Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Obtaining organic certification for man-made forests

Abstract of a Seminar presentation
Sanduni Samarasekara

Forest Certification is being practiced in the industry since the 1990’s and presently, there are more than one standard or certification process that govern more than 3.2% of the world’s forest lands.

In the last decade, Forest Certification has acted as one of the most effective ways of promoting Sustainable Forest Management. It clearly addresses three issues; deforestation, maintaining the biodiversity and forest degradation. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) are some of the main Forest Certification systems in the lime light today.

Although, the present certification criteria address most of the issues in forestry, when considering man-made forests and plantations, they have not been able to put an end to the chemical usage in forestry, as in fertilizer, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides etc. Usage of these can offset the reduction in Carbon Foot Print that one hopes for by planting more and more trees. Additionally, there are the health problems caused by the heavy metal ingredients and other toxic matter. This scenario has provoked the need of an Organic Certification for man-made forests as well.

Organic Certification is not new to the globe or to Sri Lanka; it has been amongst in the form of Organic Certification for Agricultural Products and other food types. Since, no fixed criteria have still been derived for the Organic Forest Certification, one has to consult the prevailing Agricultural Organic Certification criteria and the FSC guidelines to obtain a clear picture. In this study, the candidate has chosen to make reference to two Organic Agricultural Standards, one from Sri Lanka and the other from India.

The possibility of obtaining Organic Certification for man-made forests is not only about deriving the guidelines. Further, a well defined market should be maintained in order to avoid market failures of this important non-governmental market instrument of Sustainable Forest Management.

Current status of obtaining carbon credits for forest resources

Abstract of a Seminar presentation
Shanuda Maddumage

Kyoto Protocol laid in 1997 is the international treaty agreed to in principle by parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change to limit greenhouse gas emissions. This protocol assigned each developed country a greenhouse gas target to be achieved, on average, for the period 2008–2012.

The primary action to meet Kyoto targets is the reduction of emissions, or abatement. The protocol allows the use of other methods to assist countries in meeting the targets. These include emissions trading, joint implementation (JI) and the clean development mechanism (CDM). An emissions trading system, if introduced, is based on a permit authorizing the holder to emit a specified amount of greenhouse gas. Carbon sinks such as forestry plantations could be incorporated into this system by allocating credits for the amount of carbon sequestered (stored in plants), which could then be sold to emitters, allowing them to offset rather than reduce total emissions.

Carbon credit is an amount of carbon stored or sequestered in a carbon sink, which can be used by governments, or other entities, to offset greenhouse gas emissions. It is a tradable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one ton of carbon or carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e).

Properly implemented and verified, forestry projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions or increase its sequestration over time can access new revenue sources through Carbon Credits. These projects are generally grouped into categories that relate to the management practices implemented on the property. For example, Afforestation/Reforestation projects plant native species on a land that has been previously converted to non-forest use. REDD (Reduced Emissions from Degradation and Deforestation) projects prevent the removal of existing forest stands and preserve them over long term. Improved forest management projects increase the carbon sequestration capacity of the land by changing to sustainable forestry practices.

Although these projects obviously have environmental benefits, selling carbon offsets from these projects is problematic in a number of ways. Some of the common problems associated with forest carbon credit projects are slow payback, reversibility risks (lack of permanence), leakage, methodological challenges, lack of space and availability of alternatives. Finding solutions to these problems are a major concern in post-Kyoto actions.

Sri Lanka, as a country with high canopy forest cover of 23.5% and a forest cover of 40% in general the potential to act as a GHG sink in forestry sector is very high. However due to lack of finance, lack of knowledge and because of the complexity and hard estimations in the procedure, Sri Lanka is not in a very strong platform in forest carbon credits.