A forest protection project in Oddar Meanchey province has won approval for an innovative method of measuring how much pollution-causing carbon the area stores, a regime that may earn local communities millions of dollars in the coming years.
Those involved hope to see the project start earning money by the end of the year.
The Voluntary Carbon Standard—a nonprofit that accredits carbon-saving projects—vetted a method of measuring carbon storage proposed by Terra Global Capital, a consultancy and investment fund, after an 18-month demonstration, the US firm said last week.
“It’s a new method that allows projects…to analyze the amount of carbon in a mosaic of forested area, so it doesn’t have to be a contiguous area of one type of forest,” said Amanda Bradley, PACT’s community forest project director. “It allows us to calculate carbon in those forests and how levels would change over time with different interventions.”
According to the Forestry Administration, the project is one of two REDD—Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation—initiatives in the pilot stage in Cambodia. Backed by the UN as a cost-effective way of curbing the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, the voluntary scheme lets rich countries and their firms pay others for the carbon their forests lock up in order to offset their emissions.
Ms Bradley said REDD projects currently under way in similar “mosaic” forests elsewhere are accredited by another group, Climate, Community and Biodiversity, that cares more about the benefits they offer the local communities. As its name implies, the Voluntary Carbon Standard demands stricter controls on how projects measure carbon levels.
“For a REDD project, I think this [approval] is a first,” she said.
Terra Global also hope to make this REDD project the first accredited by both the CCB and VCS. And that, they hope, will mean a higher price for their carbon credits once Terra Global puts them on the market.
While the global economic downturn dropped the going price for credits down to less than $2, Ms Bradley said, the Oddar Meanchey project aims for $6. With an anticipated 7.1 million credits up for sale across the project’s 70,000 hectares over the next 30 years, that could mean more than $42 million over that period.
VCS and the government will also receive a share that is yet to be determined. PACT hopes that half the remainder will go toward improving the 13 participating community forests in the province involved and expanding the project to new sites. The government has agreed to send the other half to community development funds.
“If we get that money, we can use it to develop the communities,” said Sa Thlai, chief of the province’s community forest network. “We will discuss with the communities what their priorities are, especially building schools and health centers.”
Neither VCS nor Terra Global replied to requests for comment. The Forestry Administration’s Keo Omaliss, who oversees Cambodia’s REDD projects for the government, said he was too busy to speak with a reporter yesterday.
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)