(Updates with comment from Dodson in eighth paragraph.)
June 25 (Bloomberg) -- Wildlife Works Carbon LLC, a U.S.- based business selling carbon credits in the voluntary market generated by forest conservation, plans to expand fivefold the biodiversity-rich areas it protects in Kenya.
Disappearing forests deprive the East African economy of as much as $75 million of income a year, about five times the amount the country earns from forestry and logging, the United Nations Environment Programme and state-run Kenya Forest Service said in 2012. Deforestation has also disrupted natural water- movement cycles into lakes and rivers, the agencies said.
“More companies are also now including saving the climate in their budgets,” Wildlife Works Vice President for African Field Operations Rob Dodson said in an interview on June 19 at Kasigau in southeastern Kenya. U.K.-based Barclays Bank Plc, Nedbank Group Ltd. and BNP Paribas SA are among investors that have bought carbon credits from the project, Dodson said.
The 200,000-hectare (494,000-acre) Kenyan Kasigau project managed by Wildlife Works in 2011 became the first to issue the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, or REDD, credits under both the Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard, Tim Christophersen, a senior program officer at UNEP, said June 20.
REDD rewards programs in developing countries that conserve forests that soak up carbon dioxide.
More than 50 species of large animals roam the Kasigau corridor including 500 elephants, cheetahs and lions in an area that is a migration route between Tsavo East and West National Parks, according to an e-mailed statement from Wildlife Works.
The project across 14 ranches has generated 1.2 million Voluntary Emission Reductions, or VERs, annually worth $3.5 million to $7 million with the revenue going toward investors and communities living in the area, said Dodson, who also owns land involved in the project. The carbon revenue benefits 110,000 nearby residents and the project employs 350 people.
By giving the local community a stake in the project, residents have shown a greater commitment to leaving the trees standing rather than cutting them down and turning them into charcoal for cooking, he said.
“It’s worth saving when there is value attached to it,” Dodson said.
Wildlife Works plans to expand the project to more areas around the Tsavo parks by December as well as locations in eastern, western and northern Kenya to cover 1 million hectares, said Dodson. The company’s goal is to protect 5 million hectares of natural forest globally, extending to Democratic Republic of Congo, Asia and South America.
REDD projects generated a record 22.6 million metric tons of carbon offsets last year, up from 8.6 million tons in 2012 with prices ranging from $3 per ton to $20 per ton, according to a report by non-profit Ecosystem Marketplace, based in Washington, released last month.