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With Carbon Offsets To Alleviate Poverty, Expedia combats economic inequality and climate change together

August 2nd, 2017

Becomes the first Fortune 500 company to choose carbon offsets which directly share 60% of revenues with people who live on less than $2/day.


[Oakland, California – August 2, 2017] To reduce global economic inequality along with greenhouse gas emissions from its corporate travel, global travel industry leader Expedia, Inc. has invested in four community-owned carbon offset projects from the global non-profit Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty (COTAP.org).

COTAP’s carbon offset projects counteract emissions through tree planting, agroforestry and forest protection. They are all located in areas where income levels are less than $2 per day, and are certified under Plan Vivo, the world’s longest-standing voluntary standard for forest carbon. Plan Vivo stipulates not only that rural communities actually own their projects, but also that they receive at least 60% of all carbon revenues.

“One of Expedia’s core Corporate Social Responsibility values is climate action, so there was really was no question about whether or not working with COTAP made sense. Travel is a large contributor to carbon emissions and given that we are in the business of travel anything we can do to help alleviate the impact we’re on board. We are very excited to be working with COTAP and look forward to what we can accomplish together,” said Tony Donohoe, SVP and CTO, Expedia Worldwide Engineering at Expedia, Inc.

The Paris climate agreement included provisions designed to boost carbon trading markets and carbon offsets. Yet US withdrawal from Paris may not slow carbon offset use by US companies. Many are using them to meet state emissions reductions obligations, and there’s a global trend toward leading companies adopting carbon net-zero or carbon net-positive emissions policies that seek to mitigate direct and even indirect GHG emissions through clean energy and carbon offsets.

Corporate travel often accounts for a large part of a company’s emissions, which carbon offsets can counteract.  Major companies which have recently announced initiatives to use carbon offsets for corporate travel include retailer Zappos.com, business software giant SAP and car rental leader Hertz, to name a few. But Expedia, whose 2016 revenues exceeded $8.7 billion, is the first Fortune 500 company to work with COTAP to offset its corporate travel, ensuring that the majority of its payment goes directly to those who need it most.

“By offsetting through COTAP, Expedia is creating over $5.00 per tonne in direct, life-changing income for the world’s poorest people,” said Tim Whitley, COTAP founder. “This unsurpassed level of direct carbon revenue sharing is made possible by the combination of Plan Vivo’s 60% community revenue sharing requirement, the premium price of $9 per tonne COTAP pays projects, and our modest and transparent margin of 9.1%. Our projects create other indirect co-benefits like improved food security, biodiversity, soil quality, and reduced erosion.  But income is the ultimate benefit because beneficiaries can use it to pay for income-generating assets, medical treatment, food, or their children’s school fees.”

Through donations to COTAP, Expedia offset 1,010 tonnes worth of carbon emissions, which it is using to address air travel emissions from a large meeting involving leaders from many of Expedia’s locations around the world. The donated funds will be distributed evenly among COTAP’s partner projects in India, Malawi, Nicaragua and Uganda, with cash payments directly shared with smallholder farmers and forest communities there.

There’s vast potential for major companies to leverage their sustainability programs to fight poverty and climate change together as Expedia is doing, aligning their interests with smallholders, communities and local environments in developing countries. By working with COTAP, Expedia is leading on that front and demonstrating a transparent, scalable way forward.

The total volume of voluntary offset emissions reductions is still small compared to the scale of emissions reductions needed to combat climate change, but according to a recent Ecosystem Marketplace report, voluntary markets leverage an outsized impact on compliance markets and on emissions reductions activities in general. The total market value of carbon offsets fluctuates with prices. Last year it was nearly $200 million, but using premium offsets such as COTAP’s would drive it higher, and vulnerable communities would capture a lot more of that value.

“We are pleased that Expedia has decided to support Plan Vivo projects in giving rural communities the tools to shape their own sustainable futures,” said Plan Vivo Foundation Programme Manager Eva Schoof. “To date these projects have channeled about $10 million and counting to rural communities, funding long-term sustainable livelihood activities that have an impact beyond carbon payments.”

“Offsets from our program result in direct cash payments and long-term income opportunities for farmers in the poorest parts of the world who are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” said Kahlil Baker, co-founder and executive director of CommuniTree, COTAP’s project partner in Nicaragua. “There is a strong multiplier effect from those payments because farmers regularly reinvest that money back into their farms to grow their incomes even further.”

