Simon C. Bird, Wildlife Works Carbon LLC

Program Overview

The VCS Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ (JNR) Framework is the world’s first accounting and verification framework for jurisdictional REDD+ programs and nested projects.

The VCS Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ (JNR) Framework helps entities with forest-related emission reduction activities to integrate their efforts into governmental climate goals. It also gives governments a framework to generate greenhouse gas credits for their REDD+ programs and to nest projects and other site-specific, lower-level efforts (a tourism operation, a new agroforestry planting, a new governance initiative to control illegal deforestation). Linking site-level forest conservation with jurisdictional goals, capacities, and resources allows governments to incentivize conservation and accelerate progress toward their long-term climate objectives.

Beginning in the mid-2000s, and especially after the Paris Agreement was finalized in 2015, governments have become increasingly interested in creating policies and strategies that help mitigate climate change through protecting forests.

Forest conservation benefits both our environment and the communities in and around those valued landscapes. The potential is great: forest conservation projects, if run optimally, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by seven billion metric tons of CO2e annually, as well as protect critical biodiversity and improve livelihoods.

Let’s define some terms:

  • The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program is the world’s most widely used greenhouse-gas crediting program.
  • REDD+ stands for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as well as forest conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
  • A jurisdiction is an administrative entity—sometimes national, at other times sub-national—that has the ability to set an emissions target.
  • Nesting is a set of provisions by which project-level emissions accounting and social and environmental safeguards are aligned with higher-level jurisdictional systems.

The JNR Framework relies on the rules and requirements of the VCS Program. First launched in 2012, the JNR Framework was specifically designed to facilitate private investment in REDD+ at multiple scales, including government efforts. Today, it is the only standardized set of provisions outlining procedures for including jurisdiction-wide programs (e.g., establishing jurisdictional forest reference emission levels) and integrating site-specific activities (VCS projects or other activities) into jurisdictional strategies and policies.

The JNR Framework, like the VCS Program itself, is subject to regular review by external stakeholders and any major update or change undergoes public consultation. The latest update to the framework was released on 15 April 2021.

How it works

The JNR framework lays out the principles by which project-level REDD+ activities can be integrated components of government-led programs. Measuring the emission reduction impact of forest conservation projects requires a complex set of rules and requirements. These rules include:

  • Accounting procedures that help create credible historical forest reference emissions levels (FRELs)
  • Tools for determining a conservative benchmark against which to measure emission reductions and removals and ensure their additionality
  • Methods of monitoring and then accounting for leakage—the shifting, whether through market or ecological forces, of GHG emissions elsewhere, which affects the total reductions achieved
  • Buffer accounts address the non-permanence risk of forest-conservation projects; should fire, illegal logging, or other misfortune visit the project’s forested area, credits from the buffer account are canceled to ensure the credits issued to the project still represent the originally indicated emissions reductions

This guidance and its associated tools exist alongside and are integrated with the VCS Program.

Key elements of the VCS Program—such as regular auditing, both by Verra staff and credible independent third parties—apply equally to JNR programs and nested projects. Registration of JNR programs and nested REDD+ projects in the Verra Registry ensures the transparent recording of every detail pertaining to forest conservation projects and prevents the double counting of emission reductions.

See Recent JNR News

Starting a JNR Program: What to Expect

Looking to develop a JNR program or verify a forest reference emissions level (FREL) using the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS)? This section outlines important information you should know before you begin.

1. Before You Begin/Preparation

Before beginning to develop a JNR program or verify a FREL in the VCS Program, review the JNR Program Guide to learn about the various development and crediting options.

For example, a jurisdictional proponent could:

  1. Develop and register a FREL for projects and lower-level jurisdictional programs to integrate (or “nest”) into, or
  2. Establish a full-fledged jurisdictional program that encompasses crediting across levels, including projects, subnational jurisdictions, and/or national programs.

Nested project activities that wish to issue Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) must be verified against the VCS Standard.

Review the “Develop a VCS Project” page for more details.

Please note that Verra staff cannot assist you with the development of a JNR program or of nested projects. We can only respond to questions related to our rules and requirements.

2. Fees and Finances

Project and program development costs vary depending on the circumstances and fall into three categories:

  • Verra fees as outlined in Section 2 of the VCS Program Fee Schedule.
  • Project and program development fees include project development and operations, monitoring, and consultants fees.
  • Auditing fees payable directly to the validation/verification body (VVB).

As a standard-setting body, Verra does not track external costs (those associated with project and program development or auditing).

3. Timelines

There are two timelines project proponents need to be aware of before starting to develop a VCS project: 1) the timeline for program and project registration and, 2) the timeline for VCU issuance.

  1. Timeline for Program and Project Registration
    After a jurisdictional proponent develops a JNR program or baseline description, the “jurisdictional element” that document describes undergoes a 60-day public comment period.
    After this, the project goes through validation, during which a validation/verification body (VVB) reviews the project description and the comments received during the public comment period.
    The length of the validation process depends on the individual circumstances of the program and can take up to a year and or longer.
    After a successful validation, the jurisdictional proponent requests project registration with Verra as outlined in the JNR Registration and Issuance Process document.
  1. Timeline for VCU Issuance
    The time it takes for a program or project can be issued .
    First, program or project activities need to be implemented and GHG emission reductions or removals need to be monitored;
    Then, a validation/verification body (VVB) needs to verify the emission reductions and removals achieved;
    Next, Verra needs to approve the verification.
    Upon successful verification, the program or project can request VCU issuance via the Registry.
    The exact timeline for this process varies depending on the circumstances of the program or project.
    Note that the possibility of nested projects to be directly credited is based on the structure (or “scenario”) of the JNR program that such projects participate in. Please see the JNR Program Guide for more detail.

4. Next Steps

Once a program or project has been registered and issued VCUs, the proponent can sell these credits on the open market. If an entity uses VCUs to offset part of its carbon footprint, these units will be “retired”, i.e., they will be taken out of circulation so they can only be used for such a purpose once.

As a mission-driven, non-profit standard-setter Verra maintains an impartial position in the marketplace and does not buy, sell, or trade in carbon credits. Any negotiations and purchase agreements between the project developers and the buyers are established outside Verra Registry. Verra only retires credits per the instruction of the project proponent.

Additional Resources:

This list does not represent an endorsement by Verra.