Today, the world is on course for 3 degrees Celsius of warming, at least by the end of the century. Global average temperatures have already seen 1.2 degrees.
Worryingly slow progress by countries around the world to reduce emissions means this is an increasingly plausible scenario. But it is not inevitable.
Rapid global decarbonisation and transition to green energy is urgently necessary, but most likely not sufficient to avoid disastrous change. Terrestrial emissions are difficult to analyse and hard to combat but they are likely a major cause of the acceleration over recent decades. They also represent a real opportunity to bring atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide back down to acceptable levels.
In a landmark paper, Natural Climate Solutions, published in the peer-reviewed journal, PNAS, Bronson W. Griscom et al. revealed how NCS could “provide over 30% of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to keep global temperature increases under 2 degrees Celsius”.
Nature-based solutions (NBS) are a category of solutions to societal challenges that involve working with nature. NBS includes ecological restoration, ecological engineering, agroecology, ecosystem-based adaption (EbA), REDD+, forest and landscape restoration (FLR), ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (eco-DRR), green infrastructure (GI) and natural climate solutions (NCS).
NCS is a more specific term that refers to conservation, restoration and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in landscapes and wetlands across the globe.
Protecting forest areas is a central focus of NCS. The world’s forests currently lock in more than three trillion tonnes of carbon, the release of which would be more CO2 into the atmosphere than the burning of all the identified oil, gas and coal reserves.
Deforestation and forest degradation are the second leading cause of global warming, responsible for around a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, which makes the loss and depletion of forests a major issue for climate change. In some countries, such as Brazil and Malaysia, deforestation and forest degradation together are by far the main source of national greenhouse gas emissions.
Drivers of deforestation differ from forest to forest, but in the majority of cases of human-caused deforestation and forest degradation, the motivation is the economic value of extraction or conversion of the land. For conservation to be effective long-term – and to avoid the GHG emissions associated with extraction and land conversion – it must out-compete destructive practices. There must be greater incentives for leaving a forest area standing than cutting it down.
The scale of tropical forests protection that is needed today is beyond the capacity of the public sector budgets of most countries. The only way to achieve sufficient forest protection is through private sector involvement. The voluntary carbon market is fast becoming the most efficient mechanism to transfer private funds to where it is needed in forest carbon projects.
Verified emissions reductions (VERs) or carbon credits enable this positive incentivisation to maintain standing forests via the voluntary carbon market (VCM).
Providing the VERs can demonstrate that each unit represents one tonne of avoided or removed emissions, they can and should be used to support other organisation’s climate targets, especially for additional or hard-to-abate emissions.
The VCM is where private individuals, corporations and other organisations issue, buy and sell carbon credits outside of regulated or mandatory carbon pricing instruments. The VCM aims to mitigate climate change by creating space for private actors to finance activities that remove greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the atmosphere or reduce GHG emissions associated with industry, transportation, energy, buildings, agriculture, deforestation, or any other aspect of human life.
For a VER to be credible, it must come from a fully validated and verified project.
Principally, the project must be able to demonstrate:
Additionality: that without the project activity, significant volumes of carbon dioxide will have been released
Permanence: that the avoided release of carbon dioxide is permanent ie the carbon offset is permanent
Avoided leakage: that the activities of the project did not resulted in merely displacing the release of carbon dioxide outside the project boundaries.
The project must be verified against a recognised and credible third-party standard and to maintain valid accreditation, a project must provide regular update reports and submit to robust assessments by third-party auditors.
Permian Global’s forest management is built on five key principles, all of which seek to maximise stored carbon and achieve the best possible healthy forest state:
Deforestation (the loss of 90 percent or more of original forest cover) is a major threat in many of the forested regions of the tropics. There are many drivers of deforestation, including forest clearance for agricultural purposes, and conversion for palm oil and biofuels production. Each of our project management plans will address specific local causes.
Forest degradation occurs when some tree extraction occurs in a forest, for example through selective commercial logging, informal or illegal logging, and fires. These impacts often have additional negative consequences, such as loss of tree canopy, collateral damage to trees in areas where extraction takes place, and establishment of roads. As with deforestation, the project management plan will address local degradation drivers.
Degradation can be reversed, by preventing loss of individual trees and the collateral damage from extraction, measures to stop fires, and other actions. When degradation is halted, forest regeneration will occur naturally, with the rate, scale and volume of re-growth varying as a function of forest type and density, rainfall, and other biological, ecological and geographical factors. Permian’s project management plans will seek to optimise conditions for maximum forest regeneration.
Physical interventions must be carried out on some project sites in order to assist forest ecosystem recovery. These include physical repairs, for example where the hydrology of a forest ecosystem has been damaged by logging, as is often the case in degraded lowland peat forests. Other assisted recovery approaches include strategic planting of native trees, which play key ecological roles, and measures to stimulate seed dispersal, such as the protection or re-introduction of key mammal and bird species.
Overall protection of forest assets is a key priority. This has micro and macro aspects. At the project level, protection mean preventive measures to secure ongoing forest health. At a broader regional level, protection involves engaging with policy processes and actors. Many forest sites are components of larger (often trans-boundary) forest ecosystems, and as a result can be impacted by national.
To be a valid and credible conservation project that generates finance through the generation of high-quality carbon credits, the project must meet the rules and requirements set out in third-party standards. Principally, this means demonstrating:
To be a credible forest carbon project, it must be verified against a recognised third-party standard.
A third-party standard is a voluntary, market-based tool that provides credibility for forest carbon projects, through the assessment of its activities against a recognised set of core rules and requirements. The rules and requirements are designed to demonstrate the robustness of a project design and its progress towards specific goals, in this case, limiting atmospheric GHG and mitigating the impact of the climate crisis.
The Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) is managed by Verra. Verra’s standards provide independent assurance, transparency and credibility for projects working across areas of environmental and social impacts and which rely upon market-based mechanisms, such as trading carbon offsets.
To maintain valid accreditation, a project must provide regular update reports and submit to robust assessments by third-party auditors.