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Jodi Rowley, an amphibian researcher from the Australian Museum, writes in her most recent blog about a newly discovered species of frog that gives birth to tadpoles rather than laying eggs.

Found first in Northern Sulawesi’s Nantu Forest, Limnonectes larvaepartus, whose name reflects the species’ unique nature (Larvaepartus: to give birth to larvae), expands the scientific community’s understanding of frogs, Jodi writes.


Limnonectes larvaepartus, a new species of frog discovered  in Nantu

Limnonectes larvaepartus, a new species of frog discovered in Nantu

“Most of the roughly 7,000 species of frog lay eggs in water, where they are fertilized externally, hatch into tadpoles, and start feeding, then gradually develop into frogs. A small percentage of frogs are known to buck the trend and supply their young energy to grow and develop (generally in the form of yolk). Only a dozen or so have internal fertilization, but these frogs lay fertilized eggs, or tiny frogs. Until this week, we knew of no frog, anywhere in the world, that gave birth to tadpoles.”

Beyond being extraordinary in its reproduction, the tiny frog sports fangs in its lower jaw.

The species was recently described and officially named and that paper can be found here.

Jodi, the engine behind the amphibian discovery trip to Indonesia’s Nantu, with colleagues has looked at the breeding mode of Limnonectes larvaepartus in more detail and they have described its tadpole for the first time here.

She says the reproductive novelty of this particular frog emphasizes just how little we know about amphibians overall and how much remains to be discovered from the imperiled forests of Southeast Asia.

Both Jodi and YANI, which administers and protects the Nantu Forest, have long been recipients of grants from ADMCF.

Nantu, 500 square kilometers of virgin rainforest, is located in the heart of the Wallacea region in Gorontalo Province, northern Sulawesi, Indonesia. Wallacea is the wildlife transition zone between Asia and Australia and replete with endemic species.



One of the world’s most important and largest-remaining stretches of protected forests could be lost within the month to mining, logging and plantation companies that want to reclassify the land.

If a new spatial planning goes ahead, the governor and parliament of Aceh province in Indonesia would hand over forest vital to an estimated 4 million people as watershed protection and critical to food security and livelihoods.

The forest being proposed for re-zoning is part of the protected Leuser ecosystem, which is one of the richest expanses of tropical rain forest  in Southeast Asia and a global repository of biodiversity.

Action NOW (sign the petition with link below) is urgent ahead of expected approval by the Aceh provincial parliament, where it   significant support.  Following that vote, the plan must then be approved by national government in Jakarta and a Forestry Ministry spokesman there has been quoted in press reports saying it could be approved within the month.

Approval of the plan would open up the forest for mining, paper and palm oil plantations the forest.The new spatial plan would grant currently protected land for mining, logging and palm oil. The plan would also approve an extensive new network of roads that would run through protected forests.

Leuser is located on the northern tip of Sumatra and is home to critically endangered orangutans, rhinos, and elephants. Aceh has the most forest cover of any province in Sumatra, which lost 36 percent of its forests in the past 20 years.

East Asia Minerals, the (TSX:EAS) Toronto-based mining company, with silver, gold and copper operations in Aceh and Sulawesi has said it is working closely with government officials in Aceh to obtain reclassification of  1.6 million hectares from “protected forest” to “production forest.”

In a statement, the company hailed the progress toward the rezoning as “positive news for mineral extraction in the area.”

The Aceh government banned the granting of new logging permits six years ago to protect the forest, but a new administration since last year is in favor of allowing logging again – hence the change in focus from protection of forests to allowing their commercial use.

Please click this link and sign the petition.

Eating Asia’s Forests

Lisa Genasci —  October 20, 2012 — 4 Comments

View of palm oil plantation in Cigudeg, Bogor

palm oil plantation

Most of us don’t realize that many of the products we use, the foods we eat are causing deforestation on a massive scale in Southeast Asia and are devastating to our planet’s biodiversity.

