COTAP is pausing allocations to the Sofala Project

February 5th, 2015

What We’re Doing and How It Affects Cotappers

Effective today, COTAP is pausing its allocations to Envirotrade’s project in Sofala, Mozambique until further notice. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that COTAP is “dropping” the Sofala project or anything draconian like that.

The Sofala project may not be able to generate credits sufficient for satisfying COTAP demand in the near term. This means that if you were offset your CO2 emissions through Sofala today, then it’s quite possible that carbon credit retirements pertaining to your transaction wouldn’t occur until well over a year from now. Credits for Sofala-related transactions occuring before today should be retired by the end of this month.

For those offsetting through all COTAP projects on or after today (2/5/15), your tonnes and funds will be allocated evenly to COTAP’s four other projects in Nicaragua, India, Malawi, and Uganda. The donation rate for both the Nicaragua and Uganda projects has been increased from $8.80 to $9.90 per tonne to maintain our average portfolio rate. As before, 90.9% of offset donations goes to projects and 100% of offsetting costs is tax-deductible for individuals in the U.S.

Factors Affecting Sofala’s Near-Term Availability of Credits

1) Crediting period. When the pioneering Sofala project was initiated in 2002, a 100-year crediting period was not unheard of for forestry carbon projects. That’s changed, and as a measure of good governance, Sofala’s crediting period was reduced to 40 years. As a result, Sofala’s projected net carbon benefit from forest protection or “REDD” which was originally 796,005 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) is now likely to be less than 200,000 tCO2e.

2) Rejected “No Burn” Intervention. Further, the Plan Vivo Foundation has disallowed inclusion of CO2 reductions from a project intervention called “No Burning.” The No Burning intervention counts carbon emissions avoided when farmers agree to not burn agricultural residues. This has further reduced the project’s totals, likely by another 60,000 tCO2e.

3) Other buyers. European orders for Sofala credits have continued to come in, meaning that nearly all credits to be issued upon the 2013 report’s approval by the Plan Vivo Foundation are already spoken for.

4) Planned project lifecycle. The project has always had a finite, planned lifecyle and it ceased signing new agroforestry contracts with farmers in 2009. Sofala has effectively sold out of agroforestry-related credits, and generating more would require a project expansion to more farmers. Such an expansion, in turn, would require a minimum viable size in order to cover its fixed costs. So, the project can’t just accept and fulfill a COTAP order for 2015 vintage credits on the order of a few hundred or even a few thousand tonnes right now.

In total, Sofala’s estimated overall CO2 removals have been reduced from an initial 1.1 million tCO2e to around half of that, with a finalized figure to be disclosed upon the 2013 report’s release.

Additional Issues Influencing The Decision to Pause Allocations

In addition to the above, the project has experienced a significant number of canceled and suspended farmer contracts and is due for a third-party carbon verification in 2015. There have also been gaps in monitoring results and farmer payment data, which are due in part to turnover of Envirotrade staff and which are in the process of being resolved.

It’s COTAP’s prerogative to decide where to allocate tonnes and funds when Cotappers elect “all projects,” as you often do. We could have chosen to continue to include Sofala and either hold onto the funds for them, or pre-pay them, for credits to be issued later, potentially much later. But that comes at the expense of funding for our other projects whose annual reports are on time and who have sufficient available credits. Accordingly, we’ve chosen to pause allocations to Sofala for now.

Return To This Post for Further Updates

The Sofala project has requested approval from the Plan Vivo Foundation for operational and administrative amendments. When and if such amendments are approved, the Sofala project will be able to receive issuance of additional credits beyond what is currently expected, and COTAP allocations to the project could resume shortly thereafter.

All this said, the finalized 2013 report is forthcoming, and so is the one for 2014, the project has not sold more carbon credits than it’s expected to generate, and no issued credits have been invalidated. These issues are resolveable, and so we sincerely look forward to resuming our financial support of this project.

This post is to be updated with further details. Last updated 2/26/15.