“Expedia’s carbon offset purchases will help fund small community development grants to over 60 villages,” said Mark Poffenberger, head of the Technical Advisory Committee to the Khasi Hills India Community REDD+ Project, COTAP’s project partner in India, and a trustee of the Plan Vivo Foundation. “Most villages use their payment for protecting and restoring their forests to improve the village drinking water system.  The funds also support community forest fire control and replanting that results in improved watershed health and more secure drinking water supplies.”

“Expedia’s support will fund performance-based payments that have been structured to allow farmers to consider long-term investment horizons, using part of their land to develop carbon offsets as an asset,” said Pauline Nantongo Kalunda, executive director of Ecotrust, COTAP’s project partner in Uganda. “That not only provides short-term cash and needed livelihood inputs but also long-term benefits from materials and income that can be enjoyed in the future. By channeling the funds through Village Savings & Loans Associations, funds are available for all community members to access loans.  Moreover, the carbon farmers are able to use their purchase agreements as collateral for loans and use the subsequent payments to offset the loans.”

COTAP community-owned carbon offset projects serve and connect key UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 1, ending poverty, and Goal 13, taking action on climate change, as well as enhancing food security, fighting deforestation, boosting sustainable growth and employment, and protecting ecosystems and biodiversity. They’re also examples of how the private sector and communities in developing countries can work together to help meet global emissions reduction goals. Expanding voluntary carbon markets and using carbon offsets were topics discussed in a recent UN intersessional meeting in Bonn, Germany on implementing the Paris climate agreement.

Companies of any size, and individuals anywhere in the world, can follow Expedia’s example by working with COTAP to offset as little as 1 tonne of carbon emissions.  In the U.S., individuals can deduct COTAP offsetting on their income taxes. Expedia, Inc.’s donation also gives its more than 20,000 employees worldwide access to COTAP’s Employee Offset Matching Program, via Expedia’s philanthropic arm Expedia Cares. The program enables participating employees to double the amount of carbon emissions they can offset and halve their effective rate to a tax-deductible $4.95 per tonne, while still maintain the $9 per tonne premium which COTAP projects receive. At COTAP.org/Expedia, employees can calculate their carbon footprint, learn how to reduce it, and offset any dollar amount or tonnage quantity.

COTAP’s Summer 2016 Newsletter

August 10th, 2016

Nicaragua Project Visit and Trip Report


From May 31 to June 3, COTAP visited our partner Taking Root’s CommuniTree project in Somoto and Limay Nicaragua. Check out the full trip report and picture gallery on the COTAP blog.

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Additional Nicaragua Updates


  • By mid-June, the project announced it had already planted 500,000 trees… this season!rainforest-alliance-verified
  • Also in June, the project announced that it had successfully completed its first third-party verification by the Rainforest Alliance. You can read their full verification report here.
  • Read Taking Root’s recent blog posts about their charcoal pilot and how reforestation projects help farmers adapt to climate change.
  • Our prior newsletter failed to mention (Taking Root Executive Director) Kahlil Baker’s excellent Op-Ed in the Vancouver Sun about Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change.
  • In addition to COTAP’s photos in our trip report, CommuniTree also released two 2016 planting season photo sets in April and July.
  • Last but not least, you can offset your CO2 emissions through this project here.

Malawi Updates


CDI-TreesofHope-April-2016


  • COTAP partner the Clinton Development Initiative announced that the Trees of Hope project had paid 875 farmers more than $100,000 from the sale of carbon certificates. Of those, 376 were paid for the first time and formally opened bank accounts with First Malawi Bank.
  • The Clinton Foundation published this cool infographic about how Swedish hamburger chain Max Hamburger utilizes Trees of Hope to address its CO2 emissions.
  • They also just released this great new video about the project:

  • The Rainforest Alliance conducted its on-site, third-party assessment of Trees of Hope in April and its report is expected to be released by the end of 2016.
  • Trees of Hope received a press mention alongside COTAP in a Washington Times article (see ‘COTAP Updates’ below).
  • You can offset your CO2 emissions through the Trees of Hope project here.

