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Trees for Global Benefits featured in Christian Science Monitor

May 21st, 2019

COTAP partner Ecotrust Uganda’s Trees for Global Benefits project was featured in a piece by Christopher Bendana and Ryan Lenora Brown titled “Cash for trees: Homegrown carbon offset program bears fruit.

Meet A Farmer: Winfred Musimenta

May 20th, 2019


We’re pleased to share this interview with Winfred Musimenta, the head teacher at the Rumuri Primary School. The school has been enrolled in our partner Ecotrust’s Trees for Global Benefits (TGB) community carbon project since 2011. A mother of five who’s been with the school since 2014, Winfred discusses how the school got introduced to TGB, the types of trees which have been planted, and the benefits which they provide.

Winfred also discusses how Ecotrust’s long-term support (from carbon offset revenues!) is instrumental in establishing and maintaining the plantings. The Rumuri school is located in Rubirizi, in the far southwestern corner of Uganda near Queen Elizabeth National Park and the DRC border.

Green Old Deal: Why Carbon Offsets Matter More Than Ever

March 29th, 2019

This story first appeared on The Hill and is also cross-posted on Ecosystem Marketplace.

March 29, 2019

The Green New Deal is a bold and controversial legislative resolution that seeks to simultaneously tackle both climate change and economic inequality.  Since 2011, we’ve been empowering individuals and organizations to address their unavoidable carbon emissions through certified forestry projects which create income for rural communities in areas where earnings are typically less than $2/day.

So, we decided to write an op-ed to chime in on the public discussion of the Green New Deal in order to emphasize that its core concept is not new and, more importantly, to explain how what we do fits in.  Our piece below was published by The Hill, one of Washington’s most respected and influential news outlets.



The Green New Deal was voted down in the Senate, but lives on in a changed conversation about climate policy, including among its critics. Many floated policy ideas they thought would work better or be more enactable. Others focused on what they think a deal should exclude. A big target of their fire has been carbon market mechanisms, especially carbon offsets. But offsets are a necessary part of any comprehensive approach to fighting climate change.

They have been around since the 1990s. Recently demand for offsets has risen fast, and could rise faster if federal or state climate legislation created compliance markets for them. Voluntary carbon markets are relatively small, and voluntary carbon offsets cut less than two tenths of a percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions — but in a larger compliance market, where offsets help meet climate policy requirements, they could cut orders of magnitude more.

Some argued offsets should be off the table in a Green New Deal, claiming they are a license to pollute, don’t offer tangible emissions reduction, and can be exploitative toward developing countries.

The reality is complex — suffice to say the critics in many cases have been right. But they should not prevail, because excluding offsets won’t help the climate, whereas scaling up high-quality offsets will. We’ll make faster progress on emissions with them than without them.

Disney, Microsoft, Lyft and other major companies rely on offsets to cut net emissions. Etsy just became the first global e-commerce company to announce it will offset all its emissions from shipping. Cynics view offsetting corporate emissions as a cop-out. Offsets don’t stop GHG emissions at their source, so they don’t counteract giant companies’ emissions, they claim.

But there’s evidence that companies that use offsets aren’t trying to buy their way out of reducing emissions, they’re buying in. Studies show they consistently do more to reduce emissions than companies that don’t offset. There’s also evidence offsets really do counteract purchasers’ emissions. California got blowback for including forest offsets in its GHG reduction program, yet a Stanford study found they worked, cutting carbon emissions more than 25 million tons.

Globally, preserving and restoring forests could cut GHG more than eliminating all cars on earth. The UN climate process has stressed the need for carbon-negative strategies that effectively remove carbon from the atmosphere in order to draw emissions down faster. High-tech interventions like carbon capture and storage need decades and massive investment to scale up — but forests are nature’s original carbon-negative strategy, inexpensive, here and now. Offsets are the key to financing more of them.

Also, many types of GHG emissions — like air travel — can’t be stopped at the source. Plane exhaust is a big part of companies’ carbon footprints and there’s currently no way to fly without spewing it. Aviation emissions account for 5 percent of atmospheric warming, and are rising fast along with demand for air travel.

