Russian-German partnership helps to save unique forests of the Bikin River - “Russian Amazon”
The project for protection of these unique forests has received funds through the international transfer of greenhouse gas emissions reduction units. This is the major result of Bikin Climate Project, implemented since 2009 by the WWF-Russia and WWF-Germany, in partnership with the indigenous peoples’ enterprise “Tiger”, a cooperation of the Udege, a local indigenous tribe living in the Bikin area. The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through the German Development Bank (KfW) in the framework of the International Climate Initiative of the German Government.
The Bikin valley forests are the last tract of virgin temperate coniferous-broadleaf forests in the Far East of Russia, and the largest undisturbed temperate mixed forest massive in the Northern Hemisphere. They are home to the Udege and Nanai indigenous peoples, as well as the Amur tiger. It is estimated that the conservation of biomass in the virgin forests in the Bikin valley annually prevents the emission of 183,000 tons of CO2.
Development of the voluntary carbon market has created a situation in which such additional reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, if are properly certified and verified, can become a "commodity". It is acquired by companies, organizations and even individuals who want to achieve certain environmental goals, including offsetting of other carbon emissions from other sources. This principle - "production" and sale of emission reduction units is the basis of the conservation strategy for prevention of logging and forest fires in the Bikin River Valley.
In 2009, under the first phase of the Climate Project, 461,154 hectares of the Bikin nut-harvesting zone and riparian forest buffer in the middle reaches of the river were leased to the indigenous peoples’ enterprise “Tiger” for 49 years for the purpose of non-timber forest products collection (pine nuts, Siberian ginseng, ferns, mushrooms, berries, etc.) To prevent poaching and illegal logging an anti-poaching brigade has been formed and outfitted with all the necessary equipment. In order to detect and extinguish fires in remote parts of the lease an agreement was made with the provincial Forest Fire Fighting services to monitor the area.
To implement a climate project of this scale the cooperation of various ministries and departments concerned with environmental and climate protection in Russia and Germany was necessary. In the presence of heads of states Dmitry Medvedev and Angela Merkel the key policy document of the project - the Memorandum of Understanding for the promotion of the project "Protection of the virgin forests of the Bikin River to reduce the effects of climate change (Far East, Russia)” was signed in July 2011 during the 13th German-Russian intergovernmental consultations in Hanover, Germany. This was unquestionably a unique event in the history of environmental cooperation between the two countries.
"The high level of government involvement demonstrates the importance of the project to the Russian Federation. In addition, in the realization of the Bikin Climate Project was demonstrated excellent cooperation between governmental and non-governmental organizations in Russia and Germany. This set a high standard for productive cooperation between the two countries in various projects in the future. And the fact that this new and innovative finance mechanism has resulted in concrete revenues for environmental protection in the Bikin area confirms the full implementation of our commitments made," - says Irina Fominykh, Deputy Director of the International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia.
"In spite of many difficulties in the development and implementation of such a complex project, we achieved what we set out to do – the protection of the Bikin virgin forests. And we managed to demonstrate how a stable financing for that protection can be achieved through carbon revenues," – comments Frank Moerschel, project coordinator at the German Development Bank (KfW).
The results of the Bikin Project supported the start of a new multicomponent climate project (“CEDAR”) in 2011 which is also financially supported by the International Climate Initiative of the German Government. This project covers four of the Russian Far East regions. Interim and future results of CEDAR project are largely due to the experience gained at the Bikin Project.
"We used the system of certification and quality assurance of the Kyoto Protocol, as was stipulated in the Russian - German agreement. Now there are others similar certification systems that can be used. In any case, final sale of such quotas generated by forest projects will go on outside of the Kyoto Protocol,” – comments Alexei Kokorin, the head of the Climate and Energy program of WWF Russia. – The purchaser of the Bikin emission reduction units, the British company CF Partners, provides services to those who want to make their activities carbon-neutral, that is, offset their emissions through reducing them elsewhere, i.e. in the Bikin.”
The experience of this project showed that the certification, verification and search for a purchaser require significant time and effort. Furthermore, it is important that the project to be unique in its social and environmental aspects – in this case it is tiger protection and conservation of irreplaceable forests, and the opportunity for indigenous people to preserve their traditional lifestyle.
"We have done a lot together to save Bikin from logging. Additional funding from the international community will help Udege people to keep our ancestral lands intact,”- says Vladimir Shirko, head of the indigenous peoples’ enterprise “Tiger”, the president of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Primorsky Province.
According to the application of the investment projects submitted by the indigenous peoples’ enterprise “Tiger” to the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, the money will be directed to:
- pay the annual lease fee for the Bikinskaya Nut Harvesting Zone
- Anti-poaching brigades and control of resource use
- Forest fire protection
- Social development of Krasny Yar village
“Unfortunately, in today’s world continues the perception of forests primarily as a source of timber. It is even more frustrating when this perception results in the destruction of unique natural forests that were not cultivated by man, but which came about and are supported by natural processes. - Gives his assessment Evgeny Lepeshkin, head of the forest program of WWF Russia Amur branch. - Fortunately, in recent years there has been movement towards the reassessment and recognition of many features provided by natural forest ecosystems which cannot be replicated artificially or provided for through management better than via natural processes. Conservation of the “Russian Amazon” can be interpreted as the overcoming by society of its usual tendencies, as a means of revaluation of the value of forests, that have been lost in many parts of our planet, but still remain in the Ussuri taiga - the cradle of the Amur tiger.”
On behalf of the team,