Bamboo: A New Approach to Carbon Credits
It is estimated that bamboo forests and plantations cover 35 to 50 million hectares today, which translates into a significant amount of stored carbon. Studies show that bamboo could be grown on many millions more hectares of degraded land in the tropics and subtropics, where it could provide additional incomes to farmers without affecting their existing crops and – at the same time – contribute to climate change mitigation. Unlike hardwood trees, bamboo re-grows after harvesting. Growing up to a maximum of one meter per day, this renewable resource is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet and can be used to make many different durable products. With a proven track record in livelihood development, bamboo offers an integrative approach to climate change work, linking carbon markets to rural areas in developing countries.
In fact as Dr. Yannick Kuehl, the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan’s (INBAR) climate change expert points out, “as long as the total volume of bamboo products continues to increase, the overall bamboo system is a sink, as the rate of extraction is higher than the rate of release. Furthermore, recent innovation and modern improvements in processing have resulted in bamboo products with longer life-spans, thus increasing the size of the bamboo carbon sink”.
Harnessing this potential, INBAR, and the China Green Carbon Foundation (CGCF) and the Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University (ZAFU) from China, developed the “Carbon Accounting Methodology for Afforestation with Bamboo in China”, designed to guide bamboo afforestation projects for inclusion in carbon trading or offsetting schemes in China. To apply and test this methodology, the first bamboo plantation for afforestation credits was planted in Lin’an, Zhejiang Province, China, in 2009. Bamboo-based carbon credits are already garnering significant interest in China. More than 10 Chinese companies, including the online retail giant Alibaba, have pre-bought a total of 8155 t CO2e on the Chinese voluntary carbon market through CGCF.
Earlier this month, the State Forestry Administration of China officially adopted this methodology to guide all carbon bamboo plantation projects in China. According to Dr. Wang Chufeng, Chief Chinese Negotiator for Forestry at COP18, a bamboo specific carbon accounting methodology was lacking: “I am very pleased that – with the development of the methodology – INBAR and its Chinese partners have achieved this remarkable breakthrough. This will finally enable policy makers and project developers to use bamboo as an efficient tool in the struggle to combat climate change”.
Bamboos sequester significantly more carbon when they are regularly managed and harvested. This places a special importance on the post-harvest processes – the so called Harvested Wood Products (HWP). In fact, due to bamboo’s characteristic fast growth and renewability, the carbon storage in HWP may even have more relevance for bamboos that that of trees. Capitalizing on this potential, INBAR and its partners aim to develop methodologies that allow investors to generate voluntary carbon credits for durable and long-term bamboo credits in the form of HWP.
Building on the initial successes in China, INBAR is now poised to test and adapt the methodology in other developing countries. “We see considerable potential for bamboo-based carbon credits to expand carbon-market activities to developing countries, contributing to climate change mitigation and simultaneously promoting sustainable development” said Dr. J. Coosje Hoogendoorn, Director General of INBAR. “The official adoption of the methodology by China is an important first step. We want to make sure that the potential is realized globally, and thus, INBAR is now working with our partners to develop a global version of the methodology and test and adapt the methodology at pilot sites in Africa.” In June a delegation of INBAR, ZAFU and CGCF visited Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana to assess potential pilot sites and work is expected to commence in the coming year. Mr. Sileshi Getahun, the Ethiopian State Minister, Ministry of Agriculture is one of the leaders welcoming this initiative and has offered support to “enhance the contribution which bamboo is making towards an Ethiopian climate-resilient economy”.
INBAR and its Chinese partners are not the only ones mobilizing bamboo for Climate Change mitigation. For example, also in Africa, in 2012 the NGO Food &Trees for Africa (FTFA) launched its innovative “Bamboo for Africa” programme introducing bamboo cultivation and income generation activities to low-income communities, creating sustainable livelihoods and offering cost-effective carbon offsets in South Africa. In line with its mission as an intergovernmental network INBAR aims to cooperate with many partners including FTFA to develop a portfolio of targeted approaches and schemes linked to bamboo, which are needed to realize the potential of bamboo specific carbon off-setting around the world.
INBAR’s work on carbon sequestration shows that well managed bamboo forests are comparable to fast-growing tree species in sequestering carbon. With an estimated 22 million hectares of bamboo forests around the world, there is great potential for bamboo to play an important role in the fight against climate change. To meet this challenge, INBAR is stepping up efforts to publicize our carbon accounting methodology for afforestation with bamboo. We developed this new methodology together with the Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University (ZAFU), the China Green Carbon Foundation (CGCF) and the Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF).