October 2008  
Jeff Hayward: Quantifying Carbon, Communities, and More
by Cameron Walker

The debate over Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) hinges on how to verify the amount of carbon captured in trees and how to determine whether the actions being paid for actually cause a net capture of carbon. It's sticky territor

Jeff Hayward has been keen on forests since his father took the family on long-distance tramps through Oregon's massive conifers. Since then, he's ridden through Guatemala's watershed-protecting forests on horseback, explored US sustainable forests by converted pickup truck, and tramped among Indonesia's tropical trees on foot.

Now the climate initiative manager for nonprofit conservation organization Rainforest Alliance, Hayward uses his range of on-the-ground experience to evaluate forestry projects that aim to provide carbon offsets – and to encourage work that supports social, economic and environmental benefits that go far beyond carbon.

He believes such thinking doesn't just add a bit of flavor to carbon offsets – it helps make them real.


"Carbon alone is not going to protect these forests," he says, adding that, to be sustained over time, carbon projects must take an integrated approach, bringing in additional sources of income for the communities whose participation is essential to the survival of these projects.

One of the projects that Hayward and his team recently validated under the Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) standard is the Return to Forest project in Nicaragua, created by nonprofit conservation organization Paso Pacifico. The Return to Forest project, with primary funding from Carbonfund.org, aims to offset 170,000 tons of carbon during its projected 40-year lifetime.

Seeing a project that's showing signs of success because of carbon financing, Hayward says, "really gives you hope for the way that carbon markets can be transformative."

Saving Trees in Guatemala

One of Hayward's own transformative experiences came during a three-year stint with the Peace Corps in Guatemala after he'd earned his degree in Latin American development studies with a specialization in forestry from the University of Washington. He found that many watershed forests were being cut illegally and trucked out after dark to Guatemala City.

Hayward's job was to encourage local corn-and-bean farmers to plant trees to provide firewood and protect soil and water quality on their small plots of land.

Along with planting more than 100,000 trees, Hayward made an impression on the people he met. He bought a horse and would ride from village to village. Kids would shout "Don Guillermo" — from Hayward's easier-to-pronounce middle name, William — as he trotted by. (The subsequent Peace Corps volunteer got stuck with the same nickname.)

Hayward's experience in Guatemala helped to shape what he does today.

"It's what really pushed me into an environment where I had to completely adapt to a world that was one hundred percent different than my own," he says.

Quantifying Sustainability

When he first returned to the United States from Guatemala in 1992, he struggled with how to connect forestry to sustainability — particularly in the Pacific Northwest, where forests had already been closed to logging under the National Forest Management Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Then he heard about the founding assembly of what would become the Forest Stewardship Council.

Hayward caught the fever after hearing reports from the 1993 meeting in Toronto and turned it into his graduate research at the University of British Columbia. In the spring of 1997, he outfitted his truck with a camper, packed up his hiking boots, and set off on the road, visiting every certified forest in the States. Along with being a fantastic way to see forests, he says, "it was a great way to understand what made those foresters tick and why their forests were special."

Exploring the inner workings of these forests also gave him a sense of how foresters reached a level of assurance about the sustainability of their lands.

Familiar Refrain

Not everyone believed in FSC from the start.

"There were so many naysayers saying that FSC couldn't work because you couldn't define sustainable forestry," he says. "Yet here we are today and it's the gold standard."

Now, the debates that swirl around forestry carbon and Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) recall those surrounding FSC-certified forests fifteen years ago. Then, people wondered how anyone could define or measure sustainability. Today, the questions have a similar flavor: how should we determine additionality? How will leakage be measured? How can we be assured about the permanence of carbon offsets?

For forestry carbon, the current structures and standards, in Hayward's view, are addressing questions about carbon offsetting "to a level that corresponds with how much certainty we can get at the beginning of the process."

That Which Does Not Kill my Standard…

And, just as questions and challenges to FSC certification helped make the standard stronger, he believes the questions that people have today will do the same for standards like the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) and CCB. Over time, information from a range of new projects will contribute to constantly improving, evolving standards, Hayward says. The result: "Forestry carbon, 15 years from now, will enjoy a much higher level of security and confidence."

That's where Rainforest Alliance comes in. The organization wants to set and uphold stringent standards when it comes to climate mitigation so that people have confidence in the marketplace, both as it exists now and in the future.

Hayward has worked with Rainforest Alliance for nearly a decade. He started certifying FSC forestlands through the organization's SmartWood program.

Certifying Forests in Indonesia

Soon after he began his job, Rainforest Alliance began having a lot of activity surrounding FSC certification in Indonesia. Hayward, then based in Vermont, was charged with finding someone to open a Rainforest Alliance office in Indonesia.

After the search, he reported back that he'd found the ideal candidate: himself.

"I just fell in love with the country," he says.

Hayward spent six years in Indonesia, opening up an office in Jakarta and working primarily in FSC certification; he also led the development of a series of programs for forests moving towards sustainability. For example, a company might set goals to use a certain percentage of FSC-certified products, but then have challenges getting the products; Rainforest Alliance can verify stepping stones on the way to reaching FSC goals, such as legal compliance with forestry laws, or the use of "controlled wood," which indicates that the wood is legally harvested from forests that do not have genetically modified trees and do not threaten high conservation value areas or human rights, among other things.

Forestry at Home

When he returned to the US in 2006, Rainforest Alliance was ramping up a new program to coordinate its climate work, including validation of forestry carbon projects.

Rainforest Alliance already had a solid foundation in this arena, having spent nearly two decades developing sustainability standards and evaluating forestry and agriculture production practices. Partners and clients who'd been working with Rainforest Alliance became interested in the emerging carbon markets, and looked to the organization for assistance.

