As the world moves into an uncertain climate future, the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable nations due to its geography and economy, being frequently struck by typhoons and having a large number of Filipinos whose livelihoods depend on favorable weather conditions. In annual UN reports, Philippines ranks among the world’s most vulnerable countries to the changing climate due to fatalities and economic losses from climate related incidents. Moving forward, Philippines is predicted to experience rising mean temperatures, changes in the amount and intensity of rainfall, and possibly an increase in incidence and frequency of typhoons.

In the Philippines, while there is a growing awareness among households and communities on the changing climate and its destructive effects, especially after the series of super-typhoons that caused landslides, flooding, etc. in the country, such increasing concern is hardly translated into concrete efforts to address the problem for various reasons. One, there is a feeling that it is pointless to do anything when the problem is brought about largely by acts of other communities beyond its shores. Two, shifting to more environmentally-friendly household or livelihood practices involves additional costs or efforts that are not correspondingly compensated.

Carbon Offset Methodology

Therefore, in 2010, The Episcopal Church in the Philippine’s ECARE Foundation, conceptualized a carbon-offset program that would both benefit external organizations needing to offset their carbon footprint and where the funds from those offsets would be used for community development initiatives as they provide stewardship of forests and natural areas. ECARE consulted with the University of the Philippines-Banos to determine the calculation for the carbon absorption of local and community-appropriate trees.

At the end of this process, CARE adopted a formula of 2,000 full-grown trees can sequester 50 tons of carbons per year (see formula details in Appendix). A Certificate of Climate Change Adaptation/ Mitigation Commitment is issued to each community following a monitoring visit to check the four-part criteria; that at least 3,000 trees were planted, of which about 2,000 were fully grown in six months, on either denuded areas or mountainside/landslide area to control erosion and that the parish community mobilized together to participate in the project.

Reinforcing an Asset-Based Approach

ECARE encourages parish communities to participate in the project, using an asset-based approach. For example, the reforestation activities are community-funded, and based on their success and receipt of a Certificate of Climate Change Adaptation/Mitigation Commitment, the community is eligible to apply to ECARE to redeem that certificate valued at US$2,000 after 2 years. The community then applies these funds for parish-related infrastructure or social enterprise projects. Therefore, the unique nature of this methodology is not only for reforestation, but for community impact and solidarity.

At times, ECARE reported that many communities learned to plant more trees than necessary to account for natural death and the need for community-led monitoring process that makes sure that the trees are not an incentive for cash-income timber. Another learning was the careful process of choosing trees that are appropriate to the local context, such as fruit trees that could also hold nutritional value etc. It is important that each community identify their own needs and own context to ensure that an approach in one area can be equally successful in another area.

Since project began 62 parishes from all diocese have planted 208,655 trees with a 79% survival rate after two years, restoring 220 hectares of land.

Invitation to a Global Movement

Building on over 10 years of experience and learnings, ECARE would invite other churches across the Communion to consider joining them on developing carbon-offset projects as part of a continuing commitment to the Fifth Mark of Mission. To explore this initiative, the following steps are recommended:

Step Issues to consider / criteria:

  1. Assess the added-value for a partner to engage in this initiative. Adequate staff capacity; Country with high vulnerability to climate-change; Good community mobilizing
  2. Assess the target communities that would benefit. Land availability; Social or economic benefit of reforestation; Examine potential risks
  3. Determine a locally appropriate calculation formula (The ECARE formula is found in the Appendix). Consult with a University or other expert; Examine a variety of endemic trees; Examine environmental impact
  4. Develop a monitoring mechanism Community committee; Determine criteria for success; Timeline for community reimbursement
  5. Develop the Certification process and community development grant program Timeline required for adequate tree growth; application process and value of community grant award

Appendix: ECARE’s carbon-sequestration formula

  1. Determine the weight of a living tree—its green weight, as it is called. Each species has a different computation formula, however, the following equations provide a rough estimate. If the tree has a diameter of less than 11 inches, the formula is W = 0.25D2H. With more than an 11-inch diameter, use W = 0.15D2H. The W represents the aboveground weight of the tree in pounds. The D is the diameter in inches, and H represents the height in feet. A tree’s diameter decreases as you climb. According to the National Computational Science Leadership Program (NCSLP), foresters stand next to a tree and measure it at chest height.
  2. Measure the tree chosen for your calculations. For example, let’s say the tree is 10 inches in diameter and 15 feet tall. The diameter squared is 100. Multiply that figure by 0.25 for 250. Then multiply 250 by 15. The aboveground weight of the tree is 375 pounds.
  3. Multiply the aboveground weight of the tree by 120 percent or 1.2 to estimate the weight of the root system, according to computations cited by NCSLP. The total for our example tree is 450 pounds.
  4. Determine the dry weight, or the weight of a cut tree, by multiplying the green weight by 72.5 percent or 0.725. According to an article by the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension, the average tree is about 27.5 percent moisture and 72.5 percent dry matter. Hence the 72.5 estimate. The actual percentage of dry-to-moist depends on the tree’s species and the region in which it is located. If you are able to determine the exact species, you can find the proper dry weight percentage and substitute it in place of the 72.5 percent. Using this estimate though for our example, our tree is 326 pounds in dry weight.
  5. Estimate the carbon content at 50 percent of the tree’s total dry weight. With our example tree, 50 percent of 326 pounds would mean 163 pounds of CO2. An article published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, estimates that CO2 comprises about 52.1 percent of a softwood tree’s dry weight and about 49.1 percent of a hardwood’s dry weight. There are always slight regional variations.
  6. Multiply the content of the tree’s CO2 by 3.6663 (weight conversation of gas) to determine theweight of the carbon stored by the tree. Our example tree’s carbon weighs around 597 pounds
  7. Divide the estimated weight of the tree’s stored carbon by the age of the tree to reach the annual sequestration total. If you are unaware of the tree’s age, estimate it. The example tree is estimated at 10 years old, so it is sequestering about 59 pounds of CO2 annually.