The Green New Deal FAQ mentioned scaling up high-speed rail so flying wasn’t necessary. When opponents seized on that, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez scrambled to deny she wanted to ground planes or outlaw private jets. But short of that, offsets are currently about the only way to mitigate growing aviation emissions.

That’s why Bernie Sanders just pledged to offset his air travel on the campaign trail, and why the International Civil Aviation Organization requires airlines to buy offsets.

A group of climate scientists wrote recently that unless the offsets support other GHG reduction that wouldn’t happen otherwise, offsets won’t compensate for rising aviation emissions — but the scientists also said offsets with “robust criteria” would work and would compensate for rising emissions.

Some offsets are more robust than others. To be effective, they must be “additional” (i.e., enable GHG reduction that wouldn’t have happened without them), quantifiable and verified by accredited third parties. Some offer other valuable benefits besides cutting emissions: reducing non-GHG pollution, alleviating poverty, or improving water and soil quality, biodiversity, food security and human health. Today, plenty of reputable offset providers meet these tests.

During the Green New Deal debate, some vehemently rejected carbon offsets as climate colonialism exploiting indigenous and rural communities. It’s true — and reprehensible — that some forest offset projects have threatened residents with relocation or disrupted livelihoods. Other projects that tout “net positive community impacts” like “well-being” or “capacity building” or “expanding knowledge” can be squishy and unimpressive when it comes to showing how much cash they put into local residents’ pockets.

But these failings don’t typify the field. Offsets — when done right — genuinely enhance lives and livelihoods in rural communities. For example, Plan Vivo certifies offsets in parts of the world where incomes are under $2 a day. It requires that rural communities own their own offset projects and local residents receive at least 60 percent of all carbon revenues, so the money goes where it’s needed most.

A Plan Vivo forest offset project in Nicaragua generates direct payments to local farmers of about $300,000 a year. Another in Uganda, Trees for Global Benefits (full disclosure: my organization sells carbon offsets that fund it) has paid local households $2.5 million — the only cash income some of them have.

The money translates to improved human as well as forest health. Cash enables households to install running water and purification systems or qualify for loans to pay for medical care they wouldn’t otherwise get. TGB also protects medicinal tree species, including the African cherry Prunus africana, an active ingredient in prostate treatments.

Climate scientists and economists know that well designed, accountable forest offsets work. They also know that they have a perception problem. A group of them studied it, and found people see forest offsets more positively once they learn they’re cost-efficient at sequestering carbon. But their view of offsets doesn’t improve when shown how they also reliably cut emissions and confer other benefits like health outcomes.

Public perception should catch up to the reality. Our policy discourse is getting clearer about the imperative to connect climate action to social and economic justice. Our views on carbon offsets should, too.

They aren’t a panacea, or a substitute for stopping emissions at the source, and they’re not immune to abuses, but carbon offsets are still indispensable for cutting emissions and empowering people.

NOTE: This post has been updated from the original to clarify the medical use of Prunus africana.

Tim Whitley is the founder and CEO of Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty (COTAP), a 501(c)3 public charity that sells offsets from certified forestry projects in least-developed regions which create transparent and accountable earnings for rural farming communities where income levels are less than $2 per day.



About The Hill

The Hill, which is known among those who influence policy as a “must read” in print and online, serves to connect the political players, define the issues, and influence the way Washington’s decision-makers view the debate.  Since its launch in 1994, The Hill has been the newspaper for and about Congress, breaking stories from Capitol Hill, K Street and the White House.  The Hill stands alone in signaling the important issues of the moment by delivering solid, non-partisan and objective reporting on the business of Washington, covering the inner-workings of Congress, as well as the nexus between politics and business.

Khasi Hills REDD+ Project featured by The Pulitzer Center

March 24th, 2019


COTAP partner the Khasi Hills Community REDD+ Project was featured in a piece by Disha Shetty titled “As Climate Change Depletes Forests, One of India’s Greenest States Turns to Its People.

