The move to Net Zero Carbon both by governments and in the private sector has created a demand for carbon credits, but to date this demand has hardly moved the needle on reforestation rates. This lack of success in targeting corporate spend on carbon credits (a carbon credit is one tonne of CO₂ sequestered or not emitted) towards reforestation has been caused by two problems.
Cost of reforestation carbon credits. For a reforestation project to be successful there needs to be continuing payments to local communities to ensure the forest is maintained and protected. As a result, most reforestation schemes of natural forest have credits costing around the $15 mark. Renewable energy credits where the ‘savings’ on emissions by generating power from renewable resources can be purchased for around as low as 87 cents, but for these credits the purchasing company has nothing to show for their purchase except a calculation of the theoretical savings on emissions. However, this massive discrepancy in costs has made the purchase of reforestation credits a luxury option to date. The price of reforestation credits is primarily determined by the amount of carbon sequestered per hectare. By concentrating on forests with high water tables (mangroves, peat forests) where decomposition of organic material is halted by the anoxic soil conditions and the carbon is locked in, then it is possible to get the costs of reforestation down to a level where reforestation carbon credits are a competitively priced option.
Supply side shortage of projects. To avoid double counting, the rights to the carbon need to be agreed by the relevant country government to ensure they do not include the same carbon in their own national sequestration figures (NDCs). The process of developing these national schemes and their legal frameworks has slowed decision making by governments over issuing of carbon rights to private sector reforestation schemes and therefore limited supplies. The NDC maps of various countries (ie the carbon sequestration claimed by the govts) are expanding to demonstrate to the outside world that those countries are meeting their Paris Accord targets when in fact they are just ‘discovering forest areas they had forgotten about in their first NDC submissions’
Opwall in conjunction with the Hoffman family Foundation and Global Footprint Network has formed a new company (rePLANET) to drive mangrove reforestation rates around the world using the increasing demand for carbon credits from corporates. The first step in this was to fully account for the carbon contained in mangroves. When mangroves are clear felled the sediment on which they are growing and which contains large stores of carbon (up to 1000 tonnes per hectare) is gradually scoured out by tidal or riverine currents and the carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere. By replanting these areas, the mangroves lock in the remaining carbon in the sediment. For reforestation schemes, the first step should therefore be to core the sediment where the mangroves are being replanted to determine the levels of carbon remaining at the time of planting. However, it can’t be assumed that all this carbon will automatically be oxidised and released to the atmosphere, so to determine the levels that would be released in the absence of replanting, coring is then completed on nearby control sites (areas with mangroves that were removed 25+ years previously) and this value is then deducted from the remaining carbon in the area to be planted to determine Net Residual Carbon. Using this approach then many mangrove reforestation schemes will achieve 500+ tonnes over a 25-year period which brings down the costs of carbon credits to around $5 -$8.
For details of possible collaborations to generate these credits or purchase of credits from existing projects please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
rePLANET is targeting investment in multiple countries across the world with funding going to those countries where decision making is quickest and this has led to 10 reforestation projects potentially generating 10 million credits being developed.
Note all of rePLANET’s projects are certified by Plan Vivo, one of the oldest carbon certification bodies. What is different about Plan Vivo certification is that 60% of the income raised from carbon credit sales has to be received by impoverished communities in the reforested areas. This prevents companies from profiteering and enables significant income streams to be generated for these communities whilst at the same time helping with climate change.
In addition, the rePLANET projects will all have much greater transparency than other reforestation projects by developing a website that has a page for each hectare reforested showing the current state of the replanted trees, who is benefitting from the community payments and the carbon sequestration. Opwall survey teams will also be gathering annual biodiversity data on these replanted areas.
The projects being developed by rePLANET are:
Restoring Sulawesi shrimp farms
One of the biggest causes of the removal of mangrove s in SE Asia is to develop shrimp ponds. Once an investor clears an area of mangrove and successfully develops a shrimp farming pond many others in the community start doing the same and clearing additional areas. However, as the cleared areas grow exponentially and all shading trees are removed, the success of the ponds decline because of high water temperatures and water quality issues. For many farmers 3 out of 4 attempts at growing crops of shrimps fail and this gets the farmers deeper and deeper into debt with local money lenders. As a result, up to 40% of all shrimp farm areas in SE Sulawesi are abandoned or only used intermittently. The rePLANET scheme is offering to buy back or long term lease the cleared areas through a Community Trust that then reforests the areas and also makes regular payments to the local communities to protect the regrowing trees. An alternative option is to develop eco-empangs where part of the farm is reforested but the remaining deep-water areas continue to be used for shrimp production.
Restoring mangroves in the Bay of Fonseca, Honduras
Large areas of mangroves have been cleared in this protected area by local communities for building materials and firewood. The rePLANET project for this area is paying those same communities to reforest the damaged areas and to make annual payments for educational and business development in the communities as long as the mangroves remain undamaged.
Protecting coastal communities in Sian Ka’an Reserve, Mexico
This rePLANET project is helping CONANP, operators of the Sian Ka’an marine reserve to reforest areas of mangrove within the reserve. Coastal communities worried about storm damage to their villages because of the removal of the mangroves, are keen for the mangroves to be restored. This project will also make annual payments over a 25-year period for community development projects as longa s the mangroves remain intact.
Food security and developing income streams on Buton island, Sulawesi
This rePLANET project differs from the previous ones because it is not targeting mangroves but rather rehabilitating areas of unproductive grassland on Adat (community managed) land in the southern part of Buton island in SE Sulawesi. The communities who mange this land currently get no income from the land and this project aims to reforest the area with Moringa trees (Moringa oleifera) with an understorey crop of peanuts and corn. Moringa is a fast growing tree where the young seed pods and leaves are used as vegetables and extraction of the oil used as a traditional herbal medicine.
There are other projects under development in Indonesia, Honduras, Mexico and Guyana using the long-term Opwall partners.