What could be more appropriate than a native tree planting programme, for offsetting the carbon emissions of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD)? In fact the Montreal-based organization has been involved in two projects of this kind, in Kenya in 2006 and 2007, and on a much larger scale in the innovative Riparian Reforestation Programme in Brazil's Paraná state.
The Kenyan project, organized through Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement under a memorandum of understanding in November 2006, saw three thousand native trees planted in the Ngong forest to offset 770 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2eq) generated by CBD staff travel.
The Brazilian project also had its origins in 2006, when the government of Paraná state hosted the Eighth Ordinary Meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8), and its Governor, Roberto Requião, dedicated one million trees as a symbolic gesture to offset the emissions relating to the next such meeting, COP9 in Bonn in May 2008. He also signed a memorandum of cooperation with SCBD Executive Secretary Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf to offset all carbon emissions arising out of the SCBD’s operations, totalling approximately 10,200 t CO2eq, between COP9 and COP10 (which will take place in October 2010).
The biodiversity-friendly Paraná offset scheme is part of the award-winning Riparian Reforestation Programme. Mixing planting with natural regeneration, by the end of 2008 this state-led programme had planted 100 million seedlings of locally occurring tree species along conservation corridors, connecting up a network of local parks in the municipalities of Diamante do Oeste, São José das Palmeiras, São Pedro do Ivaí, Jardim Alegre, Goioerê and Moreira Sales. Reforestation helps to protect river banks from erosion and to restore the ecology associated with the original Atlantic Rain Forest, creating a buffer zone for the protected areas around Foz de Iguacu National Park which make up one of Brazil's most biodiverse – and threatened – ecosystems.
Paraná's Riparian programme is an official partner of the United Nations Environment Programme's 'Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign'. The tree planting is all done in reserves with legal status, some on state-owned land and some under contract with farmers. The land owners sign legally binding commitments to protect the area permanently, or at least for a 30 year (renewable) term, 30 years being the time span used to calculate how much carbon this reforestation will offset. Sites are geo-referenced and regularly visited by a technical team from the state's Environment Secretariat.
The trees specifically dedicated to the SCBD are located in the municipality of São Pedro do Ivaí, where Governor Requião has undertaken to plant around 150,000 trees (around 110,000 of which are already planted) on 120 hectares of land set aside exclusively for the Secretariat. Theoretically, this equates to one hectare for each member of the SCBD staff. It is envisaged that the area (currently owned by a state corporation) will be handed over to Paraná state ownership as the SCBD Park.
The SCBD is now looking at other innovative options for future offsetting, since the Paraná project is not externally verified or certified, which is a requirement of the carbon offset guidelines established by the UN Environmental Management Group (EMG).
Offsetting is only part of the SCBD's wider strategy to make its operations more sustainable. Under its Greening Initiative, a plan drawn up in June 2006, a task force was charged with reducing the environmental impact of its office, minimizing the carbon footprint of CBD meetings, and raising staff awareness, for instance by requiring that all staff travel authorizations should include an estimate of their carbon dioxide emissions.
The task force presented its report on all these issues at the 2008 COP9 meeting. Calculating the energy consumption of the SCBD office is itself a challenge, since it shares the premises with a hotel. There is no separate metering, and the consumption patterns of the office are very different from the hotel's, with its kitchen, heating, laundry services, pool maintenance and so on.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) contributed USD 10,000 in 2006 to cover the costs of the SCBD's offsets relating to staff travel, while the offsets of 10,200 tCO2eq from the Riparian Reforestation Programme were donated free of charge by the government of Paraná state.
The offsetting aspect of SCBD's Greening Initiative has developed an innovative approach which is particularly relevant to the CBD's biodiversity mandate. The association with an award-wining reforestation project is another benefit, as is the establishment of good partnerships with all the governments and organizations concerned.
“Walking the talk”, says Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf, the SCBD Executive Secretary and Assistant Secretary-General, “is key to meeting the unprecedented challenges facing mankind of the continued loss of biodiversity compounded by climate change. This applies to each and every citizen; to each and every country; to each and every institution including the United Nations Organization. The Greening Initiative is the contribution of the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention on Life on Earth to the UN Secretary General's vision of a carbon free UN. ”