The culprit is palm oil, which is a key ingredient in many common foods, shampoos, soap and pet products, lubricants, pesticides and paints.  It even helps fuel our cars.

Palm oil has become a silent part of our everyday lives and accounts for 30 percent of world vegetable oil. And that’s how it’s usually identified on the list of ingredients – as vegetable oil so we often don’t even know what we are using.

Our consumption of the versatile lipid is soaring.  Demand is predicted to more than double by 2030 and to triple by 2050. China is the biggest consumer of palm oil, importing 18 per cent of global supply.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, forests are being cleared at an alarming rate, estimated at 2 million hectares a year, wiping out endangered species such as the orangutan, the black sun bear, the Sumatran tiger and many others.  The two countries produce 90 percent of the world’s palm oil.

A new study by Stanford and Yale researchers estimates that 75 percent of deforestation in Indonesia was directly attributable to land use changes, from forestry to plantation. The study was released this month and published in the journal Nature Climate Change

Indonesia already has 8 million hectares of oil palm plantations, but has plans for another four million by 2015 dedicated to biofuel production alone. In total, the country produced more than 23 million tonnes of biofuels last year and is setting aside 18 million hectares to produce much more.

Malaysia in 2011 produced 18.9 million tonnes of palm oil on nearly 5 million hectares and was the second largest producer of palm oil.

Beyond feeding our snack habit, another challenge for forests is that governments are pushing to increase the use of biofuel, which ironically is seen as a quick fix to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the EU By 2020, 10 per cent of fuel will be biofuel, while China expects 15 per cent of its fuel to be grown in fields.

But in both Indonesia and Malaysia, in order to plant palm oil, often carbon-rich peatlands are being drained and then burned, releasing stored C02 into atmosphere already clogged with greenhouse gases from razing dry land forests. This represents possibly more carbon emissions than burning fossil fuels.

English: Deforestation and forest burning for ...

And not infrequently palm oil plantations are just an excuse for clearing forest because the profits associated with sales of tropical timber are substantial. In this case, companies seek concessions and access to land that is forested but don’t ever bother to plant palm oil.

We might think that forest and peat swamp loss in Southeast Asia sounds bad but it’s far away so why do we care?

We care for many reasons.  But if we are thinking purely about self-interest, the effects of forest loss can be seen globally in changing climate patterns and erratic weather.

Forest cutting is responsible for 17 per cent of global carbon emissions, meaning this is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and equal to emissions for the entire global transport sector. It is also comparable to the total annual CO2 emissions of the US or China, according to the UK Eliasch Review, “Climate Change, Financing Global Forests”.

If the international community does nothing to reduce deforestation, modeling for the Eliasch Review estimates that the global economic cost of climate change alone caused by deforestation could reach $1 trillion a year by 2100.

Beyond the effects of climate change from deforestation, we look to forests as sources of vital biodiversity.

Estimates are that nearly half of the world’s species of plants, animals and microorganisms will be destroyed or severely threatened over the next 25 years because of rainforest deforestation. As rainforest species disappear, so do many possible cures for disease.

At least 120 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources. While 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, less than 1% of tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists. We just don’t know enough about the significance of forests to sit back while they disappear.

Locally, the consequences of deforestation on such massive scale are even more immediate.  Forests help regulate regional rainfall, offer defense from floods, maintain soils and their moisture, and generally offer ecosystem services crucial for maintaining life and livelihoods. Globally, an estimated 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their welfare and livelihoods to one degree or another.

So is it worth it to eat that biscuit, that chocolate, choose a shampoo that contains palm oil and how do we know if it’s not even labeled?

The rule is that if the label shows the saturated fat content is close to 50%, there is a good chance that the vegetable oil will in fact be palm oil. Among those items that should be immediately suspect are biscuits, processed foods, chocolates and snacks.

Other key tip-offs that a food item might contain palm oil listed among ingredients are cocoa butter equivalent (CBE), cocoa butter substitute (CBS), palm olein and palm stearine.

