Madagascar's government has agreed to sell forest-related carbon credits to Microsoft and Zurich's zoo, which will help protect the Makira National Park, in the first sale of state-owned REDD+ credits in Africa, according to the group that manages the park.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), an international charity headquartered in New York City, said the revenues from selling carbon credits generated by avoided deforestation in Makira will finance the conservation of one of Madagascar's most pristine rainforest ecosystems, while supporting the livelihoods of local people.
The funds will be used by the government for activities under its Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation "plus" conservation (REDD+) programme, and by WCS to manage Makira park. But the largest share - half of the proceeds - will go to support local communities in areas around Makira for education, health and other projects, WCS said.
Tech giant Microsoft said support for forest conservation and community projects like Makira is "an important part of Microsoft's strategy to reduce its environmental impact, support sustainable economic growth, improve health and education, and address societal challenges".
"The project's important role in protecting a crucial area of biodiversity value also aligns with Microsoft's own focus on using technology, information and research to develop new approaches and solutions to sustainability," Rob Bernard, Microsoft's chief environmental strategist, said in a statement.
The Makira forest, which spans nearly 400,000 hectares (over 1,500 square miles), is home to an estimated 1 percent of the world's biodiversity, including 20 lemur species, hundreds of species of birds, and thousands of plant varieties, some unique to the location. The forests also provide clean water to over 250,000 people in the surrounding landscape.
Jonathan Shopley, managing director of The CarbonNeutral Company, which handled the purchase for Microsoft, said its clients are increasingly looking for opportunities to manage the entire environmental impact of their organisation, driven by the need to make their supply chains more resilient.
"The Makira project enables clients to do this by selling carbon credits while also delivering biodiversity value and community support," he added.
A spokesperson for the The CarbonNeutral Company declined to say how much the Microsoft deal was worth.
In September, the Madagascar government and WCS announced that more than 700,000 carbon credits had been certified for sale from the Makira Forest REDD+ Project, which would prevent the estimated release of more than 32 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 30 years. The project is validated by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance.
In Madagascar, burning for agricultural land and extraction of wood for household energy leads to around 36,000 hectares (139 square miles) of natural forest being lost each year, WCS said.