"This all came pretty organically out of the work we were doing," says Julie Baroody, coordinator of Rainforest Alliance's climate initiative.

Hayward immersed himself in the field, working with people from standards organizations including the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA), the Chicago Climate Exchange, and VCS.

Applying the Standards: First Comes CCB, then Comes…

Rainforest Alliance has been validating projects in the design phase by using the CCB standards, which were first designed in 2005 by CCBA's NGO members. Rainforest Alliance has since joined CCBA and helped with a new draft of the standards, now available for comment, which will be released for the December 2008 COP 14 climate convention in Poland.

Once a project is up and running, a more fundamental standard, such as the VCS or the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), is used to verify the actual carbon sequestration so that the carbon offsets can go to market. Over time, CCB standards will be re-evaluated by auditors to check that social, economic, and biodiversity benefits are falling into place, as well as general goals for carbon production.

CCB validation has been attractive to potential project investors — a key to getting projects off the ground.

"It really seems to be gaining appreciation in the market," says Hayward, adding that large forest projects can really enhance an area's biodiversity value and potential.

Back to the Asia-Pacific

Hayward's experience in the Asia-Pacific region is critical to the Rainforest Alliance's carbon forestry work, as many projects involving large endangered tracts of forest happen there, Baroody says.

In February, Hayward and his colleagues validated a 750,000 hectare project in Aceh, Indonesia the first forest conservation project that Rainforest Alliance validated under CCB standards.

In April, Merrill Lynch signed a $9 million deal to finance the project.

The audit process and validation was part of the reason that the investment bank attached itself to the Aceh project, says John-O Niles, chief scientific officer for Carbon Conservation.

Finding "Gold" in Latin America

Last January, Hayward spent a week visiting a new project in southwestern Nicaragua. Here, large landowners graze cattle on their acreages while farmers hold on to smaller plots of land. At the same time, tourism is booming, with beachfront hotels luring both the Nicaraguan elite and international visitors.

This is all happening in a rare ecosystem: the dry tropical forest.

Environmental NGO Paso Pacifico has been working to protect these forestlands with a range of strategies for the past three years. The organization didn't initially aim to create a carbon offset program, but with the help of an interested landowner, they designed the Return to Forest project to reforest more than 400 hectares of private cattle lands.

After reviewing the project in his Washington, DC office, Hayward spent a week in Nicaragua with Paso Pacifico's directors. They visited landowners and evaluated their properties, met with stakeholders and the community members who do everything from work in nurseries to plant trees.

The Ingredients of a Successful Project

Hayward says that, over time, he's developed the ability to know going in which projects have the highest chance of success.

"The first clue is a well-run organization with a really concrete set of goals and objectives, and the institutional capacity to make it happen," he says, adding that in Paso Pacifico's case there was a high level of trust between project organizers and the community. Every landowner had signed a contract with the organization, and they had the original titles to the land, the inscription documents, with everything signed and stamped.

Then Hayward and Rainforest Alliance look at the project's environmental and social impacts. Are the right tree species being planted? How does the project aid biodiversity? And, how's the community relationship — are materials in a local language? Are they explained in a way that a non-scientist can understand?

Hayward found a variety of elements that linked environmental goals with the community, including environmental education programs in six communities, training for community members to work in reserves, and developing signage and information on the project in the local language. Paso Pacifico also collaborates with national and international researchers who are studying wildlife, including the yellow-naped parrot and spider monkeys, which will allow the project to study biodiversity over time.

Surviving the Audit

In April, 2008, Paso Pacifico's project was validated under CCB standards and received a "Gold" designation — the highest rating a project can receive.

"I think one of the reasons it is a really good project is that, deep down inside, it really is a conservation project and that's why it conforms very well to the CCB standards," says Paso Pacifico executive director Sarah Otterstrom.

That doesn't mean the project's validation was a sure thing — the auditing process may be as nerve-wracking as one from the tax inspector. Hayward "commands a great deal of respect," Otterstrom says. "He had us shaking in our boots before and during — basically until the audit was over."

Otterstrom describes his holistic knowledge of forestry, offsets, and working with local communities — and says that while he made the audit process as transparent as possible, Hayward required the projects' leaders to develop their own approaches to potential problems.

"It just demonstrates his professionalism about auditing and holding projects to the standards that Rainforest Alliance/SmartWood is trying to support," she says.

The auditing isn't over, either. CCB validation lasts for five years, so Rainforest Alliance auditors will return in 2013 to monitor the project's progress; a series of annual project audits will also take place until then. After this, an on-site audit will be done every five years for the project's planned 40-year lifetime.

New Projects

Right now, Hayward has his eye on close to two dozen new projects, about half of these already in some stage in the evaluation process. Once he reviews a project's proposal, he visits the project site to conduct the audit.

Rainforest Alliance continues to be interested in projects that unfold in production forests and at the intersection between agriculture and forestry. These forests often get overlooked, but they can be critical in forming connective corridors between pre-existing protected areas and other lands.

"We really would like to see approaches that are more integrated at landscape levels, especially in landscapes where there are high-conservation-value forest," he says.

Beyond Carbon: it's Catching on!

Hayward says that all of the recent REDD projects he's evaluated had not just conservation components but other types of economic benefits to local people as well.

"What's pretty cool about all of this is that in the last few years, so much has come together that was missing," Hayward says, citing the emergence of markets and convincing carbon-based science, along with a surge of public support with the help of the movie An Inconvenient Truth.

"Now we just need to keep pushing hard and pedaling as hard as we can to make sure that these systems improve and keep going forward."

copyright 2008, Cameron Walker. All rights reserved.