1 February 2017 | Without significant infusions of new financing, particularly from the private sector, it’s simply unachievable to permanently protect Earth’s forests, biodiversity, water and climate. So findings from Ecosystem Marketplace’s latest report, State of Private Investment in Conservation 2016 brings particularly good news. Private capital committed for conservation grew by 62% in the last two years, and totaled $8.2 billion in the last decade.
“The findings of this report speak to the growing recognition of our forests, our wetlands, our reefs, and other natural landscapes as smart investments – a notion that would have been unthinkable to most mainstream investors just five years ago,” said Michael Jenkins, Founding President and CEO of Forest Trends. “Just in the last two years covered by this report, we’ve seen a huge leap in demand for these kinds of tangible ‘real assets’ from investors. The demand is growing across the globe and from across investment instruments – the only thing keeping these emerging asset classes from surging even higher is the scarcity of investable opportunities; and, as in any emerging market, transparent information is critical.”
There are a few noteworthy actions that governments and corporate actors took in 2015 and 2016 that may be laying the groundwork for private investment in conservation. The Paris Climate Agreement laid a foundation to reduce emissions and decarbonize economies, and the private sector is expected to contribute to this global effort. This includes curbing forest loss and companies continue to make commitments that they will mobilize the necessary resources to rid deforestation from their supply chains. To date, Forest Trends’ Supply Change project tracks over 450 companies that have made more than 760 commitments.
Such actions are sending strong, albeit mixed, signals to investors, State of Private Investment in Conservation 2016 lead report author Kelley Hamrick writes. And they have spurred some early responses that may indicate the emergence of new opportunities for private conservation investment.
In terms of findings, report authors focused on three conservation-oriented investments: food and fiber production, habitat conservation and clean water. At $6.5 billion, the sustainable food and fiber production sector, which includes sustainable agriculture and forestry, was responsible for the most investments representing 55% of the total.
Investments in food and fiber were also the most diverse geographically. At 33%, the majority of investors funneled capital into North American projects though 29% went to Latin America while Oceania, at 19%, followed not far behind. The remaining 18% is split evenly between Africa and Asia.
Report authors found that several investment projects in forestry used blended public private investments, which blend lower-cost public capital that seeks to deliver public benefits with private capital that’s after a financial return. Ecotrust Forest Management, for example, is a US-based forest investment manager that produces sustainable forest products with multiple conservation benefits. Part of its investment strategy is to monetize several public values through such ventures as selling carbon credits to mitigation climate change or with conservation easements to protect clean water and preserve wildlife habitat. Another part of its investment strategy is more traditional: generating returns through timber production.
The Climate Trust Capital’s Fund I is another example. Climate Trust Capital established a pilot fund with a $1 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture that led to a program-related investment loan from the Packard Foundation and a credit enhancement from The Climate Trust. The fund’s developers intend to generate a return on investment through sustainable forestry and agriculture projects that sell carbon credits.
Despite the progress, report authors identified a shortage of investments meeting criteria for both environmental and financial returns. Investors left nearly $3.1B on the table last year.
Also, growing conservation markets may prove difficult in the US’ new political climate.
More news about carbon finance is summarized below, so keep reading!
HERE’S THE DEAL
Going green is better together
The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport recently followed airports in Seattle, San Diego and Fort Worth to promote sustainable air travel by joining the Good Traveler program. The program allows flyers to purchase carbon offsets from wind farms, water restoration and forestry projects in the United States or REDD+ projects in the Congo and Zambia. Collaboration among the aviation sector results in better deals on offsets and higher levels of service from offset providers, a program document read. It also improves outreach efforts and decision-making. According to San Diego International Airport, the Good Traveler has offset 11 million air miles in just over a year.
