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Nature Conservancy role in World Bank REDD initiative highlights growing US NGO isolation on forests and climate policy

The appointment of The Nature Conservancy to the governing board of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) highlights the growing distance on climate policy between a small number of mostly US-based conservationist organisations and the mainstream of environmental, indigenous and progressive green groups worldwide, and will also serve to undermine recent claims by the World Bank that the FCPF is not only being used to kick-start forest carbon markets.

The Nature Conservancy – the world’s biggest conservation NGO, with billions of dollars of assests in the US – has been one of the most aggressive proponents of forest carbon trading. It has already started six conservation projects around the world, and the carbon locked up in these projects could represent a substantial new stream of income for TNC if forests were allowed into global carbon markets. TNC claims that “together, these projects have kept 17.5 million tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere over 30 years, equivalent to keeping 3.1 million cars of (sic) the road for one year.”

Commenting on his organisation’s appointment to the Board of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, TNC Chief Executive Mark Tercek said that “There is a growing consensus among world leaders and conservation organizations that credits earned through forest protection should be included in a global carbon trading market.” TNC pledged to donate $5 million to the FCPF when the World Bank scheme was launched in Bali in December 2007.

But far from there being ‘growing consensus’ on whether forests should be allowed into carbon markets, most environmental groups now appear to be firmly opposed to the idea. As reported on REDD-Monitor, the European Commission has also already agreed to keep forests out of the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the world’s biggest carbon market, over worries as to whether carbon trading will actually serve to prevent deforestation. Many observers are concerned that forest carbon credits could flood the market, causing the price of carbon to crash, and reducing the level of funds available for pollution abatement from industrial sources.

The decision to appoint the ‘pro-trading’ TNC to the Board of the FCPF will also be taken by many as a sign that the World Bank is pressing on with plans to quickly start international markets in forest carbon credits, for which it has been heavily criticised.  The Bank has recently been trying to reassure its critics that the FCPF will not only promote the generation of forest carbon credits – though this was one of the original stated purposes of the initiative – but will also consider other payment mechanisms for avoiding deforestation, such as public funds.

TNC was the subject of a series of exposes by the Washington Post between 2001 and 2003, which prompted a lengthy US Senate Finance Committee investigation into the organisation’s finances. The report of the committee raised concerns about some of TNC’s practices, including the development and sale of land which had been ‘donated’ to the organisation for conservation purposes.


RELEASE: Nature Conservancy Named to Help Lead World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility
TNC – October 23, 2008
Arlington, VA

Despite global financial crisis, member countries donate more than $100 million to stop deforestation and fight climate change

The Nature Conservancy this week was appointed to serve on the governing panel of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) – joining more than a dozen countries from across the globe that will work together to develop the financial tools and incentives needed to make forest conservation a powerful tool against climate change.  The Conservancy is the only non-governmental organization serving on the panel.

The appointment came during the FCPF’s first annual meeting in Washington DC.  At the meeting policy leaders and government representatives from around the world came together to launch innovative programs and funding mechanisms that will help develop a credible global carbon credit market that recognizes forest protection.

Despite the world’s current financial crisis, FCPF members pledged more than $100 million to the Facility during this week’s inaugural meetings. With this funding, the FCPF will implement and evaluate pilot incentive programs, purchasing emissions reductions from developing countries that have taken action to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

“It is heartening to know that despite the current financial situation, countries around the world understand that we cannot delay action on battling climate change,” said Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “Forest protection is one of the most cost-effective methods available to fight climate change. If we don’t take action now, climate change ultimately will have a much greater impact on the global economy and the natural resources we all depend upon for survival.”

The Nature Conservancy is a founding member of the FCPF, pledging $5 million to the partnership during the United Nations climate change negotiations in Bali, Indonesia last year.

As a member of the governing panel, The Nature Conservancy will lend its extensive experience in forest carbon projects and science to help the FCPF create the financial mechanisms and high-quality standards needed to help developing countries protect threatened forests and combat climate change.

“Right now, developing countries can generate more money from cutting down their forests than from keeping them standing,” said Tercek. “The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility will bring developed and industrialized countries together – along with forest communities, indigenous groups, the private sector and civil society – to establish a financial value for the carbon stored in standing forests.”

Also named to the governing board – known as the Participants Committee – were Australia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guyana, Japan, Kenya, Madagascar, the Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Switzerland the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.

The Nature Conservancy has nearly two decades of experience working to reduce carbon emissions through forest protection, leading forest carbon projects in six countries on more than 1.5 million acres of land. Its Noel Kempff project in Bolivia was the world’s first forest carbon reduction project to be verified by a third party based on internationally-recognized standards.

About 20 percent of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere each year comes from the destruction of forests – more than from all the planes, trains and automobiles in the world. In the next few years, scientists predict that developing countries will produce more climate-changing emissions than all industrialized nations combined – much of this due to the accelerating destruction of tropical forest resources.

But existing climate policies, including the Kyoto Protocol, do not recognize the protection of forests as a source for carbon emission reductions. So while developed nations can earn carbon credits for lowering their industrial emissions, developing nations cannot receive credits for reducing emissions from their largest source: deforestation. There is a growing consensus among world leaders and conservation organizations that credits earned through forest protection should be included in a global carbon trading market.

The Nature Conservancy supports a system of financial incentives and carbon credit markets that would allow developing nations to generate the funds needed to conserve forests, reduce emissions from all sources, protect biodiversity, improve local livelihoods and join the international fight against climate change.


Leave a Reply

  1. It is incorrect to say that most environmental groups are opposed to the idea of including forests in the carbon market. Most large environmental NGOs (WWF, WCS, TNC, CI) are engaged in forestry projects in some way and recognise the multiple benefits such projects can have.

  2. But on one of the other postings here there is a letter from about 200 organisations opposing forest carbon credits, whereas you have listed only 4 in favour. Now which is ‘most’, 4 or 200?

  3. “So while developed nations can earn carbon credits for lowering their industrial emissions, developing nations cannot receive credits for reducing emissions from their largest source: deforestation.”

    This is key right here. If environmental NGOs fail to recognize this, then everything they stand for is null. Carbon credits won’t bottom out because their underlying value is determined by the individual need to reach carbon neutral status by individual organizations, businesses, and governments alike. Not to mention, forest is the only source of renewable credit. Governments should want to “stockpile” preserved forest for their incredible value as a sustainable source of carbon credit.