A PROTECTED forest will be the first biodiversity reserve in Cambodia designed to take advantage of the global market for carbon credits, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Seima Protected Forest, a former logging concession in Mondulkiri, covers 3,000 square kilometres and was declared a protected area by the Council of Ministers last week.
The WCS is now assessing the amount of carbon stored in the forest. Carbon credits will then be floated on the international market under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) system adopted by the UN in 2007, an extension of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions.
Tom Evans, country programme director for WCS Cambodia, explained that once the number of trees that will be saved by the forest’s protected status has been calculated, the corresponding metric tonnes of carbon can be sold on what is called the “voluntary market”. Evans said most of the present buyers are “large companies with an interest in corporate responsibility”, but that a similar project in Madagascar saw rock bands such as Pearl Jam buying carbon credits as well.
Evans explained that “the carbon credits [will be] owned by Cambodia, not an NGO, and the government has made a policy decision that [these] pilot projects ensure benefits for local communities”.
Some of those who stand to benefit most from the carbon revenues are the members of the ethnic Bunong minority who live in the forest.
“They have … legally registered tenure in several villages,” Evans said. “Our expectation is that they will benefit from the carbon. They are at the centre of how the site is managed.”
Carbon-credit revenues will also help authorities protect the incredible array of wildlife found in the forest. “The ... area shelters 23 carnivore species, including seven cat species, two bears and two species of wild dog. Researchers working there have recently discovered a bat and two frog species that are all new to science,” the WCS said in a statement.
Like all other commodities, the value of carbon credits has fluctuated greatly in recent months, but rates are currently “$5 per tonne of CO2 emissions avoided”, Evans said, while smaller-volume sales could net between $10 and $20 per tonne.
Policymakers from around the world are meeting in Copenhagen in December to discuss a formal “compliance” market to replace the voluntary one, which could allow Cambodia to sell carbon credits from Seima and similar projects for higher rates.