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Climate Change
Conservation Carbon - Reforesting Ecuador's Northwestern Rain Forests

Containing a diverse topography that ranges from coastal mountains to towering cloud forests, northwestern Ecuador is one of the world’s most important areas for biological and cultural diversity. This unique region is home to more than 2,000 species of plants, over 450 species of birds and an array of mammals and reptiles – many of which have been declared endangered, threatened or vulnerable. The Umbrella Bird, Andean Spectacled Bear and Mantled Howler Monkey are among the threatened species found no where else on Earth.

Highly threatened, these forests are located at the interface of two global “hotspots” for biodiversity conservation: the Tropical Andes and the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Hotspots.

Over the last 35 years, deforestation due to logging, agriculture and population growth have resulted in the loss of over two-thirds of this region’s original forest cover. Today, much of the original forest has been converted to use for commercial agriculture or pasture dominated by invasive African grasses and commercial agriculture. Many fields have also been abandoned, leaving only highly degraded and stunted secondary vegetation. The threat of losing so many species found nowhere else in the world has grown to the point that Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment recently highlighted this region as one of the top five conservation priorities in the nation.

In an effort to protect the region’s biodiversity, support local communities and combat global warming, Conservation International’s (CI) Conservation Carbon program is engaging the private sector to support reforestation projects in the coastal plain and western foothills of northwestern Ecuador which will mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity, and support local communities.

On the ground efforts will focus on lands deforested prior to 1990 - a key Kyoto requirement - which contain virtually no tree cover. Analysis shows that these degraded areas will not naturally regenerate to their original forest state. Establishing value through carbon offsets provide the only economic incentive for reforesting these lands.

These land-based carbon offset projects are being designed using the standards set forth by the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance. To earn approval under the CCB Standards, projects must satisfy 15 required criteria to demonstrate compelling net benefits for fighting climate change, conserving biodiversity, and improving socio-economic conditions for local communities.

In addition, projects sites will be submitted for approval to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol. Approval under CDM guidelines is an important step allowing carbon offsets generated to be classified as Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs). Purchasing CERs helps industrialized countries meet their greenhouse gas reduction commitments, while also providing sustainable funding to emission reduction projects in developing countries.

All areas to be reforested will act as buffer zones to areas of primary or secondary forest which have been declared bosque protector or protective forest. Over the long term, the structural and microclimatic conditions created by these forest plantations will contribute to increasing the altitudinal gradient covered by existing primary and secondary forests, reduce edge effects on natural forest, and expand habitat and population sizes for native plant and animal species.

Value for Biodiversity
Healthy, intact forests store carbon taken from the atmosphere and thus play a unique role in mitigating the harmful effects of climate change. Global deforestation accounts for 20 percent of the annual emission of greenhouse gases. Wide-scale deforestation is fueling climate change and biodiversity loss, and is expected to greatly accelerate biodiversity loss and species extinctions. Land-used based carbon offset projects that support both forest protection and reforestation are designed to implement actions that simultaneously address global warming and species extinctions.

In Ecuador, reforestation efforts will also create connectivity for fragmented habitats and help establish mixed “conservation corridors,” which are critical for the continued viability of endangered species. Specific areas that will benefit from these efforts include the Bilsa Biological Reserve, the Laguna de Cube which was declared a “Wetland of International Importance” by the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands, the Maquipucuna Reserve cloud forest.

Value for Communities
Conservation Carbon projects have several major benefits for the local communities that live and work off the land. First, the projects will employ local community members for seed collection, nursery establishment, planting and maintenance. In addition, reforested project sites will help support economic activities that rely on healthy forests, including ecotourism, an increasingly important economic activity for the local communities. Finally, reforestation will protect local watersheds, securing a source of clean water for the local communities and reducing water borne diseases.

Value for Business
Investment in conservation carbon provides a value to corporations, in addition to the value created for the environment and local communities. Land use based carbon offsets projects not only restore degraded lands and protect forests that would otherwise be destroyed, but also offset carbon dioxide emissions from industrial activities, thereby reducing the impacts of climate change.

