Tree Planting as Voluntary Carbon Offsetting and the Effects on Sustainable Development – A case study of CAFACA

Start date: 28 April, 2014 End date: 10 June, 2014 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A26825 Countries: Cambodia Grant recipient: Anne Hagelskjær Skovlund Total grant: 16,000 DKK



Carbon offsetting has become a debated subject in the recent years, and carbon offsetting projects have been criticised for not achieving their aim of delivering both CO2 reductions and sustainable development. Studies have shown that sustainable development is often absent.

The concept of sustainable development has become a dominant strategy of global as well as national development efforts, but the concept is contested and lacks a clear analytical framework. In this thesis sustainable development is defined as poverty reduction and counteraction of environmental degradation. The thesis further outlines an analytical framework for assessing the potential of a voluntary carbon offsetting project using the method of tree planting to contribute to local sustainable development, and demonstrates its application in a case study of CAFACA.

CAFACA is a voluntary carbon offsetting project, which is initiating tree planting in rural areas in Cambodia. The profit from selling carbon offsets is repaid to the participating local communities. The project has a twofold purpose of addressing climate change and contributing to local sustainable development. The focus in this thesis is an assessment of CAFACA’s potential to contribute to sustainable development locally.

The analysis confirms the importance of taking into account the local context and allocation of resources and power when designing a project aiming at local sustainable development. Moreover it is important to ensure participation of all relevant local stakeholders.

The case study finds that it is particularly important that a project ensures the involvement of weak local stakeholders and makes sure that the strongest local stakeholders are counterbalanced.

Tree planting projects requires investment of local resources in the early phases and delivers the benefits years later, meaning that the benefits are dispersed but the costs are concentrated. The paper concludes that existing local organisations are crucial in such cases because they promote a high level of social capital in local communities, which is crucial for the will to invest local resources, hence for the success of the project.