When looking at ingredients in non-food products such as soaps and detergents, those that contain palm oil include: elaeis guineensis, sodium lauryl sulphate, cetyl alcohol, stearic acid, isopropyl and other palmitates, steareth-2, steareth-20 and fatty alcohol sulphates.

Next time you reach for a snack, paint a wall or fill up your car, do your best to make sure palm oil isn’t an ingredient or at least that the brand claims to use oil from sustainable sources.

There are many issues around what makes palm oil sustainable as well as the industry body, the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) itself, but this is at least a step in the right direction.


Orangutans inhabiting an Aceh protected peat forest surrounded by oil palm concessions are at risk of being completely wiped out by the end of this year if fires set to clear the land aren’t stopped, according to conservationists in Indonesia.

Ian Singleton of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) said that only about 200 of the 3,000 Orangutans living in the Tripa forest in the early 1990s remain. In all, only an estimated 6,600 Sumatran Orangutans are left anywhere in the wild, he said.

This has come as the pace of burning in the Tripa Peat swamps has accelerated in the past few weeks, possibly as palm oil companies take advantage of Aceh’s uncertain current status under an “interim” Governor, conservationists said.

The real concern is that at the current pace of destruction there will be no remaining High Conservation Value Forest and no more protected wildlife in the area by the end of 2012.

Graham Usher of the Foundation for a Sustainable Ecosystem said that only 12,000 of the original 60,000-hectare forest remains. Much of the forest is now highly fragmented, with the largest remaining block measuring less than 8,400 hectares and only one other fragment over 1,000 hectares.

Any orangutans trapped in the remaining small fragments of forest amid the burning are now effectively refugees of forest that no longer exists and are likely to die from starvation if not killed or captured.

Just in recent months, Usher told a Jakarta press conference, at least 100 Orangutans have been killed, while an additional 100 died between 2009 and 2011 in the process of conversion of the palm oil concessions or from starvation.

According to Usher, over 100 fire hot spots were recorded between 19 and 25 March among the area’s palm oil plantations.This is apparently perhaps the worst burning since satellite monitoring of Indonesia’s fire hot spots began in late 2000.

A number of the fire hotspots were coming from an apparently illegal palm oil concession, considered by many in breach of Indonesia’s moratorium on clearing forest.

The PT Kallista Alam concession permit was, according to the conservationists, issued three months after the government’s moratorium map was issued. There is currently an ongoing legal case in Aceh concerning the same concession in which a decision is expected April 3rd.

This suit alleges that the concession was clearly issued inside the Leuser Ecosystem, which is designated a National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection in Indonesia’s National Spatial Plan, established in 2008 under Government regulation 26.

Conservationists also say that forest clearing and drainage canal construction began in the concession even before the permit was issued, that the permit was issued while the concession was clearly shown as off-limits to any new plantations under the President’s official map establishing a moratorium on new permits.

The request was made Thursday for the government immediately to order all oil palm companies with concessions within the Tripa Peat Swamps in the Leuser Ecosystem to immediately cease all land clearing and burning.

In addition, it was suggested that the government of Norway immediately suspend the 2010 bilateral letter of intent that was the basis of the moratorium until the burning has been thoroughly investigated.

By far the most fire hotspots, however, were located in the PT Surya Panen Subur 2 Concession, a 13,000 hectare palm oil concession that formerly belonged to PT Astra Agro Lestari, in which Hong Kong-based Jardines owns a majority stake.

That was purchased by Astra Agro Lestari in 2007 and then sold to Triputra Group, founded by a former CEO of Astra, according to SOCP, in late 2010, following heavy criticism of Jardines connection to the concession in international press reports.

Why would Jardines want any association with a palm oil concession located in a protected area and, indeed, why would the company then turn around and sell that under pressure to a loose associate rather than set it aside for conservation?

