Capacity building for carbon- and biodiversity-based payments for ecosystem services in the Peruvian Amazon
Not only does deforestation lead to a loss of biodiversity, it also adds to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and hence increases the rate of climate change: deforestation of tropical forests contributes 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions by humans. Many attempts have been made to derive economic benefits from tropical forests. However, recently a new system has emerged: the idea that by creating a market and giving economic value to the environmental benefits or 'ecosystem services' like biodiversity and carbon storage that tropical forests provide, it is possible to obtain money to protect standing forest.
In theory, these payments could be used to address the poverty that is widespread and acute in many tropical forest regions and is an important cause of deforestation. One mechanism for how these payments might work, is that projects and countries that reduce rates of deforestation will be able to sell the resulting reduction in carbon dioxide emissions on international carbon markets or through bilateral agreements. This idea is being promoted as a component of an international agreement to succeed the Kyoto protocol - the international treaty designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - as well as in voluntary markets. Governments and NGOs are also actively developing schemes to fund projects that directly help to preserve other attributes of tropical forests, such as biodiversity.
This project addressed this concept of payments for ecosystem services. In theory, the possibility to reduce the rate of tropical deforestation, conserve carbon stocks and biodiversity, and alleviate poverty through a single mechanism, is very attractive. However, the details of how these schemes might operate is the subject of a vigorous debate.
Important issues surround how to measure and monitor the carbon or biodiversity that a project claims to protect, the appropriate institutional framework in regions where property titles are often unclear, how payments actually reach local communities and whether they achieve the goal of poverty alleviation in an equitable way, the participation of local communities in the projects themselves, and the effect that payments might have on the activities of these communities, including increasing the rate of deforestation outside project areas.
Addressing these issues requires an interdisciplinary team. The project therefore assembled a broad range of university, NGO and government institutions with relevant expertise to identify the research and training that is required to develop such projects, with a focus on the Peruvian Amazon.
The main project workshop was held in Iquitos, Peru from 2-4 June, 2009, involving 42 participants from 5 NGOs and the regional and national government organisations in charge of protected areas. These organisations represent the institutions in charge of the leading carbon-based ecosystem service projects in the Peruvian Amazon. Two workshops were also organised on the design and analysis of forest inventory data, in total involving 47 participants from 13 institutions.