begin using the carbon instruments as a reliable resource for Africa, looking closely at how we can best collaborate with partners so carbon finance becomes a transformational tool for Africa,” says Inger Andersen, the Bank’s Director of Sustainable Development for Africa.
‘No More Cutting’
The Kenya project is one of several in Africa testing the capacity of local groups to comply with the complicated rules governing projects that sell carbon offsets under the Kyoto Protocol of the current climate change regime.
Deforestation is increasing in Kenya, as it is throughout Africa. Only 2% of Kenya is covered by forest, according to the Green Belt Movement led by 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai. Yet, maintaining and rejuvenating forests is the main way Africa can contribute to climate change mitigation and participate in the carbon market.