Keep coal in the ground and forests standing
An Alaska Native corporation, a sustainable forestry investment firm and California’s carbon cap-and-trade program are among the entities involved in a recently inked deal that preserves 115,000 acres of Alaskan forestland. The Chugach Alaska Corp. has long-term potential to earn millions of dollars by maintaining the forested land, which partly sits atop undeveloped coal resources, to generate offsets and be sold in California’s carbon market. The corporation sold some of their coal rights to New Forests, an investment firm, who then retired the rights. “It’s really a signal that California’s climate policies are leading to a situation where the forest is more valuable left standing and coal is most valuable left in the ground,” said Brian Shillinglaw of New Forests.
South Pole goes Down Under
The South Pole Group acquired the Australian carbon offset and renewable energy business Climate Friendly in a deal that will divide the company into two parts. One area will become a carbon farming initiative operating under the Climate Friendly brand. The other part will integrate into South Pole to specialize in carbon footprinting, smart cities, supply chain risk and green finance among other areas. The acquisition helps consolidate a global presence for South Pole and position the Swiss-based group as a sustainability solutions provider worldwide.
Six years of carbon neutral travel
For Australian-based company Intrepid Travel, 2016 marked its sixth year of carbon neutrality. Since July 2010, it has offset over 200,000 tons of carbon emissions from their trips and offices while also reducing emissions internally by investing in low-carbon alternatives. In 2015 alone, the company offset 36,500 tons of carbon. Intrepid Travel purchases credits from internationally verified carbon offset projects that include a Gold Standard wind farm project in Turkey, clean cookstoves in Cambodia and REDD+ in Kenya. According to Intrepid Travels, its offsetting has resulted in a $1 million contribution to these projects since 2007.
Fitted for offsets
Offset protocols for Ontario’s new cap-and-trade program are still under development though some market experts are already certain they will play a significant role. Offsets allow participants to both meet compliance obligations and support environmental entrepreneurs who are creating new green projects, said David Moffat, Fund Manager for Quebec-based Coop Carbone, which launched a $20 million fund with Fondaction CSN to finance offset projects in North America. As regulated entities in Quebec and California invest in offsets as part of their compliance strategies, Moffat recommends the participants in Ontario’s market consider what role offsets can play in their strategies sooner rather than later.
Discussions in Davos
Global business and government leaders pushed for coordinated action on climate change at the 47th World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this month. Several of the conference’s meetings focused on climate change, deforestation and clean energy, and Chinese President Xi Jinping urged signatories of the Paris Climate Agreement to stick to it rather than walk away. Jinping’s presence at the conference was a big deal showcasing the country’s leadership in clean energy and climate action. Other countries voiced support for the Paris Agreement during the WEF event and even ratcheted up their climate ambition. According to the We Mean Business Coalition, implementing the global climate pact will unlock $13.5 trillion of economic activity globally.
Working for the Low-Carbon USA
Earlier this month, hundreds of private sector entities sent a message to US President Donald Trump and Congress calling for low-carbon policies and investments. Over 600 businesses and investors including several well-known consumer giants such as Nike and IKEA reaffirmed support for the Paris Climate Agreement. It’s a powerful group, one that takes in nearly $1.5 trillion in annual revenue and employs about 1.8 million people. More than half of the involved companies signed a similar statement during COP 22 in Marrakesh. Since then, the group has nearly doubled with more companies and investors expected to join.
Gaining access, unlocking potential
Forest carbon offset sales in North America totaled $74.5 million in 2015, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’s latest research. However, virtually none of this market activity involves small family forest owners, a real problem as this group of landowners make up a critical part of America’s carbon sink. Brian Kittler of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation says preserving these forestlands stand to deliver massive climate mitigation benefits. And as family foresters often trade carbon stocks for cash through timber production, often without long-term thinking, Kittler recommends technological, financial and project design innovation in order to unlock carbon markets to these forest-owning families.
Putting some green in the Green Climate Fund
The administration of former US President Barack Obama pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund in 2014. While he didn’t hit that mark before leaving the Executive Office, one of his last acts as president was channeling $500 million to the GCF bringing total funds to date to $1 billion. “This contribution shows that even as we face an incoming Administration that engages in dangerous climate denial, those of us in the United States who believe in taking action to save our planet, our economy, and our future will continue doing everything in our power to move forward,” said Jeff Merkley, Senator of Oregon.
