Verra has opened up its Nature Framework for a first round of public consultation.
In support of the growing importance of sustainable management and conservation of nature, this asset methodology under Verra’s Sustainable Development Verified Impact Standard (SD VISta) Program aims to certify and incentivize widespread investment in measurable positive biodiversity outcomes benefiting nature and people.
The Nature Framework outlines how projects can generate Nature Credits, which represent one quality hectare equivalent of biodiversity uplift from a baseline as a result of the project intervention. Nature Credits constitute positive investments in nature that enable interested buyers to demonstrate their contributions to a nature-positive future. The Nature Framework also provides guidance on claims and communications about Nature Credits. (See below for more information about Nature Credits.)
Integrating inputs from this public consultation and lessons learned from pilot projects, the first iteration of the Nature Framework is expected to be published in 2024. Verra is committed to continually improving and strengthening the framework, as technology and data evolve and we gain further insights from projects.
The Nature Framework ensures that the intended biodiversity outcomes also have sustainable development benefits. Projects certified with the Nature Framework will contribute directly to SDGs 14 (Life below Water) and 15 (Life on Land), and–given nature’s inextricable links to climate–SDG 13 (Climate Action). The Nature Framework also includes specific safeguards for risk mitigation, respect for human rights, ecosystem health, protecting property rights of customary rights holders, and engaging customary rights holders and other stakeholders.
Piloting the Nature Framework
The SD VISta Nature Framework will soon be piloted by 18 projects that were carefully selected from 179 applications. The pilot process will test the clarity, practicality, local appropriateness, scalability, and ease of use of the Nature Framework in real-life projects. Verra is currently exploring how projects that applied but were not selected can stay involved and contribute to the development of the Nature Framework. The Nature Framework Development and Advisory Groups will be piloting additional projects in support of the Framework testing and refinement (see below for more information on these groups).
During this consultation, Verra requests feedback on the Nature Framework, including its proposed concepts and core principles, the safeguards for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, including customary rights holders and other stakeholders, and the quantification process for issuing standardized assets.
While some aspects of the Nature Framework are more developed, others are still in their early stages of development or exploratory. In these cases, Verra requests input from stakeholders on if and how to further develop them.
The consultation runs from September 18 to November 19, 2023.
To provide feedback on the draft SD VISta Nature Framework (PDF), please review the Nature Framework Public Consultation Overview (PDF) and provide comments via the feedback form (external) by November 19, 2023.
Since the Nature Framework is an SD VISta asset methodology, projects seeking to issue Nature Credits must comply with the rules and requirements of the SD VISta Program as well as Nature Framework criteria. The SD VISta Program Overview (PDF) summarizes the program’s general approach and process for certifying project benefits. Verra strongly encourages stakeholders to read the overview before reviewing the draft Nature Framework.
Please contact Lorena Arredondo Tagle, Manager, Sustainable Development Innovation (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you have any questions.
To provide an overview of the SD VISta Nature Framework, Verra will host a webinar on October 10, 2023 at 11:00 am ET.
A recording of the webinar will be available on this page shortly after the event.
Engaging with Indigenous Peoples
In parallel with the consultation on the SD VISta Nature Framework, Verra is launching a process focused on engaging with and learning from, Indigenous Peoples and local communities to strengthen the Nature Framework. As part of this process, Nature Framework translations to French, Portuguese, and Spanish will be available in early October.
If you or your community wish to be involved, kindly contact Lorena Arredondo Tagle, Manager, Sustainable Development Innovation (email@example.com).
Development of the Nature Framework
Verra initiated the development of the Nature Framework in early 2022. To support its development and ensure a participatory process, Verra formed two different and complementary expert groups:
- The Nature Framework Development Group (NFDG), comprised of the Blue Nature Alliance (with support from McKinsey & Company), Conservation Finance Alliance, Conservation International, Great Barrier Reef Foundation, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Biodiversity Consultancy, and Verra as independent standard setter.
- An expert Advisory Group consists of 26 experts in biodiversity conservation that represent a broad range of geographies and sectors. Members have expertise in market demand and drivers; technologies, methods, or indicators for biodiversity measurement; nature-related frameworks; financial instruments for investing in biodiversity outcomes; and biodiversity-focused project development.
About Nature Credits
Nature Credits represent positive investments in nature and enable companies’ voluntary contributions to a nature-positive future.
A Nature Credit represents one quality hectare (Qha) equivalent of biodiversity uplift from a baseline as a result of the project intervention. It is calculated as follows:
- A Qha results from multiplying the Extent (measured in ha) by the project’s calculated ecosystem Condition on a scale from 0 (degraded) to 1 (pristine).
- Qhas are then projected to the future using a locally-adjusted crediting baseline, determined by ecoregions and their loss risk. Finally, Nature Credits are calculated by calculating the difference between the projects achieved Qhas and the baseline, deducting leakage and a buffer contribution.
- Additional biodiversity Significance attributes, aligned with Global Biodiversity Framework targets, will be reported by each project to allow further comparison across projects.
Companies impact nature (i.e., cause changes in nature’s state and alter its capacity to provide social and economic functions) but also depend on it (i.e., rely on aspects of ecosystem services to function, such as water regulation).
Nature Credits are positive investments beyond companies’ mitigation hierarchy that help them:
- secure their dependencies on nature, for instance, investing in the provision of suitable habitats for pollinators near their crops; and
- address existing or accumulated industry-wide impacts (i.e., not new nor attributable to individual companies).
Nature Credits may not be used for offsetting.
Biodiversity offsets compensate for residual negative impacts after companies adhere to the mitigation hierarchy and must generate equivalent biodiversity to that lost. Since biodiversity is place-specific and not fungible globally, offsetting is almost always local and often regulatory-based.
Nature Credits are independent and likely spatially or temporally distant from the negative impacts of companies’ value chains. Thus, they are inappropriate to offset, given their inequivalent ecological values to those damaged.