Oregon Power Companies Offset Carbon Through Investment in Ecuador's Rainforest

11/12/2002

Conservation Organizations Help Companies Combat Global Warming Through Reforestation

Washington, DC/Portland, Oregon - To combat global warming while conserving biodiversity, Conservation International and the Jatun Sacha Foundation, an Ecuadorian conservation organization, have launched a carbon offsets project to reforest 680 acres of degraded pastureland in northwest Ecuador. This reforestation project offsets a part of the carbon emissions reductions required of new power plants built in the State of Oregon. The Climate Trust, a nonprofit organization set up to invest in carbon activities for these companies, provided $186,000 in investment for this project.

In 1997, Oregon passed the first law in the United States to limit carbon dioxide emissions, the primary gas responsible for the changes in weather patterns resulting from climate change. The law limits the net amount of carbon dioxide that a new power plant can release. One way new plants can meet these standards is by investing in carbon offsets projects through The Climate Trust, a nonprofit organization formed in 1997 in response to the Oregon legislation. This project marks the first time that The Climate Trust has funded an international carbon offsets project. Over the project's 100-year lifespan, an estimated 65,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide will be mitigated, equaling 12,000 cars driving 12,000 miles.

"Conservation International and the Jatun Sacha Foundation consider this investment vital in our continuing efforts to work with corporations to combat global warming," said Sonal I. Pandya, manager of Conservation International's Carbon Offsets Program. "Reforestation projects like these also have the additional benefits of protecting critical rainforest habitat, decreasing soil erosion, and providing a new source of investment for local communities."

"We're excited to partner with these leading land conservation groups to provide permanent protection to an Ecuadorian rainforest where deforestation has worsened global warming," said Diana Bodtker, chair of The Climate Trust Board.

Located within Ecuador's 7,410-acre Bilsa Biological Reserve, this project will replant 15 native hardwood tree species from local nurseries set up by volunteers of the Jatun Sacha Foundation. 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. Currently, less than one percent of Ecuador's coastal rainforest remains intact due to the effects of deforestation from population growth, the doubling of farms and the planting of tall grasses which prevent native trees from being re-established.

Ecuador's unique ecosystem is located within an area Conservation International has classified as a biodiversity hotspot. The 25 biodiversity hotspots cover just 1.4 percent of the Earth's land surface, yet claim more than 60 percent of total terrestrial species diversity. Under extreme threat, many hotspots have lost more than 90 percent of their original natural habitat. Rare animals found within the Bilsa Biological Reserve include the Jaguar, several small cat species, the Long Wattled Umbrella Bird, the Giant Anteater and abundant populations of the threatened Mantled Howler Monkey. With approximately 330 species, the reserve's bird species diversity is among the highest of any coastal site in Ecuador. A number of threatened birds live in the Bilsa Reserve, and some of the migratory bird species that breed in Bilsa spend part of their lives in Oregon forests. The ongoing botanical inventory at Bilsa has also uncovered 30 plant species new to science.

Reducing greenhouse gases is critical to mitigating the effects of climate change. For many corporations and countries, investments in more efficient ways to derive energy-powered services and forestry-based carbon offsets projects are a cost-effective way to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Land-use based carbon offsets projects also restores degraded lands and protect forests.

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Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth's richest regions of plant and animal diversity in the hotspots, major tropical wilderness areas and key marine ecosystems. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., CI works in more than 30 countries on four continents. For more information about CI's programs, visit www.conservation.org.

Since 1996, the Jatun Sacha Foundation has operated the Center for the Conservation of Western Forest Plants at the Bilsa Reserve. The Center serves as a base for community extension and outreach programs emphasizing agroforestry, health, environmental education and the development of community management plans. Visit www.jatunsacha.org for more information.

The Climate Trust uses funding from new Oregon power plants to stimulate projects that avoid, displace or sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. These projects are called offsets because they offset the production of CO2 from new power plants. The Climate Trust is now completing negotiations for a total portfolio of 12 offset projects with a total contract value of over $6 million. For more information please visit www.climatetrust.org.

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