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Community-Organized World Heritage Site Sierra Gorda Announces First Carbon Project in Mexico to Earn VCS, CCB Gold Validation

Community-Organized World Heritage Site Sierra Gorda Announces First Carbon Project in Mexico to Earn VCS, CCB Gold Validation

Sierra Gorda obtiene validaciones ecológicas internacionales El 26 julio, 2011 (Equilibrio Magazine, Mexico)

Mexican Farmers Access Carbon Market

A conservation project in Mexico’s Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves, has become the first carbon project in Mexico to receive validation under two emerging global carbon market standards: the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard. Theproject attained a gold level of approval, CCB’s highest rating, for exceptional climate change adaptation, community and biodiversity benefits.

 “These validations are an international recognition of the reforestation work being done by the farmers of the Sierra Gorda,” said Martha Isabel “Pati” Ruiz Corzo, general director of the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, one of the organizations responsible for the project. “It is a very important step forward in our work to provide alternatives for local farmers and strengthen the economy of conservation in the Sierra Gorda.”

“Validation under these standards demonstrates the integrity of Sierra Gorda’s offsets and the overall value of the efforts to restore ecosystems, preserve biodiversity, alleviate poverty and sequester carbon in the Reserve,” said Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, which was the first donor for carbon offsets under this project.

The project involves the establishment of small reforestations by farmers in the Reserve and its area of influence to help combat climate change while providing benefits to local communities and helping to conserve biodiversity. While this project involves tree-planting, the Sierra Gorda organizations are also pioneering efforts to develop ecosystem markets for other ecological values of the Sierra, which acts as a massive water filter for downstream areas and supports valuable biodiversity.

The reforestations are monitored to quantify the amount of carbon dioxide being captured as part of the natural process of tree growth. Bosque Sustentable then offers “carbon offsets” in national and international voluntary carbon markets.  Organizations, businesses and individuals can choose to offset emissions that they cannot otherwise reduce by making a donation to Bosque Sustentable, which in turn pays small farmers to plant and manage trees to capture a corresponding amount of carbon dioxide.  Currently, such offsets can be purchased in voluntary markets, but Mexico is likely to be the first country encompassed for offsets under any U.S. state or federal system.

A unique feature of this project is that it involves large numbers of small reforestations, on parcels as small as .5 hectare, which allows the Sierra Gorda project to involve individual farmers in conditions of poverty in very remote areas. Through 2013, the project will include a total of 289 small reforestations with a total of 305.7 hectares.

“This is a major milestone for Sierra Gorda, which has been a pioneer in the voluntary offsets market for many years and now has the independent validation that confirms the solid technical design and carbon accounting behind their reforestation efforts,” said Jacob Olander of Forest Trends.

“The Bosque Sustentable project represents a forest carbon project of the highest quality,” said Jeff Hayward, director of the Climate Program of the Rainforest Alliance. “It offers significant benefits to both local communities and biodiversity in addition to climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration in the growth of planted trees. This project will serve as a model for the development of future small-scale forest carbon projects in Mexico and internationally.”

The project was launched in 1997 by Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, I.A.P, and is now operated by Bosque Sustentable, A.C. Forest Trends, an international organization focused on ecosystem markets, supported the project´s design and validation through its Katoomba Incubator, while the Rainforest Alliance was the organization that carried out the external validation. For more information about the variety of ecosystem services projects being implemented in the Sierra Gorda and about how to use Sierra Gorda carbon offsets, please visit www.sierragorda.net.

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Rural Response for COP 16 – Sierra Gorda´s Carbon Offset Track Record

On the eve of the COP16 in Cancun, it´s time to talk about the alternatives.

I will be attending with Pati Ruiz Corzo www.sierragordamexico.wordpress.com to speak up about the viable alternatives to fight climate change from the trenches of conservation and the inclusion of vulnerable communities in high biodiversity areas like the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve.  To make the point, we are taking a fact sheet and white paper that puts forward the innovative and tangible model that has been hard-won by the Sierra Gorda community members that have engaged in forest-based carbon projects with the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda and its partner, Bosque Sustentable A.C.  Read it here: Basket of Ecosystem Services from the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve

For the last 10 years we have made every effort to fit the characteristics of the Sierra Gorda model into the Kyoto Protocol only to be hugely disappointed by the global dialogue that has made the bogus statement that fighting climate change will help fight poverty; it is just not true.  Cap & Trade so far has not touched ground (speaking to forestry that benefits rural landowners) and never will at this rate in the United Nations protocols. Then, thanks to a Forest Trends sponsored trip to Australia we saw the light – voluntary markets and national legislation.  Out with Kyoto, hello world.  The on-line platform to learn about Sierra Gorda´s carbon offsets where nature and communities have value: www.carbonneutralplanet.org

Breaking the voluntary carbon offsets ceiling. The United Nations Foundation took the risk and offset the emissions of their offices and travel with Sierra Gorda by signing a contract that was a collaborative effort with the pro-bono  support of Baker & McKenzie to make the first carbon offset transaction at US$10.00 per tCO2e.  At the time the World Bank´s BioCarbon Fund was considering Sierra Gorda´s project but at US$4.oo per ton – need I point out the same institution claimed be building a model to fight poverty and climate change, makes you say hmmmmmmmm.

And the battles continued, especially trying to certify Sierra Gorda´s carbon offsets in the certified voluntary market with the collaboration of The Katoomba Group, and yet Sierra Gorda continues to sell on a very voluntary basis.  One day we expect the CCB and the VCS certification to include the Sierra Gorda, but who knows.   So, since 2006 events like the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship Summit, the Triple Bottom Line Investment Forum, and foundations like AccioNatura (Spain) and World Land Trust (UK) and other non-regulated entities continue to donate for Carbon Offset units from the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve.  You can too.

Sierra Gorda´s Track Record inVoluntary Carbon Offsets, 2006 to 2010
• 13 Transcations in 7 countries
• 11 Donations
• 28,387 tCO2e
• US $399,235

Sierra Gorda´s Ecosystem Services illustrated
Illustration of ecosystem services in the Sierra Gorda