Forest Impact Bonds:

Lisa Genasci —  January 4, 2012 — Leave a comment

We have been thinking a lot about Social Impact bonds and how the concept might apply to conservation finance, which is something about which we ponder a great deal.

Why not a Forest Impact Bond, issued against promised aid streams from sovereign development banks wanting to mitigate climate change and/or promote forest conservation?

These could work in circumstances where communities are key to protecting High Conservation Value forest.

FIBs would be focused on impact-driven community development (schools, livelihoods, health, education) but linked also to real conservation outcomes.

Time is slipping as we try to establish the best way to protect ourselves at scale from climate change, manage and protect our forests for future generations.

The multiple challenges around forest conservation is something we’ve written about previously in this blog here and here.

In essence, the problem is how to compensate governments and landholders for the huge rewards they reap cutting trees from native tropical forests; how to balance development with conservation.

Since 57 percent of the world’s forests are located in developing countries, it is hard to make the economic argument that these areas should not be developed for the benefit of the national population.  Indeed, timber revenues represent the major, sometimes only, export commodity of a country.

The Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests has estimated  that 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions – an amount equal to the transportation sector – are from deforestation.

At the same time, the scale of financing required to halve deforestation will reach US$30 billion annually by 2020, the U.S.-based commission estimated in the same report.

Only turning to the global capital markets will provide sufficient funding to meet the challenge deforestation presents today.  That strategy could include the use of bonds, which would allow the desperately needed investment at scale.

Communities and Livelihoods the Key to Conservation

Key to this discussion is that not only do governments and landholders need to be compensated for not chopping forests for timber, but local livelihoods are also often linked to forests.

Nearly 90 percent of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide depend on forests, which provide them with building materials, food, coffee, cocoa, medicinal plants and income from other sources.

Without access to the forests not only do many of these people lose livelihoods but they also may lose their crops to droughts or floods as climates change with deforestation.

Thus communities living in and around forested areas are key to their protection.

Still, even with access to forests, local populations who face the immediate need of supporting their families often don’t recognize the value of conserving forests for the longer term because they cannot meet their immediate needs for food, housing, clothing and education, among others.

Thus, local communities need both education on the value of long-term forest conservation to their own lives (livelihoods, water etc) and help establishing alternative and sustainable income sources.

At the same time, battling to defeat poverty, poor nations argue they cannot be expected to forfeit income from economic activities that lead to deforestation, particularly since there are global  benefits from developing world forest services – carbon, water etc.

They have argued collectively that if global powers want to preserve the rainforests and their natural services provided then those must be paid for.

Rainforest Bonds Not a New Conversation

Indeed, for many years now there has been talk of rainforest bonds, which would help pay the large upfront capital expenditure required to invest in development, livelihoods, conservation to maintain the forests.

Under conventional thought, either forest carbon revenue or other sources of income such those generated by sustainable timber, agriculture or ecosystem service markets (water, biodiversity for example,) would repay investors.

But the conversation around REDD carbon has stalled with regulatory uncertainty. Additionally, in Asia certainly, we are a long way from any scalable ecosystem markets, while the significant upfront investment needed to promote agriculture as an alternative or to build local livelihoods to protect forests is just not available philanthropically.

And that’s just it…the bond conversation has gone on for years with significant players like the Prince’s Rainforest Trust and others eventually pulling back given the difficulties in identifying revenue streams that would work.

Turning to Forest Impact Bonds

So why not step back entirely from the conversation around how to make forests pay and look instead to the large sums promised by sovereign development banks at Copenhagen (US$4.5 billion) and other aid that has yet to find a home for want of knowledge of how to invest those funds with surety and with impact.

And that’s not surprising. Over the past two decades, substantial funds have flooded into Indonesian conservation  (usually to secure national parks or protect wildlife and its habitat) without corresponding transformational change. Over the same period, deforestation has only accelerated, fueled by burgeoning consumption, population explosion and massive urbanization.

