We want to make a few things clear in response to a recent report released by Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) concerning carbon credits from REDD+.1
First and foremost, we welcome and encourage the insight of the broader scientific and environmental community into our work on nature-based solutions, as long as this input is factually substantiated by data and information from impartial sources. We submit that this does not hold true for this report.
We agree with the authors of this report that a blend of market and non-market approaches is needed to ensure forests remain standing so they can remain an effective climate mitigation tool. Carbon markets were never intended to be a “silver bullet” for climate or deforestation issues. To achieve the impact ultimately required to stave off the climate crisis, they must be paired with governance and regulatory efforts.
That said, we do not have the luxury of time. If we wait for the perfect solution, there will be nothing left to save.
We firmly believe that carbon markets are the best, most readily available means to drive urgent finance to these critical ecosystems and to protect them before they are lost. REDD+, since its inception, has served as a revolutionary method of bringing urgently needed finance to the protection of standing forests. It has also empowered local communities to maintain these forests and their biodiversity, and can contribute to governments’ climate commitments under the Paris Agreement. We have seen firsthand how the absence of these projects has resulted in increased deforestation and harm to local communities, such as with the Suruí Forest Carbon Project.
REDD+ projects have achieved enormous impact to date. The forests that REDD+ projects have been protecting still exist – along with the communities that maintain them and the biodiversity they preserve – and play a critical role in the fight against climate change.
We also understand the system is not perfect. REDD is based on a counterfactual scenario; it is an approach that seeks to prevent something from happening. The calculation of emission reductions that result from this work is inevitably less clear-cut than in other cases.
That is why we are continuously striving to update our REDD and all other methodologies in the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program to ensure they reflect best practices, the latest science, and our learnings from the past decade. This commitment to continuous improvement is evident in our forthcoming consolidated REDD methodology – which includes a new approach to projecting future deforestation rates for the purposes of baseline setting – as well as in the latest public consultation on the VCS Program. The new REDD methodology and VCS Program updates are both slated to be released in the coming months.
Regardless of how finance reaches these forest systems and the local communities that inhabit them, we also agree with the authors that the outcomes of project activities must be assessed using rigorous carbon accounting methodologies to verify impacts. Toward this end, Verra strongly supports the forthcoming criteria from the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM) and plans to submit our methodologies for review.
We need to shift the narrative from “Not this tool, BUT that one” to “This tool AND that one.” The climate crisis depends on our willingness to act on all fronts.
For this reason, we remain committed to continuously reviewing and assessing all possible avenues of improvement in Verra’s standards programs, including around monitoring, reporting, and verification. Our efforts in this regard can be tracked at https://verra.org/program-updates/.
In the meantime, we welcome efforts from other organizations and governments to advance additional important solutions.
1 “REDD” stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.” The “+” refers to the sustainable management of forests and the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.