Conservation carbon projects generate cost effective carbon offsets which meet regulations set forth under the Kyoto Protocol and the emerging voluntary offset market while diversifying portfolio risk for participating investors. Companies currently participating in carbon offsets are building internal knowledge in preparation for regulations established by the Kyoto Protect. They also are poised to participate in a rapidly developing market for carbon trading, which is already in place in Europe, Japan and Canada. Additionally, companies are able to communicate positive action to address climate change with concerned consumers, shareholders, and employees holders, through clear, tangible examples.

Phase Two Launched:CI has joined with Fundación Maquipucuna, an Ecuadorian conservation organization, to begin work on the second phase of CI’s reforestation strategy in Ecuador. Initial efforts will be focused on restoring degraded pastureland just outside the Maquipucuna Reserve, a cloud forest reserve ranging from 1000 to over 2800 meters. This project represents CI’s first in Ecuador to be designed using Climate, Community, and Biodiversity (CCB) standards as well as being submitted for approval to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol. Planting is expected to begin in January 2007.

Pearl Jam Offsets World Tour for Second Time: Continuing its commitment to reduce the negative impacts associated with climate change, Pearl Jam announced that it would once again partner with CI to help offset the carbon footprint associated with its 2006 concert tour. The band’s investment will be used to further support CI’s restoration with the Jatun Satcha Foundation and Fundacion Kaiman around the buffer zone of the Mache Chindul Ecological Reserve. Pearl Jam also issued a call to action for its fans to join their efforts by calculating and offsetting their own carbon impacts using CI’s Carbon Calculator. Read Further.

First pilot project completed: Through investments from the private sector to offset their carbon impacts, CI and the Jatun Sacha Foundation, Ecuador's largest environmental organization, successfully completed their pilot project in March 2006 and reforested more than 680 hectares of highly degraded pastureland within the Bilsa Biological Reserve in northwestern Ecuador with native tree species.

SC Johnson offset investment launches second pilot project: In April 2004, SC Johnson invested $50,000 to help launch a second pilot project. This contribution will support the work of two local environmental organizations, the Jatun Sacha Foundation and Fundacion Kaiman, to restore the riparian zone around the Laguna de Cube, an important lake that provides fresh water to the local communities and increases the buffer zone for the Mache Chindul Ecological Reserve. This project work will offset the carbon impacts associated with the printing and distribution of every SC Johnson Public Report dating back to 1991 as well as office paper for FY2002-FY2004. Read Further.

Carbon offset investment by Oregon power companies help launch pilot project: In October, 2002, The Climate Trust - as a representative for a consortium of Oregon Power Companies - invested $186,000 to catalyze a pilot project between Conservation International and the Jatun Satcha Foundation, an Ecuadorian conservation organization, to reforest degraded pastureland within the Bilsa Biological Reserve in northwestern Ecuador. This reforestation project work offsets a part of the carbon emissions by these power companies as required by law in the State of Oregon. Read Further.


Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena Biodiversity Hotspot

Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot

• Restore threatened habitat and create protected area buffer zones in Ecuador's northwestern rain forests using Climate, Community, and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards
• Seek approval under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to generate Certified Emissions Reduction (CER) credits for investors
• Preserve habitat for the threatened Andean Spectled Bear, Howler Monkey, and Northern Naked Tailed Armadillor
• Support local economic activities that rely on healthy forests

Jatun Sacha
Pearl Jam
SC Johnson
The Climate Trust


• Calculate & Offset Your Carbon Footprint Using CI’s Carbon Calculator

Conservation Carbon Projects Overview Fact Sheet (pdf, 383kb)
Ecuador Project Fact Sheet (pdf, 237kb)

• In Depth: Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Biodiversity Hotspot
• In Depth: Tropical Andes Hotspot

 Photo credits for banner image: (Clouds) © CI