So the problem remains, how to ensure that limited funding for conservation is spent with measurable and significant impact? How to balance development and conservation and raise the funds from global capital markets to pay for both?

Indeed, we must increase the availability of performance-linked finance to protect forests for local communities and local governments, in order to maintain them for global biodiversity and as carbon sinks.

In 2007, a similar discussion emerged in the UK around improving social outcomes and reducing uncertainty of funding for social services.

Shortly thereafter, London-based Social Finance introduced the concept of social impact bonds, which target funds to specific projects with measurable results.

If the identified targets are reached, the UK government saves on social programs and those savings are used to repay bond investors, in certain cases with interest. If targets are not reached, bond investors lose out as they would in any junk bond investment.

Turning to the U.S, in last year’s  budget speech, President Obama announced that he had set aside US$100 million for social impact bonds and at the same time two Boston-based companies have recently been established to apply the UK social impact bond concept to the U.S. context.

Why could this innovative approach to generating social impact in the UK and the U.S. not work also to protect forests in Indonesia, targeting communities and livelihoods but at the same time generating extra and measurable impact in conservation?

Given the argument above, and the lack of current appetite for REDD+ and other forms of eco-securitisation backed by forest assets or credits, might we then apply the social impact bond example to community development initiatives in a country like Indonesia?

In this scenario, international government funds, funds from multi-laterals with an interest in combating climate change and conserving  forests for future generations pool funds in an SPV that are then allocated to community development initiatives with specific parameters and measures of impact.

The key would be to persuade the local government to join what would essentially be billed as a development initiative but with additional conservation benefits.

The SPV funds would be available to repay investors in the event that the community development programs, livelihood initiatives, the conservation targets achieve desired results. In this way, the pooled funds are used only if they have been effective and only after impact has been achieved and quantified.

Country funds would likely have to be established separately, with their own fund administrators (local country officials?)  and project monitors.

An initial pilot would likely include just one country – Indonesia perhaps – and one specific target: perhaps livelihoods and education around several conservation areas.

For in-country implementing partners we could draw on local NGOs to support conservation (research and protection) and identify appropriate targets. Microfinance institutions could support business initiatives where appropriate and rural development organizations would help build agricultural businesses that local communities in Indonesia want to generate income.

Legal organisations would need to be employed to help sort out land-titling to establish a legal basis to land ownership. Education NGOs could be employed to boost local knowledge around conservation, while healthcare providers could support rural health development.

This would then be associated by local communities, along with improved education, for example, with conservation of their local forests.

So rather than trying to pry an uncertain financial return out of forest services or REDD+ (although if these markets develop in the future, certainly these could be added to SPV funds) we are trying  to achieve only effective allocation of government/multilateral resources  and measurable impact.

At the same time, however, there could be a return on investor depending on the effectiveness of the programs., while a tranche structure with different risk/return profiles could be used to simultaneously appeal to both groups.

The difference with the UK Social Impact Bond, of course, would be the potential for shared savings. Although it would be important to have local governments as key participants, it is unlikely their own development investments would make this worthwhile.

Who would buy Forest Impact Bonds?

There is growing interest on the part of institutional investors in markets where there are environmental and social as well as financial returns or where there are at least screens for negative impact.

According to Eurosif, total SRI assets under management increased dramatically from €2.7 trillion to €5 trillion, as of December 31, 2009. This represents spectacular growth of about 87% since 2007.

The sense is that when environmental social and governance issues start to affect share price or impact bottom lines boardrooms will take note.

Increasingly, SRI is a mainstream criterion in equity analysis and several stock exchanges have launched tradable indices that track SRI companies or ESG alongside financial performance.  And ratings agencies are emerging to rank companies on their ESG performance.

At the same time, part of the consideration around forests is that they have long carried appeal to institutional investors.

According to an article in The Banker from 2007, more than US$30 billion globally is invested in forest assets, although mostly through funds and largely in the US.

