Event Reports

International Workshop: Fighting Deforestation

by Peter Hefele

New Business Solutions for Increasing Forest Carbon Storage

Growing global deforestation is not only endangering the variety of species living in forests, but also contributes immensely to the current greenhouse gas emissions. There is a huge market resulting from cutting forests down, but are there actual economic opportunities to gain from fighting deforestation? New business solutions have to be developed to increase in forest carbon storage. The workshop held in Bangkok, Thailand, was jointly organized by KAS Regional Project on Energy Security and Climate Change in Asia- Pacific and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research PIK.

Following the welcoming remarks of Dr. Peter HEFELE, Director of KAS RECAP, Prof. Arild ANGELSEN, Professor at the Norwegian School of Life Sciences, gave a clear and critical assessment of REDD+’s impact and its transformation in the global post-Paris agreement architecture. REDD+ stands for the countries’ effort to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the special efforts to support sustainable forest management and improvement of forest carbon storage.

Prof. Dr. Detlef SPRINZ, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, introduced into the first session on the topic of measuring forest carbon. The panelists Prof.  Steven W. RUNNING, Professor at the Ecology University of Montana, Dr. -Ing. Clémence DUBOIS, a research associate from the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, and Dr. Ake ROSENQVIST, Founder of soloEO, presented different ways forest carbon used to be measured and the new technologies and opportunities forest carbon may be assessed in the future. Such new technologies would be for instance orbiting carbon observatory and measurement of above ground bio mass through radar. The common consensus among the participants was that those new ways represent an immense step in the right direction. To be able to arbitrage this situation, the different methodologies must be standardized and controlled by a global agency. 

The impact of the use of blockchains in environmental protection was discussed in the second session, chaired by Dr.-Ing. Clémence DUBOIS. Márcio BARROS, from the BVRio in Brazil, Michael MARUS, Chief Information Officer and Director of IT in FSC International, and Ingo PUHL, the Co-Founder of the South Pole Group, shared various approaches to use blockchain technology to fight deforestation. Merging  of already existing technologies was again the consensus of the discussion. Communication between the different agencies and registries and the creation of an inter-operational system would enable a holistic framework to keep track of forest carbon and illegal logging.

How can forest carbon storage be translated into new business solutions? Christopher LANMAN, from  UBS in San Francisco, and the panelists LAW Heng Dean, Temasek International in Singapore, Rezal KUSUMAATMADJA, Rimba Makmur Utama in Indonesia, and Kai WINDHORST, GIZ Nepal, discussed  different prospects. To generate money from protecting forests is no longer an idea in the far future, and bears chances for both the recipients and the donors. Forest carbon revenues support innovative ideas about alternative agriculture and the development of carbon markets also bring a lot of opportunities to generate income while fighting deforestation and supporting afforestation. The uncertainty about the rules of this game is hindering further progress in that matter. Therefore there has to be governmental actions, to ensure clear guidelines and to create an environment for forest carbon markets to prosper.

Views on the political aspects of new business opportunities were proposed by Dr. Budi WARDHANA, National Peatland Restoration Agency in Indonesia, Prof. Christina VOIGT, Professor at the University of Oslo in Norway, and Prof. Benjamin CASHORE, Professor at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The focus was on funding forest projects. “REDD is neither quick, easy nor cheap”, Prof. Christina VOIGT stated; therefore safeguard provisions play a crucial role in enabling a common forest carbon market, for both the donor and recipient countries. But an increase in safeguards slows down forest projects at the same time. A middle ground has to be found.

Wrapping up the workshop, Prof. Dr. Detlef SPRINZ noted that standardization and inter-operational ability in the field of measuring and monitoring forest carbon and governmental action clarifying the rules of forest carbon markets are crucial in the future. Without incentives on the domestic level, international financial and political pokes are good intentions, but would not become action.