Status: 07.12.2023, 22:26 p.m.
By: Alexandra Endres
Forest destruction in Indonesia. The country is involved in the World Bank Roadmap. © epa Rian Anggor/dpa
The World Bank's "roadmap" for the trading of carbon certificates from forest protection is intended to avoid misuse and incorrect accounting. NGOs at COP28 are skeptical.
The World Bank unveiled plans at COP28 in Dubai to facilitate the growth of "highly integrity" global carbon markets. Increased trade according to World Bank standards is expected to begin as early as next year. 15 countries are participating in the World Bank Engagement Roadmap for High-Integrity Carbon Markets: Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia, Laos, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal, the Republic of Congo and Vietnam. Their carbon certificates are to be generated through forest protection.
By trading the certificates, "natural resources, such as forests, blessed lands and communities" could "open up millions or even billions of dollars in new income" in the future, the bank writes.
According to the report, more than 24 million allowances could already be issued in the coming year as a result of the initiative. By 2028, the number could rise to 126 million. Assuming favorable market conditions, the certificates could generate up to $2.5 billion in income, the bank estimates. "A large part of this could flow back to the municipalities and states."
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Criticism of certificate trading
The trade in such forest protection certificates has come under heavy criticism in recent months, as their climate protection effect is controversial. In several cases, research and studies have shown that forest protection had saved much less CO₂ than the securities had securitized.
The effect can arise, for example, from unclear accounting rules. In addition, it is not easy to determine how much deforestation would have occurred without a certified conservation project. Accounting for carbon storage in forests is complex. Sometimes, forest projects also lead to deforestation taking place elsewhere. Their protective effect can be limited in time – forest fires, for example, can quickly destroy the forest. It is also often criticized that the projects have a negative impact on indigenous and local communities.
World Bank emphasizes integrity of certificates
The World Bank wants to avoid this. She says her certificates have extra integrity for two reasons:
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- In terms of environmental impact: The World Bank wants to ensure that allowances are issued and counted only once, and that they are based on a real basis and represent additional, permanent and measurable climate protection.
- in terms of their social impact: Indigenous and local communities should benefit in particular from the certificates.
Each certificate should be checked and verified by a third party. The fact that forest protection in one region leads to more deforestation elsewhere should also be avoided. Countries should be able to decide for themselves how they want to use their certificates, for example for additional income or by recording the certificates in their national climate targets (NDCs). This is a clear reference to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Cautious and doubtful NGOs
However, Gilles Dufrasne of the NGO Carbon Market Watch doubts that the World Bank certificates work better than others: "I don't see why this initiative should be more trustworthy than others," he says. Despite the assurances, Dufrasne sees the danger that a large amount of "junk credits" will be issued.
In reality, it is hardly possible to control all the problems surrounding forest certificates. Since there are so many uncertainties, "forest certificates are fundamentally unsuitable for offsetting or quantifiable savings in CO₂".
Nevertheless, he can understand that developing countries are trying to sell forest certificates: "Countries are desperately looking for financing options for forest conservation," he says. It is a systemic failure that the money is not provided in other ways.
Levi Sucre Romero, a member of the Bribri from Costa Rica and coordinator of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests, also expressed caution. "Whether we, as indigenous peoples, welcome this plan will depend on what conditions it formulates for the national REDD+ strategy," he said. In the case of Costa Rica, there is such a clear framework agreed between the indigenous peoples and the government, but his country is an exception. In other countries involved in the roadmap, this is not yet the case. "There, each people will have to decide for themselves." However, the rights of the indigenous people must be protected in any case.
Markets are likely to grow
Article 6 of the Paris Climate Agreement stipulates that Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs) are tradable between countries. This applies in particular to forest protection, which is often understood to mean the results of REDD+ programmes. At COP26 in Glasgow, some details were agreed. But exactly how the carbon markets are to be regulated under Article 6 as a whole has not yet been regulated.
This must be distinguished from voluntary carbon markets, where companies trade certificates in order to meet their self-imposed climate targets. The World Bank expects the market for carbon credits to grow. It expects that voluntarily traded allowances in particular will initially have to play a greater role in this, among other things because the infrastructure and institutions in many countries are not yet designed for trading under Article 6.
But for this to happen, voluntary markets must comply with strict rules, be well controlled and be transparent, according to the World Bank. Their roadmap is designed to help "unlock the potential."
The roadmap is based on the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), in which the World Bank has been working with governments and local communities to drive carbon markets since 2008. However, the FCPF is also repeatedly criticised for the fact that it has little concrete results in forest protection.