COTAP in “100 Under $100” by Betsy Teutsch

February 4th, 2015

COTAP’s pleased to announce that we’ve 100Under$100-sidebarbeen included in a new book called “100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women” written by Betsy Teutsch and to be released on March 6, 2015.

100 Under $100 is a comprehensive look at effective, low-cost solutions for helping women in the Global South out of poverty. Most books on this subject focus on one problem and one solution; author Betsy Teutsch instead spreads her net wide, sharing one hundred successful, proven paths out of poverty in eleven different sectors—including tech, public health, law, finance, and more—in a visually striking book full of images of vibrant, strong women farmers, health practitioners, entrepreneurs, and
humanitarian tech stars doing exciting, cutting-edge work. Eye-opening and compelling, 100 Under $100 is an accessible entry point for globally-attuned readers excited about using a broad range of tools to empower women and help alleviate poverty in the developing world.

Learn more about the book and author on the official 100 Under $100 website and order the book on Amazon.


Q&A with Bansaralang Nongbri, Khasi Hills, India

December 16th, 2014

Bansaralang Nongbri

Project: Khasi Hills Community REDD+ Project, India
Name: Bansaralang Nongbri
Age: 25 years
Community: Dympep Village, East Khasi Hills, India

What are your contributions towards the project?

I’m a member of the Local Working Committee (LWC) which oversees the Dympep village cluster.

COTAP Note: Local Working Committees link the project’s federation of 9 indigenous governments to its 62 villages, and are integral to developing, implementing, and monitoring each village cluster’s natural resource management plan. Read more about the Khasi Hills REDD+ project’s organizational structure in its Project Design Document.

How do you feel about the project?

The project is conserving and restoring our village’s forests while also improving our livelihoods. It addresses several problems, one of which has been an insufficient awareness about the many important roles of trees.

It’s been an eye-opener that’s changing our mindset towards better forest management and socio-economic strategies. It has deepened our communities’ understanding of the importance of collective environmental responsibility and that improved livelihood approaches can coexist with sustaining our forests.

Do you think the project can improve family incomes?

We are very hopeful and confident that the project will improve our livelihoods, one reason being its multiple sources of support. The carbon fund is one part of the projects’ financial incentives for restoring and protecting the forests, the other part comes from the government.

What impacts is the project having?

The forests are regenerating and water bodies are being replenished, and even growing, as a result. Now people are much more environmentally engaged and also equipped to be able to take up small projects through Self Help Groups (SHG’s) and Farmers’ clubs.

What are some things you are learning?

I have learned about forest conservation, tree nurseries, and how our forests and water are inseparable. This has heightened our recognition of the need to protect and restore the forest. The socio-economic aspects of the project are teaching our villages about savings, bookkeeping, micro enterprise and team work. This broadens the social mindset of our community, and even reduces issues like jealousy and gossiping!

What have been some of the project’s challenges?

There haven’t been that many serious problems yet because the project leaders have been keen to engage communities with ongoing training and awareness programs.

Learn more and support this project

Learn more about the Khasi Hills REDD+ Project here, and create economic benefits for project participants like Bansaralang Nongbri by calculating and offsetting your CO2 emissions here.

Our Take on The California “Hidden Gas Tax” Ads

October 29th, 2014

Here’s who’s behind the “Hidden Gas Tax” ads you may have seen in California, and how they’re misleading. We also explain the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) that they’re attacking and how it fits into California’s Cap and Trade law (AB32). Last, we explain how, as with the California Climate Credit, it’s smart policy designed to drive down Californians’ CO2 footprint from driving. That said, if your car burns gasoline, LCFS won’t significantly reduce your CO2 footprint from driving anytime soon, but you can still reduce your gasoline use and offset the CO2 from driving that you can’t avoid.

Who’s Behind The “Hidden Gas Tax” Ads

The ads are the work of the California Drivers Alliance, a group created by Wayne Johnson Agency. They’re a Sacramento public affairs firm hired by the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), which includes major petroleum producers like Chevron, Exxon, BP, and Shell. The campaign is similar to that of the California Independent Oil Marketers Association’s (CIOMA) Fed Up At The Pump. This is the latest of many efforts against AB32, as outlined by the NRDC here.