Uganda Updates


  • The 2015 annual report is now published for our partner Ecotrust Uganda’s Trees for Global Benefits project.
  • During 2015, the project added 1,533 participating households, 1,323 hectares (5.1 square miles) to its area under management, paid $209,506 to participating farmers, and planted trees projected to sequester 266,354 tonnes of CO2!
  • In addition to its annual report, Ecotrust put out this outstanding summary email of 2015 highlights.
  • Trees for Global Benefits has now been issued credits for 989,059 tonnes of CO2 through 2015, which means it has now surpassed the 1 million tonne mark this year.
  • Ecotrust shared its impressive progress distributing Solvatten water purification units, helping over 1,000 rural households avoid water-borne diseases and obtain many other benefits. Not only that, Ecotrust produced this video on Solvatten user experiences:

  • Check out the email highlights from Ecotrust’s May Stakeholder Event (video here and photo gallery here).
  • Hungry for more? Thought so! Read more about Ecotrust’s millionth tonne and their eco-tourism activities here and their HIV prevention work and Solvatten expansion to the Lira district in this bulletin.
  • You can offset your CO2 emissions through Trees for Global Benefits project here.

India Updates


  • Prime Minister Narendra narendra-modi-mawphlang-tambor-lyngdoh-may-2016Modi was hosted by Khasi Project Leader Tambor Lyngdoh during his May visit to Mawphlang village in the East Khasi Hills. Videos at https://goo.gl/Liyvcc.
  • The 2015 annual report is now finalized for the Khasi Hills REDD+ Project.
  • During 2015, the project reached $34,473 in payments made to communities for ecosystem services, and it has now achieved 68,404 tonnes of CO2 reductions through forest protection and restoration.
  • The project’s first third-party verification, by Rainforest Alliance and Bioclimate, is slated for this November with a verification report expected in early 2017.
  • You can offset your CO2 emissions through the Khasi project here.

More COTAP Updates


Organizational Clients.  A big THANKS to our growing, global list of new and repeat organizational clients, including the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), WTSMed/Restorative Formulations, Wellspring Spa, The Plan Vivo Foundation, Monarch Media, and the Guerrilla Foundation.

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Partner Payments & Credit Retirements. In late January, COTAP completed a round of carbon credit retirements which can be viewed at COTAP.org/Transparency. The next round of project payments will begin on approximately August 22.

Partner Annual Reports and Documentation. The 2015 annual COTAP at Expedia Earth Day Fair 4.22.16report for the Trees of Hope Malawi project is still being finalized.  All projects’ most recent Annual Reports, Project Design Documents (PDD), Technical Specifications, and Verification Reports can be found in COTAP’s Dropbox folder.

Expedia Earth Day Fair. COTAP accepted Expedia Inc.’s invitation to participate in its Earth Day Fair on 4/22 up in Bellevue, Washington. That’s our sweet table ->


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Press. Since our last newsletter, COTAP was featured in the “Where to Buy?” section of an Ecosystem Marketplace article, our transparency was applauded by the monthly business magazine of CPA Australia, and we received a mention in a fun Washington Times article about the carbon neutrality pledges and activities of U.S. presidential candidates. More juicy details at COTAP.org/Press!

Updated Twitter handle. We’re now at @COTAP! If you already follow us, this updates automatically. Use the new handle when mentioning or messaging us on Twitter. A big THANKS to the folks at Zinc.it (formerly Cotap.com) for giving this to us.

Offsetting to All COTAP Projects


If all of our projects seem awesome, that’s because they are! If you’d like to address your unavoidable CO2 emissions and change lives by supporting our projects equally, you can do so at any level you choose – either by dollar amount or by the tonne. As always, 90.9% goes to projects and it’s 100% tax-deductible for U.S. residents.

Until Next Time…


Please take a moment to share our newsletter via the social media links at right. Our archive is at COTAP.org/Newsletters. If this was shared with you and you’d like to receive updates from us directly, sign up at COTAP.org/email. We share updates less than once per month and when there’s big news.

Thanks for your support,

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Tim Whitley
COTAP founder

COTAP’s Winter 2015/2016 Newsletter

December 29th, 2015

Due to a large number of updates, we put a simple summary in the actual email newsletter linking to this post, which contains all the details, photos, and links. Enjoy!

