How to initiate and register a carbon credits trading project in Kenya

Dr Kipkorir Sigi Langat, Principal Scientist at Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute with members of Mikoko Pamoja mangrove restoration project in Gazi Bay, Kenya. PHOTO/PLAN VIVO

By PATRICK MAYOYO

It was a cool evening at Neptune Beach Hotel in Diani, Kwale County and our two-day workshop had just come to an end.

I intercepted Dr Kipkorir Sigi Langat, a principal scientist and marine ecologist at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) who had been one of the facilitators during the workshop and requested for an interview.

As we sipped our coffee, Dr Langat broke down in simple details the nitty-gritties of setting up a carbon credits trading project.

“The Kenya government has a clearly outlined legal framework on how to register and operationalize a Payments-for-Environmental-Service (PES) project for carbon credit trading,” Dr Langat quipped when we settled down for the interview.

We had just finished the Dunia Journalism and Climate Emergency workshop an initiative of the French government to strengthen the role of the media as a tool for monitoring and raising awareness on issues associated with climate change and its impacts.

Dr Langat, whose employer KMFRI, plays a key advisory role in the Mikoko Pamoja mangrove restoration project said the registration of PES projects is anchored in The Forest Act, 2005.

“Before initiating a carbon credit project you need to identify whether it is for forest degradation or deforestation,” he says.

Deforestation is the process of converting forest land to another use, while forest degradation is the process of losing carbon stocks from land even when the land use remain forest, but the amount of carbon stock in the forest is reduced through human activities or immediate actions that directly impact forest cover and lead to the loss of forest carbon.

Dr Langat adds that the planned carbon credits trading PES project needs to give an incentive to address the problem of forest degradation or deforestation.

Regional tree cover loss by driver for the period 2001 – 2018/ GRAPHIC/GLOBAL FOREST WATCH

“The next stage is to identify the stakeholders who most of the time are the local community and then look at the issue of land tenure for the carbon credits project and the needed land size is a minimum of 30 hectares,” he adds.

Gazetted forests, community land, trust land and private forests are all eligible for carbon credit trading projects.

Dr Langat said for the communities to benefit, the national and County governments must come up with co-management programmes through the Participatory Forest Management (PFM) (PFM) while local communities are allowed to form the Community Forest Associations (CFA) under the Forest Act.

“Once the community has registered a CFA through the Attorney General’s office, they come up with a Participatory Forest Management Plan  (PFMP)  and indicate in the plan that a carbon credits project is one of their management programmes,” he added.

The Community Forest Association  (CFA)  is then required to sign a management agreement with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to co-manage the forest under the carbon credits project.

He said the CFA would then need certification for the carbon credits project from a voluntary carbon standards institution that provides certification or accreditation.

According to, Ms Caroline Stillman, a Projects Officer at  Plan Vivo Foundation,  certification for the carbon credits projects  is being undertaken by their organization which sets the requirements that projects must meet to become certified.

“When a project becomes registered with Plan Vivo, it is then considered Plan Vivo-certified and can generate Plan Vivo Certificates (Plan Vivo’s carbon credits). The sale of Plan Vivo Certificates by the project can then help fund operational costs, expansion costs and pay the participants their fair and equitable share of income,” Plan Vivo says on its website. 

The website also has a section on the  costs and fees  for registration, but it does not include fees for validation, hiring a consultant for project design, or the 5-yearly verifications. The website contains some  other useful documents  including procedure manual, guidance manual and socio-economic manual.

The adaptation gap. GRAPHIC/UNEP

Ms Stillman said that in order for projects to certify with Plan Vivo, they must provide a carbon benefit, maintain or enhance biodiversity, provide socioeconomic benefits to the local community and be designed through a participatory process. Project activities are generally centred around improved land management, afforestation (tree-planting) or reduced deforestation (REDD).

“To understand the eligibility requirements, you can view the  Plan Vivo eligibility criteria  section on the website, and our key document, the  Plan Vivo Standard,  describes in detail the requirements that projects must meet to be eligible for Plan Vivo Certification,” she added.

Ms Stillman said that they have two projects registered in Kenya,  Mikoko Pamoja  which won the  2017 UN Equator Prize  and  Vanga Blue Forest  which are community-led mangrove conservation and reforestation projects and both run by the Association for Coastal Ecosystems Services.

“Vanga Blue Forest is based in Vanga bay in Southern Kenya. We also have a couple of projects in Kenya that are in the process of registering with us, which you can view on the  pipeline project page  of our website. These are the Upper Tana Nairobi Water Fund and Tree Kenya,” She added.

Dr Langat said once a carbon credit offset programme is accredited or certified, the CFA or the organization can now sell its carbon in the carbon market.

“For example, the Mikoko Pamoja project, sells its carbon through the Association for Coastal Ecosystems Services  (ACES) ,” he said.

Dr Langat added that ACES is now a platform where organisations subscribe for carbon credits. Those organisations who would want to comply with carbon emission reduction would then offset their carbon emissions through buying carbon credits from carbon offset projects.

For example, flight companies, industries and manufacturers, shipping lines and other stakeholders can offset their carbon emissions through buying carbon credits.

A carbon credit is a tradable permit or certificate that provides the holder of the credit the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide or an equivalent of another greenhouse gas – it’s essentially an offset for producers of such gases.

The main goal for the creation of carbon credits is the reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from industrial activities to reduce the effects of global warming.

According to United Nations  (UN), carbon trading is a complex system which sets itself a simple goal: to make it cheaper for companies and Governments to meet emissions reduction targets.

The Kyoto Protocol , most notably the Clean Development Mechanism  (CDM) saw industrialized countries commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The CDM takes the form of carbon “offsetting,” which allows companies, international financial institutions and Governments to finance “emissions-saving projects.”

Countries have also committed themselves to the Paris Agreement  The Paris Agreement  that entered into force on 4 November 2016. The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Vegetation take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and this carbon is stored within the vegetation. Some of it goes to the soil and then becomes soil carbon.

“This carbon can be locked in the ecosystem for several years if the ecosystem is not disturbed. This is what is called carbon storage by the ecosystem,” says Dr Langat.

Dr Langat adds that when the ecosystem is disturbed through forest degradation or deforestation,  the forest would lose the ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere, the stored carbon is released to the atmosphere contributing to carbon emissions.

“To avoid such a scenario, conservation and restoration of eco-systems is advocated as this will enhance carbon capture and storage within the ecosystem,” he said.

Dr Langat added that the sale of carbon credits is an incentive to enhance conservation of ecosystems which increase carbon removal from the atmosphere.

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