LCFS Should Really Be Called “Fuel Savings In Plain Sight”

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) openly shared its 2010 analysis of a projected 4 to 19% fuel price increase by 2020 as a result of the LCFS (explained below). A CARB spokesman recently said the range is actually outdated and that “we don’t believe there will be any discernible increase in pricing next year.” Further, the same 2010 CARB analysis estimated that CA’s annual per capita fuels expenditure will drop by over $400 by 2020 because of increased car efficiency.

What The “Hidden Gas Tax Ads” Hide

The ads exclude both the revised estimate of no gas price increases and the projected $400/year savings. They don’t mention gas prices are nosediving to below $3 per gallon for the first time in 4 years as refineries are making solid progress reducing their GHG emissions, demonstrating that the latter doesn’t cause the former. What’s also hidden is how much the California Drivers Alliance receives from from WSPA and what CMIOMA is spending on the Fed Up At The Pump campaign.

Why Oil Companies Understandably Hate The LCFS

Government incentives and manufacturing advances have made alternative fuel vehicles accessibly-priced before the LCFS even goes into effect. Case in point is the Nissan Leaf. My sister-in-law leased a Leaf. Over $10K in federal and state rebates significantly reduced the $28K MSRP and canceled out the $2.5K downpayment. The $220 lease payment, less than what she was spending monthly on gas, is canceled out by free charging at work and from Nissan. The car is not free, but switching to it, and taking gasoline out of the picture altogether, is.

The Bigger Picture

As with hybrids, electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars will proliferate and come down in price. Receding demand will create downward price pressure on petroleum-based fuels. That in turn benefits users of light trucks, delivery vehicles, and construction equipment – those for whom alternative fuels are not an option. That’s a virtuous cycle for everyone, even for those who continue to burn gasoline and diesel. Everyone except oil companies. The permanent contraction in price and volume means goodbye to an extremely profitable status quo.

The LCFS is not going to trigger this dynamic or push it past a tipping point, which has already happened. As mentioned, gas prices are going down, refineries are cleaning up, and people are buying alternative fuel vehicles before LCFS goes into effect. LCFS is going to accelerate this, and that’s why oil companies understandably hate it. And the stakes are much higher when one considers “As California Goes, So Goes The Nation.”

So What Should Oil Companies Do Instead, Then?

One way CA refineries can meet their targets is to clean up their processes by installing equipment like flue gas scrubbers. And technologies exist which create gasoline, diesel, and other fuels from non-fossil sources (like agricultural waste); burning a gallon of non-fossil gasoline does not count in the eyes of LCFS.

Right now, it’s more profitable road for oil companies to fight policies like LCFS than invest considerably more money in adaptation. The argument that it’s oil executives’ fiduciary duty to forestall adapting as long as possible in the name of maximum profits is flawed, obviously from a stakeholder standpoint but also even from a shareholder one. How they’ll do it is unclear, but if the old dog doesn’t itself some new tricks, that’ll hurt shareholder value too because they’ll become a lot more obsolete than if they had adapted.

More About The Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)

Transportation causes about 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions because we rely on petroleum based fuels for 97% of our transportation needs. The LCFS, which goes along with the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (also known as AB32), is set to go in effect on January 1, 2015. The LCFS addresses the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the production, refining, distribution, and consumption of transportation fuels. It seeks to cut those emissions 10% by 2020.

Though it’s designed to be agnostic about fuel type, LCFS heavily disfavors petroleum-based fuels not only because their extraction, refinement, and distribution produces lots of CO2, but also because 19.4 pounds of CO2 are released when each gallon of gasoline is burned. Here’s a brief ARB video about the LCFS:

COTAP and Carbon Offsetting in The Context of LCFS

As mentioned above, LCFS is designed to address the lifecycle CO2 emissions from extracting, refining, distributing, and burning any transportation fuel. For a gallon of gas, that includes the 19.4 pounds of CO2 that are released when you buy and burn it. The LCFS goal is a modest 10% reduction in carbon intensity by 2020, and if they hit that goal it means you would only need to offset 90% of the gasoline you buy and burn. But right now the carbon intensity requirement is capped at 1% due to lawsuits (guess who?). So right now, despite LCFS passing, you’re still creating 99% of the same gasoline carbon pollution as you did before LCFS.