New Beneficiary Profiles from Uganda and Malawi


Meet (left to right) Musingo Mikhaya, Dorothy and Vekelani Nthala, Daniel Mukhwana, and Petrol Khinda. Together they’re projected to earn $1,567 for planting 1,363 trees which will sequester over 431 tonnes of CO2. Check out their profiles to see how their supplemental carbon offset earnings are improving their lives.



Transparency Updates


Partner Payments & Credit Retirements. In early November we completed project payments to our four projects for tonnes pooled from our individual and business supporters all over the world. We’re currently in the process of retiring these credits, the progress of which can be tracked at COTAP.org/Transparency.

Annual Reports. Since our last project update, the 2014 Malawi and India Annual Reports were approved and posted to our Transparency page, and can be found with all projects’ most recent Annual Reports, Project Design Documents (PDD) and Technical Specifications (TS) in COTAP’s Dropbox folder.



Phase-out of the Sofala Mozambique Project


In February, COTAP paused allocations to Sofala, meaning no money coming in would go towards buying carbon credits from the project until it re-attained good standing. That did not happen. In October, project operator Associação Envirotrade Carbon Livelihoods announced its decision to formally wind down the project.

The project is will thus to be phased out of COTAP and replaced in the coming months. A final third-party verification is underway. When the report is released we’ll share it, along with our plan for addressing any projected CO2 reduction shortfall.



Plan Vivo Foundation Updates


(Full gallery by ZeroMission is here.) From September 28-30, the Plan Vivo Foundation and its longtime partner ZeroMission hosted the biannual Plan Vivo stakeholder event in Sigtuna, Sweden. COTAP met with Plan Vivo staff as well as Kahlil Baker of Taking Root (Nicaragua), Pauline Nantongo Kalunda and Sarah Nachuha of Ecotrust (Uganda), and Ariana Constant of the Clinton Development Initiative (Malawi). Plan Vivo unveiled its brief outlining its very strong alignment with 7 of the 17 recently announced United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals.

Last but not least, Plan Vivo also recently released its annual report and announced that, for the first time, they’re offsetting their own organization carbon emissions… through COTAP!

Meet A Farmer: Daniel Mukhwana (and friends!)

November 11th, 2015

In this ‘Farmer Focus’ episode by Ecotrust, Communications and Public Relations Officer Jonah Butsatsa interviews Daniel Mukhwana, a Trees for Global Benefits (TGB) participant and beneficiary.

Daniel is a soft-spoken family man who lives in the Manafwa district of Eastern Uganda and is making efforts to plan and use his land sustainably. Not only is he a TGB participant, but he has also both recruited several of his peers into the program and helped train them by passing on the capacity given to him by Ecotrust.

Word-of-Mouth Program Growth Within Local Communities


Daniel explains to Jonah, who is also known locally as ‘Mandu,’ how Ecotrust recruited him, his progress in planting trees, and his plans to add more. Joining Daniel to his left are Wango Emmanuel, who’s considering joining the program, and Steven Kimiyanyi, who already has.

Wango came to learn more about the program’s environmental and economic benefits, which he’d heard about through Daniel. Wango’s enrollment into the program would be key, because he’s chairman of the local youth organization. He’s a direct and important ambassador to the next generation and can thus pass on not only knowledge about the many important roles trees play, but also technical know-how on how to plant and care for them.

Steven, who is a registered TGB participant like Daniel, explains the straightforward agreement between himself and Ecotrust. “They taught us that if we plant trees, they will help us,” he says. “If we want after they have grown, and we’ve looked after them we can get money to educate our children.” Later in the interview Steven adds how Ecotrust instilled in him the importance of sharing program benefits with his family. “They told us do not keep the money for yourself and not share with your wife and children,” he says. “These trees have to be there, and so it is important that you work with your family and share with them. Otherwise, you will be gone one day and come back only to find that they have cut them down.”

Diverse Species, Inter-Planting, and Benefit Sharing


As the group takes a mini-tour of some of Daniel’s land, he explains that some plantings end up drying out due to the heat, but when that happens they replant. He explains how he’s incorporated indigenous trees not just on bare land, but also alongside with coffee and food crops.

