Carbon standard-setter takes aim at biodiversity

2 min read
Julian Lewis

A key standard-setter for voluntary carbon credits has set out principles for the nascent biodiversity credits market.

Plan Vivo Foundation, whose VCC standard is the market’s oldest, collaborated with conservation charity Fauna & Flora International on the high-level principles. These aim “for integrity” and minimising risk in the new field.

Similar to VCCs, BD credits or certificates are intended to provide a tradeable unit that can channel finance to conservation projects based on measurable impact. Some sources estimate the financing need as high as US$10trn a year.

Plan Vivo calls the new instrument “a significant opportunity to increase much-needed finance for biodiversity conservation, while offering reduced risks for those on the ground and measured biodiversity outcomes for protecting and restoring nature”.

But it said the concept also carries significant risks. These include potential greenwashing, lack of transparency, oversimplification of the complexities and value of nature, poorly defined pricing and inequitable benefit sharing.

Accordingly, it and FFI call for a transparent market that prioritises “high-integrity” BD credits with “real, additional and verifiable benefits for biodiversity, but also for people and climate”.

In learning from VCCs, they emphasise the value of registries in managing trading of credits and preventing double-counting. Moreover, they urge that credits are not used as offsets but rather as positive incentives for landowners and communities to conserve and restore important habitats. They said this supports “Nature Positive” – the goal of halting and reversing nature loss so that by 2030 species and ecosystems are being restored across the world, with full recovery by 2050.

Worthless VCCs?

Plan Vivo also responded to recent criticism of VCCs. Its projects were not part of the dataset that researchers judged as worthless and not representing genuine emissions reductions in more than 90% of cases. These were rainforest carbon offsets by the largest provider, Verra. It strongly disputes the findings.

Plan Vivo acknowledged technical challenges in estimating precise carbon benefits. But it said the market “provides an important mechanism to channel finance to communities and smallholders in developing countries, who are at the sharp end of the impact of climate change”.

It said this involves “responsible” buyers purchasing “high-quality, fairly-traded” credits. It also requires the participation of local communities and stakeholders, including transparent and equitable sharing of carbon revenues.

When these conditions are met, projects produce “numerous benefits beyond carbon reductions or removals”, Plan Vivo said – citing its 25 years of certified projects in more than 20 countries. These include direct revenues to communities and smallholders.