Zambia is proud to be driving a new form of climate finance to combat climate change, serve communities, and protect the environment.
By BioCarbon Partners
We have experienced the warmest 8 years ever recorded – fueled by ever-rising greenhouse gas concentrations and accumulated heat. What we witnessed in 2023 is a result of the earth heating up and a culmination of climate change-induced natural disasters striking – what seems like – all at once. Wildfires in Australia, North America, and Greece; catastrophic flooding in Turkey, Pakistan, and Norway; El Nino was back with a vengeance, which caused heat waves across Europe, the Americas, and Asia, while droughts plagued East Africa. Closer to home, many are attributing Zambia’s worst cholera outbreak in the past 20 years’ history to the heavier than usual rainfall received. Scientists are warning us that this is just the beginning, and environmental disasters will become our norm.
The challenge isn’t merely combating climate change, but redefining our coexistence with nature as humans. The time has come to answer for generations of consumption. We inhabit a singular Earth with no backup plan. Once our resources are finished, there is no turning back. This is climate change.
The change has to be more than transitioning to renewables and finding more environmentally sustainable solutions to the energy crisis. That should only be where it starts. It is our responsibility to take collective global action to help mitigate and adapt to how climate change impacts the world’s most vulnerable people – most often indigenous communities, who have coexisted peacefully with nature for centuries, but who are now facing food insecurity, infrastructure damage, and a threat to lives and livelihoods due to unprecedented weather patterns brought on by climate change.
Zambia is one of Africa’s most forested countries, however, it is losing forests about 163,000 hectares annually, equal to losing 402,610 soccer fields every year. In 2008, to address deforestation, countries established the ‘REDD+’ framework to protect forests as part of the Paris Agreement, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). REDD+, stands for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and fostering conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Zambia’s own, Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP) is the largest REDD+ carbon offsetting project in Africa by hectares and the largest in the world by quantified social impact. The project partners with 17 Chiefdoms and Government across 1.2 million hectares, bringing direct benefits to over 220,000 people in Eastern and Lusaka Provinces. Its benefit-sharing mechanism includes cash distribution, forest protection, livelihood activities, capacity building, and employment creation.
The Luangwa-Lower Zambezi Ecosystem is one the greatest wildlife strongholds remaining on earth; home to African wild dogs, elephants, leopards, and lions.
In order for carbon offsetting and REDD+ projects to work as a tool to combat climate change and enjoy a sustainable lifespan, communities need to be included, empowered, and supported as decision-makers, implementers and regulators.
The private sector has the capital and the technical experience to invest in alternative options. Governments play an active role to facilitate and guide implementation. Communities play the biggest role in committing to sustainable practices. Transition of forest to cropland has been a major driver of deforestation in Zambia Thanks to projects like LCFP, today standing forests have raised much needed finance to support a just transition to a sustainable future for many communities in the eastern province. The global community may have many alternative funding streams to turn to; Indigenous communities have only the forests and the land they stand upon. If we cannot make this work now we will have all lost the opportunity to protect existing forests and restore those under threat.
Offsetting emissions in the voluntary market is a form of corporate responsibility and accountability. It is a way for businesses to offset what they emit while they transition to more efficient usages, and eventually reach Net Zero.
Carbon offsetting helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. By investing in projects that reduce or remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, carbon offsets play a significant role in combating global warming. But, a ton of CO2 purchased is more than just a ton of emissions reduced.
Carbon offsets are not tangible in the literal sense because you cannot see them. But, under the 3 pillars of Climate, Community, and Biodiversity that the LCFP adheres to under the internationally esteemed independent verification agency, Verra’s Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards, the project invests each ton purchased in these three pillars… which results in further co-benefits.
These co-benefits promote sustainable development. The project has enjoyed tremendous success. We have seen transformed local economies, with the LCFP community beneficiaries experiencing a 220% kwacha increase at a household level since its inception. Beyond that, the project has secured economic opportunities for local communities; job creation (an estimated 2000+); improved access to water, education, and health, robust and sustainable agricultural practices through BCP’s climate-smart agriculture training initiative; infrastructure development; improved governance; and much-needed investment to support social welfare programs, such as village banking.
The integration of conservation and socio-economic development is a holistic and sustainable approach to building resilience of local economies to protect them against climate change-induced hardships.
These projects help protect biodiversity, prevent deforestation, maintain water quality, and preserve habitats for wildlife. In 2023 the project celebrated the return of lions and saw wild dogs making safe passage through Rufunsa Conservancy.
This demonstrates how all of the necessary parts are speaking to one another: resource protection and scout deployment are working; tracking equipment is monitoring predators’ movements, and most importantly, the communities who share alongside these wild spaces are receiving alternative revenue streams and livelihood training that means they do not have to encroach on the forests. They contribute to the overall conservation of ecosystems and its services.
Protecting the world’s forests is crucial for addressing the climate crisis. Forests absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide and can be a source of greenhouse gas emissions when destroyed or damaged. Over 1.6 billion people depend directly on forests for food, shelter, energy, medicines, and income. But the world is losing 10 million hectares of forests each year, which has devastating consequences for the planet and climate change, as well as for the communities and biodiversity that rely on forests for their livelihoods and existence. The global biodiversity commitment is 30% of land protected by 2030. As a country we need to align with 30% of Zambia protected by 2030. To do so, private sector, Government and communities must continue to work together.
Testament to Zambia’s success in making this tool to combat climate change work, the LCFP won Best Individual Offsetting Project in the 2023 Environmental Finance Voluntary Carbon Market Awards, while BioCarbon Partners (BCP), which manages the project, also won the award for Best Project Developer, Biodiversity and scooped the ‘Best Monitoring Report’ award for the third year in a row.
None of these successes would be possible without the support from traditional leaders, community groups, and partners in the landscape, such as the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, and Forestry Department.
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