The species Daniel has planted include Bikhiri (cordia), Bisola (markamia) aka Nile tulip, Mitoto (ficus), Bihuyu (another type of ficus), Bisabazi (balanite egyptica). His plantings also include several local species like Bisubyu, Sakasi and Nibuchulyu, as well as the the popular Mvule (kimirumba). Daniel states “Trees have helped me a lot. They help provide shade for my coffee. When the sun is out, the coffee doesn’t do so well. The trees shed leaves which decay, so the soil retains its fertility.”

How Your Carbon Offsetting Educates Children in Uganda


Education is a common theme with regards to how farmers utilize Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) through Ecotrust, which has been a COTAP partner since 2011. Daniel is no exception, using some of his earnings to help pay his children’s school fees. Along with his wife, they also assist him with planting the trees and looking after them.

Support Farmers Like Daniel, Wango, and Steven


You can create income for farming families of Ecotrust Uganda’s Trees for Global Benefits project here and learn more about the project at COTAP.org/Uganda.

Meet A Farmer: Musingo Mikhaya

August 14th, 2015

COTAP partner Ecotrust recently launched its Farmer Focus series to highlight the social impacts of its award-winning Trees for Global Benefits (TGB) programme. In this first episode, we meet 70 year old Musingo Mikhaya, a farmer from Bukuso subcounty, in the Manafwa district of Eastern Uganda. Musingo explains how he got started with tree growing and the benefits he has reaped. He shows us around his farm and shares his perspectives on life, culture and family.

Restoring His Local Landscape


Musingo is originally from Bwakoko and moved to the area with his grandfather. Though growing trees has always been a part of his life, he got invovled with TGB after hearing an Ecotrust radio ad about climate change.

The video, which has English subtitles, is in a Bantu language called Lumasaba, which is spoken by tribes on the Mt. Elgon Landscape. Musingo first explains how the area, especially along the roads around Mbale, used to be covered with millions of Mvule trees planted during the rule of Chief Semei Kakungulu in the early part of the 20th century. He notes that most of them have been cut down. He reminisces along with Jonah Butsatsa, the interviewer and Ecotrust’s Communication and Public Relations Officer, about how the many large Mvule trees once covered and shaded the road so that you wouldn’t feel the heat from the sun.

Before TGB came along, Musingo grew eucalyptus, locally known as Kimitoto. Ecotrust sent tree specialists into the district and organized meetings and trainings. He learned how crops don’t coexist well with eucalytpus, and so he started integrating banana and other crop-compatible trees like Kimiruru, Kumikihili (cordia), and Musizi (maesopsis). The trees provide shade which helps prevent heat damage to his coffee crop, and they drop leaves that provide natural fertilizer, saving him money.

How Musingo Uses His TGB Earnings


Musingo has used some of his earnings to pay school fees for the three of his children (of 24 total, from 3 wives) who are currently in school. “It has helped me so much, really. God is Great,” he says. At 70 years old, he also uses his earnings to help cover medical costs, including those from a doctor’s appointment he’s got scheduled right after his interview with Jonah.

Folklore in the Forest


Another intriguing aspect of the interview is Musingo’s deep knowledge of traditional, local beliefs associated with the many different types of trees on his land. For example, if you place the leaf of the Shishangula in the hand of a deceased person, and then lick the leaf, it will undo any curses which have been placed on them. Then there is the Kumurukhuru tree, which is a good remedy for what the English men refer to as mumps… if you gently step on it (presumably on the root, and with a bare foot) and then walk all the way home without looking back.

Musingo’s Gratitude to Ecotrust, and to You


At the 22:15 mark, Musingo expresses his thanks to Ecotrust. It should also be viewed as a thanks to everyone who has offset their carbon emissions via the TGB program:

“We are so grateful. Well first off I would like to thank them. The little we get, has reached us. Let them not get tired… they should keep helping us like this,” he says. “We thank them a lot. Another thing I like so much is that… is when you have someone watching over you, but they also have the courtesy to come and check on you. It gives you strength. I will keep on as long as I am still alive. I will keep on planting these trees. I will not stop.”

Then the video fades out with some sweet Ugandan pop music, replete with autotuned vocals…

Support farmers like Musingo


You can create income for farming families of Ecotrust Uganda’s Trees for Global Benefits project here and learn more about the project at COTAP.org/Uganda.

 
 
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