Trees for Global Benefits 2018 Year in Review

January 18th, 2019

Part 3 of Our Interview with Pauline Nantongo Kalunda


Kicking off our 2018 Trees for Global Benefits (TGB) highlights is the final installment of our 3-part discussion about the project, one of about 20 video interviews we conducted during our visit in March (more on that below). It begins with a discussion about “additionality,” or how the project wouldn’t be occurring as a result of government policy or without sales of its certified carbon credits. You’ll also learn about Uganda’s Constitution Amendment Bill of 2017, how the project helps participants obtain formal recognition of their land rights (a topic often referred to as “land tenure”), and how TGB facilitates participation by individuals with extremely small landholdings. We also cover the Community Carbon Fund (CCF), TGB’s large waitlist of future beneficiary farmers, and how Ecotrust manages supply and demand.

 

 

Celebrating 15 Years of TGB


Started in 2003 with 33 farmers in the Rubirizi and Mitooma districts, TGB has now expanded to over 12 districts and nearly 7,000 farmer participants, making it the largest agroforestry carbon scheme in the world! To celebrate, Ecotrust published this cool and informative ‘story map’ which charts TGB’s growth (click image to open):

 

2018 also marked 10 years of TGB support from Max Burgers, a climate-conscious Swedish hamburger chain which, among other things, lists each food item’s CO2 emissions on its menus. Ecotrust marked this milestone with another story map focusing on environmental and social impacts created by Max’s support.

Jane Goodall Recognizes Ecotrust as part of HWC Resilience Fund


At the Jane Goodall Institute Uganda (JGI) Annual Event in June, Ecotrust was among several implementing partners  recognized by Jane Goodall herself for their role in the implementation of the Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) Resilience Fund. JGI, Ecotrust, and Chimp Trust are implementing an 18-month conservation project which aims to enhance community resilience to losses from wildlife incursions in the in the Albertine Rift, which ranks first out of the 119 distinct terrestrial eco-regions of continental Africa in terms of endemic animal species. The project aims to enhance wildlife protection by mitigating negative HWC livelihood impacts for communities living in and around the vital wildlife migratory corridors which connect forest reserves protected under the jurisdiction of the National Forestry Authority (NFA).

Multiple Appearances on NTV Uganda


In 2018, Ecotrust had two high-profile appearances on NTV Uganda which can be viewed below. The first is a general feature of TGB as part of the NTVGREEN series, and the second is Pauline discussing the conservation of Uganda’s big cats with WWF country director David Duli and Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities.

Additional Ecotrust/TGB Updates


Here’s a roundup of selected items straight from Ecotrust’s news page:

  • In Q1, the project announced grants of UGX 15 million (about US$ 4,042) to four community groups. One grantee, the Mubuku Integrated Farmers Association (MIFA), received solar lamps worth UGX 4,053,000 for their project “Kick Kerosene lamps out of Mubuku landscape,” an initiative for empowering MIFA members by simultaneously improving health and literacy.
  • In March, the project endured a weeklong visit by COTAP! We spent 7 days learning about farmers’s TGB experiences by talking to about 16 participants in the Kasese and Rubirizi districts. In addition, we spoke with Ecotrust ED Pauline Nantongo Kalunda in Kampala, field staff like Winnie Namwirya, and Richard Akora, owner of a nursery which supplies seedlings to TGB farmers.
  • Ecotrust participated in conservation events across the country, inncluding a World Wildlife Day festival in Kasese, Water and Environment Week in Entebbe, and World Wetlands Day in Arua district, as well as various government policy/planning/training workshops and meetings which are too numerous to list!

Get Future Updates Directly from Ecotrust


You can get caught up on Ecotrust’s news through their website’s archive here and sign up here to get future TGB updates directly and as soon as they’re announced.

 

 

When you donate to TGB, you’re not only offsetting your unavoidable CO2 emissions, you’re also restoring landscapes and supporting farmers like Beatrice Tubamwenda, pictured below. She is earning a total of $610.40 for planting and maintaining 400 trees which are capturing and sequestering 203.4 tonnes of CO2!