Our Favorite Hidden Gas Tax Ad…

We especially love this one with the little girl in the back seat, complaining about the cost of gas while riding around town only with her Dad… in a minivan… that seats seven. “I guess I can kiss my grape slushie goodby,” she laments. Decrease your car-to-people ratio, young lady, and you can have all the slushies you want!

Global Climate Justice and COTAP

October 2nd, 2014

As seen on COTAP’s car magnets and postcard flyers, the tagline we’ve chosen is “Global Climate Justice.” Here’s why.

What “Global Climate Justice” Means to Us

The world’s most economically vulnerable people:

  • Did not cause climate change.
  • Are most likely to experience, and least equipped to handle, the worst effects of climate change.
  • Must be included in climate change solutions, including carbon projects which provide significant and direct financial benefits to them.
  • Must be empowered to adapt to climate change.

People who offset through COTAP, or “Cotappers,” promote Global Climate Justice by creating significant, supplemental income for smallholder farming communities in areas where incomes are less than $2 per day. Cotappers help the poor adapt to climate change by funding the planting, restoration, and protection of forests which increase food security, reduce erosion, protect and enhance biodiversity and watersheds, provide shade, and serve as critical hydrological sponges.

Visualizing Global Climate Injustice with The Carbon Map

Click on the below image to open The Carbon Map, which visually conveys how our countries fit into the climate change picture in terms of responsibility and risk. Click on Wealth (under Background), then Historical (under Responsibility), and then People at Risk and Poverty (under Vulnerability), refreshing each time to get a sense of the United States’ (and that of developed countries in general) relative role.

It’s clear that developed countries caused (and continue to cause) climate change and the global poor did not. We’ve got a lot more money to fix the problem, and they’re more likely to experience the worst effects of climate change. At a minimum, we owe it to them to clean up after ourselves, and to compensate them for helping us do it.

Climate Justice Is Also About Keeping Carbon In The Ground

COTAP and voluntary carbon offsetting in general are just one piece of a greater Climate Justice picture. We owe it not only to the world’s poor, but also to ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren to take all possible actions to avoid and reduce future carbon emissions. That primarily means keeping as much carbon as possible in the ground in the first place, as explained in this 9 minute film called “Carbon.”

But How Do We Do That?

From the above clip, we see there’s five times more burnable carbon in the ground than we can afford to burn – about 2,500 gigatonnes vs. 500 gigatonnes, respectively. At that scale, only government-level policy intervention can attack this problem’s root cause of excessive carbon demand. The proven policy intervention is to put a price on the pollutants causing the problem. Economist and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains the need for a carbon price and elected leaders who’ll take action:

A lot of Mr. Reich’s logic applies to what Cotappers already do – they’re voluntarily “taxing” their emissions (but actually getting a tax write-off!), and – in the process – learning how to reduce and why we need to advocate for cleaner energy and smart climate policy. Cotappers’ average voluntary price on CO2 is $9.90 per tonne.

The People’s Climate March

Government action is what an estimated 400,000 people marched for in New York City on September 21st, 2014 ahead of the UN Climate Summit. Click on the image below to see the Flickr gallery of the many Climate Justice organizations and initiatives represented at the People’s Climate March, the largest climate march in history.

A system-wide price on carbon will certainly happen, but it will take some time. Meanwhile, there are many things you can do, and COTAP’s one of them. Even after a price on carbon is in place, it’ll coexist with voluntary carbon offsetting. That’s because if your energy is taxed, if you use the energy and create CO2 pollution anyway, and if the tax funds aren’t used to remove your emissions from the atmosphere, then your carbon trash is essentially still out on the curb. That’ll still be an injustice, and you’ll still have tools to correct it.