Spotlighting Far-Reaching Progress on Sustainable Forestry and Agriculture at COP18

November 26, 2012

Over 17,000 delegates representing 194 nations and hundreds of corporations and non-governmental organizations are converging on Doha, Qatar, for the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP18). Among the 7,000 NGO delegates are representatives of the Rainforest Alliance. They will contribute to discussions of global climate change trends, especially regarding practical ways to help farmers and forest landowners mitigate and adapt to climate change, lower barriers to participating in carbon markets and enable businesses to reduce their carbon footprints on a global scale.

Whether or not the upcoming COP18 meeting succeeds in renewing the expiring Kyoto protocol for a second commitment period or achieving other agreements on its agenda, it will help advance a low-carbon future, according to Jeff Hayward, director of the Climate Program at the Rainforest Alliance, who is now headed to Doha. “The progress of the global treaty regime is non-linear,” he said. “There are ups and downs, but it’s continually advancing and will build upon the decisions from Durban last year. Meanwhile, the progress of diverse bilateral, national and voluntary approaches -- Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), certified sustainable forestry and agriculture, emerging carbon methodologies and standards, verification and validation for carbon markets -- is exponential. They are exploding on many fronts in many places at once, rapidly creating ways to reduce emissions. COP18 is an important opportunity to showcase and support these developments.”

At COP18, Hayward and other Rainforest Alliance experts will focus on the climate impacts of sustainable forestry and agriculture, including at a November 28 side event on “Engaging Communities in Sustainable Landscapes,” and at the Rainforest Alliance booth, #105 in the official exhibit booth area of the Qatar National Convention Center. 

COP18 Logo The Rainforest Alliance is a global leader in sustainability certification of agriculture and forestry, which together account for up to 30 percent of global carbon emissions. A co-founder of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the largest FSC certifier, the Rainforest Alliance has certified more than 177 million acres (72 million hectares) of sustainably managed forests, along with thousands of forest-product manufacturing companies. About 10 percent of the world’s forests are now under certified sustainable management, with total acreage growing 20 percent annually. 

The Rainforest Alliance offers accredited carbon offset verification and validation services, auditing forestry and agroforestry projects for compliance with major internationally recognized standards, helping facilitate the continuing growth of carbon markets and of REDD. For example, the organization recently validated the first-ever FSC-certified REDD project in the Amazon, protecting 67,700 acres (27,400 hectares) of rainforest in the Para State of Brazil. 

The Rainforest Alliance works to support REDD+ (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus forest conservation) with standards and tools that help forest managers and farmers reduce emissions, conduct carbon accounting and access climate financing and the benefits of selling carbon offsets while avoiding negative social and environmental impacts. For example, the Rainforest Alliance recently collaborated with the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, and Fauna and Flora International on a user-friendly manual for land-based carbon projects on conducting cost-effective and credible social and biodiversity impact assessments.

The Rainforest Alliance’s work in agriculture is based on the comprehensive Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) Standard, which include requirements for curbing deforestation and other ecosystem damage. Over a quarter of a million farms worldwide are Rainforest Alliance Certified™ for sustainable production of many kinds of agricultural products, including plantation crops that drive deforestation, such as oil palm, sugar and soy. The Rainforest Alliance also developed the SAN Climate Module, which promotes the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increase carbon sequestration and build capacity of farms to adapt to climate change. The Rainforest Alliance’s work with farmers to implement climate-friendly farming provides models for low carbon development, from coffee farms in Mexico and Nicaragua to cocoa farms in western Ghana. These programs entail promoting reforestation to conserve biodiversity and help farmers adapt to and mitigate climate change, and pioneering credible methods for measuring and verifying sequestered carbon. 

In addition to farms growing crops, the Rainforest Alliance also certifies ranches for sustainable cattle production according to the new SAN Standard that manages grasses, conserves trees and reduces emissions. The first cattle ranches to earn certification under these standards are in the Mato Grosso state in western Brazil, and cover a total area of 79,000 acres (32,000 hectares). Livestock grazing covers 26 percent of the Earth’s land area and accounts for 18 percent of GHG emissions.

“Certification, carbon project validation/verification and other tools we offer community forest managers and farmers are already adding up to significant impacts,” said Hayward. “They’re cutting emissions around the world, while delivering social and ecological co-benefits, which are equally important. They help global businesses green their supply chains and reduce their carbon footprints. For example, in the food and beverage sectors, the supply chain is by far the largest source of emissions, and tools are available to cut those emissions now. New practices, technologies, treaties and regulations are in the pipeline, but meanwhile, you can prepare and enhance your competitive position now by using existing voluntary protocols and standards. Whatever happens with negotiations on agreements at Doha, this will be a key message for governments and businesses to take away.” 

Note to editors and producers: Jeff Hayward and other Rainforest Alliance experts are available on request for interviews from Doha during COP18. To request an interview, please contact Anna Clark, aclark@ra.org, 646-452-1939 or Stephen Kent, skent@kentcom.com, 914-589-5988.