Conservation Forestry Rule Engine Financed by the Carbon Markets and A Commodity Buffer Zone

Malaysian rainforest 

Previously, we wrote “the land dictates the rules, and rural communities are the gatekeepers” [The Jakarta Post, December 2007] regarding how should the nascent forestry ecological service market develop. Essentially, this equates “avoided deforestation” best practices with best practices in natural resources management.

To explain further, a successful avoided deforestation project is a subset of land use, land use change, and forestry. What this means on the ground is that land use, land use change, and forestry can primarily fund avoided deforestation projects along with possible secondary carbon financing. This removes the responsibility of the carbon markets for being the primary source of funds for these large scale transactions. Furthermore, this integrative management technique relays less on new possible developments in on the sub-national, national, and international level as current avoided deforestation management policy driven tools originating from Bali.

Yet, what I have observed in my survey of project developers internationally are the following:

A.      Linear thinking and arrogance by participants will cause project failure.

B.      Inability of ex-pats to understand / participate in local culture.

C.      Inability of locals to bridge societal levels.

D.      Inability of all participants to communicate effectively.

Let me explain. Linear thinking dominates the logic expressed by project developers in the market place today. We have few market participants who are willing to understand how there may be causality and correlation between local nutrition levels and clean water and deforestation. In fact, local communities if they have access to improved nutrition and cleaner water will in plain English “have more to live for” and may “express greater interest in engaging with the sustainable management of their local resources”. I have been told of two projects, both anonymous, where a policy decision coupled with protection of a threatened forest have caused either starvation or malnutrition. These projects are geographically dispersed on two continents.

Next, ex-pats are often times not willing to engage local communities culturally. An anonymous source described unintentionally how little she knew about the local community she was working in when she mentioned that she hadn’t spent an evening communicating with locals on the ground in their village in an informal fashion. The key for project success is trust and confidence garnered by you the project developer through interaction with your local community. This in many cases will not occur in formal meetings since many communities simply want us as project developers to leave as soon as possible without minimal disturbance.

Yet, I have also experienced local individuals’ lack of ability to bridge societal levels. Many local individuals I have spoken to always assume poverty as a rationale for not wanting to engage with their fellow citizens. If your local connection is uncomfortable talking to all members of her community, you may be in for a surprise once the project begins. It the ability of your local project developer counterpart to successfully and effectively communicate with individuals within their society that may decrease qualitatively and quantitatively decrease your risk.

Finally, I have generally noticed a lack of project participants globally to effectively communicate with the individuals that they most need to communicate with. An anonymous project developer I know lost their contract because they couldn’t relate emotionally to their funder’s passion for forest protection and sustainability. These two counterparties clearly communicated regarding technical concerns about GHG and carbon accounting and project scope. Yet, the contract was lost because they didn’t communicate emotionally with their client. This specifically means that by relying too much upon a contract to define a relationship the firm missed the point. We are developing a new market and we have a tremendous amount to learn from each other ­– and this requires sincerity, credibility, and trust.

Gabriel Thoumi is a Masters Fellow at the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan in conjunction with the Ross School of Business and the School of Natural Resources and Environment. He can be reached at [email protected].

Author: thoumi

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