These investments generally offer competitive returns with low or negative correlation to traditional asset classes making them a counter-cyclical hedge.

In Summary…

  • A FIB is a contract with the public sector in which it commits to pay for improved environmental and social outcomes
  • On the back of this contract, investment is raised from investors motivated perhaps not only by commercial but also by environmental and social returns.
  • This investment is used to pay for a range of social outcomes such as poverty alleviation of local communities, improved health and education, all tied to and contingent on conservation of an area of high-conservation value local forest
  • The financial returns investors receive are dependent on the degree to which outcomes improve i.e, they may receive part or all of the initial investment back, and in some cases additional financial returns.
  • A FIB shifts emphasis from paying for inputs and outputs to paying for impacts
  • In its purest form, a FIB has a risk profile more similar to an equity investment than a debt investment

Most of us agree that deforestation on the scale we have seen in recent decades is undesirable and unsustainable.

Our tropical forests are in dramatic decline, pumping tons of carbon into our atmosphere and causing changes in temperature and rainfall worldwide with potentially devastating consequences for our planet.

The problem remains, how to tackle this critical problem in developing regions, where corruption is endemic, how to pay the enormous costs of protecting forests and engaging the local communities that depend on them for their livelihoods.

Reversing global deforestation will require industrialized countries to invest billions annually in forest protection. It is worth remembering, however, that last year U.S. government put aside $700 billion for banks, insurers and automakers during the financial crisis as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

By now, we know the story: Rainforests soak up huge amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide. Deforestation releases retained CO2 released into the atmosphere.  Forest destruction contributes about 20 percent of mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to the U.N. climate panel. Indeed, tropical deforestation is more damaging to our planet than the transport sector or factories, with one day of logging equivalent to the carbon footprint of eight million people flying to New York.

And why do we care? Our rainforests form a vital cooling band around the earth’s equator, generating a large part of our rainfall and acting as a thermostat.  We perhaps also aren’t aware that 50 per cent of life on earth exists in these humid forests, which cover less than 7 per cent of the planet’s surface. We are far from understanding the real consequences of losing the biodiversity we seem to take for granted.

Yet our governments, and indeed most of us, continue to act as though our tropical forests are expendable, that there is no impending climate crisis, biodiversity is a given, perhaps unimportant, and anticipate little, if any alteration in our lives of consumption and energy use.

Clearly, December’s global climate powwow in Copenhagen was the best reflection of this, with no real sense of urgency conveyed by governments gathered there.  Country delegations arrived by private jet, were ferried around town in gas-guzzling limos – not exactly the right tone for a crisis meeting on climate.

There had been hope to gain a legally binding international treaty committing nations to mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases but none was forthcoming, lost once more in the all too familiar regional bickering. And chances are slim of any agreement from the next round of U.N. climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, particularly following the resignation last week of Yvo de Boer, who has led the process for four years.

The pledges that de Boer did manage to eke out of Copenhagen will merely stabilize emissions by 2020. By most accounts, we need to achieve reductions  of at least 50 percent by midcentury – something that can’t be achieved without big cuts from the major emitters, which are the U.S., China, India and Brazil.

Part of the problem lies in ascertaining, at the international level, who should pay to conserve our forests. Developing nations want the right to develop unimpeded, while the United States wants to see significant emissions cuts from China and India that would be on par with its own and doesn’t want to be held accountable for cost.   Fundamentally, the U.S. has no effective national strategy of its own and thus is really not in a position to take the lead.

The assumption is that at some point, nations will get it together to achieve meaningful emissions reduction and carbon will become a real part of the solution. In the meantime, regional initiatives such as the U.S. Climate Change legislation currently stalled in the U.S. senate are evolving and could bring some movement in the carbon picture, generating resources for forestry conservation.

But will this be too little too late for our forests and what is the solution for them while we wait?

The bottom line is that in an attempt to protect what is left of our precious stores of tropical timber and the estimated 1.6 billion people who live amongst them, environmental groups have poured tens of millions of dollars into conservation over the last two decades without any real gains.