To invest or not invest
Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of Private Investment in Conservation 2016 report, published in January, finds investors left $3.1 billion allocated for conservation on the table in 2015. It’s a lot of finance, enough to help tens of millions of smallholder farmers implement sustainable land management practices that deliver climate and environmental benefits while still boosting yields. Investors responding to Ecosystem Marketplace’s survey didn’t say which projects they rejected, just simply available projects didn’t meet their criteria. Investors stick with what they know, which is why their reasons to not invest may be more psychological than logical.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
One size does not fit all
A new study offers a reminder to NGOs and other actors that carbon finance is not a one-size-fits-all solution to saving forests and slowing climate change. “We were shocked by how much income could be generated by carbon finance in some areas and how little it could bring in others,” said the study’s lead author Ashwin Ravikumar. Researchers determined that Indonesia’s peat forests have potential to generate billions of dollars through its carbon storage capacity. However, dry less carbon-dense forests such as a Canadian pine forest won’t generate that kind of finance. “There are cases when carbon finance could have an enormous conservation impact, and studies like this one can help us to determine what those cases are,” Ravikumar said.
Associate, Ecosystem Marketplace
Based in Washington D.C., the Associate will support Ecosystem Marketplace’s range of survey-based research on carbon, forestry, water, biodiversity, agriculture and market-based financial mechanisms. The Associate conducts research using a variety of methods, which include desk research, phone calls and survey response analysis. S/he will also represent Ecosystem Marketplace externally at meetings and cultivate relationships with stakeholders, peers and supporters. Successful candidates will possess research and report writing experience along with strong skills in Excel, web development and GIS. A bachelor’s degree is also required while a Master’s degree in a relevant field is preferred.
Corporate Climate Action Expert, South Pole Group
Based in Zurich, London or Stockholm, the Corporate Climate Action Expert will lead engagements with corporate customers related to corporate climate and renewable energy action. S/he will also help shape South Pole’s strategy in the corporate climate action field as well as ensure knowledge transfer and training among the consultants. Qualified candidates will have a university degree in a related field and at least seven years of work experience in consultancy and business development in the corporate sector. Experience with renewable energy strategies and professional proficiency in Spanish, German, Swedish or French is also a strong plus.
Senior Conference Producer, Carbon Forward
Based in London, the Senior Conference Producer’s primary role is to manage and coordinate the planning for Carbon Forward 2017, an annual gathering for carbon market professionals. This involves the conference’s administrative, speaker and logistical matters, and the Producer will also be responsible for creating a deadline timeline. S/he will design a new Carbon Forward website and oversee its content. Successful candidates will possess three years experience in conference production and management along with interest in climate change, energy and carbon markets. Experience in conference website design is desired as is knowledge of developing sponsorship packages and negotiations.
International Fellow/ Carbon Markets Fellow, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
Based in Arlington, the Carbon Markets Fellow will work on policy analysis and engagement with a focus on markets. S/he will research and analyze international climate policy issues and produce reports and briefs for publication and internal purposes. The Fellow also presents on behalf of the organization at conferences and workshops and performs administrative duties. Qualified candidates must have an advanced degree in a related field – some economics background is preferred – and analytical, writing and editing skills. Familiarity with climate finance and #REDD+ is desired as is a strong understanding of carbon markets at all levels.
Forestry Program Officer and Senior Program Associate, American Carbon Registry
Based in Sacramento (or Arlington or Little Rock), the Forestry Program Officer and Senior Program Associate provides support on a range of issues including project applications reviews, data reporting and document verifications. S/he will also develop technical analyses, presentations, outreach materials and reports. Qualified candidates will hold either a bachelor’s or a Master’s in forestry, natural resources management or a related field and five years of experience working in the carbon markets space or a related environmental market sector. Candidate must also possess demonstrated skills in greenhouse gas accounting in California’s compliance and voluntary forest carbon markets.