Private sector fights against climate change more than Governments

Voluntary REDD projects are actively protecting more than 14 million hectares of endangered forest.

Not only are these private-sector actors protecting millions of hectares of endangered forest, but they are doing so in a way that creates rigorous methods for measuring the amount of carbon captured in forests, methods that others can learn from and implement themselves.

And that, in fact, is exactly what’s happening, with state and regional governments around the world harvesting lessons learned in the voluntary carbon markets to develop their own home-grown programs.

So, why are these green-minded entrepreneurs risking hundreds of millions of dollars to save the forest and develop new methods that the rest of us can use? Partly because governments told them to. Governments reward entrepreneurs for taking action on climate change by saving endangered forest, but how these same governments are now leaving some of the most productive projects in limbo.

the private sector began stepping up as early as 2007, when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) formally recognized the idea of creating a REDD mechanism. Three big projects have been developed: Kasigau in Kenia, Alto Mayo in Peru and Pdar Meanchey in Cambodia. 14 millions of hectares have been protected, 70.000 millions of local people have been directly benefiting from project activities and 4 million of carbon emissions have been reduced since 2009. And, in 2011, a 67% of the investment came from private sector.

Beyond the three big projects highlighted above, the paper points to a review of 41 projects that created thousands of jobs, built schools, and funded scholarships. It points, in other words, to a mechanism that is working, and is delivering results with limited resources from voluntary buyers.

Voluntary carbon projects have already earned the trust of US companies like Microsoft and Disney and developing country companies like Brazil’s Natura Cosmetics, which are more than willing to voluntarily buy REDD offsets that conform to standards that they know and trust.

But these voluntary buyers are the minority, and private-sector funding won’t begin to flow on the kind of scale needed to slow climate change until governments impose global caps on greenhouse gas emissions, enacting policies that reward conservation with an adequate price on carbon. Until that happens, governments that choose to support REDD need to make sure that they are not leaving the good projects already underway in the lurch. Otherwise, not only will we lose the progress made to date, but we will dampen the enthusiasm of green entrepreneurs to take on risk to do the right thing.