Global Witness co-founder Patrick Alley, said in a worth-quoting speech last year :

Virtually every intervention by the international donor community into the forests sector over the past few decades costing hundreds of millions of dollars has essentially been to patch up the holes in enforcement to stop the haemorrhaging of illegal timber and corruptly looted revenues. And these interventions have ranged from certification, chain of custody systems, governance, capacity building, law enforcement and there has been precious little success in that litany. And on top of this, we have the increasing threats of conversion to plantations and agricultural encroachment

The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization says about 13 million hectares, or an area the size of England, are still destroyed annually. In all, half the world’s tropical and temperate forests are now gone.

Author and environmental advocate, Gus Speth, ( pointed out in a recent speech that species are disappearing at rates about 1,000 times faster than normal in a spasm of extinction not seen in 65 million years, since the dinosaurs disappeared.

Changes in our rainfall patterns have meant that over half the agricultural land in drier regions suffers from some degree of deterioration and desertification.

A key concern, if we are to reverse this trend, is either how to pay for conservation or, alternatively, how to make conservation pay; at a national level, how to justify the loss of revenue for developing countries that need the income.

The sad reality is that logging in the tropics generates enormous profit, but not for local communities and mostly not for governments in the form of taxes. Instead, much of the profit finds its way into corporate coffers and the offshore accounts of connected local individuals through corruption and illegal practices. The profit pressures on forests are huge from these interests. Biodiesel and palm oil have now also entered the equation, adding to the strains.

One initiative that tries to address the question of  how to generate profit for conservation and formalized at the Copenhagen talks was a U.N.-backed forest protection scheme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation or REDD.

This would include forests in the global carbon markets,  allowing polluters to earn tradable carbon credits by paying developing nations billions not to chop down their trees.  Local communities are supposed to earn a share of REDD credit sales to pay for better health, education and alternative livelihoods that persuade them to protect rather than cut down their forests.

But the revenue-sharing arrangements will differ for each country. Some NGOs worry that once again little support will filter down to the communities, with central and provincial governments demanding control of the money.

Another problem is that carbon measurement and accounting as part of any REDD design is complex and time-consuming, requiring laws to be enacted, officials to be trained and investors to be assured that the scheme won’t be undermined by corruption.

And finally, ensuring the forests aren’t simply cut down later, or that deforestation is displaced to another region or country, is another concern. REDD’s final technical design will have to address these issues.

Still, the well-regarded Eliasch Review ( suggests that including REDD in a well-designed carbon trading system could provide the finance and incentives to reduce deforestation rates by up to 75 per cent in 2030

Still, in Indonesia, where the REDD discussion is quite advanced, there have been warnings that billions of dollars clearly are at risk from graft unless the country puts strong oversight mechanisms in place, according to a recent report released by CIFOR. (

“Investors should be looking very carefully at the financial governance conditions in the countries where they will be investing their funds. Like Indonesia, many tropical forest countries have long track records of mismanaging public financial resources, particularly in the forestry sector,” said the report’s co-author, Christopher Barr.

Indonesia, which is one country in which ADMCF works on forestry issues, is the world’s third-largest area of tropical forest and the world’s third-largest emitter of carbon after the United States and China because of the massive destruction there of rainforest and peatlands.

Last year, Indonesia set up a legal framework for REDD. Several pilot projects are under way and the governments of Norway, Australia, Germany and the U.S. have promised millions of dollars in funding.

What we have seen everywhere forests are protected however, are the sad unintended consequences of the scramble for carbon: environmental groups that have been conserving forests are backing away from protecting them, fearing that as protected forest they won’t qualify under the REDD additionality clause.

It is uncertain whether already protected forests would qualify for REDD credits. This means that while we wait for REDD, for any sort of global or regional framework that will push forward the mechanisms that will allow large-scale protection, our forests are potentially more vulnerable than ever.