By Diogo Esperante, Isabel Aguiree:
Through carbon credit incomes, plantations can have the incentive they need to implement the best management practice that will benefit the ecosystem, the farmers, the consuming industry and the workers who earn their livelihoods from the farms.
When recently visiting Guatemala, I had the pleasure of meeting Miss. Isabel Aguirre, Head of the Eco2 Rubber Forest Project in Guatemala.
For those who haven´t heard about it, this is a “first of its kind program of voluntary activities for sustainable reforestation with natural rubber in Guatemala.”1 And I was amazed to learn also that it is not only the first of its kind, but still the only one around.
In 2010, GrupoAgroindustrialOccidente (GAO) and its eco business division EconegociosOccidente validated the first forestry project in America under the Verified Carbon Standard, allowing rubber forests to generate and commercialize carbon credits in the Voluntary Market. Carbon credits created incentives to promote rubber cultivation with sustainable management practices. With this in mind, the GAO also obtained the first Forest Stewardship Council (FSCTM) certification for natural rubber plantations ensuring best management practices.
Carbon credits generated in the voluntary market are referred to as Voluntary Emission Reductions (VER’s) and are purchased outside of the compliance market. The market offers businesses, NGOs and individuals who wish to offset their own emission reductions the opportunity on a voluntary basis by purchasing carbon credits. Due to growing concern about climate change, this market continues to grow and generated about US$278 million in offset purchases in 2015.
Despite the opportunities that carbon credits offer to sustainable projects, the process is rigorous, costly and requires expertise in an uncommon subject. Probably, this is one of the reasons why more projects have not been successful in the global NR industry.
Eco2 Rubber Forests program
In hopes of breaking the barrier of entry and utilizing natural rubber to mitigate climate change, Econegocios created the Eco2 Rubber Forests program of activities, validated by Rainforest Alliance in 2016. By creating a broad platform for carbon market access where rubber forests are established and managed, the project facilitates access to carbon finance as an additional income source to generate positive incentives for reforestation with sustainable and responsible management practices.
The program has already been implemented in Guatemala with more than 8 participating farms and is looking to expand into other Latin American regions, with Brazil as the second stage set for 2018.
As recently published by Forest Trends (a non-profit organization known as the most valuable source of data about the “value chains of new forestry”) in its report State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets:
“…… the year of 2016 was exciting to watch ……. as nearly every country in the world submitted a national climate plan to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
But two questions dulled in my mind reading these words (probably no different of the ones you might be asking yourself right now):
1) How is the natural rubber industry impacted by this phenomenon?
2) How can rubber plantations benefit from it?
As I witnessed during the 2016th ANRPC Public-private meetings and the annual IRRDB International Rubber Conference, little it is known about the potential of generating VERs from rubber tree plantations. Many researchers during these meetings were asking me about how “Guatemala did it?” So I decided to embark on a discovery journey. And it was no short of a great honor to have been received by Miss. Aguirre and her team which gave me a good scope of the matter.
Even greater honor I felt when later I was invited by the company’ s local partner in Brazil, Planthec Florestal2, to take on the role of Project Director in this expansion to my country.
Assessing briefly some of the high notes about this project,it is interesting to underscore some remarks of Miss. Aguirre, especially about a current trend on this market called “Insetting”.
Insetting is when a company directs its environmental programs towards their own supply chain. This is a powerful concept that expands on the traditional model of offsetting, which is simple but does little to promote the interests of the companies. Through insetting, companies can invest in the ecosystems that they depend on and, therefore, ensure the sustainable growth of their own business. In other words, companies can buy VERs generated within their own supply chains.
Tyre manufacturers are bound to benefit from this sort of approach, not only because their brands are increasingly sensible to environmental issues, but also through added benefits these activities can create in their supply chain. The Eco2 Rubber Forest program not only incentivizes rubber plantations, but it ensures proper management practices from start to finish in a traceable and certified manner. Since traceability seems to be one of the great challenges of NR industry at the moment, generating VERs from rubber plantations might be a very effective incentive!
I acknowledge that this new frontier often makes rubber farmers skeptical since certifications are costly and demanding, and this sort of added value is seldom reflected in higher prices for rubber. However, through carbon credit incomes plantations can have the incentive they need to implement the best practice management that will benefit the ecosystem, the farmers, the consuming industry and the workers who earn their livelihoods from the farms.
This is why I am grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of this great experience and seeing this through in my home country.For this article I acknowledge the prestigious assistance of Miss. Isabel Aguirre who is responsible for the implementation of the Eco2 Rubber Forests project in Guatemala and is joining up with PlanthecFlorestal to expand this valuable learning experience in Brazil.