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FEATURE STORY

Lessons from the World Bank BioCarbon Fund’s First 7 Years of Reforestation Projects

March 9, 2012

In southwest Ethiopia, an ambitious program is restoring degraded forest areas while helping local communities with carbon credit funds.

World Bank Group

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund has launched a report that describes the lessons learned from supporting over 20 reforestation and afforestation projects around the world.
  • The BioCarbon Fund has 18 projects registered with the UNFCCC under the Kyoto Protocol, generating carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism
  • The fund provides recommendations for making implementation of future land use projects easier.

After seven years of pioneering work, the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund has launched a report that describes the lessons learned from supporting over 20 reforestation and afforestation projects around the world.

When the BioCarbon Fund first started its work in 2004, it set out in unchartered territories. There were no guidelines for implementing reforestation and afforestation projects, the Kyoto Protocol wasn’t ratified until a year later, carbon accounting methodologies to provide guidance on how to account for greenhouse gases from such projects didn’t exist, and there were no auditors to verify the implementation of projects.

In time, the BioCarbon Fund helped build the capacity and infrastructure needed for the reforestation and afforestation carbon market: it convinced investors, from both the public and private sector, to join the Fund, it developed the first methodologies – a laborious and costly process – and auditors became accredited using BioCarbon Fund projects. In the first year, nine projects were added to its portfolio despite the lack of infrastructure.

Today, the BioCarbon Fund has 18 projects registered with the UNFCCC under the Kyoto Protocol, generating carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The World Bank consequently has one of the largest and most significant reforestation and afforestation portfolios in the world.

The projects range from the first reforestation project, the Guangxi Watershed in the Pearl River Basin in China, to the first reforestation project in Africa, the Nile Basin project in Uganda. More recently, building on its experience in reforestation and afforestation projects, the BioCarbon Fund is branching out into sectors outside of those allowed by the CDM, such as REDD and soil carbon. In fact, the first ever soil carbon methodology developed by the BioCarbon Fund was just approved and registered with the Verified Carbon Standard in December 2011, for a project involving sustainable land management practices in Kenya.


" When we started thinking about developing reforestation projects, we were alone. Since then, we’ve worked hard to establish greenhouse gas accounting protocols, sorting out how to handle land issues – such as land tenure and project boundaries – and developing local capacity. Our pilot projects have helped pave the way to show that it can be done. "

Ellysar Baroudy

Manager, BioCarbon Fund

The road has not been easy, the Fund’s manager, Ellysar Baroudy, explained at the launch event.

"When we started thinking about developing reforestation projects, we were alone. Since then, we’ve worked hard to establish greenhouse gas accounting protocols, sorting out how to handle land issues – such as land tenure and project boundaries – and developing local capacity. Our pilot projects have helped pave the way to show that it can be done," Baroudy said.

"However, it is clear that there continues to be a need for more work in the land use space, especially in simplification of CDM rules and procedures, to allow for a substantial scaling up of restoring degraded lands. And such work will undoubtedly build on the lessons described in this document," she said.

Based on the many lessons learned, the BioCarbon Fund provides recommendations for making implementation of future land use projects easier. This includes: streamlining CDM procedures to improve the predictability of carbon revenues, simplifying the reforestation and afforestation CDM requirements to reduce transaction costs, and the need to get recognition for social co-benefits such as improved community and environmental resilience to climate change.

Edward Dwumfour, the Task Team Leader for the Humbo Regeneration Project in Ethiopia, shared his thoughts on the challenges of implementing a project which was rather simple from a technical point of view – allowing trees and shrubs on a mountain to grow rather than allowing people and animals to cut them down – but which was complicated to implement.

"One of the main challenges in Humbo," he said, "was convincing the project stakeholders – the government, the NGO implementing the project and the seven local communities – to work together and trust each other. This is possibly the first time this has happened in Ethiopia."

Andrew Steer, the World Bank’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, who moderated the event and praised the intrepid nature of the BioCarbon Fund. "BioCarbon Fund projects don’t just reduce carbon emissions, they also achieve double and even triple wins as they create higher incomes for the poor, and often make those incomes more resilient to climate change," he said.

Since the start of the BioCarbon Fund seven years ago, the journey to develop reforestation projects has generated valuable lessons learned that we hope policy-makers and project developers will take into account when developing future projects.

 


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